‘Made with collective care’

Phase 4.0 showcases collaboration on stage

Phase 4.0, the new choreographed diptych from Alexandra Elliott Dance, examines themes as wide-ranging as collaboration and orchestral conducting. (Photo by Keeley Braunstein-Black)

From April 5 to 9, Prairie Theatre Exchange will host Phase 4.0, a dance show presented by Alexandra Elliott Dance. Headed by Alex Elliott, a prolific artist and cofounder of the Art Holm performance festival, Alexandra Elliot Dance draws from her 20 years of dance expertise.

Phase 4.0 comprises two works, a solo show titled Conduct and a duet entitled Ellipsis 2.0.

Conduct is a co-creation of Elliott and sound designer Dasha Plett. It focuses on the lively movements associated with classical-music conductors.

Elliott says the idea for Conduct came after viewing Alexander Micklethwate during the Winnipeg New Music Festival.

“I became fascinated by how dynamic and physical his movements were,” Elliott says. “I wanted him to turn around and just do this incredible act of physicality and athleticism for us.”

Through Conduct, she turns the figure of the conductor toward the audience, transforming the traditionally stationary movements of conductors into dance.

The piece’s sounds bear a deeper commentary on conducting. The music is the cut and distorted work of Herbert von Karajan, a controversial and prominent modern European composer who was also an instrumental part of Nazi Germany’s program of cultural propaganda.

As the composer, Plett has used the soundscape of Conduct as an opportunity to explore how controversial figures come to power in art.

“To me, the piece has evolved to the point that it’s not about von Karajan but instead the relationship between artists and power and how our cultural labour is used or allowed to be used in the name of really horrible things,” Plett says.

In contrast to Conduct’s focus on a single performer, Ellipsis 2.0 centres around partnership.

The piece utilizes what Elliott calls “intricate partnership,” which is “where two bodies are very interlinked almost like a puzzle or physics – where two bodies cause and effect each other.” The piece was initially developed with the co-founder of Art Holm, Hilary Crist, but following COVID-19 shutdowns, Crist had to leave the project, and Elliott developed a second iteration.

Elliott’s work within a women’s health clinic also informs Ellipsis 2.0’s use of a medical object as the centrepiece.

While Phase 4.0 seems to only showcase three dancers on stage, including Elliott, Justine Erickson and Neilla Hawley, the show incorporates the work of five other artists to bring the performances to life.

Plett emphasizes her work with the music as “another dancer in the piece,” as well as all the other collaborators in Phase 4.0.

“Sometimes it’s a pool of sound in which they are swimming, sometimes it is the featured dancer or element for a moment,” she says, mentioning how the show incorporates different set pieces and costumes into its storytelling. “It’s a dance piece, but it’s a dance piece informed by many, many different artist approaches.”

Plett emphasizes that “these pieces have been made with an enormous amount of collective care.”

Coming up to the show, Elliott is excitedly anticipating the last important player, which is still yet to be realized in creating the work: the audience.

“We let the audience have a moment with each element, to welcome them into something that is tangible,” she says. “Then we can go on a wild ride together on something that is a bit more fantastical.”

Phase 4.0 runs from April 5 to 8 at 7:30 p.m. and on April 9 at 2:30 p.m. at Prairie Theatre Exchange. Tickets are available at bit.ly/3TzB3fk.

Published in Volume 77, Number 23 of The Uniter (March 23, 2023)

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