taken from my Instagram – kevodegrievo
The Christmas Carol Project
“Last night was our 88th performance,” John Armstrong says, “and amazingly enough, I don’t get tired of hearing it.”
For Armstrong’s The Christmas Carol Project, 88 performances translates to 17 years of a roots music take on Dickens’ beloved tale of Scrooge’s holiday redemption (plus a CD, DVD release and a TV special to boot). The core cast, as always, remains unaltered: Bill Bourne, Maria Dunn, Dale Ladouceur and myriad other musical talents perform original songs that tell the story, with narration from Dave Clarke bridging any storytelling gaps that remain. That 88th performance was down in Red Deer, but recent years have seen the project touring to the likes of Vancouver, Whitehorse and Yellowknife. Still, while few major changes have altered the project’s content during its life, Armstrong says that there are smaller, organic alterations that happen over the years: on this particular run, he notes, lighting design from Kevin Green has given the show a more theatrical edge, while Clarke—the relative new guy of the bunch, having joined the ranks in 2010 to replace longtime narrator Kenneth Brown (who had replaced the original, Richard Winnick, back in 1998)—in particular seems to be finding his groove.
“Normally our audiences only applaud after the songs, but last night, after each segueway of narration they would also applaud, so the musicians had to wait for the applause to die before starting their songs. I think he’s just really taking ownership of the part, and sinking his teeth into it,” Armstrong notes.
The project’s 17th year coincides with the 200th birthday of Dickens, and that this, his perhaps best known, most-beloved story—written in just two months to pay off debt, no less—still carries a significant cultural weight is something Armstrong has no trouble speculating on.
“We’ve all felt a bit like Bob Cratchit, or maybe felt a bit like Scrooge, and realized that they maybe weren’t thinking enough about the people around them,” he says. “It’s just a classic take of a guy who’s not doing as well as he could in the world, as far as relating to his fellow human beings, and then the gets a second chance. I think everybody can relate to that, getting that second chance, and then tying it into Christmas, and presenting it in such a powerful way, looking at past, present, future. It’s just a brilliant idea, and it’s amazing that he knocked it off really quickly.”
Fri, Dec 28 – Sat, Dec 29 (8 pm)
Westbury Theatre, $35 (advance), $40 (door)
Is there an app for that?
The Good Women Dance Collective explores a Convergence of technology and movement
/ Marc J Chalifoux
Ainsley Hillyard isn’t impressed with her new iPhone. The sprightly contemporary dancer and co-founder of the Good Women Dance Collective juggles the cell in one hand with her old flip phone in the other, noting that she hasn’t been able to merge contact information between the two devices—she’s been carrying both to ensure she can reach her friends.
Try as she might, Hillyard is hoping to get in touch with Kevin Green, who’s running a bit late for our interview. Green, the visual artist and tech-master behind (de)Compose, has been working with the Good Women on Convergence; the presentation is a double bill that includes Green’s piece, which employs five projectors to create a landscape of light and images that interact with the dancers, as well as Hillyard’s own creation, Face Time.
Despite efforts to text, message, or email Green, an old-fashioned phone call ends up doing the trick.
“He’s on his way,” she smiles, hanging up with a hint of exasperation. The instance of technology mussing things up has been occupying Hillyard’s mind of late; the whole theme of Convergence this year, now in its second incarnation, concerns modern connectivity.
“There’s a lot of interactive technology [in the show] that could totally ruin everything if it doesn’t work,” she admits, “which is fine, that’s just life.”
A good amount of that interaction in Face Time is use of the eponymous app along with Skype and smartphones to examine connections between people that are mediated by technology. Hillyard began her exploration of the app after hearing its promotional boast: “Be two places at once.”
“I mean multi-tasking is difficult, but to actually be two places at once is just impossible, or if you are doing it you are splitting your attention,” she says. “I wanted to poke fun at that by using dance, because to dance you actually do have to be together. If you’re not together it just falls apart. There are little nuances or even just chemical reactions that your body goes through when you are with other people—when you’re in the same room, you smell other people. I don’t pretend to know any of the biology behind it, but there are facets of that that aren’t met when you’re meeting with a screen.”
While her choreography for the piece has changed drastically since its first conception as a solo performed by Alida Nyquist-Schultz, the piece has now become a fleshed-out, 40-minute quartet.
Now in their fourth year, the Good Women are also celebrating the addition of a new core member to their fold: Joining Hillyard, Nyquist-Schultz and Alison Kause is Kate Stashko, who moved to Edmonton from Montréal earlier this year.
“To be involved with Good Women you have to be dedicated to Edmonton, that’s a huge part of our mandate. I feel pretty great that she came back to be with us after being [in Montréal]. That’s a huge compliment to us from her,” Hillyard says.
Green—who over the years has worked in pretty much every theatre in town in his capacity as a technician, designer, or stage manager—joins in on the conversation here, noting that the collaborative process with the dancers has been inspiring.
“This is all new to me,” he says. “I’ve worked on maybe 150 different shows since college, and this has been a real opportunity to create and be on that side of the fence.”
His idea for (de)Compose was borne out of a rather magical occurrence back in April at the Good Women’s What’s Cooking event, which gave dancers and performance artists an opportunity to test-drive new ideas on an audience.
“I basically went in and I said ‘I’m an artist, they’re dancers—I just want to try and paint with light,” Green says. “So I brought my tablet and Photoshop and hooked it up to the projector and we ended up doing this really beautiful, abstract thing with bright colours. The audience ate it up.” So much so that they requested Green and the dancers to try the experiment three more times that evening.
“It essentially opened up this world where art is huge and the dancers are immediate, it becomes really visually stunning,” Green says. Branching off of the ideas that were stirred up that night at What’s Cooking, Green decided to juxtapose themes of highly structured life and its more natural moments.
“What I wanted to show is that we’re all trapped some days by the way we live our lives in society, but there’s also a fluid, organic, nature of life. For real happiness or real human experience, we do need both of those things,” he explains. “We can’t harmoniously have a structured world and a non-structured world, which I think is kind of a good theme to go along with the idea of connectivity. Part of the whole idea of modern connectivity is that you’re using technology—you’re using stuff that is built and rigid to make a connection.”
Hillyard notes that the idea of “convergence” itself is to make connections—but the theme where dance and technology interact was incidental this year. The first Convergence event was about bringing dancers together. Now, with the four Good Women performing with Green plus a handful of projectors, there’ll surely be numerous, intriguing and interesting connections to be found—risks of technical difficulties be damned. So what if it all doesn’t work as planned? With the projectors, Green will be implementing lighting design and video montages in real time, becoming as much a performer himself as the dancers onstage.
“That’s where you have to trust each other as a company. I mean, there’s a bunch of people in the room—somebody’s going to do something entertaining,” Green chuckles. “As far as this show goes, they’re Edmonton’s number one contemporary dance group—I mean if everything goes horribly wrong I’m just going to turn on the strobe light and they’re going to dance,” he adds. Hillyard laughs.
“It’s kind of funny. You’re connecting with each other to create the idea of connecting on a more disparate level, which is ironic,” Green muses. “We do rely on these things everyday. The show is kind of putting it to the test a bit. It’s kind of like, ‘OK technology, put your money where your mouth is.’”
Fingers crossed that Hillyard’s iPhone smartens up by curtain time.
Thu, Dec 6 – Sat, Dec 8 (8 pm)
L’Uni Theatre, $15 – $20
I’ve been working hard the past while on music, lights and video for this fantastic performance with Good Women Dance Collective!!!! Three Shows!!
Technology meets movement in beautiful spectacle of sound, light, dance, and interactivity!!
December 6 – 8, 8pm
L’Uni Theatre, 8627 91 Street
$20 Regular | $15 Students, Seniors
Tickets available through Tix on the Square http://www.tixonthesquare.ca | 780.420.1757
Click on the Photo for more info, or check out the Good Women link in the Friends sidebar!!!
Another oldie came up from out of the woodwork today. Think i might go back and try to date most of them, might not be super accurate, but I think I’d like a sense of progression, and maybe you guys will, too.