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In October we’re thrilled to welcome Berlin-based dance artist Laurie Young, who performs One hundred more – a collaboration with Vancouver-based Justine A. Chambers – as part of our Global Dance Connections series. Here Laurie talks about her career, her work, her connection with Justine, and resistance – and friendship.
How did you first come to dance?
I danced in the living room, in the bedroom, at the local women’s dances with my sisters, in front of MuchMusic videos. It was social and very personal. It was that place of being and becoming all at once.
I started jazz and ballet lessons at the nearest dance studio in the suburbs of Ottawa when I was about 11 years old and with the encouragement of one of my first teachers, Connie St. Louis – was introduced to the school of Le Groupe de la Place Royale. This is when I first met Peter Boneham, as a young kid. He gifted me a full-time scholarship and I drank up as many classes as I could while also attending the dance programme at Canterbury High School.
When and why did you move to Germany?
My love and history at Le Groupe is so important to me – after being a student at the school I was a company member from 1992-1995. In 1995 Le Groupe invited the German choreographer Sasha Waltz to work with us for a three-week lab. Shortly after meeting her she invited me to join her in Berlin to dance in her next production called Allee der Kosmonauten. What started as a 6-month contract in 1996, extended into me becoming a company member with Sasha Waltz and Guests where I remained for about 8 years.
I moved to Berlin in my early twenties and the city was super dynamic, in constant transition, dark, complicated – I was homesick and trying to navigate a language and country that held no cultural or emotional history for me but I knew that working as an artist in Berlin was blowing my mind and I had to stay to see what would unfold.
What are the main elements/themes in your choreography to date?
I’ve been working in many different kinds of collaborations. For some years I was involved in transdisciplinary projects with artists of different media but also scientists and scholars.
I have had a longstanding fascination and disturbance with Natural History Museums which brought me to work with sensory ethnographer and interdisciplinary artist, Susanne Schmitt.
She introduced me to multispecies studies – a growing field that unsettles notions of species and asks one to pay attention to diverse ways of life. My choreographic work started to recognize other than human relations in all sorts of different settings – within the museum framework but also in the city and forest. It really expanded my notion of choreography.
With this spirit I started creating outside the theatre, in museums, as audio walks and as writing.
I know that my work has taken many forms, but I think at its core, I am interested in how choreography creates relations and as a dancer how this can be archived in the body and through sensorium offer real information.
Tell us about how you met Justine and how/why you began to collaborate.
Justine and I met at the second iteration (2013) of 8 days – which is a residency for Canadian dance artists initiated by Ame Henderson and the beloved Tedd Robinson.
As I had been living away from Canada already for many years this opportunity to meet and re-connect with Canadian artists was a truly remarkable experience. I was and am so deeply grateful for these gatherings and being in conversation with folks about work outside of production and institutional frameworks.
In this year, 8 days was being hosted by Justine at ten fifteen maple and while I have many vivid memories – this one stands out:
There was a moment when Justine and I danced under a tree. It probably only lasted a few minutes, but I felt this instant recognition between us. She got me. My decisions, my instincts, my rhythm – and I felt I got hers. This sensation, this memory lingered with me and I had the urge to keep this dialogue between us open.
Then in 2016 Justine was awarded the Chrystal Dance Prize which gave us the opportunity to meet at Dance Victoria studios. Justine’s son was very young at the time and I had brought my child from Berlin to be with me. It was clear our working conditions needed to be shaped by different measures than what we had both been trained into. Again it was: OK, I understand this decision of not being able to work between these hours because you/I need to have dinner with our kid. And that was such a relief and another kind of mutual recognition.
We were also very fortunate to be invited as Visiting Dance Artists at the National Arts Centre in 2018-2019 and this gave us the resources and chance to keep our connection growing. Ottawa is a city where we both grew up but unbelievably never met though we shared mutual circles and dance history.
So the development of One hundred more was a long and slow burn that occurred over several years, in Vancouver, Ottawa and Berlin. I think we started collaborating because we love dancing together.
What is the inspiration behind One hundred more?
Justine and I have overlapping interests in the embodied archive and gestures. It was a rich meeting ground and as we started in the studio it felt like we were working through our own embodied archives of gestures that had to do with personal strategies of resistance as women of colour. How do our individual experiences in this coalesce, move through and overlap with each other? How do we pick up and respond to other iconic gestures of resistance?
We spent a lot of time reading. We spent a lot of time dancing to music we love. With these gestures of resistance we thought about how rhythm moves through us but also how we could shape and shift rhythm. Working with a DJ and live mixing felt like a natural progression.
There was a moment when we considered creating a writing piece, but soon realized that what we needed was to move together, in liveness and co-presence. And we had to have our archived and emergent gestures witnessed by a live public.
Still, in the end – I really believe that One hundred more is also about us loving to dance together, side by side. It is very much a declaration of resistance and friendship.
What is your next project?
I’ll be opening up an exhibition in Leipzig with a dear collaborator, Anike Joyce Sadiq. Her background is in installation and mixed media and we meet around our interest in sculpture as choreographic objects. We are bringing together some pieces we created last year which address the exhausted body and are developing a new installation where we explore the “vibration” and the tremble as a way to disrupt imperial thinking.
I’ll also be finishing up a publication with K.Verlag together with co-authors Kiran Kumãr and Kiwi Menrath. It is a box set of fictionalized documents called Imaginary Archives.
The Dance Centre presents the Global Dance Connections Series
Justine A. Chambers & Laurie Young: One hundred more
October 13-14, 2022 | 8pm
Scotiabank Dance Centre
Photos: Sebastian Bolesch and Oliver Look