Dancing on Air: Interview with Brandy Leary of Anandam

Precipice (Phase 1): Dances For Staircases and Air

DanceWorks CoWorks Series Event

Brandy Leary/Anandam
Bata Shoe Museum, 327 Bloor St W.
Previews Tues. – Thurs. May 3-5, 8:30pm

Fri. May 6, 2011, 8:30pm

Tickets: 416-204-1082

photo by Walter Lai

Interview by Lucy Rupert

Lucy Rupert: What took you to the Bata Shoe Museum for your upcoming show?

Brandy Leary: Two years ago, I did a fundraiser at the Bata Shoe Museum – a venue donated by a Board member – and I was stuck by its architecture that combines a dramatic setting with a peaceful and elegant environment; that was where the seeds of Precipice started. 

LR: What are the unique qualities of the Indian vocabularies of Kalarippayattu, Chhau, Mallakhamb and the language of aerial arts, which are the building blocks of your choreography for this production?

BL: Kalarippayattu is a martial art from the south of India that has strong animal imagery; Chhau is a martial dance from eastern India with a unique combination of masculine strength and feminine grace to its style.

For Precipice we have an aerial apparatus custom-designed by engineer Patrick Pendergast and myself.  It is a combination of the western aerial rope traditions of cloud swing and corde de lisse integrated with Mallakhamb ropes (indigenous aerial form from western India).  Aerial work is a profound and fertile language for contemporary creation and I hope to bring it to a new level of artistic exposure in Ontario through experimentation with the form.

LR: As a creator, how do you draw out new dimensions of your performers?

BL: I draw out new dimensions in two ways: physically and emotionally. Since the forms I am working with are not original to my performers (in that it is not their base training), I work with a dramaturge to support them finding organic connections through personal specificity.  With Anandam’s Resident Dramaturge, Audrey Dwyer, we have developed “reverse storytelling” to support this process.

LR: What emotional resonances or themes have developed from the architectural launching point of Dance for Staircases and Air?

BL: Elegance. Drama. Spatial and physical expansion. Juxtaposed strength with a light sparkling grace. Fragility. Romance. Vulnerability. Risk.

LR: What is your dream for Anandam?

BL: The ultimate dream?  An environment where I could work with my ensemble of artists on a full-time rather than a project-by-project basis.  My work has a lengthy development curve. It is not only training bodies in a new vocabulary, but working with dancers to think differently about how they move.  Time to work continuously and deeply is the dream!

This interview has been edited for length and content.


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