The 2020 Queer Arts Festival (QAF) gets underway today in a re-imagined virtual format.
Celebrating queer art, culture and history, this year’s QAF takes place July 16-26 across a variety of digital platforms, featuring everything from streaming art tours to online performances.
Among the online performances is Noam Gagnon’s This Crazy Show. The free pre-recorded contemporary dance piece will broadcast online July 25 and 26.
“I fell into this incredible quote from Albert Einstein that says: the true signs of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination,” says Gagnon. “The source of This Crazy Show is about the power of imagination as a source of survival.”
For the 57-year old Gagnon, his survival comes from dancing for 39 years and a desire to create a shift in approaching his work.
“I had to rediscover a source of joy, pleasure,” he says. “It is clearly about the power of imagination to survive, as a force of survival or a way to create positive change or transformation in the body.”
First performed in 2016, Gagnon has gone back to the table with This Crazy Show for this most recent iteration.
“I’ve made a lot of cuts,” he says of the revised work. “It is now straightforward and re-choreographed to see how far I could push it. There is a little prologue that introduces the show and allows the audience to follow me through this incredible journey that happens in the performer’s body because it can be so abstract.”
It was also necessary for him to revisit the piece to fit the new digital format.
“It is made now for television, and there are certain things you need to do to hold an audience,” he says. “People are used to commercials every fifteen minutes, so I was trying to see how far I could maintain the focus. How could I manipulate it to keep them involved, engaged and curious.”
As an artist, Gagnon admits to being easily distracted and unfocused. It was another reason he felt the need to condense the work.
“It helped me be impartial about not having an attachment to the performance itself,” he explains. “It had to be viewed as if I was wearing a hat from the outside because it was not about me; it is about whether I am communicating what I am trying to do. I loved the process. Right from the start, it forced me to look it not from how I felt but what was needed. And that was fun.”
Gagnon also says one of the silver linings in going virtual is the potential to reach a broader audience.
“I love the fact that this show may find access for someone who could never be at the theatre or even in this city,” he says. “I love the fact communities are extending, and the piece is expanding now to communities may not have been able to be in Vancouver at the time of the showing. Maybe it will have an impact on someone, somewhere else in the world. ”
While This Crazy Show is billed as his “swan song,” Gagnon isn’t ruling out a return to dance should the right project come along. For now, though, he is content to share his knowledge and experience with a new generation of dancers.
“I don’t think you can leave something,” he says. “I can’t leave dance, but there is the reality that I am 57, and I’m rare for someone to be able to do what I am doing physically. I’m doing very well physically, but I have to think about the reality of the body. There is a cost.”
Going forward, Gagnon will re-focus his energy on helping younger dancers take the spotlight.
“I’ve had a great career and the countless experiences I have had are something I can pass on, something that I can share,” he says. “I’m truly loving being able to do both, but there is a reality, and I need to embrace it. Their bodies are way more resilient and willing to push themselves.”
For now, though, Gagnon is looking forward to presenting a show he calls “a little diamond in the rough.”
“In the rough, because it is like life, it’s not always polished,” he concludes. “Sometimes, it needs to be polished, and it is a metaphor for life. I hope people will see themselves in it.”
For more information on This Crazy Show and other performances and events at the 2020 Queer Arts Festival, visit queerartsfestival.com.