Dance your lungs out

Young Lungs Research Series gives audiences a peek behind the curtain

Leif Norman

An artist’s creative process can be difficult to explain. Words can capture an approximation, but the essence will often be incomplete. Akin to the taste of a fine wine or caviar, it’s better experienced than explained.

This December, the Young Lungs Dance Exchange presents an opportunity to get a look at its creative process, illuminating the in-progress works of a variety of established and up-and-coming Manitoba dance artists. Ian Mozdzen, the creative administrator of Young Lungs, notes that conveying the concept can be tricky, as the pieces are not necessarily finished products.

“There’s a subtlety to it,” Mozdzen says. “It’s like getting to see what people work on before they’ve ‘made it’ into ‘something.’ It’s very ‘process.’”

The current series is performed over three evenings and features two different artistic dance pieces per night. Any member of Young Lungs is eligible to apply for their project to be selected for the series. Some creators may continue developing their pieces for finalized showings in the future, while others will only be seen during this limited engagement. Each night will conclude with a mediated talk-back conversation between artist and audience, to ask questions and get feedback on the individual pieces. 

Freya Olafson, an artist and member of Young Lungs is one of six creators whose work is featured. Partly inspired by YouTube videos of young, non-professional dancers improvising moves, Olafson’s piece will be performed on Dec. 12, though the final version may not be complete until as late as 2016. Her piece also features performances from notable local dance artists Lise McMillan and Carol Ann Bohrn.

Olafson admits it’s uncommon to get a glimpse of how an artist’s work can evolve.

“It’s much different than just: ‘Come in. Here’s a program with a description of what the piece is. Watch it. Clap. Or don’t. And now, leave,’” Olafson says with a laugh.

Tanja Woloshen, a fellow creator and former board member at Young Lungs, insists this discussion will bear creative benefits.

“Dance can often be this abstract, mysterious form,” Woloshen says. “Because the research series is not geared toward a production, there isn’t that pressure to have your Ts crossed and your Is dotted. You’re really working with this visceral, dirty, sloppy, whimsical stew of ideas.”

Mozdzen describes the Young Lungs collective - which formed in 2003 as a way of supporting local independent dancers and artists in creating unique, original works - as “a jigsaw puzzle, always reassembling and changing itself.” 

The series is funded by grants from Canada Council, Winnipeg Arts Council and Manitoba Arts Council and will be held at The Rachel Browne Theatre, providing the series a more intimate setting in contrast to the 2013 series, which was held at the larger Gas Station theater. Mozdzen feels this atmosphere will allow the latest series to be more accessible.

“We’re already in,” Mozdzen says. “It is so easy! There’s already seats. We don’t need a lighting designer, we don’t need anything. We just need to turn on the lights and show dance.”

Published in Volume 69, Number 12 of The Uniter (November 19, 2014)

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