Mobilize this October with CRIPSiE

A dancer hugging another dancer from behind, while a third set of arms comes from behind.

CRIPSiE dancers. Photo credit: Marc Chalifoux

Mobilize can mean assembling or organizing people or resources. It can inspire thoughts of calls to action or calls to change. And it can literally mean moving – as in mobilizing one’s body to create a dance piece. And the Collaborative Radically Integrated Performers Society in Edmonton (CRIPSiE) aims to accomplish both of these things with their next show, Mobilize, which runs October 19 and 20 in the Westbury Theatre of the ATB Financial Arts Barns.

Mobilize will feature six dance-based performances by self-described Mad or disabled artists, and Co-Artistic Director Kelsie Acton says each piece asks questions around the theme of mobilizing, both in the sense of movement and calls to change. “How do we live with impairment? is the question asked by Nathan Viktor Fawaz’s piece “You I Wash Dry”. Or “Home”, Alison Neuman’s piece, which for me is deeply about intimacy, close relationship and care and how those things are different and how can we use those moments as ways of living our lives differently.”

Mobilize will also feature an improv dance piece, “Webs”, which CRIPSiE devised with local dance artists Gerry Morita and Jodie Vandekerkhove, and in the process explored how the process of improvisational dance could be made more accessible. Kelsie says, “There are a lot of cultural assumptions that you’re taught as an improvisational dance artist. Like using the entire space, being aware of the space, or being aware of contrasting movement. I think part of what we were struggling with was not knowing how to make those things explicit… So we teamed up with Gerry and Jodie and they did a lot of teaching and gave us a lot of skills and we built this scored improv piece. There are prompts but the piece is created on the spot every night… For me “Webs” is about multiple ways of being in relationship because that’s ultimately what you’re thinking about when you’re doing movement improvisation is constantly asking how you’re in relationship and is this relationship interesting to the audience. Thinking about relationships to the group, or within duets or trios and how those things shift and change over the piece.”

Another new element CRIPSiE is adding into this year’s show is the incorporation of projections by T. Erin Gruber into the piece “Garden Paths” which is choreographed by Kelsie and has just returned from a tour to Thunder Bay, where the artists the piece was inspired by live and create. Kelsie explains, “Flux City, who I think is really interested in trying to cultivate more accessible art,  wanted to bring accessible arts that are available to a wider range of folks to Thunder Bay. So they asked us if we wanted to do a collaboration because at that moment they had a lot of visual art going on that was quite successful in Thunder Bay in disability communities but not a lot of dance. So we built “Garden Paths”. They created this beautiful stencil art and sent us the images, which we created from.”

The images created by Flux City informed every aspect of “Garden Paths” – from T. Erin Gruber’s projection design to the music composed by Tom Merklinger to the choreography. “One of the things that really struck us about the artwork when we got it was these incredible, vivid colours. And because it’s stencil art, there are sometimes really interesting textures or bleeds where maybe there’s too much paint and it leaked through the edge of the stencil. So, we started thinking about seasons and the way things can repeat but also change with every iteration. Partly because of this bleed but also because we’re often looking at the same outline, the same image, but with radically different colour choices over several images. “Garden Paths” explores the cycle of the seasons, with all its joy and also with some of the complex feelings and questions we all hold around how seasons change and how our relationship to that changes in the context of climate change in the context of a deeply uncertain environmental future. You’ll see that there’s a distinction between the length of the seasons over the piece, how quickly they cycle through, and things shift and change in the way the seasons repeat throughout the piece. All the joy and wonder of the outdoors is there but there are also some big scary questions as well.”

Dancers in scarves and black shirts stand off kilter while a dancer on the floor sits looking at a dancer in a wheelchair.

CRIPSiE ensemble performance. Photo credit: Marc Chalifoux

Another of the pieces in Mobilize was created through what CRIPSiE calls Mad processes, which Kelsie explains these processes reclaim the word ‘Mad’ and “can include things like flexible rehearsal processes to take account of days where folks aren’t up to rehearsing or moving or maybe working with small movements if that’s more appropriate to people’s bodies that day.” Kelsie says Lindsay Eales, who choreographed the piece “Our Selves, Each Other” used this reclaiming of the word Mad “to think about the generative creative possibilities created by folks who have been given mental health diagnoses and what those impairments can create or afford. Specifically in “Our Selves Each Other”, I think Lindsay was thinking about what the experiences of having a mental health diagnosis are and how we can represent them on stage. When we are thinking about many selves, our sense of self might vary because of impairment.”

One of the great things about CRIPSiE’s performances is that the group prioritizes accessibility and designing performance spaces that aim to make the space comfortable for the widest audiences possible. To that end, both performances will be relaxed (audience members can move, make sounds and come and go as needed) and will feature ASL interpretation and audio description via earpieces that allow anyone requiring the service to sit anywhere in the space and receive an audio description of the performance. The Westbury Theatre itself is barrier-free and features all-gender washrooms.

Tickets are available on a sliding scale of $5 – $25 at the door or on EventbriteMobilize runs for two nights only – October 19 and 20 – in the Westbury Theatre in the ATB Financial Arts Barns.

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