Dancers in Emmalena Fredrikkson's Stroking the Unknown Dog, part of Neither Here Nor There at the Simon Fraser University School for the Contemporary Arts.
Dancers in Emmalena Fredrikkson's Stroking the Unknown Dog, part of Neither Here Nor There at the Simon Fraser University School for the Contemporary Arts.

Vancouver’s festival scene is about to get a jolt as MFA students from the Simon Fraser University School for Contemporary Arts present their multi-disciplinary arts festival Neither Here Nor There.

[pullquote]“There will be audience members that have never been to a dance show and they might come to this show and think that if this is what dance can mean maybe they will want to come back to see more” – Kyla Gardiner[/pullquote]Along with seven performance-based shows that will take place in repertory over the five days (May 7-11) at the Woodward’s complex downtown, the festival will also include an exhibition of visual arts from first-year students.

Included among the performances are a cross-disciplinary work from Vancouver theatre designer Kyla Gardiner and fellow MFA candidate and performance artist, Layla Marcelle Mrozowski.  Titled How I learned to stop verbing and blank the object, the piece is a dance hybrid that the duo describe as “imaginary theatre”.

“Layla and I came up with the term ‘imaginary theatre’ to explain that it is not a traditional narrative based theatre,” explains Gardiner.  “A lot of the ideas in the show will require the active imaginations on the part of the audience.”

Exploring an audience’s preconceived notion of sexuality, the duo have come up with a piece that takes those normative views and turns them on their head by using objects to explore ideas of sexual identity and gender.

And while it all may sound a little esoteric, it is in being able to push and widen the boundaries of non-traditional performances with shows like How I learned… that drew Gardiner to the SFU program in the first place.

“The reason I wanted to go back to school and the same thing is true for many of other students in our cohort is because we’re drawn to these cross-disciplinary studies,” explains Gardiner.  “Personally I was interested in how learning how I could combine my skillset with those of others and see what magic we could create together.”

Swedish dance artist Emmalena Fredriksson, who continues work on Stroking the Unknown Dog which she started working in Ireland back in 2010, agrees.

“I realized in the last couple of years my choreographic work was starting to merge with other disciplines and I started to ask myself, is this really dance?,” she says.

After looking at a number of similar MFA programs in Europe, Fredriksson decided that not only did the SFU program offer her the opportunity to undertake the inter-disciplinary research she wanted to do, but she was able to combine it with a desire to learn from a different culture.

“This program brings together artists of all mediums and I was really interested in being in part of one that non-discipline specific,” says Fredriksson.  “I’ve also travelled a lot with my work and being able to come to a new country is a great way to learn and I really liked the idea of having an opportunity to see what was happening in North America.”

With such diverse offerings during the festival’s run, both Gardiner and Fredriksson are excited by what that can mean for Vancouver audiences.

“What we wanted to create was a scenario where an audience may think they are coming to see a dance show and find out what that are really seeing is a dance slash music show,” says Gardiner.

“There will be audience members that have never been to a dance show and they might come to this show and think that if this is what dance can mean maybe they will want to come back to see more,” says Fredriksson.

Neither Here Nor There takes place at The Goldcorp Center for The Performing Arts (149 West Hastings St) from May 7-11.  Visit http://www.sfu.ca for tickets and information.