Alexandra Elliott is a three-year veteran of the Winnipeg Fringe Festival, and this summer she'll be injecting a healthy dose of contemporary dance to the local and the Toronto festivals.
“There's an interesting statistic about there being such a tiny percentage of people that go to the ballet, the theatre, the opera, dance, and that most people stay in their little tube of arts and don't cross pollinate,” Elliott says.
For contemporary dance shows to be delving into the theatre world is not only good for the performers, but also for the audience.
“Contemporary dance right now is starting to involve more props, more vocalization, exploration of themes that are accessible rather than abstract, movement only pieces,” the dancer says.
A graduate of the School of Contemporary Dancers in affiliation with the University of Winnipeg, she's been dancing and choreographing professionally for 10 years. While most of her earlier work was created through Young Lungs Dance Exchange, Elliott has also presented many of her dance works through the Winnipeg Fringe Festival.
The two pieces Elliott is touring to Toronto work well together in a Fringe venue because “they're just such different pieces,” Elliott says. “In Fringe festivals most of the time the audience is predominantly from the theatre world, so I think the solo will be a little more in that world, but also expressing a lot of dance and physicality, and the quartet moves into a very contemporary dance place.”
Hilary Crist, Janelle Hacault, Lise McMillan, and Elliott herself will perform the quartet, titled “When All Is Said”.
It's an intense, physical work surrounding what Elliott calls tribal creatures.
“We don't really feel human, and it's our last dying need to tell our stories,” she says. “They're not specific stories, they're these epic tales passed down from our great great grandmothers and it needs to be expressed before the end of the world.
“The movement is the meaning. The meaning is in the movement and I really feel that's coming across now.”
The second piece is a solo Elliott created for herself called “Get Served”, about her time spent serving in restaurants, which was made during a mentorship with Susie Burpee while in Toronto last fall.
“The challenge [for the piece] was: how do you work with props, how do you work with music, lighting, costume, makeup, all of these things that really support a solo.”
It will be Elliott's first time producing a Fringe show on her own, but that pressure seems to be helping – not hindering – her ability to thrive.
“It feels like I'm wearing 35 different hats,” Elliott says calmly, despite the sentiment. “It's so rewarding. I think this is the highest stress I've ever felt.”
Part of that stress is from the logistics of touring as a dance group “gypsy style,” renting a car, driving to Toronto, paying for gas, and, hopefully, eating. You can help relieve some of it by donating to AE Dance at aedance.wix.com/aedance.
Alexandra Elliott will be performing “Get Served” as part of the Bring Your Own Venue series at the Winnipeg Fringe Festival this July.