Heidi Strauss, another of the past ADs of hub14, has been instrumental in helping us get up on our feet and making sure we are headed in the right direction. Her care for detail and efficiency is quite motivating. I’ve never seen her work before, so am definitely looking forward to catching this original, site-specific Summerworks show. I’ve also never met Kate Alton or Luke Garwood, but if Heidi was commissioned to choreograph / direct this piece, I’m sure the dynamic created between the three artists will be an experience worth seeing at Summerworks.
I’m grateful all three of them decided to participate in this dossier, so without any further ado from me, as this is a super-sized post, we’ll get right into it.
dossier # 20:
Who are we talking to?
Heidi Strauss, Kate Alton and Luke Garwood.
What drew you down this path? (to dance, to wherever the hell you are in life)
Heidi: Many people are probably responsible for where I am and what I’ve learned to this point. But the bottom line is that I love dancing, the simple act of moving and the possibility of what it can do to move people, to transform.
Kate: I was always drawn to dance. As a child there was never any question in my mind about what I wanted to do. It has always felt like part of me. It feels particularly good to be doing it now, with one of my favourite choreographers, a fabulous partner and after a hiatus from performing while I stayed home with my young twins.
Luke: Mostly street signs. oh…the figurative path? The figuratively gravel laden, dusty, dance path? Well I started because I saw it on TV and thought it might be fun to do. I was about 10. I enjoyed it so much I haven’t looked back at a map or gps (trying to stay in theme) since.
What is your earliest memory of realizing, yep, this is what I’m going to do with my life?
Heidi: Going haywire on a ballroom floor when I was 2 at a wedding reception. I was wearing a violet dress with purple flowers that I called a dirndl, even though it wasn’t (my mom bought it at JCPenny). But seriously, it’s a question I keep asking: is this what I want to be doing? So I am not continuing out of habit – that it’s a decision — because some days it’s a hard decision.
Kate: I don’t remember ever thinking anything else.
Luke: There was no ‘one’ moment but rather a culmination of experiences. I have trained for the goal of becoming a professional dancer since the age of 11. So I was pretty set early on, but it was through the teachers I was lucky enough to work with, encountering fellow students/colleagues who shared the passion, and the performance opportunities I was able to gain, that truly made me want to commit “my life” to the art form.
Why “for me?” ?
Heidi: ‘for me?’ because it is a commission made think very much about Kate who asked me, and about the nature of what developed in the first process with she and Luke a few years back. I often think a duet is able to translate so much so clearly about behaviour, about why we react certain ways, why we do certain things for each other, and why we don’t. The commission also came about at a particular time when I was/am asking a lot of questions about whom we are doing all this for, what is performance? On a personal level these questions relate to acts of generosity in life, and professionally (though a distinction between personal and professional is often blurry) through work we make and perform. In the latter part of the process the question ‘for me?’ became one the three of us asked about our city – which will be evident when (if) you see the show.
The sweet answer, however, is that there is stage when a toddler is growing up and given things, from a glass of water to a new toy, when they ask with disbelieving delight: ‘for me?’ I think, as adults, we do this too — but silently and particularly when we are taken by surprise, or something we are given has a special kind of weight.
Kate: Really a question for Heidi, but one sense of it is the exploration of who a performance is actually for. Is it for the performer, the creator, the audience, and what are our respective roles in those relationships? What does it mean to give and to receive, in the context of performance and beyond? What are the gifts that are given to us by our ancestors, the gifts of our personal history?
Luke: My interpretation is that it’s a play on the give and take that happens in a theatrical performance. We’re trying to create a piece for an audience to enjoy while actively pursuing our own artistic and aesthetic goals, which could generate the question: who is this performance for? I think Heidi hits a rare balance with her work by creating pieces a wide-ranging audience can truly enjoy while still being artistically relevant and challenging. As far as I can tell “for me?” is actually for all of us.
What kind of atmosphere do you intend to set up, or will someone experience while attending “for me?”
Heidi: One where the weather co-operates, the audience is welcomed and feels comfortable.
Luke: We unfortunately have little control over our atmosphere and seeing as our piece takes place outside it’s especially disconcerting. We have all doubled up our efforts to recycle and reduce our green house emissions so that the atmosphere maintains it’s healthy-ish state of protectiveness. Fingers crossed.
Have you worked with each other before? How did this specific collaboration begin, and, if applicable, how did the very first collaboration between you begin?
Heidi: I danced with Kate Alton in a work of Laurence Lemieux’s shortly after I finished school and then again in stage and film work of Michael Downing/dancefront. Later on I danced in a number of her works when her company Crooked Figure Dances was Overall Dance. Those works included Tartan Briefs and Great Leap Forward. She is one of my mother’s favourite dancers. This is the first time I have worked with Luke, although while I was a co-director of hub14 we commissioned him to create something for Full Stop, and Luke and I are working on and off on a gallery project with Jenn Goodwin. It has been a real pleasure, and honour to develop something with these very generous folks.
Kate: The three of us have never worked together before. I have worked with Luke both as a fellow dancer at Coleman Lemieux & Compagnie, and also as rehearsal director there. I think the first time Heidi and I worked together was on a solo I did for her way, way back for Series 8:08. So long ago I don’t know what year it was! I have never worked for Heidi as a dancer before but she has been involved in two of my projects. I have been admiring her work for years.
Luke: I had worked with Kate at CLC and Heidi and I had done a collaborative project together but I had never worked on a piece like this with either of them, so I was more than eager to come on board.
What is your favourite memory from working on “for me?”
Heidi: Being unable to continue working because of uncontrollable laughter, speaking in double negatives, rehearsing in a baseball diamond when we were double booked in the Lower Ossington rehearsal space.
Kate: Off the top of my head I would say it was the last run-through we did, the first full run-through onsite. I had a sense of the whole work coming together and it was very satisfying. We laughed a lot in the process, worked hard and I rediscovered the dancer in my body, so lots of good things.
Luke: There was a day of gift giving where we ended up sharing more than just material gifts, we gave each other our stories, memories and histories, and that was pretty special.
Describe “for me?” in three adjectives, a phrase, or with sound.
Heidi: What we do is what we do.
Kate: Colour, Connection, Conversation. Not adjectives, but those are what come to mind.
Luke: ohhhhhooooooooooo (that’s a sound)
Do you have anything else you’d like to share? Photos, videos, links, posters, stories, wishes?
Luke: I wish you’d all come see the show and let us know what you think.