Just ahead of the opening of Sporting Life, we asked Julia Sasso to talk about her experience remounting the piece twenty years later with a new generation of dancers. From her early creation days at Dancemakers’ Choreographic Lab, to the surprising personal rewards of watching the work characterized as ‘Three Stooges meet(s) Quentin Tarantino’, here Julia shares her insights.
DanceWorks: Sporting Life is a remount – can you talk about the original creation process that took place twenty years ago?
Julia: I was at the height of my own performing career, dancing full-time with Dancemakers and at the same time, beginning to emerge as an independent choreographer of note. CanDance (The Canadian Network of Dance Presenters) commissioned me to create Sporting Life. I began creating the piece within the context of a Dancemakers’ Choreographic Lab, working with three company dancers and monitor, Murray Darroch (1949-2005). Murray challenged me to generate material quickly, loosely, through my own physical improvisations. This approach transformed my creative process allowing me access to embodied ideas, images, dreams, and memories through my own physicality. I continue to investigate, develop and share approaches to creating choreography and creative process.
DanceWorks: How does it feel to re-visit Sporting Life? What feels different or what feels the same?
Julia: It feels absolutely fantastic; the same and very different. Different in that I am collaborating with an entirely new group of artists – dancers, designers – and viewing the work through the lens of experience. Experience brings with it generosity and trust – in my collaborators and in the work, itself. Remounting Sporting Life after 20 years has induced a flood of memories bringing me face to face with the artist, the person I was when I created the work. Physical, emotional, intellectual memory; acknowledging influences, recalling seeds of ideas, details, challenges and breakthroughs. Seeing the work again, newly danced and interpreted, it is immensely rewarding to recognize that Sporting Life remains current.
DanceWorks: Can you talk about two of the themes explored in the piece? What are some specific examples of how these themes are expressed through movement?
Julia: Twenty years ago I don’t think I truly understood what Sporting Life was about. I was rather blindly following my creative instincts and desires; really just discovering my way through the creative process. Now I recognize that the work intersects with themes and cycles of power dynamics, bullying, aggression, rage, impotence, suffering and remorse; all, intrinsically linked. These themes are expressed both explicitly and implicitly through physical imagery and movement. A recurring image of a body on its knees, head on the floor, wrists shackled behind the back; a universally understood, powerfully disturbing image of supplication, victimization, torture, suffering. Other images and movement sequences are more surreal and cartoonish with sound, costumes and lighting supporting these qualities. The Three Stooges meet Quentin Tarantino.
DanceWorks: The title, Sporting Life, was it easy to decide upon?
Julia: Yes. In the 60s, when I was a kid, magazines were very popular many, targeting boys and men and at the expense of women; celebrating and promoting machismo and even violence and misogyny: His World, Stag, Man’s Life, Playboy, All Man, Battle Cry and etc. The title, Sporting Life references these societal attitudes in a darkly tongue-in-cheek way. Violence, brutality and one-upmanship as a kind of sport. Some things have not changed.
Photo credit: Kenneth Grey