Sarah Roche, 28, and Lise McMillan, 30, have worked together for years, as students and company members of Winnipeg’s Contemporary dancers, but about two years ago the duo decided to break out on their own. This weekend, LS Duets unveils its first produced work, DUET.
“We were coming to a place where we wanted to create a bigger challenge for ourselves,” Roche says. “To have the opportunity to choose who you’d like to work with because you want to grow in specific ways. It was taking responsibility for the growth I wanted to have a dancer.”
Having worked with choreographers Susie Burpee and Serge Bennathan while in school, DUET. is a collaboration between the four in two parts, with Burpee choreographing a playful new work and Bennathan an introspective think piece.
“It’s great to have outside choreographers come into Winnipeg,” Roche says of Burpee and Bennathan (who call Vancouver and Montreal home). “These are pretty well established folks - I think it’s really great for our dance community to be exposed to different types of choreography and it can help influence and inspire people that want to create to just be something different.”
Working on-and-off since June (sometimes in Montreal with Bennathan and in Toronto with Burpee) the duo has had an incredibly fulfilling experience.
“Both Lise and I had felt with Serge that we were very artistically challenged and physically challenged, he’s got a real poetry to the way he works,” the dancer says. “We really were craving a challenge like that and wanting to be pushed as artists - to expand who we could be as interpreters on stage. We knew he was the guy to do that for us.
“With Susie we’ve had the opportunity to work with her twice. We enjoy the kind of character-based work that she does and knew it would be a good contrast to Serge so we wanted to have that quirky kind of feel of how to move.”
There’s a complex simplicity to just two people on a stage - but with months of work and the experience of all involved, there are a lot of layers at play here.
“I think the pieces are very contrasting,” Roche says. “In Serge’s piece people will see a more contemplative work - something that explores how two people can relate to each other and be connected without looking at each other. You can be connected by feeling each other, through your skin or your breath, and how these people try to find the essence of the truth of who they are in that space and time.”
Burpee’s piece is host to the more playful, interactive relationship of Roche and McMillan, and the duo is confident in the cohesion and relatability of its work.
“I think what’s interesting is that you can see a relationship between two people that everyone can relate to,” Roche says.
“It’s really interesting in a duet you go through a lot of ways of connecting, and it’s such an intimate connection that even if you’re really close to someone you can have a sympathy or empathy for someone - but there’s also a competitive feeling that comes back to a compassionate place.
“I think that people will be able to relate to what it means to relate to someone else.”