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Member Spotlight

Member Spotlight: Generous Mess

May 2021: Generous Mess

Instagram @generous_mess

Who is Generous Mess? 
We are Sarah Hutton and Aiden Cass. We are contemporary dance artists and have been rooting our professional practice in Vancouver the past few years where we dance for other choreographers, companies, and projects. Generous Mess is a name and space holder for our creative partnership in research, choreography, and performance.

Where did the name come from? 
We knew we wanted a name that spoke to our relationship with the creative process. We were confident that doubt, chaos, and frustration would always be part of what we do. Our mentors were/are always encouraging us to welcome this part of the process so it wouldn’t knock us off our feet and stop us from creating. Calling ourselves a “mess” felt accurate to the self-deprecating jokes we often make. Some of our favourite creative processes we’ve been a part of were non-streamlined and always felt very messy when we were in the thick of it. In these processes there was always a huge presence of generosity from everyone involved. Generosity to trust the process, to contribute, to forgive, to be patient, etc. It was the generosity that held the chaos together and kept the process from unravelling at any given moment. This is the kind of people/process we are striving to be/accomplish.

Tell us a bit about your work and practice.
Our current (and sole) body of work is a duet that’s currently in development. We try to make stark and tender moments. We try to make our audiences laugh from humour or awkwardness. Using real events, we’ve experienced, we hyperbolize those moments conceptually and/or visually in our work. We love partnering and lifting each other. Making lists and watching videos of our rehearsals and improvisations are two things we use to stay on track and motivated. We work in an unfiltered and tangential way where we freely negotiate who is leading the rehearsal.

How long have the members of Generous Mess been dancing together? 
We began dancing together in 2016 as peers training in Modus Operandi’s contemporary dance training program. Our impulse to work together stemmed from our shared training and the trust that was built in each other’s abilities and ideas over the three years dancing together.

How does dance fit into your lives currently? 
Aiden: Dance is still very much a part of my life. I’m lucky to have been in rehearsals for upcoming performances this past year. Lately, dance hasn’t had to fit into my life, and it has been more so the opposite – my life is currently trying to fit around dance. Most of the dance that is in my life right now is rehearsing for shows, remounting rehearsals, and creation periods.

Sarah: I have treasured the small chunks of time drop-in classes have been able to run. The past year I’ve been trying to revisit dance forms that I’ve had long breaks from like Tap and House. When drop-in classes were restricted, finding studio space to improvise or train was what I relied on to stay moving. I am thankful for other spaces to move like Aiden’s parents’ basement and Robson Square. I’ve been spending more time online seeing what other artists are up to, learning what resources are available, and dreaming up our work. The past year has given me the time to practice writing about our work and to apply for our first project assistance grant. I haven’t performed since last summer and I definitely am missing that, but it’s been great to be researching and creating in the meantime.

How would you describe dance’s impact on your lives?
Practicing dance, watching dance, and being part of the Vancouver dance community gives us opportunities to learn and do better. The problem solving, we do in our creative communities or ecosystems always helps us find a new perspective and we try to apply that to other parts of our lives and vice versa. It’s overwhelming to try to describe the way dance challenges us and packs meaning into our lives. Whether it be short or long term, our decision-making is always influenced by dance.

Has the group been able to work together during the Covid pandemic? 
Yes, luckily the two of us have been able to work as we are in a shared living and working partnership.

What three core values drive your engagement with dance?
-Trusting that dance has the potential to improve people/public’s health and wellbeing – sometimes we question the importance of dance in a world facing such a large amount of injustice and tragedy. But we have seen ways it can foster positivity and change. We still struggle with whether this is attainable. Every day we have to reconsider what it means to try to accomplish this with dance.

-No particular form/style of dance is better or more valuable than another.


Do you have a particular practice that you carry out each day or have you implemented new practices while adapting to the current climate?
Some practices and activities that have kept us moving, engaged, and having fun the past year are taking long walks, playing spikeball, skateboarding (Aiden), jewelry making (Sarah) and making sourdough bread. We also enjoy watching runners on the sea wall and determining if it looks like they are running from something, to something, neither, or something else entirely.

What would you say are the most significant benefits to being a Dance Centre member? 
We have relied on the Dance Centre this past year to help us learn basic knowledge and skills needed for our dance making. Questions and guidance about studio bookings, subsidies, and grant writing have been welcomed and answered by their staff. We have also applied to larger programs of support through the Dance Centre. It’s really exciting that we can get the help an emerging artist needs, apply to the Dance Centre’s professional programming, and feel connected to the professional dance community all in one building and membership.

Interested in becoming a Dance Centre Member? Learn more here

Photos by Evan Morash