Never Still is the starting point for a Firehall Arts Centre season inspired by our challenging and polarized times. Photo by Ben Didier.
Never Still is the starting point for a Firehall Arts Centre season inspired by our challenging and polarized times. Photo by Ben Didier.

Artistic inspiration can strike anywhere. For Vanessa Goodman, artistic director of Vancouver dance company Action at a Distance, it’s late-night news feed scrolling.

“I’m an avid news reader,” she says on the research that went into her latest project, Never Still, a dance piece exploring our relationship to water.

“When I can’t sleep at 2 am, I start reading the news and a lot of the news I read is environmental news and political news, how our water is being affected by political factors,” she continues.”Most of my work is probably inspired or effected in some way from that.”

Never Still looks at the interactions between three different systems: global water systems, our circulatory system transporting fluids around our bodies, and technological communication systems.

While there is clear crossover between the first two items on that list, the macro and micro water systems within our bodies and across the planet, that third item may seem a little out of place. How does technology and communication fit into a piece about water?

“For me it’s all about circulatory cycles,” says Goodman. “So circulation of information, circulatory global water cycles, and our own circulatory system. We are working with how those three things mirror and oppose each other; how they are good for each other or detrimental to the health of one another.”

As the opening show in the Firehall Arts Centre’s 36th season, the Firehall’s artistic director Donna Spencer places Never Still as the starting point for a season that is inspired by the challenging, polarized times we are currently living in.

“We are living in an increasingly polarized culture,” says Spencer on her curation of this season, “This season, our programming is about choices – the ones we make, the ones we think we should make but don’t, and the influences around us that colour that decision-making.”

While Spencer goes on to describe her motivation in creating art that may influence people’s actions, with performances that “resonate through our day to day lives long after we have left the theatre, and indeed may influence the choices we make in the future,” Goodman is more focused on her own relationship to the complex systems and choices she is exploring than on how they might change her audience.

“There are some ideas that we’re exploring that are influenced by ethical and social and environmental issues with very strong opinions on both sides,” Goodman says, “I’m choosing to reflect on my relationship to those issues through my medium, which is dance, and using it as a way to reflect, research, and influence my own choices in life and in my practice.”

As for the audience’s experience, Goodman reflects on her own experience watching dance.

“When I watch dance I have a very visceral experience where my body empathizes with the other performers’ bodies,” she says. “So, I hope the audience will feel what the artists are feeling, that we will all feel the movement surrounding these ideas, and that through the depth of the work and research we’ve done exploring these themes, the audience will feel it in their own systems in some way.”

Never Still plays the Firehall Arts Centre in East Vancouver September 26-29. Visit firehallartscentre.ca for tickets and information.