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Heart of Matter

Hello fellow readers, welcome back to Notes From The Studio! I am your digital host, Tavia Christina, and today we will be discussing Frog in Hand’s participation in Toronto Fringe 2019!

First, let’s talk about the piece. Frog in Hand will be recreating Heart of Matter. Heart of Matter was originally developed as a 20 minute piece, a commission from the Ryerson School of Performance for Springworks 2019. Our recreation for the Fringe will be 45 minutes in length. Frog in Hand Director Colleen Snell says this work "is a meditation on memory and the special artifacts that spark recollection. It’s a whimsical, poetic dance-theatre work dedicated to the objects we keep or forget. Heart of Matter reflects on feelings of opening and closing, and the human experience of holding on, or letting go.”

Springworks Dancers in Heart of Matter. Image by Jeremy Mimnagh

In an earlier post I mentioned Colleen and I reconnected during Springworks; I had the privilege of being part of the original process for this piece at Ryerson. The Ryerson 2019 dance class was one for the books. This group of people had rigour, intensity, beauty and definitely knew how to have fun. My classmates and I were very eager to put on our final performance this year. We were all elated when we learned that Colleen Snell and Ryan Lee were going to be choreographing on us for this special performance. Through an audition process, we were cast into the two pieces. I was excited to learn that I would be working with Colleen!

The original cast for Heart of Matter was a group of 12 dynamic, powerful, all female identifying dancers. Colleen entered the studio with us by explaining the core of this piece was memory.

Tavia Christina in Heart of Matter at Springworks 2019. Image by Jeremy Mimnagh

In the beginning of the process, we discussed the themes and concepts that surrounded the piece. We landed on the idea that boxes can contain mementos and sentimental objects, similar to the way our human bodies contain nostalgia. Colleen had us bring in cardboard boxes to research the ways these boxes can contain memory. We were guided to improvise around this theme; collectively we discovered the boxes not only triggered sentimental moments from our personal history, they also, physicalized imaginary objects... We were dancing with invisible objects from our past. As this exploration continued, the process changed into more physical dance vocabulary. Our improvised scores became choreographed gesture. We used props and set to add to our growing abstract narrative. Text provided by our collaborator (spoken word poet and rapper Callahan Connor) was translated into the choreography. More on Callahan in my next post… Which will feature an interview with him!

In sum, this process produced a stunning work, both visually and emotionally. As a dancer, this work was quite sentimental and emotionally driven as well as physically exhausting. In other words, the work felt complete to perform. Overall, dancing in an abstract dance-theatre piece driven by personal sentiment (all while performing for your last time at school) was satisfying and intense! Theatrically, Heart of Matter captures what it is like to find magic again. It chases moments lost in time, the value of artifacts from our lives, and how memory relates to us as human beings today. On an upcoming blog the Summer Company will be frankly discussing these themes and why we feel they are important to explore and share with an audience.

Tavia Christina in Heart of Matter at Springworks 2019. Image by Jeremy Mimnagh

Announced earlier last week, Heart of Matter will be returning, this time in an expanded edition at the Toronto Fringe Festival! I am very excited to rework this piece that I hold close to my own heart. Frog in Hand will be performing with an (almost) all new cast. Performances will be held at Trinity St. Paul’s Church at 9:30PM July 4th - July 13th. For more information and tickets check out the Fringe website HERE


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