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20x20 original files

Here are some original posters and choice articles written about Bill's picks.
1994  1995  1996  1997  1998  1999  2000  2001  2002  2003  2004  2005  2006  2007  2008  2009  2010  2011 2012  2013  2014


2000: three women by MOonhORseE Dance Theatre
photo Cylla von Tiedemann, design by Eric Parker

1999:  Overall Dance with Calculated Risks

 1998: Emergency #6


1997:  6 Electrifying Dance Hits or I’m in the mood for something modern


1996: Holy Body Tattoo









































1995: Emergency #3 I KANT

 Arthur preview by Mary Polito

 Arthur review by Stephanie MacMillan


1994 Apogee

Arthur press release

Examiner Review by Bea Quarrie

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Collaboration as Practice The Long and Winding Road



By Thea Patterson and Peter Trosztmer


With this paper we will reflect upon, and attempt to describe, one specific collaboration, which has evolved over roughly a 10-year period. Ours: A collaboration between a choreographer/performer (Peter Trosztmer) and his dramaturge or outside person (Thea Patterson) We will offer our individual perspectives and insights as we look at our trajectory and the developing methodology we have arrived at, one could say, mostly by making it up as we go, (for there is certainly no manual, or single path of execution to be found for this). We will share our individual perspectives on our collaborative history, the role and definition of collaboration, the methods we employ, and how we deal with some of the main aspects of the collaboration including communication, conflict, consensus, power, ownership, and finally why we would ever choose to collaborate in the first place.  


As we try and put to words what it is we do, and to encapsulate exactly what comprises the elements of our particular working relationship, we seek to do so as the practitioners we are, rather than the academics that we are not. As such, we choose to leave behind certain constraints of written style and form for a looser and more personal interpretation of the theme.


Background and Definitions


Peter’s perspective:


Thea and I have worked together (along with other people/collaborators), on many different projects. Usually I am the performer and she is the person working from the outside. This is where our place of specialty sits.   When we began to work together we had no real clue of each other’s area of specialty, but through this “long and winding road” we have, over three major creation periods, begun to map out each our areas of expertise.


We starting working together in a creative work related capacity (as opposed to our other collaborative endeavors like the creation and raising of our child) in 2006 with the creation of my first solo in my Synthesis as Composure series. This was followed by the second synthesis piece in 2009 and finally my most recent work “Eesti -Myths and Machines” in Nov 2011, which finds our working relationship much more fully realized and efficient. These three solo processes cover the bulk of our practice as collaborators, but it is also worth mentioning that we have also, during these same years, worked together on several other projects in various configurations that have also informed us. The most notable of these would be, first: “Norman” a piece conceived by Michel Lemieux and Victor Pilon which we co-choreographed, and which was also a solo for me, (and as such Thea also took on the role of rehearsal director and performance coach). And second, the work we do with our collective The Choreographers, which find us embodying all types and levels of collaborative activities. Simultaneously to the work, we also live our lives, raise our daughter and manage a home collaboratively.  We collaborate within our neighborhood and with our friends. We collaborate on what we eat and how we live. Our general overall view of the world is substantially collaboratively developed. It is through this process that we push each other, challenge each other to clarify our perspectives. Each of these contexts, with their differing parameters and challenges have been integral to us moving forward, as we clarify, define and refine both our working and personal relationship.  


Over the three solos she has assisted me with coupled with our life partnership, Thea has had a big part in, that is to say, she has collaborated with me in how I have shaped what I value in myself as a performer and in my relationship to art and movement.  How we collaborate has developed and changed, grown and refined itself over the better part of 10 years and perhaps from the very beginning of our relationship, to the point where we find ourselves collaborating on this paper.


Thea’s perspective:


When I was contemplating this paper the first thing that went through my mind, was this question so often posed….  “What is it exactly that we do?” “ How does the work happen?” in concrete understandable step-by-step terms? Which was followed quickly by the overwhelming sense that I really have no idea! This led me then to this notion of the “winding road” as a metaphor for this idea that we really are just making it up as we go along. That we are, to greater and lesser conscious degrees, practicing something called heurism, or the


“pragmatic educational philosophy of learning by doing, or finding out for oneself”
(Williams, David (2010) 'Geographies of Requiredness, pg 200)


Of course, with a second and third reflection it becomes clear that there is a methodology that emerges, albeit one that is not written or codified and is perhaps as ephemeral and changeable as the emerging work.


When I think of collaboration, and in researching its definitions and parameters, naturally one is brought to this idea of shared invention, the blurring of hierarchies and ownership, of a shared investment and a shared responsibility. But within this there are many degrees along the full continuum of collaborative paradigms. Where do Peter and I fit on this? Is it a true collaboration if, in the end the work is signed by one author?  The parameters range between complete collaboration where the direction of each person is equally implicated, to a narrower frame where collaborators are brought in to contribute in a more specialized way, and where the overall direction is held in the hands of one (or perhaps more) defined leader(s).  As a collaborator defined within this final assessment (one author) what is my role? When I reflect on the way our dynamic unfolds I see it contained within an overall direction that belongs to Peter.  It is his body that is telling the story, which predominantly defines the movement aesthetic, the physical intensity.  He also has final say on the thematic direction, (as much as one can, when competing with the emergent voice of the work itself, which often takes us in directions unforeseen and quite often exactly needed).




Peter’s perspective:
In the context of our creative past, it seems that I get myself into trouble and then I pull Thea in and she helps to get us out.   I play the role of the optimist, where anything is possible and then Thea comes along and points out many of the impossibilities and sets things along on a more reasonable path.  That is to say, with the beginnings of a project I find it useful to dream, but there then comes a time when it is necessary to create a piece.   I make propositions and try to build a structure and she simply makes it better.  I find it difficult to structure a piece that I am also performing in. I find it useful to have someone with a perspective that I understand that I can reflect with, a ground zero so to speak, as I move back and forth between the role of choreographer and performer.   I use Thea’s eyes and insight to help create and craft details of movement etc. She takes the movement, text and structural choices that I began with and helps develop them.  It seems to me that the work she does resembles at times what a choreographer does, however, she is working on a piece that is initiated by me and that I will ultimately lay claim to as author.  At other times she is clearly working more in the capacity of dramaturge, witness or as provocateur. She definitely remains more objective or manages to maintain more distance from the work, than a choreographer might typically do to his or her own creation.   For things to develop efficiently I need to trust her to be working on what it is that I am looking for, that she is committed to using the “language” that has been established or proposed for the work.  I bring Thea into my work to question me, to ask me what I am doing and why.  So in really clear terms, I propose and begin projects, Thea assists me in almost every facet to bring them to fruition and then I go ahead and take all the credit!  Perhaps the best way to elaborate on this is to look at our latest collaboration, as it was our most developed working process up to this point, and contained all we have learned from the previous solos applied with more precision and refinement:


My most recent work –“EESTI:”Myths and Machines” indeed could be also described as our most recent work…Thea did not the enter at the beginning of the process, in fact the seeds of this project did not come from me alone but rather were born out of conversations with another long time collaborator, visual artist Jeremy Gordaneer, about how to integrate moving sculptures, sound and dance in an installation inspired format. As this research with Jeremy developed I began another project - researching how my family came to Canada.  These two pursuits oddly enough soon began to meld into a singular project. All the while I am living with and talking with Thea.  Talking about how things are proceeding, the challenges, and questions.  She helps me to process what I am learning through the act of speaking and clarifying my thoughts. Her role at this early stage is mostly to listen, and remain curious.
Research for the project continued for a time with me very much in the driver’s seat but coming often to Thea for reflection and discussion.  Eventually she ended up in the studio with me, living and inhabiting the world of Myths and Machines.  She read my stories, listened to me recite them, watched me improvise with them, watched video of me working alone and with Lois Brown (theatrical dramaturge) and helped me to structure my choreographic ideas. She made physical, emotional, performative, suggestions, and using the research I had done, helped me to choreograph, write, structure, and improvise.  She became another set of eyes that could view, witness, affect, and create from the outside, while I worked from the inside.  Thea entered into the work with me fully as a co-creator, In fact, at times she entered into the exploration physically and vocally by improvising, reading, talking and moving. She guided me sometimes in new and surprising directions and helped me through creative blocks.  Using the studio and the tools at hand, Thea offered herself to the work.  She played with lights, making the space more intimate, created scores, made propositions, played recordings I had made and mixes I made with recorded sounds, made video, spoke text, opened up the space, boxed it in and so on.


Together we searched out what would become the heart of the work.  We shared this personal journey into my relationship with my history and my identity. She affected and shaped the process and outcome intimately and in detail using many tools from the choreographers toolbox: procedures of diminishing, taking away (i.e. editing); procedures of augmenting, supplementing, layering (montage, collage, bricolage); procedures of refining, distilling, collapsing and combining; and procedures of gradually expanding and thickening. As we progress Thea’s role becomes difficult to define, it is no longer that of the outside eye, or even the dramaturge or director – she is working in a hybrid role that encompasses all these roles plus some. By the time we reached production her role continues to reflect more that of the choreographer while I have become the performer. This is important because, as we know, there comes a point the performer must leave the thinking behind and become embodied in the work.


Thea’ s perspective
How would I describe our methodology? I would say at the base my job is to assist Peter towards the place of most clarity on a number of different planes. The very subjective definition of this clarity is something that we arrive at through a dialogue between the two of us, as we continually refine all facets of the material, including: the physical, the spacial, the treatment of text, the treatment of silence, of music, the handling of props, the use of focus and so on. My eye is acutely attuned to what I describe as the ‘glitch’ moments…that is, any moment that causes me to feel disconnected from what he is doing. The reasons are not always obvious, and the real work is the process of uncovering, clarifying, and communicating how to address those moments.
Ours is not a particularly gentle discourse. The work is to find the way to communicate particular subtleties that are often hard to put to words, and to pass through, also, what is lost in translation between our two distinct ways of seeing and understanding the world. For me I find it a challenge to put to words that which I feel is missing, without becoming negative or overwhelming Peter with what is essentially lacking (in my highly subjective but also quite developed opinion) which can become frustrating for him and causes him to lose confidence and at times to become angry. We conflict when there is a sense that I am not communicating in such a way as to be able to bring whatever ‘it’ is out.  What is it that I need to communicate? Usually it is about the movement pathways of the body that are for some reason or another, what I describe as ‘foggy’.  Peter is often working through movement scores or systems that gradually become more and more precise and refined, if never completely ‘set’ (though there are certainly times when the movement is also very set).  The challenge is to keep the integrity of whatever the system might be. To identify when it is becoming blocked in the body, when the clarity is not there, when overlapping stimulus are perhaps clouding rather than augmenting the whole, or when it is falling into habitual movements that inhibit it to move forward.


Often it takes time to get to the heart of the thing. Time spent skirting it, trying to pinpoint it, describing and re-describing, often without success…or with incremental movement towards the resolution.  Is it the execution? The rhythm? Lack of clarity in the physical pathways? Timing? The way we deal with communication has everything to do with how well we fare. It is delicate, and the wrong words, which happen often, can send us off track. Of course, this process of  ‘going off’ inevitably becomes part of the evolution and deepening of the research, and is in fact, a major component in the process of eventually finding our way back. But in the moment, and if the communication is feeling clunky, it certainly can sometimes feel like the end of the world.


But, issues of communication aside for the moment, the assessment of mine that something Peter is attempting is “glitching”, or not working, is certainly subjective, yet it is one I have learned to trust, as it is the base of what I have to offer. My experience has shown me too, that while another set of eyes may indeed identify a similar moment, they might very well be drawn towards another set of factors, equally as valid. But I only have what my eyes can see. It is the direction that my eye gives, in conversation with Peter, that then defines in many ways the parameters of how we deepen the investigation of any given moment, and thus my perspective, my vision, begins to be folded into the work. This is the essence of the collaboration; a chain of alchemistic events, where any augmentation that I integrate into the work subtly shifts the direction of the evolving vocabulary, to which Peter then also responds in kind, and so on. It is a kind of collaborative snowball occurring on a very subtle level. Through this process, we begin to lose the hard lines of what belongs to who, and we blur the notion of “I” for the more inclusive “we”. This methodology is used all along, each of us pushing the material forward, and while there is always resistance, and conflict, at a point it falls away. Once this trust is achieved, and we have lost the blocks of communication and once all the fights have been fought, suddenly it opens up and the snowball is allowed to roll. We have come to realize that hard as they feel in the moment, we need the bumpy parts of the road to be able to profit from the smoothly paved hill.


I found a very interesting and inspiring analogy for this process in the thesis of Mark Alan Elliot entitled Stigmergic Collaboration, A Theoretical Framework for Mass Collaboration.  In it he speaks of the collaborative process in terms of its stigmergic agency as he makes a connection between collaborations in the natural world, and those that we undertake as human artists and creators.


“Joint authorship has always been a stigmergic activity, mediated by the emerging document itself. Each author is stimulated by what previous authors have written to add main-line content or marginal comments.” (Pg 53)


Or in other terms, Stigmergy is defined essentially as a mechanism that allows an environment to structure itself through the activities of the agents within the environment. It is a term derived from the insect world; where large numbers of workers (such as ant or bees) collaborate on building an emerging structure, but where they are heavily influenced in the actions they choose, by the emerging structure itself. This is an evocative analogy for another integral piece of the puzzle, which is this notion that once this chain of events is set in motion, whether between two collaborators like myself and Peter, or in a more complex system involving many contributors, that there is this sense that the sum is more than the parts, that in fact the work itself becomes another vital collaborator, with a voice and a power all its own.  
Pitfall and Challenges


Peter’s Perspective:
What is so special about collaboration anyway? Especially with a spouse…it is rife with potential for conflict and discomfort. One does wonder, why in fact anyone would even consider it, and yet there are many examples to be found. (Locally we find: Bill Coleman and Laurence Lemieux, Allen and Karen Kaeja, Suzanne Miller and Allen Pavio and historically we have the likes of: Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, Picasso and Dora Maar, Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner, and of course, John Cage and Merce Cunningham to name a few). So there will be a conference dedicated to collaboration. When I hear this I think, it sounds like we will be getting together to paint an idyllic picture of the shared creative process. Or to applaud the increasing trend towards this type of practice for its leveling powers, for its ability to render a process democratic and to erode the hierarchies of power we have inherited, embodied and now finally rejected. But have we? What of the feeling of not having control and the fairly consistent struggles for power and dominance that inevitably still ensue? Or the challenge that is trying to communicate one's way through the shifting nature of the performance…. Or the nature of effective communication itself? These are tricky things to negotiate.
Take first the issue of control and dominance: maybe it is a failing to even admit that it comes as strongly into play as it does, but it is real, and so it would be remiss not to include it and, because reflecting on the general trajectory of how we work, it could also be argued that in the end, these struggles do in fact play out an eventually integral role. It has something to do with finding the rhythm of each of the processes, and until we find that sweet spot, it is inevitably bumpy. Because we are a couple, and because we do collaborate on pretty much all facets of our life, we seem to find ourselves applying similar communication tactics and skills to our creative work as we do to negotiating how to deal with any given domestic situation. We are far from perfect in our life and so we are also far from perfect in the studio. We do not always react, respond and enter into dialogue in the most productive manner. We are two strong personalities with strong opinions and views that are not always in accord, and so we argue, debate, defend, negotiate, pout, rant, cry, are blunt, honest, and even at times brutal.


Thea’s Perspective
To elaborate on this notion of control, or loss of control and the presence of power and dominance which seem quite clearly to be closely related, when I scan through our creative history for specific examples it actually becomes foggy, I think because of the reason stated above, that the negotiation of these things actually leads us where we need to go, and so then it kind of all fades away into the fabric of the process. But that said I tend to assert my power and dominance when I feel strongly that I am seeing something that he cannot, (because he is in it) and when I feel that whatever my assertion is, it is being resisted.
I also find myself struggling with issues of control when I do not understand something and the only recourse is to leave Peter alone to work it out, and that I cannot, or should not yet impose too much external pressure upon him or it. There is something about not understanding a given idea, movement quality, structure choice etc that evokes a kind of panic response…The reality however, is that I may never understand a certain choice, I may even be strongly adverse to it, and yet, he can and does at times move forward anyway. After the initial discomfort of not being able to control (as if it was my right!) the given moment, my job then becomes to make that moment I am not in accordance with the most connected and folded in as I can. This often means looking at what is around the moment, and finding and strengthening its connection to that in which it is housed. Eventually, inevitably for the most part, in regards to whatever my concerns were, I am usually surprised and humbled by the way it turns out.


A close cousin to control is resistance. This is unfortunately a rather all too frequent visitor for us as we work. It is usually the place where we end up when communication becomes broken, or if either of us feels we are not being heard, or are being put upon by the others need to control or dominate. Most often, it is not very productive. It is the state that is most likely to suspend the momentum of any given work period and find us off in the ditch playing out relationship dynamics not at all related to the work at hand.  It is something we work on, that we have improved with over time, but that we still and probably always will fall into.


Why do we collaborate?


Thea’s perspective:


Why do we collaborate with all of these challenges?  Even on this paper, always this sense of “Here we go…how do we start? How to we agree? How to we disagree? To be honest sometimes I experience dread (vs. peter’s optimism). So why then are we drawn towards it? Is there is some sense of solidarity, of communion and community, a sense of not being alone, of a shared investment that outweighs all the other? I collaborate with Peter because he needs me. I collaborate with him because the work is better for the two of us being there. I collaborate with him because he makes me better at what I do.  We collaborate because this is what we do, this is how we live, and it is a reflection and a celebration of the best and the worst of our humanity.  We are ourselves in the barest of forms while we stand side by side in the studio or the theatre.


Peter’s perspective


We did not know when we began, how much this collaboration would challenge our partnership both inside and outside the studio, or in the end, how rewarding, difficult, maddening and wild the development and refinement of our collaborative process would be.  It is always raw. But herein also lies the beauty, for I do not know of another creative situation in my life that allows for such a baseline of such intimate trust and honesty. What this means is that we meet as equals within that room. I can say exactly what is on my mind; I am in effect less careful than I might be in other situations. I am completely, sometimes brutally honest and so is Thea.  We move forward knowing that our collaboration is defined by this level of trust that supports all our conversations, heated debates, power struggles, and finally those sweet moments of accordance and consensus, well fought for that serve as the backbone for the emerging work and for the continued life of our collaboration both as art practitioners and life partners.


Elliott, Mark Alan. “Stigmergic Collaboration: A Theoretical Framework for Mass Collaboration”Centre for Ideas, Victorian College of the Arts, University of Melbourne 2003


Holland O.E. and Melhuish C. “Stigmergy, self-organisation, and sorting in collective robotics”, Artificial Life, 5:2, 173-202 1999


Williams, David. “Geographies of Requiredness: Notes on the Dramaturg in Collaborative Devising*”, Contemporary Theatre Review 20: 2, 197-202 2010


Macêdo, Silvana  “Collaboration in Art: Sharing the Space of One?”M.A. Thesis: University of Northumbria Newcastle upon Tyne June, 1999


Kloppenberg, Annie. 'Improvisation in Process: “Post-Control” Choreography', Dance Chronicle, 33: 2, 180 — 207 2010


DeLahunta, Scott, Ginot, Isabelle, Van Imschoot, Myriam, Lepecki, Andre´, Rethorst, Susan, Theodores, Diana and Williams, David, ‘Conversations on Choreography’, Performance Research, 8.4 61–70 2003


Behrndt, Synne K. “Dance, Dramaturgy and Dramaturgical Thinking” Dramaturgy and Performance, Palgrave MacMillan, 2008


Melrose, Susan. ‘Intuition’, Performance Research, 11.3 75–8 2006



Wearable Art Show 2014

Public Energy's Faux-fashion Fundraiser featuring The Runway Challenge
Vermont condodownloadDownload Poster
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May 10, 2014 at 8 pm
Doors open at 7 pm

Market Hall, 140 Charlotte St. Peterborough
General admission tickets
$20 / $15 for students, seniors, underwaged
On line: phone: 705-749-1146
Cabaret-style seating

$30 each
Call Public Energy at 705-745-1788. Get the best view, up close to the runway at table seating. Come on your own or put a group together.

The 2014 Wearable Art Show, featuring the Runway Challenge
A showcase of Peterborough artists unleashing wild creations upon the catwalk, all to benefit Public Energy's work in the community. As an audience member, it is an opportunity to dress up and get down with the artistic milieu while showing your support of Public Energy's work in the community. As an artist, this is your opportunity to show off your talents and challenge your abilities, as you meld your mind with new materials. Get inspired! See video and photos of last year’s Wearable Art Show 2013 here.

This year’s Runway Challengers and their business partners are:
Amber Conlon + The Endeavour Centre with Merrett's Home Building Centre, Nepher Lewis + GreenUp, Catalina Motta & Rebecca Padgett + The Night Kitchen, Rachel Robichaud + Custom Copy, Wes Ryan & Lori Brand + Lakefield Pantry, Tori Silvera + Pammett's Flowers
On April 9 we held the Runway Challenge draw to match artists and businesses. Watch video here, featuring belly dancing from Sarah Rudnicki and last year’s hit creation by Shannon Taylor with Custom Copy.

On May 8 Wayne Eardley photographed the Runway Challenge creations in the Chapel at The Mount Community Centre. Watch video here.

Silent Auction
With over $13,000 in prizes, including a fire performance at your home, a one week Vermont ski/tennis condo, original art and craft and more. See the complete list here.

Special Guests
Strutt Central, Art Battle champ Jenny Kastner, Sarah Rudnicki and her troupe of belly dance students.

What is The Runway Challenge?
The feature attraction in Public Energy's annual Wearable Art Show. Watch video of the 2013 Runway Challenge here.

Six artists/designers are matched up with six local businesses and challenged to create a stunning work of sartorial genius to be strutted down the catwalk at Market Hall. The catch? The artists only find out which business/materials they’ll be working with one month ahead of time, and those materials have nothing to do with fashion. The result is a fashion show unlike any other; where wildly creative outfits are modeled and presented in a fun and theatrical way.

- back to top -

20 X 20

20 years in 20 fortnightly installments

1994  1995  1996  1997  1998  1999  2000  2001  2002  2003  2004  2005  2006  2007  2008  2009  2010  2011 2012  2013  2014 

In honour of Public Energy's 20th Season, founder/artistic producer Bill Kimball is digging into the archives and sharing memories, images, and videos from each of the last 20 years to post every other week. Distract yourself with these gems...


2003: Deepti Gupta with Arzoo Dance Theatre

See the printed matter: Show poster / Show program


Deepti Gupta is a Canadian choreographer and world-renowned practitioner of Kathak (a classical dance of North India) who marches to the beat of her own drum and deserves a special place in Public Energy’s 20-year retrospective. The program from which this 20X20 is drawn was one of three programs of Deepti’s work we presented in Peterborough between 2000 and 2007.

Drawing inspiration as much from the rugged Ontario wilderness (early in her career one of her favourite places to perform was the Arlington Hotel in the small town of Maynooth, about 260 km northeast of Toronto) as from India itself where she now lives much of the year, Deepti presented an evening of work consisting of both traditional Kathak dance and her bold experiment, titled Rubies, with the Chhau form of martial arts that also incorporated projections by Peterborough artist Lester Alfonso. The attempt to create a new signature style of dance using Chhau was what motivated the Chalmers Foundation to grant Deepti a fellowship to develop the work and it is what intrigued both Public Energy and Toronto’s Danceworks to program it in the fall of 2003.

To perform Rubies Deepti took on the task of training three dancers in Chhau from scratch. The dancers seen here - Melissa Adella Kramer, Kyla Kowalski and Jenna Morrison – were all graduates of various professional Western training programs who had then spent the past few years learning Indian dance from Deepti. The choice of using non-Indian dancers - and training them in a style of dance traditionally practiced only by male dancers - was a typical example of Deepti thumbing her nose at the set ways of the Indian dance world. If the result was uneven it was also an invigorating breath of fresh air featuring dancers and audiences exploring unknown territory.

It is a territory that, it seems, has not been visited in dance since, despite its obvious lures: Rubies described a world inhabited by Lalita, the tantric goddess and embodiment of energy, as described in the esoteric Sanskrit text Lalita Sahsranama - The Thousand Names of Lalita. The program notes described Rubies as “a celebration of the rising and flowing of life force, of energy and vitality.” The notes also describe it in a way that embodies the vision Deepti set for her company Arzoo Dance Theatre, to function as an example of global exchange and re-tribalization: “It brings together elements from a remote tribal culture with the “urban tribal’. It builds a creative link between dancers and artists in Canada with those in remote villages in India. This is post-modern reality.”


2000: three women by MOonhORseE Dance Theatre

See the printed matter: Show poster / Show program
Read about it in the media: Review in The Peterborough Examiner


The year 2000 saw a good variety of independent Canadian dance presented by Public Energy (then known as Peterborough New Dance), including Bill Coleman and Laurence Lemieux’s program of duets and Holy Body Tattoo’s Circa. However, the program with the strongest staying power in my memory is Claudia Moore’s 45 minute multi-disciplinary work three women (Claudia seems to have a thing about capital letters), performed on February 17 and 18 at Peterborough’s Market Hall Theatre.

What chiefly distinguished three women was the richness of its visual design, created by Jan Komarek’s exquisite, deceptively simple lighting on Julie Fox’s white set. Working on the show as a lighting assistant was Kim Purtell, who today is one of the most in-demand lighting designers in the country. The look of the piece was just one element in Claudia’s vision for a complete dance/theatre experience that incorporated spoken text and song, as well as music, set and costumes created by some of Canada’s best talent. One of these was Peterborough resident John Lang, a Gemini-winning composer with a distinguished career creating music for dance, film, theatre and television.  John’s work for three women was a tour de force, incorporating a variety of musical styles from around the world, for which he called on a dozen local artists1 to contribute different voices and sounds to the richly textured score.

While the heavy lifting of choreography and writing is credited to all three dancers – Claudia, Bonnie Kim and Fiona Drinnan - a who’s who of Toronto dance and theatre talent are thanked or credited as coaches and consultants on the project, particularly Katherine Duncanson, Denise Fujiwara, Linda Griffiths, Martha Randall and Lin Snelling2. The assembling of so much talent can be credited in part to the respect with which Claudia is viewed in Canada’s dance community, and in part I think to the organization that supported the development of the work: Toronto’s hot house for theatrical creation, the Theatre Centre, at the time directed by David Duclos.

For me, all the elements – choreography, concept, lighting, music - come together in one of my favourite dance sequences of all time, what I call the ‘egg dance’, a sequence that not so subtly, but with much humour, suggested one of the work’s main themes: women’s fertility. Fitting perhaps for a work inspired by Sylvia Plath’s Three Women: A Poem for Three Voices. As Claudia wrote in the program notes: “Plath’s words encouraged us to celebrate, to grieve and to cherish.” And that’s exactly what the dance did.

1. Do you know any? They were Pamela Barron, Don Dawson, Allie Hearn, Diane Latchford, Brenna MacCrimmon, Susan Newman, John Oosterbroock, Craig Paterson, Tom Reader, Diana Smith, Kate Story, and Nick Oval.

2. As well as Daniel Brooks, Leah Cherniak, David Duclos, Mark Christmann, Gerry Trentham, and Keith Cole.


1999: Overall Dance with Calculated Risks

See the printed matter: Show poster / Show program


Calculated Risks is my choice for fave event of 1999. This was another Dancing Across Ontario (DXO) project, similar to 1997’s 6 Electrifying Dance Hits (6EDH). In both cases we toured these programs to two other cities: Hamilton and Ottawa. The Calculated Risks program was the brainchild of Toronto choreographer Kate Alton, who created it for her company Overall Dance, whose goal was to commission new work and bring the best Toronto dance artists together with national and international artists. The international artist on this program was New York choreographer Doug Varone, whose Eclipse was performed at break neck speed by Kate, Gillian Smith and Michael Sean Marye. That grouping itself was worth the toil and (usually) pleasant aggravation of touring the program to three cities in five days. The mini-tour began with the performance seen here, at the Market Hall in Peterborough on October 3, 1999.

Michael Sean seemed to appear on every Toronto dance program in those years (he was in 6EDH too) and Kate, appearing in three of the four pieces, shows us why she is one of the greatest contemporary dancers ever to have called Toronto home. Mix in some compelling work by other veteran choreographers (Peggy Baker’s Spätstil, Mitch Kirsch’s Le Ventilateur á Turbine and Alton’s Tartan Briefs) and up and coming dancers (Laura West and Heidi Strauss, now a veteran of the scene who will be in Peterborough with her own full evening work in the fall of 2014) and the result was a diverse and satisfying program with moments of humour, pathos, and grace.

Kirsch’s solo for Kate, and Varone’s trio, were commissioned specially by Overall Dance for the Calculated Risks program, which had premiered in Toronto a month before the Peterborough date and DXO tour. Varone’s work seems to have stolen the show. Audiences appreciated the dancers’ commitment and the choreographer’s crafty construction but were unsure how to interpret the work. Always a dangerous task, but one that two Toronto critics tackled head on and in so doing came up with comparisons to famous works of visual art. But not the same work: Susan Walker of the Toronto Star related it to Gericault’s Raft of the Medusa, while Deirdre Kelly at the Globe & Mail recalled the ancient Greek sculpture of Laocoön and his sons being strangled by serpents. Wow. But that’s what is great about good dance - there is no right way or wrong way to view the work.

The success of Calculated Risks can be credited both to Kate’s curatorial skill and to her producing partner in Overall Dance, theatre artist Ross Manson. Ross brought to the program a knack for organizing and an eye for design that brought the program into focus. It was his idea to hang those brown paper banners around the stage and have them colourfully lit - a welcome change from black drapes. Ross accompanied the program as a kind of tour manager, helping us mount the production in two vastly different theatres: Ottawa’s Nouvelle Scéne (this was the first ever dance program in the multi-purpose space, newly built for Ottawa’s French language theatre community) and Hamilton’s Tivoli Theatre, a former vaudeville house then owned by a fellow with more dreams than money who only reluctantly turned on the heat.

In all three cities the program was enhanced by the inclusion of local artists. In Hamilton this was the Hamilton Dance Company, which performed David Wilson’s In Your Face and Joanna Blackwell’s Mash; in Ottawa Meagan O’Shea was our partner in crime, performing her solo work …this is the The Way. And in Peterborough we presented Penelope Thomas’s Interstices and Janet Johnston’s the hands of the beautiful swimmers. Why those two works did not make it onto the videotape that documented the program is a mystery; if they were in the Public Energy archives, you would see them here.


1998: Emergency #6 featuring Swallowed by Kate Story

See the printed matter: Show poster / Show program


Emergency #6 is our choice for fave event of 1998, notable as the first appearance in the Emergency festival – indeed the first appearance in a Peterborough New Dance / Public Energy program ever – for Kate Story, who has since set the mark as the artist with the most appearances in this annual festival of dance and performance by Peterborough area artists. Kate being Kate, for her first Emerg performance ever she asked (politely) that the usual rules for Emergency artists not apply: Swallowed was neither short (works had to be under 15 minutes) nor was it brand new, as it had already been seen in Kate’s home town St’ John’s. That was a good thing because it meant we could promote the show with timeless quotes from the local CBC reviewer who said it was likely to “generate some interesting chatter at the bar afterwards”, and “leave you wanting more.” More what…drink?

Emerg # 6 featured a few other firsts: the first appearance by a South Asian dancer, Ramya Rajagopolan; the first appearance from a martial arts performer, Greg Magwood, who performed four short forms placed between other works on the program; and the first time Emergency would not be held at the Market Hall, which was closed down at the time during a notorious attempt, by the development company that owned it, to convert it into a bingo hall. (The attempt was not a success, Emergency was back in the Hall in 1999, and shortly thereafter the City acquired it, putting the Market Hall back in public hands).

In addition to Kate, Ramya and Greg, Emergency #6 saw works by Penelope Thomas, Caron Garside and the team of Ian Osborn (soundscape), Cathy Petch (text and lighting) and Kristina Kyle (performer). Thomas’s solo Intersices was the first in what would become a series of impressive solo and group works she created during her tenure in Peterborough. Garside was the director of To Have and Have Not, a work about the social welfare system created collectively by children and adults. (This was not the first Emergency work created by and with kids – that distinction goes to Stephen Elliot’s Home/Work in Emerg #3). The Osborn/Petch/Kyle team described their work, Harvey Wallbanger, as “the collective conniption fit of three confused collaborators”.

But it was the full-length work Swallowed, written and performed by Kate Story, that stole the show. It helped that she recruited some really good collaborators: choreography by Dy Gallagher and music/sound effects by Patrick Walsh. The collaboration with Walsh was especially impressive – his varied guitar work created different moods, propelling it along with an eerie, recurring morse code motif suitable for a work about the wreck of the Titanic. Here’s a full description from the press release:

Swallowed is the story of two characters, both stuck on the ocean floor amid the wreck of the Titanic. One is a woman who went down with the ship, hoards relics from it, and lusts to be left alone, resentful of the recent rash of public attention directed at the wreck. The other is a baby, also stuck in the depths but yearning to leave and pick up life as it should have been had the disaster not occurred, yearning to dry out, get drunk and die a natural death. Swallowed is in part a dance-theatre metaphor for the experience of being a Newfoundlander, as Kate herself is a St. John’s native who moved to Peterborough to attend Trent University and is now based in Toronto. A leading actor with Peterborough’s 4th Line Theatre almost since its inception, Kate left the company after the 1996 season in part to pursue her own singular performance work, in which she draws on her talents as a writer and actor, as well as her early training as a dancer. Previous to Swallowed, she created Throat, also a solo work, presented at the 1997 Rhubarb Festival in Toronto, one of the country’s most important festivals for new theatre.”


1997: 6 Electrifying Dance Hits or I'm in the mood for something modern

See the printed matter: Show poster / Show program

6 Electrifying Dance Hits (January 26, 1997 at the Market Hall) is still one of my favourite programs. In 20 years of Peterborough New Dance, and now Public Energy, I have rarely created mixed programs of dance. It’s usually too costly to bring multiple artists from different cities together for a one night stand in Peterborough. But doing so can be fun and that’s exactly what this was: a fun program that had humour and some cheekiness, while still being smart and emotionally engaging.

The fun I had was in coming up with the program’s name and graphic design concept (realized by Rob Wilkes): riffing on those K-Tel greatest hits albums from the 1960s and 1970s that promised so much in one package. 6 Electrifying Dance Hits promised that On One Live Program You Get…Premieres Galore, A Once-In-A-Lifetime Modern Dance Experience, and a Bonus Dance Track!!!

Of course most of the humour came courtesy of choreographer/dancer Bill Coleman, who helped put the program together. Bill’s co-creation with Mark Shaub, The Brothers Plaid, is something of a Canadian dance cult classic, first performed in 1984. Bill and Mark are dancers of the highest order, having performed for some of the greatest Canadian and American choreographers, but for the Bros Plaid they adopt a Buster Keaton meets Laurel and Hardy by way of Gene Kelly shtick to portray a pair of pipe smoking, tap dancing RV salesmen from the U.S. Midwest. As the program said, “Bill and Mark have been joined at the hip since birth until an accident with a grain elevator several months ago.” Here is a short clip of Bill telling us more, click here.

The smart side of the program came courtesy of Bill’s partner in dance and life, Laurence Lemieux, and Holly Small. Holly’s solo for Laurence, The Wili, is a beautiful work about a maiden who is jilted on her wedding day and dies of a broken heart. Laurence’s Deserteurs, was a duet for two men (Coleman and Michael Sean Marye) described as "enigmatic, thought-provoking and beautiful to watch" by Paula Citron (Toronto Star). Bill’s change of character - and costume - from that work to the Bros Plaid is remarkable to watch in these clips. 

Three other works rounded out the program: Bill’s light-hearted duet for Michael Sean and Claudia Moore called Syl & Ng, set to the music of the Beach Boys; David Pressault’s solo Tanatalus; and a piece from Peterborough artists Phil Kummel (composer/musician) and Dy Gallagher (dancer/choreographer) called Ontario Highway Log.

The final bit of zaniness was Bill Coleman’s insistence that I appear on the program as a dancer/fall guy. First he choreographed my introduction at the top of the show to a tune whose lyrics include the immortal lines “I’m in the mood for something modern / I’m in the mood for something new…/Gracious living / A barbecue.”  Later in the program I had to show up at the start of the Brothers Plaid set doing the same thing but in a cheesy gold lame top. Then at the end of the Bros Plaid he got all the dancers who had appeared in the program in on the act by having them return on stage as wacky characters (note Gallager as a hunchback, sniffed at by Mark for being ‘local’ and one of Canada’s legendary dancers, Claudia Moore, in a fat suit) at the end for a surreal finale which morphed out of the Brothers Plaid. See it here. Suffice to say, this was the first and last time yours truly has appeared in a bunny oufit on a PND or PE program. You can watch the entire finale here.

Oh, and as if this wasn’t enough, we took 6 Electrifying Dance Hits on the road to Ottawa for a single performance at the Arts Court Theatre, co-presented by Le Groupe de la Place Royale. This was part of Dancing Across Ontario (DXO), Peterborough New Dance's short-lived (1997-2000) initiative aimed at taking our programs to more cities as a way of extending their life (the programs not the cities). DXO also went to Hamilton; in three years we went to Ottawa and Hamilton twice each and presented local artists on the programs each time. This meant that the Kummel/Gallagher work seen here did not go on the road and, if memory serves, neither did we include the surreal finale in the Ottawa performance. That was definitely a made-in-Peterborough moment that nicely captures our experience over the years with Bill Coleman, who is never content with the status quo and continually keeps us on our toes (or taps).

Editor’s note (wait a minute I am the editor): Bill Coleman’s first Peterborough appearance was in 1987 with his company at the time, Bill Coleman and His North American Experience. The group, which included Mark Shaub, performed Bill’s full-length work Baryshnikov: The Untold Story, the tall tale of a farm boy from Iowa named Barry Shenkov who thinks he is the famous Russian dancer.


 1996:Tammy Forsythe, Holy Body Tattoo, Pent

See the printed matter: Show poster / Show program


1996 was a good year for mixing kickass dance with rock’n roll. This chapter of 20X20 showcases three examples: Tammy Forsythe from Montreal, Holy Body Tattoo from Vancouver and SCAG (Serious Contact Artists Group) from Peterborough.

Montreal choreographer Tammy Forsythe was the first to bring the exhilarating combination of dance and punk to Peterborough. Back in 1993 she and her dancers performed a startling program accompanied by the Montreal punk band Bliss as part of Artspace’s Kicking Habits dance series. That one galvanizing event changed the local dance scene irrevocably, so that by 1996 Peterborough dancers were performing their own pieces with live rock, thrash metal, and punk scores at places like the Union Theatre and the Only Café/Gordon Best Theatre. The quintessential example of this was SCAG’s production of Pent, performed 5 dancers and 5 live guitarists. Pent debuted in 1996, but we have video of the 1997 production in the Public Energy Video Vault  (see above link).  The description accompanying the video tells you more about the artists and circumstances that brought about this significant event.

January of 1996 saw Tammy return to Peterborough after a 3-year absence with a duet called Bu, performed on a shared program with works by Natalie Morin and Yvonne Coutts. And later that year we saw the first appearance in Peterborough of two artists who took the rock’n roll esthetic to new heights by fusing it with sophisticated imagery in the form of the Holy Body Tattoo. Their work called our brief eternity, a trio performed with Chantal Deeble, was presented by Peterborough New Dance (now Public Energy) in October at the Market Hall.

Perhaps it’s too early to identify the impact of the Holy Body Tattoo on dance in Canada. After all, its two protagonists - Dana Gingras and Noam Gagnon - have busy individual post-HBT careers that continue to add to their achievements. But their time together as the Holy Body Tattoo produced a brand of gut wrenching, no holds barred dance that raised the bar for the generation of independent dance artists coming of age in the 1990s. While dancers like Louise Lecavalier were throwing around their bodies with highly skilled abandon in big company productions (La La La Human Steps) on international stages, Dana and Noam brought their own addictive mix of dance and pop culture to the country’s small-scale independent dance scene and places like Peterborough, Ontario, which had not experienced this new take on dance first hand. Eventually they too conquered the world.

It’s probably no coincidence that Holy Body Tattoo and Tammy Forsythe came out of the same fertile Montreal dance scene, although HBT had moved to Vancouver by the time our brief eternity was created. On the surface, the similarities between the two - and with Peterborough’s SCAG collective - are remarkable: the angry attitude, extensive floor work, dressing in t-shirts and combat boots, employing industrial noise rock and hardcore punk. In fact, HBT’s move to Vancouver revealed there were probably more differences than similarities in esthetics and purpose. Forsythe employed a relentless DIY approach to life and art that stood in stark contrast to HBT’s high tech collaborations with art stars like author William Gibson, who wrote text for our brief eternity, and poster designer Steven R Gilmore, an internationally renowned album cover artist. Nevertheless, by utilizing the most current musical styles and subject matter drawn from popular culture, Tammy, Dana and Noam pioneered a style of dance that brought a new generation to contemporary dance.


1995: Emergency #3 featuring I Kant

See the printed matter: Show poster / Show program
Read about it in the media: Preview in The Peterborough Examiner / Preview in The Arthur / Review in The Arthur / Review of I Kant in The Arthur


The third edition of the Emergency festival of new dance and performance is my pick for most memorable of 1995. It ran February 8 - 11 at two locations: The Market Hall Theatre and The Union Theatre. Only the Market Hall program, with three works, was committed to video*. You can see excerpts of each one here at our Emergency Minutes page here.

These three pieces treated dance as just one technique in an arsenal of tricks, ranging from the slapstick of Kris Keating to the kitchen sink drama of scooter (aka Wes Ryan) and the acrobatics of Stephanie Corrin and Steacy Harper. Looking back at these works one is struck by the fact that all three share a common feature: the enthusiastic use of staged fights. Peter Ens and John Quinn in Double-O-Bondage; Anne Ryan and Nathan Govier in Kitten on a String with Fish Hooks; and Harper and Corrin in I Kant.

Every piece on the program was a hit but the one that brought the house down was undoubtedly I Kant. Steacy Harper’s dance/Cultural Studies essay seemed to sum up in the performance (and in the title) her feelings toward her academic pursuits at Trent University. As Mary Polito wrote in her story for the Arthur, “too much having to sit with the boys and talk about the boys.” You can just make out the drone of the male voice reading from the assigned texts, juxtaposed to the fun, funky music of  Aaron Cavan and Randy Innis. As is made clear from the newspaper accounts, Steacy was determined to salvage something from her studies and this dance hit from Emergency #3 was it.
*The Union Theatre program featured works by  Anne Ryan, Nicole Bauberger, Peirre Blin, and Stephen Elliott.


1994: Apogée

See the printed matter: Show program / Show poster
Read about it in the media:  Preview in The Arthur / Review in the Arthur


The first event ever produced by Public Energy, back when it was known as Peterborough New Dance (PND), was Debra Brown's Apogée. Apogée was an original work commissioned by the CanDance Network, Canada’s national network of dance presenters that included PND as a founding member.

This performance was the culmination of a relationship between Debra Brown and Peterborough that began in 1987, the year she brought her dance-on-parallel-bars to Artspace’s new dance series. Yes, Debra (she was known as Debbie then) had toured with a full set of gymnastic parallel bars for that show, but this time she had grander plans that involved a full size trampoline. By 1994 Brown had spent a lot of time as the choreographer for Cirque de Soleil (their first choreographer ever I believe) and now she wanted to get back to her modern dance roots. Doing Apogée was a way to do that.

Although it was supported by commissioning funds from the national CanDance Network, Apogée  was very much a made in Peterborough project: it was initiated out of conversations between myself and Debra; we presented a work in progress version of Apogée with Artspace in 1993; and we contributed the designer: Peterborough resident Jerrard Smith, whose other major dance work was the famous Blue Snake by Robert desRosiers.

Debra’s other collaborators on Apogée were: dancers Alisoun Payne and Alain Gauthier (Debra also danced a minor role); composer Petit Pierre Laurendeau, singer Chantal Girard, musicians Jennifer Langton and Parijata Charbonneau (who was also a Peterborough artist) and lighting designer Patrick Matheson. Valerie Dean and Don Rieder were assistants to the choreographer.

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Where in the World?

We've charted Night's international tour to some of the most remote locations in Canada, as well as Greenland and Iceland. Click here.

February 27 & 28, 2014 at 8pm
Pre-Show Chats both nights at 7 pm in the lobby with writer/director Christopher Morris.
Post-Show Reception on Feb 27, meet the artists in the lobby following the show.
Post-Show Talkback
on Feb 28 with the company.

School Matinee
February 28 at 11 am.
For school bookings contact Public Energy via email or by phone at (705) 745-1788. Download Study Guide here


Market Hall
140 Charlotte Street, Peterborough ON

$22 / $15 students, underwaged / $5 high school students

Christopher Morris
Reneltta Arluk
Tiffany Ayalik
Jonathan Fisher
Linnea Swan

Public Energy and O'Kaadenigan Wiingashk present
Human Cargo (Toronto)

A national hit since its first run at the National Arts Centre in 2009, Night comes to Peterborough on on international tour that sees it going to Greenland and Iceland following Canadian shows from Nunavut to Vancouver.

In Night, the lives of a Toronto anthropologist and a 16-year-old Inuk girl intersect powerfully during 24- hour darkness in Pond Inlet, Nunavut. Daniella is armed with good intentions and the bones of Piuyuq’s grandfather that have been sitting on a museum shelf for decades. She imagines a momentous repatriation, and instead discovers a web of cascading tragedies that haunt Piuyuq and her family. A cross-cultural theatre creation, written and directed by Christopher Morris, and performed in English and Inuktitut (with surtitles), Night is a poetic and dramatic exploration of the clash between Inuit and colonial culture. Created over a three-year process in the arctic darkness of Pond Inlet and Akureyri, Iceland, Night turns southern tropes about the north upside down as it examines themes of ancestry, intention and darkness.

Human Cargo is a Toronto-based theatre company that brings together theatre artists from different cultural backgrounds to create original, multilingual productions. As theatre artists they explore the extremes of the human condition and create a safe environment for audiences to engage in a thorough and provocative discussion of ideas and issues. The effect of Human Cargo's theatre is overt: instigate social and political change.

“Christopher Morris's Night is an emotionally powerful play that skips over the Northern clichés to cast a frost-covered but unblinking eye on the problems currently faced by the Inuit inhabitants of Canada's newest territory.” J. Kelly Nestruck, Globe and Mail

running time: 65 minutes, no intermission
ages: 12 and up.


Photos by Chris Gallow


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