Lucy Rupert Rehersal Photo of Elke Schroeder & Sky Fairchild-Waller 4 by Melanie Gordon

CoWorks artist and choreographer, Lucy Rupert, kicks off the new year with dead reckoning. We asked Lucy to tell us more about the work – from Charles Lindbergh to navigation systems, famed explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton and artist Peter Quanz, here, she shares details about her inspiration and creative process.

DanceWorks: Can you explain the title of the piece?

Lucy: The title ‘dead reckoning’ is actually a reference to a system of navigation – one which Charles Lindbergh used on his famed trans-Atlantic flight on the Spirit of St. Louis. It is essentially relying on oneself rather than machines or devices to determine the course ahead, based on where you know you’ve been. Lindbergh is one of the most famous people to discuss his experience of an ‘other’ or a perceived presence in an extreme expedition or environment. This phenomenon is the basis of our production.

In my eyes there is a direct link between science and the heart implied in the term ‘dead reckoning’. It places value on trusting both your knowledge and your gut. Those are key values for me in creating and for Blue Ceiling dance as an entity itself.

DanceWorks: What brought you to investigate Sir Ernest Shackleton? What was interesting about his story?

Lucy: Shackleton is another famed explorer who experienced this felt, but disembodied presence. I read his lengthy, compellingly dry account of his 1914 expedition to Antarctica (an ordeal which had his whole crew stranded for about 18 months). At the very end of the work, was one short paragraph referring to the sense of an extra presence with him on the final leg towards rescue, when he was very near death. He referred to the experience as very near to his heart, but gave it a scant few sentences in a 400 page book. Why?

I did more research on this phenomenon – Charles Lindbergh, Everest climbers, other extreme adventurers, and the “third man factor” (the experience of this disembodied presence). It is both mysterious and utterly of the brain. A duet between self and self, or is it self and other? We’ve constructed a show of duets, never sure who is the self and who is the other, how many of us are in there at any given moment? Are we ever alone or always completely alone? It sounds a bit existentialist, I suppose, and I can’t deny that influence as well.

DanceWorks: Can you talk about working with Peter Quanz. When/how did the two of you meet?

Lucy: Peter and I met in Kitchener, Waterloo and I was a student in the University of Waterloo Dance Department and Peter was a student in the Eastwood Collegiate performing arts program. Outside the university program, I was part of a start-up group called the Choreographer’s Collective. We created work and self-produced outside of the student context. Peter joined at age 15 and I danced in one of his first pieces for the Choreographer’s Collective. He then moved on to the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School and eventually all over the world creating ballets on some of the most illustrious companies. But we kept an eye on each other over these 20 years.

Our collaboration has been a delicate and ruthless one as we both have wanted to take care of each other, try new things, build our skills and capacities as artists. We have challenged each other every step of the way and still maintained the impulse to nurture on old friend. It is unlike any other commission Blue Ceiling dance has initiated. Peter’s duet for the two of us, in a way that is only slightly veiled, is really about the whole three year journey – from when I asked him about a commission and our final rehearsals this month. It comes right back to dead reckoning as a system of navigation figuring out where you are going based on where you know you’ve been.

Lucy Rupert/Blue Ceiling dance’s dead reckoning opens on January 13 at the Theatre Centre. Tickets are available at the Theatre Centre Box Office.

Photo credit: Melanie Gordon