Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

WCD series explores prairie esthetic in dance

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WCD's Johanna Riley, left and Sarah Helmer.

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WCD's Johanna Riley, left and Sarah Helmer.

A BRAND-NEW season calls for brave new works.

Winnipeg's Contemporary Dancers kicks off its 49th season with The Prairie Dance Circuit, an annual touring series that celebrates dancers and choreographers from across the Prairies. The evening will feature Regina dancers/choreographers Johanna Bundon and Bee Pallomina, as well as Queen City dancer Robin Poitras, who will perform a new piece by Quebec choreographer Paul-André Fortier. Representing Manitoba is WCD artistic director Brent Lott, who will première a work called Entre Deux Mondes. Inspired by Mary Oliver's poem Wild Geese, the 32-minute piece follows a woman (company dancer Johanna Riley) who is caught between two worlds.

"It's got a cinematic feeling to it," Lott says of the piece. "I am borrowing from film noir, where everything is larger than life. The pace is slower and it's emotional."

Lott has been workshopping Entre Deux Mondes for two years.

"It's definitely evolved," he says. "Before, I was imagining telling stories that weren't shared within families. It's evolved to longing for connection and the feeling of loss that comes from the lost of connection. The woman between the two worlds is a family member who has died. Her family is feeling her presence."

The piece features the inspired video work of Jaymez, a Winnipeg video artist and electronic musician, who doubles as WCD's production manager.

"He knew I wanted a film-noir feeling," Lott says. "It kind of reminds me of Citizen Kane. It's really urban landscapes he's worked with."

Adding to the ink-black visuals is Canadian turntablist Kid Koala's Space Cadet, an electronic soundtrack to his graphic novel of the same name. Space Cadet is about a young female astronaut, so its soundtrack fits well with Entre Deux Mondes.

Lott was grabbed by the music while listening to the soundtrack album on the way home from work one day. "I just started seeing the dance," he says.

Lott is also proud to present She, Fortier's new piece featuring Poitras. "She's a treasure we have on the Prairies," Lott says. "I have brought Paul-André here three times in the past eight years. He really is a Winnipeg favourite."

Bundon and Pallomina, meanwhile, will also be premièring a new work -- a 17-minute two-hander called The Understory that explores isolation and interdependence against a prairie winter backdrop. Theirs is something of a quintessential Prairie Dance Circuit piece. For the past four years, the regional series has sought to answer the question: Is there a prairie esthetic? By seeing what's going on in other prairie centres, Lott has noticed commonalities.

"I think if you asked any of the artistic directors involved, the answers would all be different," Lott says. "I think we have a unique use of space. I can't quite define it, but our musical choices seem to be quite different from what's happening out east."

The 2013-14 season is a busy one. In February, WCD's emerging-artist company, Verge, will present a new work created in just five weeks. In March, playwright Debbie Patterson will team up with Lott create a new full-length work exploring Patterson's personal experience with multiple sclerosis. April will see the return of Canadian icon Peggy Baker, who will première a new work created with WCD dancers called Schema, as well perform a solo titled Epilogue. She is also bringing her company of dancers to perform a piece called Split Screen Stereophonic.

jen.zoratti@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 1, 2013 D3

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