SPARKING COMMUNITY

I was invited to be a guest blogger for Spark, a collections of dance performances that is part of the Fluid Festival, so I grabbed my husband Al and off we went for a little terpsichorian adventure. I had very little context for the performance, other than knowing that it was being staged at containR, a performance and exhibition space created from shipping containers.   Interesting, I thought, shipping containers, - a fundamental technical underpinning of globalization and mass consumerism, now put to the use of creating community art space.

We all know how to be an audience in this culture.   As an audience member, you are kept at a distance from the action, what communications theorists call public distance.  In a shipping container, however, performers and audience share space smaller than many living rooms - intimate social distance.  Interesting to observe, how we all have our tools to avoid connecting, to avoid the awkwardness of meeting someone new.  Heads angled away, bodies turned aside, silence maintained, and eye contact avoided.  Like so many people on a ten minute elevator ride.  Further, in the majority of social situations, we know more or less what is expected of us and how we are supposed to act.  Here in the container, no one seemed sure.  There is a certain wonderful energy about being in a space where so much uncertainty and potential rub shoulders.

 

That seemed so appropriate, since Spark is about what emerges from the unexpected.  The premise is staging of performances emerging from  "blind dates" between visual and dance artists.  The first performance we saw was created and performed by Miku Tsuchiya and Gemma Crowe, using both live and recorded performance, and an effect once used by Prince in his video for "When Doves Cry" - a kaleidoscope-like device that created patterns out of their movements.  Driving rhythmic music perfectly supported the rather mesmerizing play of form.The second performance reminded me of the Glenbow Museum's installation "The Aurora Borealis."  Through lighting and draperies, the artists had created what was at once a very intimate space (small, people all crowded together, and sectioned off by white draperies) and a cold sense of Arctic  immensity through cool, crystalline music and lighting.  The performer was seen first only through shadows on the drapery, then emerged like a legendary arctic nymph all in white and furs, then shape-shifted into an animal that prowled the length of the container, her movements panther-like, people moving aside to let her pass.

I enjoy the idea of containR and appreciated the courage of the artists performing in such an unconventional space.  I think the potential for sparking community can be explored more in future as ContainR remains with us here in Calgary in the coming months.

GUEST BLOGGER: Patricia Cameron is the Executive Director of Green Calgary

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