Why do I perform? What is the point in putting my work in front of people? These are questions that dance artist Zorya Arrow, 25, can’t stop asking herself.
The young creator has been in the studio for the last three months with Nova Dance Collective (NDC) building her work, Not Potatoes. The piece marks a milestone in Arrow’s burgeoning career. It’s her biggest work yet and the first time she has been able to act strictly as a choreographer and not a performer in her own creation.
“It’s really rewarding to be on the outside and giving direction,” Arrow says. “But I still find myself asking ‘why am I saying this?’ It needs to be worthy of people’s time and time is precious. Why put something on stage if there is nothing you have to say?”
Arrow’s self-aware self-doubt only seems to add intention, meaning and humour to both her creative process and her work. Pondering family dynamics, Not Potatoes deals with inherited personality traits and how far back the line goes.
“Those questions were asked a lot throughout the process so they’ve found their way into the piece,” Arrow explains. “It’s good to throw things away sometimes and do things for fun but generally it’s important to ask yourself these things.”
A founding member of the seven-woman powerhouse that is NDC, Arrow and her fellow Nova dancers are all recent graduates of the senior professional program at the School of Contemporary Dancers.
Having experience creating solo work and mentoring under Tanja Woloshen of Young Lungs Dance Exchange (YLDE), Not Potatoes is not only a pivotal production for Arrow but for NDC as well.
The first major production for NDC after two seasons of shows in the Winnipeg Fringe Festival, Not Potatoes will be featured in a double-bill alongside Toronto-based choreographer and performer Riley Sims’s new work, Judy and the Reckless.
Inspired by ideas of tragic beauty, reverie and the great Judy Garland’s last film, I Could Go On Singing, both Sims’s and Arrow’s works share a love for the theatrical.
“I had discussions with each of the dancers about escapism and recklessness and that’s how the piece started,” Sims, 26, says over the phone from Toronto. “A big issue for me right now is how we want to abandon our realities and how often we want to do that and how it’s a normal, okay thing.”
The commission from NDC was a first for Sims in that he had only three weeks to create with unfamiliar bodies.
“It was now or never. We rehearsed as if we were performing,” Sims says of the time they had together in the studio. “We had a quick learning curve of trust strictly because we had to. And it definitely forced me to be articulate.”
Unlike Sims, Arrow’s familiarity with the dancers allowed her to witness new qualities that she had never seen before.
“It was really exciting to watch them transform,” Arrow says. “Being on the outside of a piece can be vulnerable, knowing you have no control. It’s like having your kid move out. You’ve created this thing and then you have to unleash it!”