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Closing the Box: Reflections on Toronto Fringe 2019

Welcome back! It’s me, Tavia. It's been a busy few weeks since I last posted a blog! Let me get you up to date. On July 4th, 2019 Frog in Hand opened Heart of Matter at the Toronto Fringe Festival. It has been a riveting time performing the last 7 shows! We have one more show at Trinity Saint Paul’s tonight and it's sure to be magical. For this post I have the Frog in Hand Summer Company with me: Kirsten Sullivan, Micha Baltman, Dana MacDonald, Krista Newey, Cody Berry and Anastasia Botos.

Summer Company 2019 performs Heart of Matter. Image Nettie Seip.

Tavia: Where did you all train, and how did you first hear about Frog in Hand?

Micha: I'm from Toronto. I trained a bit here and then did my formal training at the London Contemporary Dance School in England. I knew Colleen through school because she completed her Masters there, so that is where I first heard about her and Frog in Hand. She approached me a year ago, through a strike of fate!

Kirsten: I am from Toronto. I trained here at Ryerson University. I heard about Frog in Hand during my time at Ryerson. Colleen has quite a following in Toronto and so word of mouth passed through.

Dana: I grew up and trained in the GTA. I also am a graduate of Ryerson University. I’d heard about Frog in Hand for a while, I got to witness her work at Springworks 2019. I really enjoyed that piece so I reached out to audition.

Krista: I am from a little bit east of the GTA, I went to a small dance school in Port Perry while I was growing up. I went to Ryerson for dance. I heard about Colleen and Frog in Hand through TOES for Dance.

Cody: I grew up on the reservation at Lac La Croix First Nation. I got my formal training at The Conteur Academy. I worked with Colleen in improvisation during my time at Conteur.

Anastasia: I am originally from Greece, I moved to Canada six years ago. I am still in school, studying dance at Ryerson University. I heard about Frog in Hand through my creative performance studies class in school.

Tavia: Fantastic! Now that we know a bit about each other, let’s talk Fringe! Heart of Matter is a very sentimental piece for me, as I was a part of the original cast of this work. Now we are remounting it I get the chance to dive deeper into the work. This piece is about memory and the things we hold onto, like souvenirs we keep in boxes. I'm curious to know what kind of boxes you have at home. What are they filled with? What inspirational objects are guiding you through this process?

Micha: I have been moving around a lot, so all of my things are in boxes. I'm rediscovering current and past things, all stuffed inside these boxes... a part of who I was. It's always a surprise to see what I had in there... Which is inspiring me right now for this work, navigating through these memories to find something more clear to show.

Kirsten: For myself, my box is less literal. I don’t tend to hold onto physical things, in the same way others do. It’s more about finding ideological boxes or emotional boxes that I’ve held onto that can be reimagined or explored in this piece.

Krista: When I think about memories kept in a box, I think about the things my mom has kept for me at her home. Pictures, artwork, these kinds of things... Which makes me think about how our generation will keep things. Will they archive their memories, because they are less physical? In terms of things I have at my place, I keep things that are broken or disheveled, I will not give them away or throw it away. They may be useless or tucked away but they still hold memories.

Cody: Back home I only have one box which contains keys from all of the homes I have lived in since I left the reservation.

Anastasia: I didn’t really have a memory box until I moved to Canada. I had to pack up everything I owned and take it with me. I have a box filled with shells, letters and my best friend's bracelet, all things from back home. When we started the process for this piece, I remember going home and opening it which sparked a lot of emotions for me.

Anastasia Botos in Heart of Matter. Image Nettie Seip.

Tavia: It is a very human piece. A lot of the ideas we touch on through physical movement or text come from the human experience... Our audience is able to connect with these experiences on a visual and visceral level. Nostalgia - time passing - it happens to everyone.

Dana: I find that interesting. I see my keepsakes as a place for me to compare where I was to where I am now... How different I was or maybe how similar I am. It doesn’t always have to be sad, more so bittersweet. It is a reminder of constant change and how we are always looking to grow.

Tavia: I think what is interesting about this work is that it’s not a concise or linear narrative. However, our themes are open for audiences to access emotionally, visually, and spiritually because we have all passed through time physically, and the things we’ve kept can spark things in an audience member, not just evoking inspiration but evoking a memory - which is cool to think about.Why do you think the medium of dance is a good way to express themes about memories or the artifacts we hold onto?

Kirsten: Well, the body holds memories, it is an organ full of containment. It is a mind-body connection, it also touches on space and time.

Dana: Right the 5 senses as well.

Micha: Even how something smells or how something felt can bring you back to a place which triggers a physical reaction.

Dana: I think dance is a great way to show human experiences and how we embody experiences. Our memories all make us individuals and also individual dancers and interpreters. It’s interesting how these two ideas connect.

Tavia: My inspiration for this piece was a physical object that I’ve held onto. It is interesting to be back in the work and find more to discover. We’ve discussed sensation, nostalgia and aspects of recalling memories. I'm excited to share the growth of this work with our audiences! Thank you all for this lovely interview.

Just reminding all you readers that there is only ONE MORE SHOW tonight at the Toronto Fringe Festival! Tickets and more information are online here. Talk soon!

Dana MacDonald in Heart of Matter. Image Nettie Seip

Upcoming on Notes from the Studio

We will be back soon to share our next project - researching movement for a site-specific work called Stories in the Woods. It's going to be a promenade-style piece crafted for the grounds surrounding the Small Arms Inspection Building. Stay tuned...


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