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Staying (in process), Slowing (down), Acknowledging (the land)

Updated: Aug 20, 2021

Ankita Alemona (Photographer credit: Aryan Nayyer)

Written by By Ankita Alemona August 3, 2021

“What does a firefly look like?” Sierra asked. I thought for a moment. The first image that came to my mind was quite similar to a bee, but with a glowing tail. Had I ever seen a firefly… up close? I didn’t know. I opened my arms into wings, and began to play with ways to move my fingers, in an attempt to feel through what the body of a firefly could be. Sierra and I looked at each other and laughed at the irony of it all; we were drawing inspiration from a creature that we, fundamentally, knew little about.

For me, this is perhaps the most beautiful part of creating work: the constant realization of how much there is to learn about the world around us. There is this belief, I have noticed, that art just “happens.” Perhaps this is because artists are often labeled “talented,” as opposed to intelligent – and it is assumed that our ability to work the way we do is simply because we are “talented.” I assure you this is rarely the case. Artists require a sincere love of learning, a constant sense of curiosity, and a willingness to work. It is this curiosity and willingness that fundamentally drives our work - not our "talent." Our audience frequently sees only our final product: the performance, showcase, or film. We rarely reveal our process, but this is where the true depth of our work lies.

Over the past few weeks, I have been working with the 2021 Summer Company under the guidance of Colleen Snell (Artistic Director) and Alice Cavanagh (Rehearsal Director) along with guest artists, to develop, rehearse and remount our upcoming dance-theatre performance: a visually enthralling site-specific piece and unique commentary on climate change called “Stories in the Woods.”

Highlights from rehearsals - filmed and edited by Kaitlyn Seibold

We've had many days dedicated entirely to process; we have explored moving through segments of the piece, and using our body as an exploratory tool, as a way to discover what our story is, and what we are striving to communicate. Because we are spending most of our days rehearsing outside, and because our piece is, fundamentally, about our relationship to the natural world, we have been encouraged to interact and engage with the land. While I have lived in and around this area for most of my life (I was brought up in in the neighbouring city of Brampton), this is my first time discovering the incredible nature reserves that lie in the Port Credit and Etobicoke area. This has led to many beautiful discoveries.

Image by Ankita. Left to right: Kaitlyn Seibold, Zoe Kwan, Stephanie Harkness

In the tall grasses and amongst the trees, I have keenly observed the red-winged blackbirds - elegant and feisty bird mamas, diligently protecting their babies during the height of their nesting period. In the ponds near our rehearsal space, I have seen turtles resting lazily on logs and a royal blue heron waiting patiently to catch her prey. I have enjoyed the bright colours of wild flowers that light up the space.

When we speak about our concern for the environment and the withering away of the natural world, one aspect to the conversation that is often missing for me is what our connection to nature and the land truly is. How can we speak about protecting something, when we ourselves are not taking the time to observe, love and understand the natural world around us?

Our process working through this piece has, in its own subtle way, encouraged us as performers to build this relationship with the natural world; while it is tempting to speed through things for the sake of instant gratification, our work requires observation and reflection. Sometimes this means staying very, very still.

Image by Ankita. L to R: Steph Harkness, Zoe Kwan, Eilish Shin-Culhane, Kaitlyn Seibold

While this year has been heavy with discourse as we’ve sought to unravel, reveal and speak out against injustice (at a time when we are encouraged to download meditation apps to help us with our anxiety and insomnia) mother nature has reminded us that she is the ultimate healer. She has patiently waited for us to see her and to breathe her in. Indeed, the land around us is longing to be acknowledged, not only through our words, and through recognition of history, but also through engaging with the land itself, giving time to discoveries, conversations, and the sharing of space.

Image by Ankita. L to R: A. Grammacione, S. Harkness, Z. Kwan, E. Shin-Culhane, K. Seibold

Stories in the Woods is on for 9 performances only at the Small Arms Inspection Building in Mississauga: August 5. 6. 7. 13 & 14. Tickets very limited, grab yours at Eventbrite!

More information about Stories in the Woods

Who said summer nights can’t get a little mysterious?

After its initial premiere in October 2019, Frog in Hand is remounting this eerie, poetic, site-specific contemporary dance-theatre performance. With 9 chances to experience the wonder on August 5-7, 13 & 14, make sure to reserve your tickets at the link below as tickets are limited to accommodate social distancing. Audiences will be led in small groups through the grounds of the Small Arms Inspection Building in Mississauga as they embark on a 60 minute journey inspired by science fiction and climate change (“cli-fi”). Encounter Noelle Hamlyn’s breathtaking visual designs as you immerse yourself in a cinematic world of sound and light; witness the performance as it happens all around you. Presented by the 2021 Summer Company with international guest artists and collaborators.


**To ensure we meet restrictions and comply with social distancing:


RSVP and see updates on Facebook event:

Stay up to date on all things Frog in Hand, click here!

The Team behind Stories in the Woods

Artistic Director, Creative Concept: Colleen Snell

Director of Visual Design: Noelle Hamlyn

Rehearsal Director: Alice Cavanagh

Dramaturge & Creative Mentor: Daniel Levinson

Lighting Designer: Echo Zhou

Technical Directors: Evan Harkai and Nicholas Simmons

Logistics: Heather Snell & Jill Hollingsworth

Sound Design: Miquelon Rodriguez. Contributions from Colleen Snell, Callahan Connor & Kaitlyn Seibold

Assistant Costume Designer: Mariana Sandoval-Angel

Production Assistant and Assistant Stage Manager: Angela Xu

Business Manager and Assistant Stage Manager: Jessica Cen

Makeup Design & Consultant: Nina Mueller

Ager and Dyer: Caroline Forde

Performers & Collaborators

David Norsworthy Rebecca Diab

Andrew Gaboury Callahan Connor* Colleen Snell Alice Cavanagh

Michael Derworiz* Rohan Dhupar With the 2021 Summer Company:

Erin Eldershaw*

Stephanie Harkness

Ankita Alemona

Eilish Shin-Culhane

Zoe Kwan

Maria Riano

Sierra Goldak

Annalise Grammacione

Kaitlyn Seibold

Daniela Jezerinac

Understudy and Docent: Nicole Decsey

* The participation of Callahan Connor, Erin Eldershaw and Michael Derworiz is arranged by permission of Canadian Actors’ Equity Association

Special Thanks: Sawmill Sid, Heather and Ken Snell, Jill Hollingsworth, Megan Press, TRCA (Stella Ku), Mississauga Arts Council, CreativeHub1352 (Diane Lapointe Kay), Randy Bachman, Tricia Fitzpatrick, Derrick and Taya.

Funding: The Canada Council for the Arts, Ontario Arts Council, City of Mississauga, Canada Summer Jobs, Port Credit Community Foundation, Hazel McCallion Foundation


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