Vancouver’s reputation as a city filled with fitness and health fanatics is almost legendary. As yoga studios give way to cross-fit gyms, overtaking the ubiquitous Starbucks in sheer numbers, the quest for a perfectly toned and healthy body can border on obsession.
In Shay Kuebler’s Feasting on Famine, obtaining the perfect vision of fitness is explored in a sometimes-satirical look at the preoccupation with body-building and fitness modelling.
The idea for the dance-theatre hybrid came during a time when Kuebler used cross-training to recuperate from an injury.
“I had amassed injuries from performing and started going to cross-training as part of my rehabilitation,” he explains. “I really got into the gym culture at the time and after a visit to London in 2015 I decided to do this piece about fitness.”
More than a simple look at the fitness craze though, Kuebler zeroes in on a darker side where excess is part of pursuing physical perfection.
“It is about the industry of health and fitness, and how they have become corporatized,” he says. “I wanted the show to be universal, and there are a lot of aspects around narcissism, and how we present ourselves in society.”
The show’s title hints at other layers as well, including over-consumption in developed nations, and how the health industry feeds off its disciples.
“There are body builders who consume what five people would normally consume in a day, and the title points to those first and third world realities,” says Kuebler. “On one hand, you have this over-consumption, and on the other you have people elsewhere in the world who are barely getting enough to eat.”
Kuebler also explores his belief fitness corporations are preying on the less informed.
“The industry feeds off people who are not strong mentally or have insecurities, where the corporatization of the fitness industry is feasting off people’s weaknesses,” he says.
Ironically perhaps, in his first solo performance, Kuebler finds himself back in the gym in preparation for what can be grueling 60 minutes.
“I’ve been dieting and cross-training very seriously for the last month,” he says. “I’m also pushing my body to look stronger and with less body fat.”
But while dance and movement is a big part of Feasting on Famine, Kuebler has also used his theatrical training to create something for more than just dance enthusiasts.
“I’ve always wanted to have theatricality in my work,” he says. “Maybe not direct narratives, but I have always wanted to relate to a topic with a thematic tone. It’s not so it is separated with acting one moment and dancing another, but more about someone going through this crazy journey.”
Feasting on Famine opens the 2017/2018 season at the Firehall Arts Centre (280 East Cordova St, Vancouver) from September 27-30. Visit http://firehallartscentre.ca for tickets and information.