Nostos Collectives celebrates their fifth season with Hinterland, a double bill exploring safe spaces in works by choreographers Emily Spearing and Naishi Wang. Emily is from London, Ontario and a graduate of the School of Toronto Dance Theatre. Naishi was born in Changchun, China and moved to Canada to attend The School of Toronto Dance Theatre, and later join the company.
We talk to Emily and Naishi about Nostos Collectives and their Hinterland world premieres.
DANCEWORKS: Can you tell us about your connection to Nostos Collectives?
NAISHI: I met Jessica Lowe, who is the Co-Founder/Co-Artistic Director of Nostos Collective, in Halifax last year. We were both involved in an event at Kinetic Studio. I showed an excerpt of my solo Taking Breath and I told her that I would love to create a group work since I have only choreographed on my own body. Later that year, Jessica put me in touch with Gavin, who is the Co-Artistic Director of Nostos Collectives in Toronto. I invited Gavin and other members to come and see my work for a duet in September 2018. Afterwards, Gavin told me that I would be working with all of the members from the Toronto collective in their DanceWorks CoWorks production.
EMILY: I joined Nostos in 2015 as a dancer. Since then, I have performed with them and taken on the role of a choreographer. This new piece will be my fourth work with the collective. Nostos has been pivotal in providing me with opportunities to grow as an emerging artist, and giving me space and a platform to learn and explore.
DANCEWORKS: The upcoming show is called Hinterland, and each of you have choreographed a work. Can you tell us more?
NAISHI: For me, Hinterland is a place that you can be simultaneously safe and free. The title of my work is Free Steps and the choreographic style is contemporary/body theatre.
Free Steps explores the juxtaposition of the group and the individual; the coexistence of unison, harmony, and dissonance. We are both an individual and society. Maintaining uniqueness among conformity, establishing an identity at the expense of being marginalized. When and where can we truly find our own pace?
EMILY: Naishi and I were given the same starting point of safe spaces, and for me I feel the safest when I’m in a secure environment or state. My new work titled this is where I’ll stay, explores the theme of accepting uncertainty. It is a highly physical and athletic contemporary dance work where the dancers use their bodies to extremes. There are also theatrical elements to the piece which shows the dancers questioning and confronting themselves, each other, and the audience.
DANCEWORKS: Can you talk about your creative process? How do you develop your ideas?
NAISHI: The creative process began with the words from a Tibetan proverb:
If I tell you my dream, you might forget it. If I act on my dream, perhaps you will remember it; but if I involve you, my dream becomes your dream.
This proverb was not in my notebook until I met the eleven dancers that I am currently working with. They all love to dance and seeing them together makes me feel safe, therefore Free Steps is a collaboration with the dancers. We create movement based on improvisations that signal the body and move it in multiple directions. We are trying to find the balance between how many signals a body take, while maintaining clarity and intention.
EMILY: My creative process always begins with personal research, asking myself which ideas I would like to explore and how. From there, a clear picture of a work emerges and I work in the studio with the dancers to try to bring that picture to life. This includes some set choreography and some collaboration with the dancers where I’ll give specific instructions or images to generate movement. We experiment a lot with theatrics and prop work to find new and more ways to do things, and to figure out what works best.
DANCEWORKS: Thank you Emily and Naishi.
DanceWorks CoWorks will present Nostos Collectives Hinterland April 12-13 at 8pm and April 14 at 2pm and 8pm, at the Winchester Street Theatre. Tickets are available here.