Eight musicians, four dancers and a whole lot of improvising at this year’s CoexisDance: Western Edition 2

Eight musicians, four dancers and a whole lot of improvising at this year’s CoexisDance: Western Edition 2

CoexisDance: Western Edition 2

When: Dec. 19 at 8 p.m.

Where: Scotiabank Dance Centre

Tickets: Pay-what-you-can at the door ($15 suggested)

Now in its second year, CoexisDance is an evening of improvised dance and music. It’s based on a similar event in Toronto, which takes the format of “no more than two dancers, no more than two musicians, at least one of each.” We talked to Olivia C. Davies, artistic director of O. Dela Arts and curator of the local edition, about what to expect.

Q:  How is this year’s different from last year’s?

A: We put the emphasis on the music side. My first call went out seeking out experimental electroacoustic performers, and then I put the dancers’ call out. And last year we paired one musician and one dancer. This year it’s two musicians and one dancer.

Q: Was that just out of a desire to change things up?

A: Yes. What it actually did was bring together some interesting musicians on the experimental side, and who have a strong improvisation practice. Last year the dancers were invited to select their own musicians. With this iteration, I’m the one who curated those combinations. Bringing two musicians together with one dancer is an experiment. I’m hoping that the results are exciting and captivating for the audience.

Q: How did you decide on the pairings?

A: It’s part toss of the dice, and also part consideration of pairing senior and emerging artists. For instance, pairing prOphecy sun with Matthew Ariaratnam, both of whom have very strong improvisation practices, may bring out something interesting from Jenna Berlyn, one of the emerging dancers. And, on the sound side, I also look at how this experimental composer may work with another in live improvised performance.

Q: It’s improvised, but the musicians and dancers take part in short creation residencies. What are those like?

A: The intention is to foster and build trust amongst these small ensembles. Each trio gets about seven hours of studio residency at the Dance Centre, my major partner in producing these events. It’s a time to learn each other’s improvisation styles. As an improviser myself, I really feel like the intention and the experience of improvisation can be so much if you already trust the person you’re playing with are in it to win it with you. But what we’ll see onstage will not have been rehearsed.

Q: It sounds like the performances will be as much a surprise to you as the audience.

A: And to the performers themselves. When I think about improvisation, it’s thinking, acting, living, playing in the moment.

Q: Are the teams responsible for any sets or projections?

A: We keep it low, low tech, stripped-down as much as possible. A dancer may choose to costume themselves, but that’s not always the case. From the looks of it, some of the musicians have quite intricate setups. Last year, two of the musicians set up a whole line of different instruments. But there are no projections. We build a little bit of lighting design for each piece. And then the shining jewel for me is the group jam, where all of the musicians and all of the dancers come out for a last improvised piece altogether — bodies, instruments, and a whole lot of play.

Q: What was that like last year?

A: Amazing. Encounters would happen where a sound would come up, one dancer would feel the impulse to move into the space and start expressing that impulse, which would inspire another musician or dancer to play along with them. Maybe I’m partial to it, but I thought it was a lot of fun.

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