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Out on a limb

Creating dance no piece of cake for Winnipeg choreographer

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At one point in choreographer Jolene Bailie's show Eat All You Want/The Top?, a dancer runs across the stage, scattering dozens of pairs of panties across the stage and shouting, "Panties for peace!"

If you consider that simply a bit of oddball sexual provocation, Bailie is quick to point out Panties for Peace was a real, effective non-violent campaign launched against the military of Burma (officially Myanmar).

"People around the world were encouraged to drop, fling, mail or throw women's underpants at Burmese embassies around the world in a statement against exploitation that women faced at the hands of the military," Bailie says during a rehearsal break of her show at the University of Winnipeg performance space.

If the reference seems unusual, it's business as usual for Bailie, a prolific Winnipeg choreographer who has never been shy about integrating non-dance elements into her shows.

Certainly, the hour-long piece demands more of its cast -- Claire Marshall, Hélène Le Moullec Mancini, Krista Nicholson, Janelle Hacault and Jillian Groening -- than simply dancing, Bailie says.

"It's a theatre piece as much as a dance piece," she says. "If you had to put it in one thing, you would say it was a dance-based work.

"There are sections that are full-throttle dances. But they are interweaved with elements of performance art, theatre and storytelling," she says. "The other accoutrements are, in a way, enhancements.

"I'm a dancer, I'm a choreographer. I start with dance. But then these conceptual ideas feed it and also fuel it forward. They become something that's crucial to telling the dance."

The image on the show's poster -- a dancer's foot squishing a piece of cake -- speaks to her work's super-charged use of poetic imagery.

"We imagine our world as this beautiful piece of cake. That's what we want it to be... with the strawberry on top and the chocolate. It's sort of an image of a perfect day in our imagination.

"But real life is that foot on the cake," she says.

"We're trying to hash out, in a conceptual way, what it means to be a human being."

A preview performance of Eat All You Want/The Top? takes place Thursday, May 1, at 8 p.m. Admission is $15 cash at the door.

randall.king@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 1, 2014 C3

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