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Our final DanceLab of the season features interdisciplinary art collective Chimerik. We sat down with Artistic Directors Sammy Chien and Caroline MacCaull to discuss their journeys to dance, the founding of Chimerik, and what we can expect from their studio showing on July 31.
Tell us about your respective journeys through dance.
My background was in film, music and visual arts, dance was actually the field that I thought I was furthest away from. However, in 2008 Dr. Henry Daniel brought the pioneering digital performance group Troika Ranch (NYC/Berlin) to work with us and that was the entry to dance and technology for me, from there on it became a huge part of my career.
I feel very fortunate that the dance makers who I encountered and worked with have been very open-minded, inspiring, subversive and have healthy views on dance. They welcomed someone like myself who had zero institutional dance training to be a deep part of their creation and collaboration process (just to name a few: Karen Jamieson Dance, MACHiNENOiSY, Wen Wei Dance…). For over a decade, I was collaborating in dance creation as a new media/projection designer, sound designer/composer and movement collaborator.
I later dove into dance practice more rigorously with mentors such as Lee Su-Feh, Christopher House, Ame Henderson and Peter Chin. Through years of research and working in dance, there was a deep calling to rediscover dance as a sacred ritual, its original source, power and value. I created a 9-part Dance-Technology research project called W(e)aves that explores this subject matter. The connection between the bodymind, somatic intelligence and mental health is another big part of the research that we’re focusing on.
I grew up dancing and training from the age of 3, it has always been a huge part of my life. I later graduated from SFU with a BFA degree in Dance. Near the end of my graduation, my practice and relationship to dance/movement radically shifted. I began exploring different approaches to movement beyond institutionalized training as well as began working as a dance-technology artist. With storytelling, energetic awareness and interactivity in performance as some of the key elements in my practice, with each project I aim to lead with curiosity, joy and an expanded perception of the human journey.
When and why did you form Chimerik? And how did you meet?
The idea of Chimerik was formed around 2009 where I curated a big underground interdisciplinary exhibition with Open Contemporary Art Centre (OCAC) in Taiwan with a deep focus on empowering multidimensionality, ambiguity and multifacetedness. I wanted to bridge different possibilities that didn’t seem possible from the outlook to unlock new potentials. Through the years, it has grown, shifted and transformed tremendously.
I met Sammy by Googling the keywords “dance technology Vancouver” and “dance technology Berlin”, both times Sammy and Chimerik showed up, so I thought it was the right person to reach out to, with deep alignment of values and interests. We’re now running the company together.
What have you been working on during your DanceLab?
For our DanceLab residency, we will be working on our project We Were One, which has been in development since 2020. Our goal for our 3 days in the Faris is to focus on researching and developing projection/new media technology from the choreographic/movement material that we have so far, to further integrate the technology with storytelling, ritual, spiritual practice and movement art.
What might people be surprised to know about you?
We are writing this in a mediumship school in the UK, the only recognized public institution in the world that teaches Spiritualism and Psychic Science. We have been working, learning and training 10 hours a day for 2 weeks straight and are currently studying Trance Mediumship development this week.
What is your next project?
We will be working for most of August in Toronto on Chimerik’s 似不像 Project 5.fulless, co-led by Caroline and Chimerik’s Artistic Associate, Jasmine Liaw. With an amazing team of collaborators involved on this project, Sammy will be working as a New Media collaborator on the project as well as a mentor (as part of our decolonial training program) to one of Chimerik’s new intern artists, Brigita Gedgaudas. There will be work-in-progress showings in Toronto presented by Charles Street Video on August 24 and 25.
5.fulless is an experimental interdisciplinary performance that emulates the complexity of queerness and identity through dreamstates. As a collaborative piece, audiences explore a participatory digital dimension where two movement artists meet – as if they are both arriving in a lucid dream space.
Read and watch more:
Becoming Chimerik: PechaKucha video presentation
Stillness in Motion: Ryberg Live/PuSh International Performing Arts Festival 2014 about Sammy’s life journey finding dance/movement as a lifetime practice:
We Were One project details:
We Were One
Monday July 31, 5pm
Scotiabank Dance Centre
Photos by Dayna Szyndrowski, Alisha Weng
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