Train travel has its own rhythm, stories and a sense of romance wrapped up in the hustle and bustle of a very public place.
That sense of place is what attracted artistic director Nina Patel of The Lime Project Dance Company to choreograph a piece set in Winnipeg's Union Station.
arrivals & departures will be performed in the rotunda of the train station on Main Street. SCENE was intrigued by this intersection of contemporary dance and travel, so we asked Patel to tell us about her inspiration.
Why did you want to set your production in Union Station?
In the theatre, the audience sits, unable to move, which instills a barrier or limitation on the experience. I wanted to take that barrier away, to experiment and find out if allowing the audience share the space we could transcend the emotional barrier between dancer and audience artistically.
As all artists, I want my work to connect with people, make them feel something and share a story that they can feel empathy for the characters. Contemporary dance is a form of storytelling, abstract and non-linear, but a story nonetheless. We seek to share stories that resonate, that offer significance, or perhaps offer a connection to our humanity.
What will this space "tell" us? What is the role of the space?
The history of the space is undeniable. Imagining the heyday of Winnipeg when the train station was bustling and central part of our community, is an exciting concept. So many Winnipeggers have not even been inside the station. The rotunda itself is beautiful; the architecture is not appreciated as it should be.
I'm exciting to fill it with people again. To bring life into the space, to dance in it.
What was your inspiration?
I have always been intrigued by the stories of immigrants to Winnipeg when the land was wild and the world was as we know it today was yet to be created. And also the desire of humans to travel, to get on the train to go somewhere new, to see the world, and what that means to us. Are we running away from something, are we running towards something, and the existential connection that drives us to explore our world - there's more out there than just ourselves, but what?
I wanted to create a dance that combined my intrigue with people who immigrated to Winnipeg and the desire to find our place in the world, our need for a reason to be here and to involve the audience in that.
Can you share one or two of the "ghosts of history" that you will be bringing to life?
Rachelle Bourget in Union Station (Vince Pahkala)
In my research about immigrants to Canada and Winnipeg, I read about a young Irish girl (12 or 13) who was an orphan and sent to Canada to live with a family and "have a better life."
Putting your life into the hands of complete strangers, removed from all that you know, the trust that you must have, and the fear that must exist inside. This girl essentially became a slave, she was abused, taken advantage of, treated as sub-human. She eventually felt so desperate she found a shotgun and used it to end her misery. That's one of the darker sides of the piece.
There are some lighter moments - the dilemma of what to wear...changing of outfits. How do I want to present myself to the world? What to pack? Always a traveller's dilemma.
Does Union Station, or train travel in general, mean something to you personally?
I spent a lot of time on trains when living in London. The closeness of the stranger next to you. The intimate moments that happen in the midst of strangers. The excitement, the frustration, the hurricane of emotions within each train car, love stories, happy stories, sad stories. And yet we all pretend it's not happening. We ride the train as though we are not there, trying so desperately not to be involved. I love the emotional juxtaposition of train travel.
How would you describe the dance?
It's pretty exciting. The dancers dance in all areas of the rotunda, moving dynamically and intensely at times, accented by moments of quietness and reflection. How the audience responds to being in the space with the dancers is going to be interesting. I can't wait.
How will you interact with the audience?
The dancers will dance within the audience. The dance happens with the audience all over, all angles will be seen. There is no way the audience will not feel interacted with. But please note that this is not a dance that requires "audience participation." Consider it like an installation art exhibit. But the art is the dancer.
And presumably you will have an "accidental" audience, too?
Yes, people do use the station to travel from Main Street over The Forks and vice versa. During our rehearsals we've already had audiences. I love how people react. Especially seeing dancers roll on the floor - the reactions have been wonderful.
What can you say about the music?
Joel Klaverkamp has created a soundscape specifically for this dance. It's eclectic music that captures the existential qualities I was searching for.
arrivals & departures will be presented at Union Station April 19 and 20 at 8:00 p.m.
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