The Georgia Straight

Friedenber­g gets personal in genderflui­d Pants

- By Charlie Smith BABY

Vancouver dancer and choreograp­her Tara Cheyenne Friedenber­g has always had a bifurcated view of gender. In a phone interview with the Straight, she reveals that her mother once asked what she wanted to be for Halloween. Friedenber­g replied “a man”.

Her mom then asked what type of male character. Friedenber­g reiterated that she just wanted to be a man.

“She got me a big moustache,” Friedenber­g says. “I definitely have been exploring drag since I was a kid.”

But she emphasizes that even though she wanted to be a boy sometimes, it wasn’t all the time.

“I also wanted to be, like, a little pink ballerina,” Friedenber­g adds.

Naturally, this raises a question about preferred pronouns.

“I go by ‘her’ most, but it depends, at the end,” she quips. “But thanks for asking.”

These stories from childhood help explain the motivation behind Friedenber­g’s newest interdisci­plinary creation, Pants, which will be presented as a work-in-progress at this year’s 34th annual Dancing on the Edge festival.

It’s a comedic combinatio­n of dance and talking, which reflects her research into her own and her child’s exploratio­n of gender. It’s been created with the help of dramaturge Joanna Garfinkel, director and cocreator

Kate Franklin, and Zee Zee Theatre’s Cameron Mackenzie, with whom she worked on Sunny Drake’s Men Express Their Feelings.

“It’s very kind of autobiogra­phical,” Friedenber­g says. “What I’m trying to do is weave storytelli­ng with the embodiment of my experience as somebody who mostly identifies as female but not exclusivel­y— and just what it is to feel masculinit­y and femininity in the body.”

Humour has long been a cornerston­e of Friedenber­g’s practice in shows like Body

Parts, How to Be, and Porno Death Cult. Whereas many of her previous shows featured extreme and zany characters, this one is far more personal. She also hopes that Pants will shine a light on the “ridiculous­ness of gender in our culture”.

“Comedy has always been a way for me to cope with things, to deal with difficult situations, to connect with people,” she says.

This was the case as a child in school, where she sometimes ran afoul of teachers with her antics.

“Even in ballet class, I would always get in trouble for trying to make the other little girls laugh,” Friedenber­g recalls.

She wanted to be a prima ballerina but her mother “very wisely” informed her that she would likely end up in the quarter ballet. That led Friedenber­g into other forms of dance.

Later, she studied theatre at the University of Calgary and dance at Simon Fraser University. Because she lived between these two worlds of dance and theatre, she was able to create her own unique blend of dance and text. Along the way, she was encouraged by mentors such as Denise Clarke of One Yellow Rabbit in Calgary and the outrageous and innovative British cofounder of DV8, Nigel Charnock, who died in 2012.

From the world of comedy, she has been inspired by Australian Hannah Gadsby and American Tig Notaro.

Friedenber­g also offers a major shout-out to Dancing on the Edge festival producer Donna Spencer. Friedenber­g guesses that the first of her many appearance­s was way back in 1994, after she graduated from university.

“I feel really lucky,” Friedenber­g says. “Give credit to Donna at the Firehall [Arts Centre] for giving me a chance really early in my career and letting me experiment and see that audience respond.

“I’m just so happy to be still doing it.” g

Dancing on the Edge will present Tara Cheyenne Friedenber­g/Tara Cheyenne Performanc­e’s Pants with Calder White’s at the Firehall Arts Centre at 9 p.m. on July 15 and 16.

 ?? Pants, Photo by Wendy D. ?? Choreograp­her Tara Cheyenne Friedenber­g aims to reveal the ridiculous­ness of gender in which will be presented as a work-in-progress at the Dancing on the Edge fest.
Pants, Photo by Wendy D. Choreograp­her Tara Cheyenne Friedenber­g aims to reveal the ridiculous­ness of gender in which will be presented as a work-in-progress at the Dancing on the Edge fest.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada