Aspects of Alterity, Jolene Bailie’s latest modern dance show, is inspired by her life experiences, prairie geography, composer John Cage, and the late Rachel Browne.
Bailie is the artistic director of Gearshifting Performance Works. She wanted to put together a piece that explored the visceral, emotional and hard-to-explain experiences people have in everyday life.
"I began to really research and reflect on how these intangible experiences we have in day-to-day life imprint within us and how our own bodily experiences have such a deep resonance," she said.
"In a way, they’re what help us decipher in our life what’s valid to us, what’s true, what’s false — what we believe in."
Although Bailie’s inspiration for the work involved a specific vision — prairie geography and an arctic whiteout, among other things — she stressed that it’s meant to be experienced differently by everyone.
"That’s sort of the beauty of modern dance, is that it is open," said Bailie.
"While I have these distinct impressions that have propelled me forward, it’s not that when people come to the show, we’re asking them to think about those things. There’s a lot of freedom."
One thing that is a constant and important part of the show is the avant-garde music of John Cage.
Jillian Groening is in her final year of training in the senior professional program at The School of Contemporary Dancers. She’s one of the performers, and said Cage’s pieces in the show, which are highly experimental, are much different than dancing to a regular beat.
Groening said the compositions are stimulating, but challenging to dance to.
"It feeds into the energy," Groening said.
"You have to be listening and super aware and it really puts you right into the moment of the piece. You have no choice but to be right there listening to it. It’s very alive."
Along with Cage’s music, Bailie’s emotional inspiration comes form her memories of modern dance icon Rachel Browne.
Browne was Bailie’s favourite dance teacher, and also worked with her. Her admiration of Browne is apparent in the way she talks about her "relentless drive, and consistency, and pushing and digging" in the pursuit of her vision.
"With her passing there’s been this huge ripple effect in the entire dance community," Bailie said.
"It was very unexpected and surprising, and she was sort of like everybody’s dance mother."
And while Bailie expects many different personal interpretations of Aspects of Alterity, she said there is a common feeling for people to take from it.
"It allows everybody involved to get out of the everydayness and really live in the moment," Bailie said.
"It’s not a reminder, but it can be a motivator."
Aspects of Alterity plays Nov. 16 to 17 at the Gas Station Theatre. Tickets are $20 or $15 for students and seniors at Gearshifting.org.