INTERVIEW: Sara Porter Finds Some Fresh Fruit

DanceWorks, in partnership with Fall for Dance North and The Citadel: Ross Centre for Dance, will present Getting to know your Fruit, by Sara Porter and William Yong. The performance is a double bill paired with The Grand March of the House of Siriano by Danah Rosales.

Here, DanceWorks talks with Sara Porter just ahead of her film premiere on October 7.

DanceWorks: Getting to know your Fruit was going to be a live stage performance in 2020, but is now re-imagined for film. Can you talk about your creative process moving from the stage to film? 

Sara: My creative process began by letting go of the vision of the stage show. When the Covid lockdown began in March 2020, we were six weeks away from the premiere and, as I had been working on the show for two years, there was a lot of letting go to do. I have been a dedicated live performer and love the magic that comes from being in a room with an audience, transforming how we interact through the dangerous feat of performing.  Needless to say I was hesitant about the transition to film. I began by returning to the core of the work – a short poem I wrote about the relationship between an apple, an orange, and a banana. I investigated a collection of short memoir-based stories I had written that underpin the show. I allowed my imagination to expand. I read botany and cultural history of fruit to refresh my perspective. I did a lot of pliés.

Then, I paired up with the filmmaker/dancer/choreographer William Yong and we worked in a spontaneous way to capture some of the ‘fresh trouble’ I enjoy onstage. William restructured the order of the show and we talked about central stories, our own pasts, and brainstormed imagery. I let myself loose in the studio to play with text, props, dances and costumes, guided by my creative collaborator Katherine Duncanson.

The film is very much William’s interpretation of my stage show, but I feel he has captured a new sensibility of the work for the screen. It’s definitely a new fruit from a different tree.

DanceWorks: Let’s talk about the title Getting to know your Fruit. What does it mean? 

Sara: As a queer/gay person (woman), I called myself a fruit. The urban dictionary says ‘fruit’ is a flaming flamboyant homosexual and I feel it suits me and encapsulates the sweet joy I felt in coming out both times –  in my twenties, and again, in my forties. I like dressing up in costumes but not necessarily with the aim of looking beautiful. I just like to feel transformed into someone (something?) else. Fruit began as a piece about my process of trying to ‘do memoir’ and finding it a slippery endeavour.

Every story I wrote about myself or my past required an update the following day. Through the process of writing I kept learning about myself, my history, and my perceptions. I was sometimes wrong about my own stories. Or could see multiple perspectives, each of which seemed to hold a truth about me or my life, even when they contradicted one another. I thought “I’ll never get to the definitive truth about myself!”. And, technically, as a mother, I have employed my ovaries and uterus and produced three children. New branches of the family tree. “Did you know a fruit is the outcome of successful sexual reproduction?” “Getting to know” is the present continuous tense. I am each of those things and always working on it…

DanceWorks: Can you share some of the themes explored in the work? 

Sara: The work explores vulnerability and sexuality, the instability of memory, and the beautiful absurdity of bodies. There are the obvious things: I am a queer (fruit) and I’m exploring the roots of this aspect to myself and sharing stories of my childhood and coming of age. The queer theme is present but the stories also deal with my experience of my body in many different stages in life: as a small child who loved being naked, as a performer who couldn’t quite relax, as a daughter struggling to come out to her mother.

There is the tender fruit of this aging dancer and negotiating self-acceptance. And honestly, the piece explores real botanical facts about real fruit: how regularly it is mis-categorized and mislabelled in daily life. There are surprising and fascinating things to know about fruit! Underpinning it all, (I think), is how to tell the story of your life. It’s a thing that’s always in motion.

DanceWorks: Thanks so much, Sara. 

Join us on October 7 @ 7 PM EDT for the pre-recorded and live to air double bill with Sara Porter and Danah Rosales. Performance details here and tickets available here

Photo of Sara Porter by Marie Carloz

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