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Lonely teardrops

WCD's latest show offers a choreographer's vision of social isolation

Ray Demski Photo</p><p>New York-based freelance dancer Joseph Picciotto performs in Lucas Is Lonely, the final show in Winnipeg’s Contemporary Dancers’ season.</p>

Ray Demski Photo

New York-based freelance dancer Joseph Picciotto performs in Lucas Is Lonely, the final show in Winnipeg’s Contemporary Dancers’ season.

Choreographer Jasmine Ellis’s latest work was inspired by what she calls an “epidemic of loneliness.”

“The third or fourth time I picked up an article about social isolation, I realized this is something that’s having an effect, not just on a few people, but on greater society,” she says. “I thought it was something we should talk about in a different format than how it’s currently being talked about.”

That kernel of an idea pointed Ellis, the artist-in-residence with Winnipeg’s Contemporary Dancers, toward Lucas Is Lonely, an hour-long group work that has its world première Thursday at the Rachel Browne Theatre.

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Choreographer Jasmine Ellis’s latest work was inspired by what she calls an "epidemic of loneliness."

 

"The third or fourth time I picked up an article about social isolation, I realized this is something that’s having an effect, not just on a few people, but on greater society," she says. "I thought it was something we should talk about in a different format than how it’s currently being talked about."

That kernel of an idea pointed Ellis, the artist-in-residence with Winnipeg’s Contemporary Dancers, toward Lucas Is Lonely, an hour-long group work that has its world première Thursday at the Rachel Browne Theatre.

Supplied</p><p>Choreographer Jasmine Ellis is the artist in residence at Winnipeg’s Contemporary Dancers.</p>

Supplied

Choreographer Jasmine Ellis is the artist in residence at Winnipeg’s Contemporary Dancers.

The show is described as "a dance piece that explores the loneliest moments of life, narrated by a man, inside a dance performance, who isn’t a dancer."

That man, Lucas, is played by Toronto actor Kit Weyman, and he has one quality that makes him perfect for the part.

"He really doesn’t dance," Ellis says, laughing. "He really doesn’t dance. But he’s just been throwing himself into it."

Weyman’s solitary stance as the one non-dancer onstage is intentional, a shorthand for the outsider feeling we get in situations where we’re not comfortable or don’t fit it.

"It’s the parallel of feeling socially isolated," the choreographer says of the symbolism. " ‘Everybody else is connected but I’m not. Everybody else has this base of understanding something that I can’t get to.’ Everyone on the stage is a professional dancer with a full dance education, and as much as he desires to connect with them, he’s missing something."

Ray Demski Photo</p><p>From left: Joseph Picciotto, Emma Dal Monte, Kit Weyman, Mark Dela Cruz and Allison Brooks.</p></p>

Ray Demski Photo

From left: Joseph Picciotto, Emma Dal Monte, Kit Weyman, Mark Dela Cruz and Allison Brooks.

Ellis says she’s aware that audiences who are unfamiliar with contemporary dance vocabulary might sympathize with Lucas; she hopes putting a character onstage who shares their feelings — a lack of knowledge but a desire to understand — might be a kind of window into the work.

"If you just look at a bunch of dancers and you know nothing about dance — you just know those things you can’t do with your body — what’s your door to enter? How is it relevant to you? So I’m thinking about somebody that’s like my dad or uncle; how would I give them a way into a universe that I already find so interesting?"

The choreographer, 32, began her dance education just outside Toronto, but has been working professionally in Europe for almost a decade, first in the Netherlands and then in Germany. She now calls Munich home.

In Germany, she works with a dramaturge, Martina Missel, whom she brought to Winnipeg to help her shape Lucas Is Lonely, which is a deeply collaborative work. (Her next project is Part 2 of what she hopes will be a trilogy; Toni Is Lonely will be created in Munich and will address the same subject matter but with different dancers and a different composer.)

"I always like to work as collaboratively as possible," Ellis says, adding that Missel helps focus the artistic vision by digging up articles, scientific studies, works of art, anything that relates to the subject, to help shape the work. "I come with concept, an idea and and direction, and then I build it together with the dancers, with the costume designer, with the composer from the ground up."

Winnipeg composer Christine Fellows collaborated on the score with the dancers and Munich-based choreographer Jasmine Ellis.</p>

Winnipeg composer Christine Fellows collaborated on the score with the dancers and Munich-based choreographer Jasmine Ellis.

She’s been in Winnipeg for about a month, working with Weyman and the dancers (Allison Brooks, Emma Dal Monte, Mark Dela Cruz and Joseph Picciotto), and with Winnipeg songwriter Christine Fellows, who has penned scores for myriad dance productions and performance works, and who composed the soundtrack for Lucas Is Lonely.

 

"Christine Fellows has just been fantastic in taking our research and being in the studio, watching what we’re doing and developing this soundtrack that feels like it’s come just as we are," Ellis says. "She does something, we do something, we share with each other; I change a bit to go with the music, she changes the music a bit to go with the dance, so it’s born simultaneously."

Ellis’s work is usually quite narrative in style; she says Lucas Is Lonely is even more so, since it features an actor and also incorporates text.

"It’s not a storyline in the sense of ‘John walked down the street,’ but it’s very clear what we’re talking about, and the information that we gathered that we’re trying to share…

"A lot of our research had to do with the size of our networks and the way in which we do or don’t need people anymore," she says. "Communities used to be based on a lot of give and take; the more self-reliant we become, the more we isolate ourselves from our own network."

jill.wilson@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @dedaumier

Ray Demski Photo</p>

Ray Demski Photo

Jill Wilson

Jill Wilson
Senior copy editor

Jill Wilson writes about culture and the culinary arts for the Arts & Life section.

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Updated on Wednesday, April 10, 2019 at 6:24 AM CDT: Adds photos

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