Tara Cheyenne Friedenberg
Tara Cheyenne Friedenberg

During this time of social distancing and dark theatres, Vancouver Presents is checking in with members of our arts community to find out how they are staying creative and managing during the pandemic.

Today we check in with Vancouver-based dance artist and choreographer Tara Cheyenne Friedenberg. Tara next performs as part of this year’s Dancing on the Edge Festival of Contemporary Dance.

1. How are you staying creative during the pandemic?

I’m trying to look at everything as potential inspiration/creation: to do lists, the 600 square feet my family of three negotiates together, the irritating Instagram sourdough/sprouting/home fitness posts. Its really hard but if I force myself to create even the smallest things: 3 lines of text, 4 moves, half a joke I feel way better. And honestly staying off of social media as much as possible is helping me find the brain space to feel creative.

2. What’s the one thing getting you through?

Hannah Gadsby on Netflix. Both of her specials are hilarious/subversive and incredibly well crafted.

3. How are you staying in contact with family and friends who are not in your bubble?

I’ve returned to my teenage marathon phone talking. I ditched Zoom for social contact way back. When we stare into the void of the unreadable screen we are not in our bodies but if I can walk around the block or my apartment while hearing the voice of someone I love I feel like we are on the same planet after all.

4. What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned so far during the pandemic?

Being crazy busy and “productive” doesn’t equal being useful and alive. I think we’ve all been running as fast as we can to get by, be relevant/important/worthy. We’ve (I’m talking about the other artist-parents I know but it goes further than that-its cultural) been running on empty. I don’t want to return to that pace. We miss a lot of life at that pace. And also comedy is an essential service.

5. What do you feel the most grateful for right now?

My child, my partner, and my friends. My child makes me laugh and cry a little every day.

6. What is something you are doing now that you don’t normally?

My family and I started playing badminton! Now, you have to understand that my partner and I are the least sporty people. But we got this shitty badminton set and now we play almost every day, even in the rain. And sometimes if the air is still and the planets align I actually hit the birdie.

7. What skill have you developed since the pandemic started?

Well, I can edit video a lot better than I could before. I tried sourdough bread but that failed fantastically, and I’m so over everyone’s perfect loaf posts. My kid is in grade three and we are home/crisis schooling so I’ve actually had to properly learn fractions … I’m pretty proud.

8. What have you missed the most?

Being in a studio making shit/art up with other artists

9. Your #1 pandemic survival tip.

Let the schedule go. Every day is different. Sometimes you get stuff done and sometimes you don’t get dressed. And don’t get too “hangry”.

10. Your biggest indulgence since the pandemic started.

Watching The Office and Brooklyn 99 from start to finish. I can’t handle anything with any amount of suspense; there’s enough of that in real life these days.

11. What have you stockpiled?

I’ve been keeping a lot of jars because I imagine I might plant things in them.

12. What have you been reading?

Esi Edugyan’s Washington Black and Half-Blood Blues and Twyla Tharp’s Keep it Moving.

13. What have you been watching?

See above.

14. What have you been listening to?

Female lead heavy metal: Massive Scar Era, Bleed the Pigs and Arch Enemy.

15. What are you doing for exercise?

My partner and I do Ashtanga Yoga 4-5 times a week. We used to do it before our child was born. It’s nice to get back to it. Also lifting stuff … the kid, flour bags, etc. Gagadancers online class and an online 7-minute workout.

16. The one thing you haven’t been able to live without?

Coffee. I had gone caffeine-free at the beginning of the pandemic but that went out the window by week two. Screw it! A need a little extra personality to get through this.

17. Do-it-yourself haircut or the natural look?

Oh, total do it yourself! I cut my hair and bleached half my bangs. It looks not bad on Zoom.

18. Night owl or early riser?

Early riser. My kid gets up at 6 am so I do too.

19. Will you be the first out as restrictions are gradually lifted or taking a wait-and-see attitude?

Wait and see. I feel like people are beginning a bit crazy out there right now.

20. What’s the first thing you will do when this is all over?

A lot of hugging, real hugging not that half arm weird back pat type of hugging, and a lot of coffee dates with friends!

Meet Tara Cheyenne Friedenberg

Tara has been creating and performing signature works since graduating from SFU. She is recognized as the preeminent dance-theatre force and sought-after choreographer in Vancouver and beyond. Performing highlights: DanceBase/Edinburgh, South Bank Centre/London, On the Boards/Seattle USA, High Performance Rodeo/Calgary.

Her solo pieces: nick and juanita, banger, goggles, porno death cult; duet and ensemble works: highgate, empty.swimming.pool and how to be. Tara has been nominated for the Jessie, Ovation and Lola awards for her theatrical choreography and is a 2014 recipient of the Chrystal Dance Prize. Tara is expanding her engaging performances in upcoming works including film and environmental venues.

You can find out more about Tara online at taracheyenne.com or follow her on Facebook and Instagram.