At Your Own Risk by Alexandra Elliot Dance
PCL Studio (10330 84 avenue) August 15, 16, 18, 20, 21, 22
More information: alexandraelliottdance.com
An interview with Alexandra Elliot.
Describe your show in five words.
Dark, poetic, contemporary art, visceral
Okay, now that we’re intrigued… what’s the longer description?
‘MAN’ is a duet created by Alexandra Elliott and performed by Warren McClelland and Ian Mozdzen. It is a pilgrimage through time where McClelland and Mozdzen morph from amoeba to monks to married men. They create their own soundtrack with the low bass only a male can make. At times abstract and at others literal, with McClelland telling us of his mothers’ love of pickling and her eventual passing, we can all find moments to relate to this passage through humanity.
“…to be alone…” is a solo created and performed by Elliott, inspired by the traumatic state of isolation. A nightlight illuminates the glow of her naked body; she crouches and sings in a whisper a song her father used to sing. With only a long white insect net to protect her, safety is stripped and the stage is no longer her sanctuary. Set to the masterpiece “Officium Breve” by György Kurtág, this display of physical intensity and emotional range will leave you unsettled until the very end.
Your show moves through time – why were you interested in exploring this through dance?
The work emerges through the physicality and explorations we have in the studio. this pilgrimage through time that I speak about in MAN evolved through the creation process. after sewing each vignette together it became this evolution through eras in a way.
In your press release, you talk about safety being stripped during Elliot’s solo. How is this done in the piece and what does it do for the audience?
I begin on stage naked, in front of a night light. I sing a song in a whisper to ‘comfort’ myself. A light snaps on and I’m caught in the net. Does the net represent safety? Or entrapment? I go through many emotions and qualities throughout the solo and it is largely guided by the emotional journey in the music, Officium Breve by Gyorgy Kurtag. The solo is not narrative and does not tell you exactly how to feel or when to feel it. Let it wash over you and remember to breath.
You create your own soundtrack during the show – how do you do this? Does it change from performance to performance? What influences the soundtrack?
In MAN Ian and Warren use their voices often. They begin with a low hum that is amplified as they begin to vibrate and bounce like ritualistic cave men around a fire. They chant like monks, they shriek like scared animals, they growl like fierce lions. I begin creating with the physical bodies. The body is a resonant vessel and can create sound. In my dances we don’t just work from the neck down, we allow sound and face and emotion to express.
The stage for At Your Own Risk is a thrust stage – was it a choice to stage it this way? If so, why did you want to arrange the audience this way? If not, how do you manage the challenges that come with a thrust stage?
In Winnipeg the small space we performed in was almost in the round, except for the back wall. I created the work to be seen by almost all sides, so we asked the tech’s at the PCL studio if we could remove the back row of chairs and set them up along the sides of the stage. This creates a more intimate performance space. I have been highly drawn to this for about a year now and look forward to continuing to show my work in this manner.
In your press release you mention it being essential to bring dance to theatre communities. Why is this?
Dance is an art form that I believe in more than anything else right now. I can best articulate it through a Martha Graham quote:
“There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open… No artist is pleased. [There is] no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.” -Martha Graham
At Your Own Risk is comprised of the pieces “…to be alone…” and MAN. How do the two pieces/works/dances work together? What will audiences get out of seeing both this fringe?
In dance we often show more than one work in one show. Creating an hour long dance is a huge challenge and in my opinion it’s often done just to fill the 60 minute slot and can leave the audience wishing the strong message or emotional journey was left at 20 minutes. I knew I wanted my solo …to be alone… on my fringe tour but I was also so drawn to Ian and Warren that over the winter both pieces made it into my show and I’m so grateful to have them with me in Edmonton. MAN is a very new style for me and I’m absolutely stoked that it has emerged and I can’t wait to take it places.
Anything else you want audiences to know about the show?
Take a risk. Come and experience my work because I want to share it with you. Find me after and tell me how it made you feel. It is essential to bring dance to the theatre communities of our Canadian cities so that we can build a larger, thriving dance audience.
Bonus question: Any names you want to drop who have been involved in your show (Edmonton arts people or otherwise)?
Check out Holly Harris’ review from the Winnipeg Free Press. She is a dance critic and wrote a very well written review of this show.
The 34th Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival is August 13 – 23. Get your tickets at tickets.fringetheatre.ca.