We spoke with Heidi Strauss about her newest piece elsewhere which will have its world premiere at DanceWorks on Sept 25-27 at the Harbourfront Centre Theatre (formerly the Enwave)
What was your impetus to create a show about affect?
I was interested in getting deeper into things I was already exploring in solo work and small groups – intimacy, ways of connecting to take away pretense around performing, to expose oneself to the unknown – in a way, to look at potential, and where you are able to go when you depend on the experiences that have brought you this far. I think “affect” has been at play in most of my work, and maybe now I’m just naming it – beginning to understand what it is. elsewhere, in a metaphorical way, is about many things I believe to be simultaneously important – in the way I think about life, relationships and time, and how I see some of these things as intrinsically connected to the moving body. What are these things? Well, that there is potential in almost everything – even the things that at first seem impossible, or not worthwhile. When I consider the never-to-happen-again moment, which in fact, are almost all moments in our lives, I think of what it is to perform: to understand for brief periods the idea of a ‘heightened now’ but in the most everyday way – a being conscious of all that is happening, knowing so much is also feeding us subconsciously.
“I think “affect” has been at play in most of my work, and maybe now I’m just naming it”
The impetus was never about expounding upon a theory. It was about creating an alternate space where it was possible to expose and reflect on time, on relationships, the place we’re in, what is deeply in us.
How has elsewhere been different (in terms of creative process) compared to other work you’ve made?
It has been the longest creation period, in terms both of the actual duration of time with the creative collaborators, and the amount of time it took to make happen. But I wouldn’t say it has been comparatively different from other works. Each work feels part of a larger cycle of understanding or attunement to what speaks, and how to find it (with myself and other people). It’s all part of a larger cycle of understanding one’s process – I think. Working at the Theatre Centre on a new creation while working on the final stages of elsewhere really allowed me to recognize this more fully.
The premiere of the work at DanceWorks on September 25th is the beginning of a new phase of growth (a new process) for the work. In some ways this is the irony of making performance in a room with a bunch of empty chairs; one day there are people in those chairs, and that makes all the difference.
What were some of the approaches you used in translating/exploring affect theory into dance?
My intent was never to translate affect theory into movement through a methodology or an approach that was prescribed. I don’t believe a sense of affect would be in evidence if I had chosen or had the ability to do this. I worked with different structures to keep opening the door to changes in the room, to reading the space as it really is, to new sensations in the body, thoughts that intertwine with the experience of the physical interaction with other people and space.
“I asked myself to stop looking for answers”
In the very first process we worked with transposition (of movement structures, and memory-based embodiment) but by the time we met again, I recognized this as a superficial entry point – at least for me. So I asked myself to stop looking for answers; the end point is elusive when you are after potential, or when you look for what is concrete in what can only ever be ephemeral. No surprise that aspects of destabilization and control emerged after that in the work.
Without a doubt, the greatest asset to the exploration has been a group of dancers who are sensitized to each other and who each, individually, carry a breadth of experience that enable them a personal way of being in elsewhere.
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