What: Traces of Emily Carr: The Brutal Telling
When: Friday, March 7; 8 p.m.
Where: MY Millennium Place
Tickets: $27.50 adult, $24.99 student/senior, $17 child
By Holly Fraughton
Canadian artistic icon Emily Carr was a complex character, so it seems fitting that a performance intended to capture her essence has many layers and elements.
Mascall Dance’s upcoming Traces of Emily Carr tour covers all the bases. While the focus is on modern dance, a visual display of Carr’s paintings, a play, and a concert are all incorporated into the show, promising to appeal to a wide range of audience members.
The performance isn’t new — it’s actually a remounting of a show developed almost 10 years ago by a diverse group of creative minds.
Jennifer Mascall, artistic director for Mascall Dance, first helped choreograph the show back in 1998. Since then, they’ve toured across Canada, and to international audiences in Italy, Monte Carlo and Scotland.
Despite its Canadian origins, the performance seems to resonate universally.
“The people there didn’t mind in the least that they didn’t know who Emily Carr was,” Mascall says with a chuckle. “So the show, which we think of as a portrait of her seems to speak to artists anywhere.”
But as Carr’s homeland, the show has a certain connection with British Columbia, and after almost every performance, Mascall says an audience member comes forward with some new bit of information about the renowned artist.
Watching the show evolve from its original incarnation has been an amazing experience, and after a five-year lapse in touring, Mascall has witnessed a transformation, as new dancers have taken on the performance.
“It really makes you understand interpretation,” says Mascall. “I can’t long for how it was with another dancer. I can see how this dancer brings out a completely new aspect.”
The success of the most recent tour reminds her of the old cliché that artists are ahead of their time.
“People are saying things like, ‘it’s innovative,’ and I look at it and I think, ‘but that was me 10 years ago,” so it’s almost like there is something to that cliché, that now people can see it and they can understand it and they can feel it in a very immediate way.”
Each of the three dancers — Marissa Gomez, Deanna Peters, and Alisoun Payne — have different styles, influences and interests, ranging from martial arts to jazz dance, yoga and ballet.
The dancers engage in dialogue throughout the performance, and Veda Hille, a well-known singer and songwriter from Vancouver, created a song cycle for each of the books Emily Carr wrote, to help incorporate text with movement.
This all-encompassing diversity recently helped the cast overcome a major obstacle, when the set didn’t arrive in time for their first performance in Peterborough, Ontario.
“The set is integral to the piece,” Mascall explains. “... We use it like furniture — we sort of climb in it, and go around it and stand on it.”
They were forced to re-choreograph the entire performance to work around the missing set, but were in luck, because they had plenty of other elements in the 57-minute performance, like music, slides, dialogue, and period costumes, plus the dancing, to keep the audience’s attention.
Despite the odd setback, like missing sets, the reworked show has received a very positive response from audiences.
“We’ve been getting standing ovations this whole tour, the kind of standing ovations where people just go ‘whoosh’ and all stand up, all at once.”
The Whistler performance is part of the Cultural Olympiad, and though we’re the last stop on their tour, Mascall says this may not be the last time they take the show on the road.
“I’m very fond of coming back to it and seeing what else you can bring into it. It’s fascinating.”