It is rare for a viewer to be offered a glimpse behind the curtain when it comes to the world of performing arts.

The fear of shattering the magic, or ruining the illusion, ensures the wall between performer and viewer is consistently raised. But there is much that can be gained from breaking down those barriers, argues Brandon Lee Alley and Racheal Prince, founders of Vancouver-based dance collective Dance//Novella.

For the month of January, Dance//Novella will be holding open rehearsals in the Polygon Gallery, where visitors can witness first-hand the creation of the group’s latest piece ahead of its debut in the space come April.

“We really want to invite people to feel free to walk in, take a seat, even raise a hand and ask a question,” said Prince, adding how viewers may be surprised to see how quickly a performance can be put together.

“Even if someone were to sit there for 15 minutes or 10 minutes, they would see something that wouldn’t have existed 15 minutes prior. They will get to see it being built and practised, and that’s really unique,” she said.

Still being in its conception stage, Alley and Prince can only divulge so much on what can be expected from the production. What they do know is it will be entitled Night is the Mother, and dreams, and the fragility of the human psyche, will take centre stage as the performance’s pivotal themes.

“It takes place in this bleak, dystopian world, and follows six characters as they band together and try to survive this new world,” explained Alley, who founded Dance//Novella with fellow former Ballet BC member Prince in 2019.

“Within that setting the characters then start slipping in and out of different realities, what we call different dreamscapes. What we’re imagining right now is giving the dancers ten questions centred around their own experience with dreaming, in terms of hopes and aspirations, but also actual dreams and nightmares too.”

The answers will help inspire how the characters’ experiences are built, said Alley, with each dream world brought to life via the dancers’ movements. Being an abstract performance, he said viewers can expect to be left with more questions than answers when the final act comes to a close.

“We’re still in the process of finishing it and seeing what it will look like top to bottom, but it will give the viewer this feeling of a slow reveal. We want something that has this looping, sort of unpredictable nature,” he said. 

“When the piece comes to an end the viewer will have a lot to think about. The beginning could be the end. Was it all a dream?”

A revered gallery that consistently puts contemporary and thought-provoking art on display, it is fitting that The Polygon would host the creation and performance of such a conceptual piece. For the viewer, witnessing a performance in an approachable and artistic space like The Polygon makes for a less intimidating and stuffy experience, said Prince, adding that theatres can often feel like elitist spaces, Prince points out.

For the dancers, The Polygon invites creativity in a way that the traditional spaces of rehearsal studio or theatre often don’t, she continued.

“The first time we made a piece there, the room itself, with it overlooking the water and overlooking downtown, did affect the tone of the work. It affects the way the dancers feel when they’re creating, it gives them a sense of freedom when you have the privilege of these beautiful views,” she said.

“It’s very liberating to create inside such an incredible art space. It just feels like anything is possible, artistically.”

Those hoping to observe the dancers developing the piece can visit The Polygon for free Jan. 10-14 and Jan. 17-21, 10 a.m.-3 p.m, in the gallery’s Seaspan Pavilion.

Mina Kerr-Lazenby is the North Shore News’ Indigenous and civic affairs reporter. This reporting beat is made possible by the Local Journalism Initiative.

[email protected]/MinaKerrLazenby

Mina Kerr-Lazenby, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, North Shore News

2024-01-11T16:59:58Z dg43tfdfdgfd