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DA Hoskins, independent choreographer and Artistic Director of The Dietrich Group, gets personal and tells us about his reason for creating Jackie Burroughs is Dead & what are you going to do about it?, the circumstances that brought a “potent focus to the creative work”, and a battle between the emotional and the physical.

DanceWorks: Jackie Burroughs is Dead & what are you going to do about it? marks a departure from some of your more recent work. Can you talk about the inspiration for this piece?

DA Hoskins: I don’t know if the piece marks a real departure…it isn’t an interdisciplinary work and it most definitely is not theatrical, so in these ways, yes, it does differ from my most recent works.  The heart of this commission was an opportunity to create a work specifically for Danielle, at a time when she is at her most vital as a physical interpreter. The window of physical liberty and abandonment with the ever-evolving body is limited, and I really wanted to celebrate the dance artist she is at this moment in time. Thematically, the work came about through a series of life circumstances that brought a potent focus to the creative work.

DanceWorks: Can you describe your creative process? Did you collaborate with your dancers or was the work set before you began the rehearsal process?

DA Hoskins: For this project, I specifically wanted to explore the physical in physicality on a sensorial level – how the body feels and responds outside of an emotional or cerebral realm. The physicality is expansive and broad in its dynamic and always in response to the moment. Motion, touch, and most integrally, energy is the essence of the work. It has been important not to get trapped by the emotional connotations in the work’s title as I want to celebrate the physical – the living matter that becomes electric when danced. What is most fascinating about the physicality is how the energy reverberates and creates an atmosphere – this has become the most profound and pivotal player in the piece.

DanceWorks: What are some of the themes explored in the piece? How does the movement reflect these themes?

DA Hoskins: Thematically, the work is about exchange. I stepped into it when I was doing home care for my mother who was terminally ill with breast cancer. Two days prior to starting this commission, Canadian actress Jackie Burroughs died. Jackie was a staple in the dance community – she loved dance. Believe it or not, the title came from our first rehearsal when we could not help but speak about Jackie’s passing. It is not meant so much as a title, but rather as a statement. We moved on with my intent in the exploration of the physical, but the fact of her passing was undeniable. It was present. Jackie Burroughs is Dead & what are your going to do about it? has been in development since 2010 – a reflective sense of life both inside and outside of the studio has profoundly touched this work.

 Jackie Burroughs is Dead and what are you going to do about it? opens on April 7 at the Harbourfront Centre Theatre. Tickets are available at the Harbourfront Centre Theatre Box Office.

Photo credit: Nico Stagias