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June 2022: Shay Kuebler | Radical System Arts Society
How would you describe Radical System Arts Society in a sentence?
Performance art that looks to impact audiences through dance, martial arts, theatre and technology.
What were your artistic paths that led you to building the company?
By the time I was a teenager, I was interested in becoming a performer and choreographer. I originally wanted to be a commercial/hip hop dance choreographer for artists like Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake. This interest and passion for choreography and performance brought me to Vancouver.
After being exposed to contemporary dance, I began to realize that what I was creating within a “commercial” dance lens was essentially a contemporary form that mixed a number of my movement interests. This carried me towards a path of building a contemporary vocabulary that blended my training and influences in martial arts, dance and theatre. Focused studies in Brazil, Japan, China and The USA would further this exploration and this would create the foundation for Radical System Art.
What inspires the work you do in the company?
I always try to find topics and themes that resonate with me personally and feel important. I know that all I can do as an artist is try to genuinely chart my own path and be true to my experiences and interests. I find that inspiration can come in many forms: conversations, books, movies, poetry, visual art. The beautiful aspect of creativity is that it can be sparked by the most random and abstract of events. In a way, I see creativity as channeling the abstract to reference reality and vice versa.
Furthermore, as a director and choreographer I try build opportunities for the artists to bring in their individual interests and passions. One finding through the pandemic was an online one-on-one form of research with the artists. This research format enabled RSA to look into a broad theme, while simultaneously offering each artist the opportunity to individually invest in specific points and ideas that interested them. I believe this gives us the ability to reach broader audiences, while further empowering the artists in the creative process.
How would you describe dance’s impact on your lives?
Dance and movement have been a gift in my life. Movement is truly an instinctive form of communication and expression. I feel truly blessed that I have the ability to tell stories and express myself through my body. Dance is a part of me. It is imprinted on my identity. I will always dance. I will always shuffle. I think we all need more in our lives.
What are the core values of your company in three words?
Curiosity, humility, and play.
Do you have a particular practice that you carry out each day or have you implemented new practices as a way of adapting to the current climate?
I have built a fairly consistent writing practice. I try to write a little every morning. I don’t force it to be anything specific, but let my mind empty onto the page. I also invest regularly in my physical conditioning at home, which includes qi gong, tai chi, strength training, biking and mobility exercises.
What’s coming up for you this season? How have you adjusted your programming during the COVID-19 pandemic? And what are you most looking forward to doing moving forward?
RSA is very fortunate to have a Canada and USA tour of our newest work “MOI” planned for the fall/winter of 2022. Touring has definitely been something that the company has missed. Touring is a critical activity for the company. We feel that exposing our projects to different markets is essential to creating impactful work.
I truly believe that having someone see your work for the first time and having this opinion come from outside of what you do is the best way to build valuable feedback. We all end up being too close to the work we make. Generating input, feedback and perspectives from first-experience/unbiased audiences are essential to – what I believe – is a more genuine response.
We have adjusted some of our program to include more digital initiatives, films and online presentations. We have also built creation and research practices that can thrive through digital platforms. We never want to remove the in-person experience and direct exchange between artists, but these practices have certainly illuminated strengths that can be harnessed via digital platforms.
What would you say are the most significant benefits for you in being a Dance Centre member?
The Dance Centre has been an integral force in the development of my individual work and the foundation of my company RSA. Through its Artist-in-Residency program, The Dance Centre helped support the first full-length project developed by RSA. This opportunity was a critical step for both myself and the company. Many young and emerging artists gain support and greater capacity to make their work through The Dance Centre and this is invaluable for the vitality of the dance community.
The Dance Centre continues to be a supporter and conduit for the artists and community that I work with. It is a pillar of the dance community in Vancouver and BC. Being a member of The Dance Centre connects you to a larger community of artists and companies, and offers greater opportunities to both create and witness live performance works.
This year, we are celebrating the 20th anniversary of Scotiabank Dance Centre. What impact do you feel the building has had on the dance community, our city, and/or your own practice?
It is interesting to look at the building and the vessel that contains all this activity and energy. I can definitely say that The Dance Centre does feel like a home. There’s a comfort for me in the building and I have a lot of strong and positive memories there. The Dance Centre represents a change in my life when I became the director of my own company and charted a new path. It will forever be a very important space for me. The memories I have from Scotiabank Dance Centre have imprinted on who I am and how I work. I believe that it will continue to positively impact and change artists and companies in the future.
Within its title, Scotiabank Dance Centre quite literally is a “center” point for Dance in Vancouver. There’s an abundance of activity and programming that streams through the center. I believe the majority of the dance community has walked through the doors at Scotiabank Dance Centre. They’ve been in a class, a rehearsal, an audition or seen a performance. With these range of activities, there’s a lot of opportunity for the community to cross paths, build relationships, share and develop a greater understanding and respect for each other. The centre is vital to the health of the dance community and plays a critical role in building greater awareness and appreciation for the arts and the artists.
Interested in becoming a Dance Centre Member? Learn more here
Photos by Emile Bland