Nine years after graduating from the School of Contemporary Dancers in affiliation with the University of Winnipeg, performance artist Ming Hon is bringing her choreographic talents to Winnipeg’s Contemporary Dancers (WCD).
After years spent strictly as a solo artist, the commission - Forever in Blue Jeans - is not only a major milestone in Hon’s career, but also serves to kick off WCD’s 50th anniversary season, making it Canada’s oldest modern dance company.
“The school was a contemporary dance sanctuary for me,” says Hon, giggling, while recalling her years of training. “So I’ve been trying not to think about the pressures and just concentrate on the work, because when I slip it’s like ‘holy shit!’ I guess it’s a pretty big deal, but I can’t let myself think about it.”
Hon began to create her own work while taking part in the Mentoring Artists for Women’s Art (MAWA) program, which is also celebrating it’s 30th anniversary this year. She says her mentor, renowned visual artist Sarah-Anne Johnson, is amazing and a really great friend.
“Sarah and the program really set it all off for me and I just kept working,” she says.
Hon and Johnson have continued to collaborate and will be heading to North Carolina later this year to remount Dancing with the Doctor, a gallery work.
“I prefer to perform in gallery spaces,” Hon says. “It has always been important for me to have intimacy with the audience. I love seeing them face to face, to potentially reach out and touch them. The spectators’ experience is totally intertwined with the performers.”
Although it will be performed in a small theatre setting, Hon’s new work has the acute energy and gripping confrontation of her favoured gallery shows. Featuring performers Kayla Henry, Ali Robson and Natasha Torres-Garner, Forever in Blue Jeans vibrates with a glistening blue-collar will-to-live.
“It all started with pleasure and joy and in order to have those you need hate and pain,” Hon states. “In order to have joy we work to make money, work to make a living and make a living to work. This brought me to capitalism and I needed money in the piece.”
Throughout the work, piles of pennies are jingled in pockets, tossed in the air, hoarded, gambled away and wished upon.
“Pennies are these little things which make up our entire economic system yet we just throw them away,” says Hon, motioning wildly with her hands. “In fact, we don’t even make them anymore.” Hon had to gather many of the pennies on a recent trip to Minneapolis.
“I would be lying if I didn’t say having a baby changed my work,” Hon admits. “I’m 30, I have a child and I can’t ignore the fact that I have to hustle. Having a child is the ultimate work, it’s constant. Forget about labour, this is now a lifetime of work. Now is the time to get down to brass tacks.”
Fuelled by Hon’s personal experiences, the intricate work is a far cry from bleak.
“It’s the pleasurable moments and the dream,” Hon says, sighing. “That’s what gets us through.”
Forever in Blue Jeans will be presented alongside The Exhibitionist from Oct. 9 - 12 at the Rachel Browne Theatre. Both works will tour to Regina, Calgary and Edmonton as part of the Prairie Dance Circuit.