Reptile Diva slithers through spaces

By Alex Brown

"I’d really like it if the audience screamed during the show," says David McIntosh. "It would be nice to have that permission to engage with the audience in that way."

McIntosh, along with Lee Su-Feh, comprises Battery Opera, a Vancouver-based dance company currently performing here in Reptile Diva. McIntosh and Su-Feh are working to create an atmosphere in theatre that allows the audience to take part in a performance without feeling threatened. It is important, they note, for an audience member to be able to "allow [themselves] to become emotionally involved" in a performance.

The audience is invited to participate viscerally in Battery Opera’s newest production, presented in Calgary by Springboard Dance. Reptile Diva provides the opportunity for audience involvement by including many silences within the play. The silences make space for internal emotions, reflections of the audience, says Su-Feh.

Spaces, such as the auditory space of silence, fascinate the duo and play a primary role in their productions. Reptile Diva, which runs Nov. 30 to Dec. 2 at the Uptown Theatre, is a double bill including the performance duet Domestic, and Koop.

Domestic deals with two individuals’ creation of space and their interaction within those spaces, says McIntosh. Koop is a piece centered around such sports as cockfighting and boxing, and uses spatial relationships to analyze the physical and emotional essence of these sports. Koop will be performed by five Calgarian actors, who have been involved in a workshop with Battery Opera for the past three weeks.

McIntosh and Su-Feh’s interest in creation of space extends beyond the stage and into the audience.

Su-Feh explains that many forms of classical dance such as ballet work to send performance energy out into a large audience. Contrarily, in Reptile Diva, the cast works to draw energy inwards, creating a closer and more immediate relationship with the audience.

The effect is created using not only dance and acting to convey ideas, but martial arts. "Your opponent is right in front of you, not 200 yards away," explains Su-Feh on martial arts.

The audience becomes the opponent, becoming connected to the ideas of space and how this space between people is perceived.

Through this format, Reptile Diva aims to generate a spark between the audience and the performers, and then works to "explore all the manifestations of that spark," says Su-Feh. Both members of Battery Opera hope the show elicits an emotional response from audience members, not an intellectual one. The silences, the cockfights and the spaces of Reptile Diva combine to create a forum to simply "experience a series of images," says Su-Feh, "without having to ‘Get It.’"

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