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Iris Garland Emerging Choreographer Award recipient Shion Skye Carter has the Vancouver premiere of her work Residuals (住み・墨) this November 4 and 5. We sat down with Shion to discuss the piece, her career in dance, and what the award means for her.
How did you first come to dance?
Since I was a toddler, I remember creating silly dance sequences and performing them for my parents, and I always admired dancers who would perform on TV or be characters in stories; the ballerina and rag doll from the early 2000’s kids’ show “The Toy Castle” stand out in my memory. After my family moved to Canada when I was 6 years old, I asked my mom to put me in ballet lessons. That only lasted a year before I changed my mind and did sports, and at 12 years old I reconnected with movement again through contemporary/modern classes at my high school, Byrne Creek Secondary. My passion has grown since then, and it’s nice to look back on younger me who had no idea they’d pursue dance as an adult.
What are the main elements/themes in your choreography to date?
Over the last few years, as exemplified through my projects like Flow Tide, Residuals (住み・墨), and Threading Echoes, I’ve been fascinated by how choreography can be hybridized with art forms that connect to heritage and encourage a slower, more thoughtful way of living day to day life, such as Japanese calligraphy and ‘shifu’ (cloth woven from ‘kami-ito’ or paper thread). Experiencing old art forms from a contemporary perspective is something I hope to continue doing with my work. I also feel that being a mixed race immigrant from Japan infuses my work with the image and feeling of a body embedding itself into unfamiliar environments; this imagery was a jumping off point for me when I started creating Residuals (住み・墨) . From a wider lens of my work in general, I’m interested in developing immersive performances that incorporate multiple artistic disciplines. Sculptural forms, visual art, live and recorded sound, objects and materials, and lighting all play roles in enhancing my work, and engage with the body in a dynamic range of movement, from minute, subtle motion, to visceral intensity. So interdisciplinary play is definitely something I want to continue exploring in new ways in my artistic practice, through both my independent work and as the duo olive theory with musician Stefan Nazarevich.
Who have been the most influential people in your career, and why?
Many incredible people come to mind; one of them is dance artist Ziyian Kwan, who was my mentor figure in the first year after I completed my university degree and was dipping my toe into the realm of being an independent dance artist. She guided me to expand my thinking when developing a new work, to ask questions, and to push myself to try new things. My partner, Stefan Nazarevich, has also been influential in my exploration of interdisciplinary collaboration, and expanding my curiosity in live sound installation art. I’m greatly inspired by the many Japanese and Japanese Canadian artists I’ve met over the last couple of years, who come from such diverse creative practices. Some names include Cindy Mochizuki, Alexa Hatanaka, Yuka Yamaguchi, Miya Turnbull, Mayumi Lashrbook, and Hitoko Okada. There are many other artists, both in Vancouver and across Canada, who have been inspiring presences in my life, and I’m grateful to them all.
Tell us about your piece, Residuals.
Residuals (住み・墨) is a piece that is close to my heart, and has been in the making since 2019. The project was one of the first independent works I began creating shortly after graduating from the Dance program at SFU School for the Contemporary Arts, and it’s been nice looking back on how it’s evolved since then. The work draws influences from Japanese calligraphy, which I used to practice in my youth and returned to in 2019 as part of the research for this project. Calligraphy has acted as a portal for me to reconnect to parts of my Japanese heritage, and the societal and cultural expectations that come with it, that I’ve felt distanced from and/or have had tensions with in relation to my own identity and self-expression. In tandem with calligraphy integrating itself with movement, I traverse memories of my Japanese grandparents’ rural home, which has been the most constant place of ‘home’ for me while my nuclear family moved from house to house. My memories in this home, and observations of my relatives and their body language, affect the choreography that I do in different areas of the stage that represent various rooms in my grandparents’ house in the countryside of Gifu prefecture in Japan.
What does the Iris Garland Emerging Choreographer Award mean to you?
I’m grateful to have received an award that has given me a platform to share my work with audiences in a more expansive way. As an emerging artist, the chance to perform my own work in the Faris Family Theatre is something that I aspired to do years into the future; the fact that I’ll be able to invite audiences into my work in this theatre in November is very exciting for me.
What is your next project?
I have a couple of projects that I’ll be diving into next, the first of which will be a new work created and performed in collaboration with visual artist and mask-maker Miya Turnbull for presentations in Toronto and Montreal. Following that, I’ll be continuing my project Threading Echoes with Mayumi Lashbrook and other collaborators, which was recently developed in a residency at the Art Gallery of Ontario. My hope is that I’ll be able to travel to Japan to continue the research for this work, learning more about the processes involved in making washi paper, kami-ito (paper thread), and shifu (cloth woven from kami-ito).
Shion Skye Carter: Residuals (住み・墨)
November 4-5, 2022 | 7pm
Scotiabank Dance Centre
Info and Tickets
Presented through The Dance Centre’s Iris Garland Emerging Choreographer Award and with Powell Street Festival
Photos: Lula-Belle Jedynak, Bee Kent