DanceWorks’ final mainstage presentation of the season is the world premiere of adelheid’s LOT X. We asked adelheid artistic director Heidi Strauss about her creation process, working beyond a conventional theatre space, and how the work looks to connect with new audiences.
DANCEWORKS: LOT X is a site specific work taking place inside and outside of Toronto’s Harbourfront Centre. Why did you decide to work site specifically for this project?
HEIDI: I think a lot about the urban environment, the land we live on, and how we assemble. Harbourfront Centre is one of the places that I have been visiting regularly every year since I moved to Toronto in 1991 – at first as an eager dance student/audience member, then as a dancer, and later as a choreographer.
The Harbourfront site has always been curious to me because of the water line that used to define the southern edge of the city. I think it’s important to remember, when you look around the campus, that this cultural centre is built on landfill, just like most of the real estate south of Front Street. The ‘landscape’ is its own kind of theatre; a complete construction.
Human beings were behind urban development and economic growth that forced physical expansion, impacting not just the land and its original people, but the water. These decisions of the past form our current reality, and the consequences are a mixture of terrible and great. For me, this creates an energizing conflict revolving around responsibility, as well as the importance of recognizing the history of a place, and the people who gather there.
(Also there is an onsite installation by American architect and ‘light artist’ James Carpenter, which I really dig.)
DANCEWORKS: How did the title LOT X come about?
HEIDI: It seemed an obvious title in making a work that was about a group of people (lot) connected by the circumstance of being on a site (lot) in question. X was then the variable of what happens when these things converge. But as the process has continued X has taken on other associations including the number 10, which is a defining number in identifying human physiology. It also directly applies to codes used by Public Communications Officers (like the phrase 10-4) – often used in emergency situations. 10 is said to represent both unity and the end of a cycle. I like that the number can be interpreted differently, by different people, and still relate to questions we are asking through the work.
DANCEWORKS: LOT X challenges ideas of intimacy regarding people and place. Can you tell us more about the exploration of this theme in the work?
HEIDI: I think the work is less about challenging intimacy, and more about considering position – in relationship to where we ARE physically, what is around us, who is close/who is far away. A work that asks the audience to change locations invites social interaction, negotiation of space, and shifts in perspective. Within LOT X, I’ve been asking myself questions revolving around scale and containment. Working within different sites and playing theatrically has given some concrete parameters to this inquiry. But these questions around scale and containment are also ones I am asking myself about being an artist making work today.
DANCEWORKS: As part of the creation process, adelheid has taken on a secondary related project called in.to.it. Can you tell us more about the connection between the performance of LOT X and in.to.it.?
HEIDI: With support from DanceWorks, we’ve been really lucky to work with Sedina Fiati who is facilitating in.to.it. and helped us develop the program. It’s an initiative we’ve integrated into the development of LOT X and involves having a recurring guest audience periodically watch rehearsal and residency ‘sharings’. They help us understand and test audience pathways, and through dialogue, offer very valuable responses to the work as it develops. We were interested in engaging with a group of citizens who were new to contemporary dance and Toronto and/or Canada. It was (and is) important for us to hear from people with experiences different from our own, to checking our biases and be real about considering and being sensitive to different perspectives.
DanceWorks presents Lot X at the Harbourfront Centre + East Campus from May 29 – June 2, 2019. More information is available here and tickets can be purchased online or at the Harboufront Centre Box Office by calling 416-973-4000.