Inlayers: contemporary dance for dummies

By Alicia Ward

A performance that’s labelled an “interactive online reality dance show” may sound like a combination Jersey Shore/Dancing with the Stars-themed video game or something equally nauseating, but Inlayers is, thankfully, not.

Taryn Javier and Jenn Doan are two Canadian artists who thrive off dancing, collaborating and exploring, and their project and performance Inlayers touches on all three through a collision of social media and contemporary dance.

Inlayers explores how information exchange through social media can reveal the processes involved in creating contemporary dance, and in a very real and interactive way  — audience members actually submit their own ideas to the performers through social media. The dancers then begin to create movement while being filmed and journaling.

Both Doan and Javier hope that by revealing their dance work in rehearsals this performance-interlaced experimentation will make contemporary dance more accessible to non-dance audiences.

“I was feeling a little frustrated with the inaccessibility [of dance],” confesses Javier. “I wanted to find a way to take contemporary dance outside the theatre and really open it up.”

Doan states the difficulties of attracting non-theatregoing audiences. “Contemporary dance on stage can be very abstract and very movement-based — the actual process [that] we are going through as dancers with Taryn comes from story, comes from personal experience.”

But in a society so privileged as to have computer, tablets and smartphones at its fingertips at almost any time, have we been disconnected from our bodies and our physical responses? Working with dance in concert with social media raises the question.

“I think that disconnection from our body stems from a lot of other things. That is definitely one aspect . . . but not the root of our disconnection from our bodies and understanding our physical and emotional reactions or responses,” explains Doan.

Javier and Doan hope that Inlayers will connect with audience members’ physical responses, though. They believe that citizens in a technological society have not lost the capacity to connect to their bodies in a mental, emotional and physical way.

“I think there’s a shift in how people are exchanging information, and I do think that with this project we’ve kind of tapped into that shift,” says Javier.

Screen-to-screen communication represents a significant part of how our generation relates. It is through this form of interaction that Doan and Javier’s audiences are able to become intimate with the dancers.

“I think that a lot of dance people go into a dance show looking for a narrative, a story, and it’s easy to hold on to a story — storytelling is an ancient tradition.

“I feel that body language is communication. Over 90 per cent of our communication is body language,” explains Javier. “If you go to a dance show and you have any sort of physical response, whether it’s positive or negative, your body responds — an intake in breath, you don’t really want to watch it, you feel squirmy — that dance has spoken to you and you are speaking back.”

The entire Inlayers team has experienced work and dance throughout the world and across Canada, but they all have convened back in Calgary to create this project. Those looking for a dance show to see in Calgary have limited choices, but Inlayers stands out, both as an introduction to abstract art and an entertainment piece in itself.

“The more dance you go see, which is what we are trying to make happen, the more you can intellectualize and the more you can take from it,” says Javier — no G.T.L. or sparkly costumes required.

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