TWObigsteps Collective is live streaming a double bill of contemporary dance works at the end of May. We sat down (virtually!) with choreographers Marissa Wong and Katie Cassady to discuss the works, the impact of the pandemic, and their future plans.
Marissa and Katie, how did you meet? What prompted you to start working together?
Marissa/Katie: We first met in ballet class at Harbour Dance Centre. We both trained in San Francisco and had recently moved back to Vancouver. Marissa was wearing a T-shirt from Alonzo King’s LINES training program, which she had just completed, and Katie asked her about the shirt, that’s how we met! It was the T-shirt that started it all! Shortly after that Marissa was creating a piece for 12 Minutes Max at The Dance Centre and asked Katie to be a part of it. Following that project, the dancers involved in that project were asked to be a part of TWObigsteps Collective, and that was the beginning of the Vancouver chapter of TWObigsteps.
Departure comprises two new works – what can you tell us about the pieces?
Marissa: This performance will premiere a self-choreographed solo (also titled ‘Departure’) that has been in creation for the past three years. This solo uses my history and movement patterns to demonstrate the healing process and growth. As I move through a structured improvisation score, I will confront vulnerability, attachment, desire, pleasure, and frustration. The score demands an honest approach and exposes the voices in our head that can keep us rooted in behaviour patterns.
I learned there were many patterns held in my body, not just from specific traumatic experiences. The pandemic further emphasized my responses to adversity, allowing me to question their origins and patterns. It was important as a female, Chinese-Canadian artist to diverge from the perpetuated trauma narrative. Centering around the messy human experience, this piece explores how history impacts current behaviours.
Katie: For this show, I’ll be presenting a duet titled II. II is a portrait of a relationship between two women, exploring the complexity of a peer relationship. It focuses on dynamics like mutual admiration, competitiveness, joy, and how these can all be contained in a relationship simultaneously. I’ve been working with Sophie Mueller-Langer and Sarah Wong over the past year to develop this intimate duet, with original music composed by Stefan Nazarevich.
This performance was postponed from last May due to the pandemic: how have the works changed/evolved since then?
Marissa: There was so much anticipation for the performance last year and I was ready to put this piece out to the universe. The postponement gave me time to further clarify what I was wanting to say with this work. The restrictions from Covid-19 also provided space to reflect on my reaction/relation to adversity which was an important development in the piece since 2020.
Katie: For me, the work has completely changed, I was planning to work with an entirely different concept last year. While it was unfortunate to have to postpone the show, I’m really grateful for the additional time to think through what I wanted to create, and the chance to start afresh. Due to the nature of creating in a pandemic, this duet II is very much a pandemic duet choreographically, as we worked with physical distancing measures through the creation period. So, in a creative sense, the pandemic proposed new boundaries to choreograph within.
Departure will be shared as a digital live stream. As artists, how have you found livestreams compared to in-person performances? How have you had to learn or adapt?
Marissa: I deeply miss the social ritual of live performance, and the sharing of conversation with the community. I was resistant to virtual performance at first, while admiring those pivoting to sharing online. I see my duty as an artist to be as generous as possible with my craft. This means, meeting people where they are at this very moment, and right now, it is created within the restrictions of Covid-19. Yasuhiro Okada will be facilitating our livestream and I trust his abilities to convey our dancing to the online community.
Katie: As an artist, considering how work will be documented and the logistics of livestreaming has been a totally new experience. There is the wonderful element of liveness and variability, which was important to us, and the possibility for new perspectives with camera angles and close-ups. It’s daunting, but it also creates a new space for collaboration. I’m excited to see what’s possible and learn from Yasuhiro’s expertise.
After this event you will be winding up TWObigsteps Collective and moving on to individual projects. What has the collective meant to you over the past six years?
Marissa/Katie: The collective has been a playground for exploring, learning, and growing. It was a wonderful way to take some first steps as emerging artists, learning about writing grants, how we want to approach creation processes, applying to festivals, and navigating working as a group. Looking back, it’s amazing to see how motivated we were to dance and put ourselves and our work out into the world with very limited resources, and how as a group we were all willing to make that work. Big applause to the commitment and support that we provided one another, and we are very proud of our many accomplishments.
What is next for the both of you?
Marissa: I will be taking over as the Artistic Director for Amber Funk Barton’s the response. in which I will bring all of the teachings from TWObigsteps and the history from the response. towards the new company name, The Falling Company.
My next choreography will explore the relationship to our first families through home furnishings. This work will premiere at EDAM’s Fall Choreographic Series, October/November 2021.
Katie: I’m going to continue exploring being a freelance dancer and choreographer, I look forward to trying out new creation ideas and delving further into my performance practice. I’ll be creating a work for Vines Arts Festival this summer, that’s next for me.
TWObigsteps Collective presents:
Streaming Live: Friday May 28, 2021 | 8pm PDT + Saturday May 29, 2021 | 3pm and 8pm PDT
Presented in partnership with The Dance Centre
Photos: Susanna Barlow and Belen Garcia