Dusk Dances’ Susie Burpee

Dusk Dances has been mak­ing dance ac­ces­si­ble in city parks ev­ery sum­mer since 2004. The pos­si­bil­ity of wind, thun­der­storms and heat waves not­with­stand­ing, the lat­est edi­tion touches down in leafy Withrow Park for seven nights from Mon­day (Au­gust 1), with

NOW Magazine - - CONTENTS - By KATH­LEEN SMITH

1 THE AU­DI­ENCE IS A MIX OF FAM­I­LIES, NEIGH­BOUR­HOOD KIDS AND DANCE BUFFS, AND THE PRO­GRAM­MING’S JUST AS ECLEC­TIC

In ad­di­tion to a pre-show Zumba class, Gad­fly rep­re­sents for street dance and hip-hop; Mon­treal duo La Otra Orilla of­fer an al­ter­na­tive take on fla­menco; and Michael Cald­well and Burpee present con­tem­po­rary pieces. Then there’s Auto-Fiction from Mon­treal-based Mi­lan Ger­vais, which uses a car as a prop for three dancers to ex­plore links be­tween na­ture and ur­ban sprawl.

2 IT’S IN­TER­AC­TIVE, SO DON’T BE SHY

Be­fore each per­for­mance of Burpee’s This is How We Love, au­di­ence mem­bers are asked the ques­tion “How does love make you feel?” Re­sponses then de­ter­mine some as­pects of Sylvie Bouchard and Bren­dan Wy­att’s per­form­re­ally ance. “I love the col­li­sion of chance and craft”, says Burpee, who re­vised the 2012 work specif­i­cally for the park. “It’s how I’ve found a way to work with other peo­ple that’s re­ally sat­is­fy­ing and that feels real. This is more than a struc­tured im­prov; ev­ery­thing is set. But the in­ter­pre­ta­tion can re­ally change from night to night.”

3 THE MC WILL GUIDE (AND EN­TER­TAIN) YOU AT EACH POINT

This year’s host, Al­le­gra Charleston (one of Burpee’s clown al­ter egos), is a bit of a wild card. “She’s very spir­ited, and I’ve had to clean her up a bit for DD”, says Burpee, who has trained in buf­fon and other clown styles and of­ten works with char­ac­ter, per­sona and cos­tume. “Her Bri­tish ac­cent swings wildly from re­gion to re­gion – she sounds like Adele and Jamie Oliver rolled into one. But I was most cu­ri­ous what it would be like to have this in­ter­ces­sor per­sona, some­one who was aware of the arts but was in that space be­tween per­former and civil­ian mode.”

More than in com­edy, Burpee is in­ter­ested in the un­de­ni­able truth of those mo­ments when theatre meets the real world. “I keep re­turn­ing to buf­fon and clown be­cause it’s al­most like reach­ing for a higher plane. Those gal­va­niz­ing mo­ments with the au­di­ence, when ev­ery­one un­der­stands that some­thing amaz­ing and real is hap­pen­ing, are some­thing you can’t re­ally get any­where else. It’s a lit­tle ad­dic­tive.”

4 EX­PECT THE UN­EX­PECTED

How do per­form­ers deal with the no­to­ri­ous volatil­ity of the set­ting – the un­pre­dictable crowds, the weather, the un­even ter­rain? “As an artist, there’s some­thing re­ally great about be­ing ac­count­able to the en­vi­ron­ment you’re in,” says Burpee. “We’ve had to make some shifts to make things work in the park. It’s in­ter­est­ing to take dance out of its four­walled con­tainer and see what hap­pens when you lose the ar­chi­tec­ture and the con­trolled sur­round­ings. There are great op­por­tu­ni­ties that are gained, like how you place colour against the fo­liage, the wind and all the beau­ti­ful, mag­i­cal things that hap­pen. But, yeah, it’s al­ways a bit nerve-rack­ing.”

5 THERE WILL BE DOGS AND CHIL­DREN

We know that chil­dren and dogs are al­ways go­ing ups­tage ev­ery­one, and they are ev­ery­where in the park. The ques­tion, says Burpee, is, “Can you be smart enough and a great enough artist to work with that?”

cut­line Susie Burpee’s clown al­ter ego Al­le­gra Charleston hosts this year’s Dusk Dances.

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