Dance dance evolution

Two years of Rebecca Sawdon’s life are about to hit the stage

Cristopher Santos

The theme of evolution lies at the center of Surfacing, a collection of new solo dance works by Rebecca Sawdon. The show, which debuts on Oct. 23 at the Rachel Browne Theater, features the choreography work of Victoria’s Constance Cooke, Calgary’s Davida Monk, and Winnipeg’s Odette Heyn and Brent Lott.

Even for an accomplished performer like Sawdon, a graduate of the School of Contemporary Dancers’ Senior Professional Program, the most daunting aspect of producing a solo dance work could be the solo part.

“Self-producing is a little bit crazy,” Sawdon mentions. “But I’m kind of writing my own rulebook. All the pieces are very different from one another, so the show will have something to offer everyone. If I could just show up and dance, that would be easier,” she says, laughing. 

During the two years required to bring her vision to the stage, Sawdon says there were times when she felt pushed outside of her creative comfort zone.

“In the past, I was more at ease in ensemble work but this really forces me front and centre,” she says. “I think it maybe breaks an expectation of what people have seen of me. It made me a little uncomfortable but I figured, that’s why I should do it.”

The show consists of four individual pieces. The first, Bridled, premiered in May at the Carol Shields Festival of New Works. The pieces which follow - Fabulous Beast, Benched and Surfacing - make their world premieres at the show. Sawdon has received an outpouring of assistance and support from the local community along the way.

“I held a fundraiser in March that was a big success,” Sawdon says, beaming. “That was emotional because I stood back and looked at three bands setting up and 200 guests. They’re all there, supporting you and your dreams. That’s something that I’m always taken aback by. Sometimes I don’t know how to react. I’m so thankful, but words just don’t do it justice.”

Surfacing is funded by grants from the Manitoba Arts Council and Winnipeg Arts Council. For many professional artists, grant funding is the only way to obtain financial support, although it can be difficult to acquire. Sawdon is quick to offer advice to other struggling artists seeking to land their own grants.

“The number one thing is to just keep applying,” Sawdon stresses. “If you don’t get your grant, call and talk to the grant officers. Get feedback. It can be hard not to take personally because you’re trying to sell yourself. You may be shut down numerous times, but if you don’t apply, you don’t have any chance.”

Despite the involvement of four established choreographers, Sawdon emphasizes that Surfacing’s themes come from a deeply personal place.

“To prepare with Cooke, I had to bring in photos from different stages of my life,” Sawdon says. “She asked me to improvise. Although the movements used in the show are different from what I initially did, that journey, that evolution, is very important to me. Even the title, Surfacing, suggests that. It’s a coming to the surface; evolving or blooming into something new.

“Maybe that’s where I’m at.”

Published in Volume 69, Number 7 of The Uniter (October 15, 2014)

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