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Collision course

Three women of Winnipeg's Momentum Collective dance troupe enjoying creative explosion while working on first project

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Ask any groggy, sleep-deprived new parents how they juggle family life with other workaday pressures and the answer is never as easy as ABC.

But if you're a professional dance artist where your body is also your instrument, it can all get a bit more complicated.

Winnipeg's Natasha Torres-Garner, Johanna Riley and Ali Robson can attest to that fact as they prepare to birth Winnipeg's newest modern dance troupe, The Momentum Collective, this weekend. Its inaugural production, Desire to Collide, opening Thursday at the Gas Station Arts Centre, featuring four world premières choreographed by the well-known contemporary dance artists and graduates of The Senior Professional Program of the School of Contemporary Dancers, who have collectively performed with Winnipeg's Contemporary Dancers, TRIP Dance and Young Lungs Dance Exchange, among others.

"'Collide' seems like such a negative, violent image, but the 'desire to collide' also brings to my mind a passionate explosion, that speaks to the desire the three of us had to come together on this project," Riley says of the show's seemingly paradoxical title.

Actually, there have been more than just three people gathering each day at their Osborne Village dance studio. Torres-Garner has brought her children, Milo and Luna, and Robson her daughter Anna, all under the age of two, to rehearsals. The dancers have found themselves inspired -- and even relaxed -- by the toddlers' comforting, familial presence.

"Babies have such a pure physical existence," Riley explains, adding she would like to have children of her own someday with husband Eric. "They are so unaffected and in the moment. It's what we want to do as performers."

Robson is also just over 28 weeks pregnant with her second child; her growing belly posing unique challenges during the creative process, not least of all a constantly shifting centre of gravity that's perilous for any dancer.

"I've never done a piece that gets more difficult every time I do it," she quips about her solo, A Side Road, which sees her spinning around the stage on a giant, pregnancy-friendly tricycle, choreographed by Torres-Garner. "But I'm feeling really good. And I've pretty much danced throughout this whole pregnancy."

The production was first conceived nearly two years ago after the three close-knit friends and colleagues realized their simpatico relationship and mutual respect for each other's artistry could birth great things. Torres-Garner got the ball rolling -- literally -- after being accepted to the Manitoba Arts Council-sponsored Deep Bay artist residency program last summer, with the women sequestering themselves for two weeks to create in nature. The only rehearsal space available at the Clear Lake-based site was the town's lawn bowling green.

"The lawn bowling green was surprisingly perfect," Riley recalls. "It was so flat and soft, and being outside was inspiring."

So much, in fact, that recorded tracks of the lake community's chirping crickets and howling wolves have found their way into composer Tim Church's evocative soundscapes included in the show.

The program also features Torres-Garner's semi-autobiographical solo The Designer, which deals with the art of letting go, as Riley builds, balances and topples little Luna's wooden toy blocks. In turn, Torres-Garner performs Riley's Soon, inspired by F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel The Great Gatsby and marks her first stage appearance in over a year.

Finally, sole duet Posed, performed by the stately, physically matched Torres-Garner and Riley to Tanya Tagaq's primal throat singing, derives from a series of interview questions asked -- or posed -- by Robson to the duo about their close relationship that began at age 12.

As the three dance artists prepare to unveil their latest heart's desires -- colliding or otherwise -- Torres-Garner reflects on having her young family with her during the one-hour show's fertile creative process.

"It's a place that I feel is magical," she says of the rehearsal studio, adding that all three children will be in the audience this weekend. "It makes me feel like a better parent when I can give them that environment with people creating together. It's exciting."

Dance Preview

Desire to Collide

The Momentum Collective

Gas Station Arts Centre

March 21-23, 8 p.m.

Tickets $20 at 204-284-9477

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 21, 2013 C7

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