Lexi Vajda, dancer with Radical System Art, is originally from North Vancouver and started dancing at a local studio, moving on to Modus Operandi. Here, Lexi tells us about being inspired by “hyper-bombastic” choreography and her role in the upcoming show, Glory.
DANCEWORKS: Can you tell us about yourself? Where did you spend your early dance training days?
LEXI: My name is Lexi Vajda, and I am an independent dance artist working mainly in Vancouver. I have been dancing in Shay Kuebler’s work for about three years, and I also work with other choreographers and interdisciplinary artists, as well as, pursuing my own small projects. I teach, regularly with young students at dance studios and occasionally for open professional contemporary classes. Right now, especially at this political moment, I’m really into the idea that dance is inherently subversive. The power of our bodies, moving bodies, to carry/convey/exude a different sort of narrative. One of viscera, instinct, and presence which amplifies our sense of being human.
I am originally from North Vancouver. I am incredibly grateful to have grown up just a ten minute walk away from beautiful mountains, forests, beaches and rivers. Somehow I feel that the sense of freedom nature offers and the sense of freedom I experience while dancing are related. I love going back to visit the mountains, and I always feel like dancing there.
I first started dancing at my local dance studio, North Shore Academy of Dancing. I teach there now, which continues to be a rewarding experience in the sense that I’m able to share with the young community right where I first fell in love with dance. After high school I joined a burgeoning contemporary dance program called Modus Operandi, headed by Tiffany Tregarthen and David Raymond who also have their own company, OutInnerspace Dance Theatre. It was during this time that I met Shay Kuebler and became inspired to learn how to move in his hyper-bombastic physical way…. I’m still learning every day.
DANCEWORKS: The upcoming show Glory explores the glorification of violence in the media. Can you talk about your role within the piece?
LEXI: Yes, Glory investigates the role of media in the glorification of violence within our society today. Shay points to his experience with action/horror films, mainstream news media, children’s play, and video games as tropes which continually desensitize our responses to violent subject matter. The piece sort of shifts in a cinematic way, so my role is multifaceted. I am one of six dancers (Maxine Chadburn, Hayden Fong, Shay Kuebler, Tyler Layton-Olson, Nicholas Lydiate and myself) partaking in Shay’s explosive choreography. Together, we embody the kinetic elements of fight scenes, action sequences, and video game characters, and at times represent literal modes of amplification by wielding ropes connected to a harnessed Shay.
As one of two females in the work, I can speak to how our experience and exposure to violent play has been quite different to those of the men in the work. To take on these specific physical vocabularies has called us to pull from a lexicon perhaps less familiar. But truthfully, it’s more about the athleticism, strength, and agility required to execute the choreography, than a bank of cool fighting moves. We are all working on deepening, detailing, and expanding our interpretation of the choreography.
In another section of the piece, in a duet with Hayden Fong, I wear a red dress and dance the memory of a lost love. The duet hones into a strange sense of tender care and the ephemeral as I simultaneously collapse and console a lover left behind. Hayden grapples with my physical weight as a metaphor for the emotional and psychic weight of losing a romantic love. I then become a set mannequin, and shortly after that I’m back dancing a fight scene (there are a few costume changes)!
There is a playful theatricality that runs throughout the piece, and while incredibly fun to perform, becomes slightly eerie when you consider the subject matter to which it is directed. As an ensemble, I think we have each carved out our own loose narratives and roles that echo who we are inherently. I’ll speak to my own experience of satisfaction in embodying stock characters of an action movie, strong and dangerous, passionate and honourable. I often question the meta-commentary here: why does dancing like this incite in me a sense of power and strength? What does this say about the media, and my own history? I think these questions are at the crux of what Glory puts on stage.
DANCEWORKS: Thank you, Lexi.