Our next Global Dance Connections digital stream features Joshua Beamish/MOVETHECOMPANY’s PROXIMITY – a collection of short works. We sat down (virtually!) with Josh to find out more about the program.
Tell us about your dance career to date.
I’m originally from Kelowna, BC. In my youth I began collecting dance friends into makeshift companies and eventually formalized this into Joshua Beamish/MOVETHECOMPANY when I was 17. Since then, I have navigated choreographing and performing both within the company’s projects and for outside opportunities. Since 2011, I’ve often worked in New York City, most significantly with New York City Ballet Associate Artistic Director Wendy Whelan. Through BC Arts Council’s Early Career Development program I initiated a relationship with The Royal Ballet/Royal Opera House in London, which spanned 2.5 years and 5 presentations of my work. Other recent highlights include presentations at The Joyce Theater and BAM in NYC, and creations for The National Ballet of Canada, Dutch National Ballet Choreographic Academy, Cirque du Soleil, Cape Town Opera, Compania Nacional de Danza de Mexico, and Toronto Dance Theatre. I’ve also performed works by Ame Henderson, Noam Gagnon, Simone Orlando and Amber Funk Barton.
Proximity features four dance works and a film, with choreography by you, Kirsten Wicklund, and Annabelle Lopez Ochoa. What prompted you to compile this program?
After the supersize task of mounting @giselle, my 2019 full-length production involving a cast and crew of 30, I was very ready to scale down. I began conceiving a program of solos and duets, with plans to begin creation the week that BC first shut down. It is a series of encounters between myself and a single dance artist. With this project, I return to the stage in works by two women whom I have long admired, local emerging choreographer Kirsten Wicklund and celebrated international dancemaker Annabelle Lopez Ochoa. With the duet Proximity, originally commissioned by Fall For Dance North in Toronto, I am also performing the first work I have created for myself in five years.
All five works touch on journeys through solitude, restriction and contemplation, harnessing a reflection of our collective present, in service of investigation and growth. Our current restricted state has imposed a focus on intimacy with a select few as we face barriers in our routine interactions with others. It has been refreshing to offer my full investment to one creative relationship at a time.
How did you come to work with Annabelle and Kirsten?
Kirsten and I first met in ballet school as teenagers. I remember watching her in class often, amazed by her work ethic and by how she seemed to improve exponentially day after day. Throughout our careers we’ve always kept tabs on one another but never found the right moment to collaborate. When I saw her perform her own solo work at Dancing on the Edge, I knew that I wanted to have the opportunity to dance her choreography. I felt eager to invest myself into an attempt to embody the power and nuance she exudes on stage. When COVID-19 deleted our schedules we were left with nothing but time to investigate potential avenues for me to calibrate the physical transformation that her work demands of me.
Annabelle and I were curated onto the same program at Fire Island Dance Festival in 2015, where we met. A few months later, we were both in London working with English National Ballet and The Royal Ballet, respectively. We continued finding ourselves in the same cities at the same time but for different reasons, and began discussing the idea of collaborating. We began making this solo in July 2018 in NYC.
How did the film Falling Upward come about?
Scott Fowler and I had discussed the idea of collaborating for some time, but similarly to Kirsten, his Ballet BC schedule often precluded him from taking on independent projects. Luckily, we found a window to create before he moved to Holland to join Nederlands Dans Theater. I had come across a quote from Richard Rohr which related to the idea of a moment of failure or pain enabling us to “return, in other words, to the person we already are, but whom we don’t know”. I had been through significant highs and lows in 2019, which left me unbalanced. When the pandemic hit, I felt like I had already rehearsed loss of connection, identity and ambition the year prior, and was in a way better equipped to handle our changed reality.
Scott felt his own connection to Rohr’s words, as did our composer Stefan Nazarevich. He scouted locations in North Vancouver and we ventured into woods, tracks and warehouses. All of the movement in the film is improvised in reaction to the environment. Scott offered me some prompts for exploration, in addition to those of my own. We had some parts of the score before we started filming, so sometimes I’m dancing to Stefan’s music but other times I was actually dancing to Cardi B.
What might people be surprised to know about you?
While some people might know that I am a cinephile, posting film reviews and awards commentary as a hobby, they may not know that I compulsively track box office statistics and film production announcements daily. I’ve done this since I was in elementary school. I also make my own annual film award nominations and have done so since I was 9. My first Best Picture winner was LA Confidential, which I chose over Titanic.
Also, many people who might identify me by my prematurely grey hair probably don’t know that I actually started going grey at 13 years old.
What is your next project?
In my break from this project, I began collaborating with American Ballet Theatre principal dancer Herman Cornejo, in the initial formation of his company DanceLive. The company operates in collaboration with Sebring Revolution, a film and photography company which employs 360 3D cameras to capture the performers from all angles simultaneously. We’re developing a series of hybrid performance/film works, which have thus far included a solo for Herman and a pas de deux with ABT Principal Skylar Brandt. When I’m able to travel again I will return to work with Herman in NYC. In fall 2021, Joshua Beamish/MOVETHECOMPANY will hopefully be back on tour with my production Saudade in Ontario and Germany and this program, Proximity, in NYC.
The Dance Centre presents the Global Dance Connections series
PROXIMITY – a collection of short works
Streaming February 25, 2021 7pm PST until March 11, 2021 at 7pm PST
Presented with PuSh International Performing Arts Festival
Photos: Mikaela Kelly and David Cooper