An apple a day might keep the doctor away, but for Winnipeg-based choreographer Peter Quanz, it's also fodder for making innovative new dance.
"The apple is such a rich symbol," Quanz, 33, says in an interview. "It's a symbol for knowledge. It's a symbol for temptation. But is knowledge temptation? Is the accessibility of new knowledge a temptation to throw away what was old?"
City dance fans can judge for themselves as the acclaimed dance artist's company, Q Dance, presents its fourth annual production at the Gas Station Arts Centre.
Billed as a creative laboratory, the unique troupe composed of top Royal Winnipeg Ballet dancers handpicked by Quanz is known for raising the barre with each thought-provoking show.
One of the weekend production's three world premières features RWB dancer Sophia Lee and Winnipeg's Contemporary Dance's Johanna Riley rolling, tossing, chomping and lying on more than 160 kilograms of Granny Smith apples strewn about the stage.
"I think the piece can be looked at on many different levels," Quanz says of the 11-minute duet titled, appropriately, Pomme. "Hopefully, it will be entertaining and engaging for most; a curiosity for others. And a point of discussion for those who really want to go into that place."
The genesis for the work came during Quanz's participation in Montréal Danse's Choreographic Research Workshop last December. One of his creative tasks, assigned by faculty mentors Kathy Casey and Larry Lavender, included incorporating an apple into his choreography -- thus pushing the 1999 RWB School Professional Division graduate beyond his comfort zone while planting the seed for Pomme.
The hothouse experience marked a significant turning point in his choreographic career, providing Quanz with insight into his own process while stretching his artistic boundaries -- for example, he's collaborating with a modern dancer for the first time.
The Winnipeg-born Riley -- who once dreamed of being a ballerina before discovering her passion for contemporary dance -- says working one-on-one with a classically trained dancer has been a real eye-opener.
"It's been fascinating," she says. "Peter will film us on his iPhone, and the first time I saw us dancing together I was surprised how we didn't look as different as I thought we would... Expression is expression, and if what we're trying to do with dance, and art in general, is to illuminate the human experience, then it makes sense we have that common ground."
It's been a good month for the tireless, Baden, Ont.-born choreographer. Shortly after Q Dance performed his dazzling In Tandem at the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra's 2013 New Music Festival, Quanz received word from Russia's minister of culture -- via Facebook, no less -- that he was being awarded the State Medal in Literature and the Arts for his earlier work with the Buryatian National Ballet in 2011. He's only the second non-Russian and first North American to win the prestigious prize, which is akin to Canada's Governor General's Award.
Quanz vows to make the arduous, five-day trek to the eastern Siberian city of Ulan-Ude as soon as possible to receive his medal, as well as create another new ballet for the company.
"It was extremely hard not to be there," he says of being unable to attend the Feb. 11 award ceremony owing to a tight rehearsal schedule. "It's the greatest honour I've received in my career, and for them to give this award to a foreigner is exceptional."
The 93-minute program also features Quanz's Untitled, set to Latvian composer Peteris Vasks' Musica Adventus, as well as his haunting Luminous, created for the Hong Kong Ballet in 2010. The show rounds out with RWB dancer/choreographer Yosuke Mino's KEVÑT -- Finnish for "spring" -- as the company's first commissioned work.
All costumes are by RWB's Anne Armit; lighting is by Robert Mravnik.
"This program is about curiosity," Quanz says enthusiastically of his newest venture, which also includes an interactive Q&A session following each of the three performances.
"And I hope that will be contagious."
Gas Station Arts Centre
Friday, 8 p.m., Saturday, 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.