“PIC­TURE PER­FECT” Pub­lic and Pri­vate finds a fem­i­nist ca­ma­raderie

The Georgia Straight - - Arts - —THE GE­OR­GIA STRAIGHT by

DJanet Smith

ance artist Ziyian Kwan, like un­count­able oth­ers, was in­spired by the rip­ple ef­fects of the #Metoo move­ment—by women across the con­ti­nent rais­ing their voices, push­ing back, and speak­ing out like never be­fore.

All that ma­te­rial made her start to won­der what kind of fem­i­nist she was. And it prompted her to start ex­plor­ing her ideas in a stu­dio— not alone, as the artis­tic di­rec­tor of dumb in­stru­ment Dance does in solo work like her the neck to fall, but with other fe­male-bod­ied per­form­ers.

“Who am I in this beau­ti­ful move­ment and how are we en­cour­aged?” she asks, sit­ting in a café around the cor­ner from the Left of Main stu­dio where her work Pub­lic and Pri­vate soon de­buts. “The so­lu­tion to me is to be in a room to­gether with peo­ple and talk­ing about it.”

She gath­ered dancers Deanna Peters, Delia Brett, Erika Mit­suhashi, and Hay­ley Gawthrop. And she has set them all in a room at the tiny Left of Main stu­dio with the thun­der­ing sounds of Eileen Kage’s taiko drums, un­der the watch­ful eye of dra­maturge Heidi Tay­lor. The tight bond the group has formed is ob­vi­ous.

The day the Straight is there, the artists open re­hearsal with their own rit­ual: sit­ting in a cir­cle, they take turns say­ing what they’ve brought to give and what they hope to take away from the day. Some­times the an­swers are as sim­ple as “in­spi­ra­tion” and “gar­lic breath”; the point is, they’re shar­ing pri­vate things—and that flows nat­u­rally into Kwan’s col­lab­o­ra­tive cre­ative process, in which ev­ery­one re­veals a lit­tle of her­self in the pub­lic realm.

Once re­hearsal be­gins, the artists speak and holler, re­ar­range each other’s limbs, em­brace and in­ter­twine, hold­ing hands. In de­vel­op­ing the

David Cooper photo

eclec­tic piece, Kwan has had to work through their dif­fer­ent per­cep­tions of what it means to be a fem­i­nist to­day, what it means to move for the fe­male gaze in­stead of the male gaze.

For Kwan, it’s also meant dig­ging at her own pri­vate his­tory.

“With Left of Main be­ing in Chi­na­town, I can’t es­cape the fact that my fem­i­nism re­lates to be­ing Chi­nese­cana­dian,” says Kwan. “My fem­i­nism was rooted in my mother, who raised two chil­dren pretty much on her own while get­ting an English de­gree, while also work­ing as a sec­re­tary. So my life is rooted in fem­i­nism.”

In Pub­lic and Pri­vate, the dancers in­vite the view­ers into that room with them. The space al­lows for just about 25 peo­ple to sit in chairs along the wall. “It was an in­ti­mate piece and I wanted an in­ti­mate space,” Kwan says of her first self-pro­duced work. “It’s about in­ti­macy and it’s about ca­ma­raderie.”

Like a num­ber of other lo­cal clas­si­cal-mu­sic events this week­end (see story, page 19), the Van­cou­ver Cantata Singers’ Thren­ody: Re­quiem and Re­mem­brance is in­tended to com­mem­o­rate the 100th an­niver­sary of the end of the First World War, and to pro­vide a more gen­eral op­por­tu­nity to mourn those we’ve lost in that and other con­flicts. But there’s also a pointed mes­sage in this som­bre and beau­ti­ful pro­gram, thanks to Kristi Lane Sin­clair’s song “Woman”, which re­minds us of a slaugh­ter that’s hap­pen­ing right here at home: the un­de­clared but on­go­ing war against Indige­nous women. Hun­dreds, if not thou­sands, of mostly young women are among the miss­ing or mur­dered— and, more often than not, find­ing their killers has been a low pri­or­ity for po­lice forces across Canada and else­where.

Not sur­pris­ingly, these sad facts were on Sin­clair’s mind when she sat down to work on ma­te­rial for her sec­ond LP, Dark Mat­ter, which was re­leased in 2015. “This was af­ter a lot of things had started to come out in the me­dia,” the Haida singer-song­writer ex­plains, in a tele­phone con­ver­sa­tion from her Toronto home. “This was af­ter Tina Fon­taine—stuff that just re­ally breaks your heart and tears you apart. And then [ac­tor] Misty Upham was miss­ing in Wash­ing­ton state, and no­body would look for her there. Her fam­ily found her, be­cause they’re the only ones who were go­ing to look. So I re­mem­ber be­ing lit­er­ally floored—i was on my knees, cry­ing, be­cause I was just so an­gry and so fuck­ing up­set…and then I lit­er­ally stood up. I had an elec­tric gui­tar be­side me, and I just started play­ing and the song was writ­ten in the length of the song.

“I knew it was spe­cial,” Sin­clair con­tin­ues. “I knew ex­actly what it was about; and I knew that it prob­a­bly wasn’t re­ally my voice. And I knew to just trust that, and let the song be­come what­ever it wanted to be.”

Three years later, the song is now be­com­ing some­thing else, with help from Cantata Singers artis­tic di­rec­tor Paula Kre­mer and com­poser Peter Han­nan—who, as it turns out, both had some prior his­tory with its cre­ator. “Paula was my solfège [sight-read­ing] teacher, and Peter ended up be­ing my com­po­si­tion teacher-slash-men­tor,” says Sin­clair, who stud­ied mu­sic for three years at VCC. “I was go­ing to work with him on writ­ing for strings, and then he said he was in con­ver­sa­tion with Paula, and that the choir wanted to try some­thing a lit­tle bit dif­fer­ent. And he said, ‘I think you should do this, and I’ll help you.’

“I hadn’t writ­ten notes on a page for, like, years,” she adds, laugh­ing. “But lay­er­ing voices like that gave it a power it didn’t have in the orig­i­nal ver­sion, with just me singing it. Hear­ing 30 peo­ple sing it is way cooler.”

Sin­clair thinks it’s es­pe­cially cool that a broader au­di­ence will now get a chance to hear “Woman”, in a con­text that will only re­in­force its mes­sage.

“In the end, the piece is about be­ing in­clu­sive,” she says. “It can’t just be Indige­nous peo­ple who care, and it can’t just be Indige­nous peo­ple who take ac­tion. In the press, a lot of these women are de­hu­man­ized for var­i­ous rea­sons—and that’s com­pletely un­fair, be­cause they’re very loved and very beau­ti­ful, and an im­por­tant part of our cul­ture and this coun­try. So ev­ery­body needs to stand up and pro­tect them.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.