|Photo credit: Barry Prophet|
Jessica: Hi Janice, could you tell us a little bit about your dance background and what you're up to now?
Janice: I've been a performing artist in dance, theatre and music since the mid 70's. For the first 15 - 20 years, from the mid 70's to the early 90's, there was a lot of scepticism about people being multidisciplinary and now it's wonderful seeing how many people are multidisciplinary performance artists. As a performer I've embraced many different performance disciplines and in the last 12 years or so I've been focusing on teaching modern dance and also on a lot of writing. I write about the creative process, creative and dramatic movement, and choreography, and those books are published internationally and used by educators and dance artists around the world.
Jessica: What is the title of your piece for the Pegasus Performance Group this year?
Janice: This is a piece about the brain and brain overload. The title is "Sometimes I think I think too much"
Jessica: What is the concept for the piece?
Janice: It's a human experience. We’ve all experienced what it’s like when your brain is buzzing while you're lying in bed at night trying to sleep and you start thinking about all the things that you didn't do or need to do, or when you're trying to focus on one job and you keep being distracted by your brain's interest in something that is totally mundane and wonderful, like looking outside and seeing the clouds. It's a very human experience and it’s fun for the kids because they're going through it. They've got exams, they've got their dance stuff, they've got responsibilities at home. Some days in class kids come in and say, "my brain is going to explode", so I know they can relate personally to the situation.
Jessica: Why did you decide on this concept?
Janice: It was an interesting process. I have not worked with this group of young dancers before, and they're all from a number of different dance disciplines. I was looking for something that could help make them a cohesive ensemble and that's when I decided to go for a more theatrical piece that I could use as a catalyst to introduce certain modern concepts and to let them have some fun exploring a whimsical and humorous aspect of human nature.
Jessica: What has been the biggest challenge that you've faced so far in this process?
Janice: I think the biggest challenge was that once I established what I was interested in exploring thematically, I knew that it would require a special sonic composition to accompany it. My partner, Barry Prophet is a composer and percussionist. He works with experimental music, sound art and computer assisted music. Barry was happy to create a piece for me but he's busy with a number of other projects. There was only a short period of time that he could work on the composition so the challenge for me was to articulate all of my ideas to Barry before I started rehearsing with the dancers. Barry reached into his incredible array of sound files and created a fabulous piece. He manipulated voices so they sound like beautiful watery music, he has voices that sound really rough like they're being heard over a weak cell phone connection, and he included some great percussion. The music was the biggest challenge. Barry did it and it’s phenomenal!
Jessica: Why did you want to be involved with the Benefit Show and the performance group?
Janice: I love the benefit. I love the idea that the dancers are dancing for others and not for themselves. I love the fact that it resonates to what I believe is the essence of dance. Dance for me is a way of connecting to the world. Dance is a kinetic art form, it's not a sport where the goal is to win. Dance is art and art is communication. It is a gift to be able to dance and gifts are for giving. In this day and age with the popularity of so many competitive dance shows on television young dancers can lose sight of the joys of dancing with others and for others. That’s not to discredit competitive dance programs. A lot of hard work and dedication is involved in competitions, and there can be great value in competing, but there is also great value and great merit in dancing for others.
Jessica: What does this cause in specific mean to you?
Janice: For the past ten years Dances of Offering has been alternating between global and local charities. Last year we reached out to support children in
and this year we’re focusing
on something that impacts directly on the Pegasus community. A large portion of
our students were born at Toronto East General and when I see kids come to
class with stitches or taped rotator cuffs I know they've probably been to the
ER at East General. So raising money for TEGH is fabulous -there's a real
connectivity for the students. They can say, “Hey, I am raising money for the
people and the organization that has helped me, my friends and my family." Haiti
Thank you Janice for an amazing and enlightening interview! Come to Dances of Offering on February 12th at the Betty Oliphant Theatre to see Janice’s piece and many more! To buy tickets visit www.dancesofoffering.myevent.com