Say It With Dance

Conrad Alexandrowicz

Never underestimate the power of interdisciplinary chit-chat. When assistant Theatre professor Conrad Alexandrowicz met famed poet and Writing professor Lorna Crozier at the annual Fine Arts faculty retreat last year, he had no idea their discussion would soon translate into nearly $175,000 in grant funding.

“I introduced myself to Lorna and said, ‘I’ve really admired your work for a long time and think it’d be neat to collaborate on a project,’” recalls Alexandrowicz. And while Crozier was intrigued by his initial idea of adapting the work of Canadian poets into a dance/movement piece for the stage, it was her suggestion to write an entirely new poetry cycle that became the basis for Alexandrowicz’s winning Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council grant proposal.

Now titled Words Made Flesh: Staging Poetic Text, Alexandrowicz’s SSHRC project has evolved into a truly interdisciplinary Fine Arts production. Not only will it be based on Crozier’s poetry and his own directing/choreography skills (with the assistance of Applied Theatre graduate student Kate Bessey), but it will also feature a musical score by Alexandra Pohran Dawkins, head of woodwinds with the School of Music, and will be filmed and adapted into a digital format by associate Writing professor and experimental filmmaker Maureen Bradley.

“I wanted to examine different kinds of text and how they could lend themselves as a source for physical theatre creation,” Alexandrowicz explains. “But I didn’t want to do anything that was purely abstract; I wanted to do something that has a lot of emotional power and a consistent narrative line. It’s already hard enough to get people to sit still when you’re doing interdisciplinary performance, so you have to make sure they’re touched by what you’re doing emotionally.”

Alexandrowicz is no stranger to adapting words and music to movement; a noted director, writer and choreographer who specializes in the creation of interdisciplinary productions that address subjects central to the human journey, his projects have received critical acclaim across Canada for the past 30 years. But he says Words Made Flesh—currently preparing for a spring 2012 test-run, with the final production set for a fall 2013 debut—will be more than just another dance piece. “I want to embody the poetic text as much as I can,” he says, “so it’s not just going to be voice-over accompaniment; I’ve done that for years with my own work and I want to do something quite different here.”

Another intriguing aspect to this production is its cinematic future. “It’ll start off as a short dancefilm, then be developed into a chance-based application for iPods, Androids and Blackberrys using the I Ching, where you can shuffle together different pieces of text and music and movement”—which, in addition to addressing some of his primary research questions (“What kind of poetic text best lends itself to performance?”, “What becomes of the narrative voice of the poem when the text is staged?”, “How does the text interact with music, both improvise and scored?”), will allow Alexandrowicz to discover how the finished performance text is transformed via the additional media of film and interactive applications.

Ultimately, Alexandrowicz is grateful for the opportunity this generous SSHRC grant have given him to create new work—especially considering the current Canadian arts climate. “Even if you spread it out over three years, this is more than a lot of companies get in annual funding from the Canada Council,” he says of his nearly $175,000 windfall. “It’s a huge amount of money; it’s astonishing. I feel really grateful and lucky I was able to get this on my first attempt.”

UVic at VFF

A scene from Katherine Walkiewicz’s A Brief Moment

While this year’s Victoria Film Festival program isn’t exactly brimming over with UVic content this year, there are a few films of note worth catching over the festival’s February 3-12 run:

• Department of Writing student Katherine Walkiewicz’s 20-minute movie, Une Mémoire Courte (A Brief Moment), which we wrote about when it was appearing at the Cannes International Film Festival earlier this year, will be playing as part of the “A Human Touch” shorts program, at 2:45 pm on Sunday, Feb. 12, at the Odeon.

Jeremy Lutter

•   Writing alum and busy emerging director Jeremy Lutter will be screening his short film, Joanna Makes A Friend (co-written by fellow Writing grad and childhood friend Ben Rollo) as part of the “Beyond the Playground” shorts night, at 9:45 pm on Tuesday, Feb. 7, at the Capitol 6. Find out more about Jeremy from our recent blog post, or catch this recent interview with him and CVV Magazine‘s Leanne Allen and John Threlfall. (Threlfall, our Fine Arts communication honcho, will also be helping to cover the VFF as part of his side-gig as a writer for CVV Magazine.)

Dan Hogg

• Our own film production/screenwriting/cinematography/digital media staffer Daniel Hogg will be presenting his brand new short film, Standard of Living, at 7:15 pm on Saturday, Feb. 4, at the Capitol 6 before the screening of the documentary, The Ailing Queen. Hogg’s film came out of a partnership between the Victoria Film Festival and the Victoria Foundation to commission short films exploring the connection between arts and other aspects of our community. Described in the VFF program guide as one of “eight films with eight different perspectives in eight different styles,  all united by the idea that arts and culture are not isolated from other aspects of daily life and community living,” Hogg’s Standard of Living is part of the “Behind the Scenes: Victoria” program spread throughout the festival.

Scott Amos

• Another “Behind the Scenes: Victoria” offering is Transportation by MFA student and noted local experimental filmmaker Scott Amos. (Amos is also very busy behind the scenes himself this year as the VFF’s communications coordinator.) Transportation plays before Foreverland at 12:15 pm Sunday, Feb 5., at the Odeon.

• Also appearing as part of the Victoria Film Festival programming, is Zurich-born director Reto Caduff. The co-director of award-winning doc A Crude Awakening: The Oil Crash, Caduff is coming to Victoria this year to promote his current documentary The Visual Language of Herbert Matter, about the highly influential mid-century modern design master. He will be speaking at UVic at one of our Lansdowne Lectures at 7 pm Tuesday, February 7, in room C122 of the David Strong Building.

Maureen Bradley

• Finally, it’s worth noting that Department of Writing graduate advisor and associate film prof Maureen Bradley was one again on the Victoria Film Festival’s programming committee. As well as shepherding the recent Leo Award-winning student success Freshman’s Wharf, Bradley has directed over 40 short films of her own, and her award-winning productions have screened at the likes of the Museum of Modern Art in New York. A member of the Directors Guild of Canada, Bradley reached her largest audience of over 12 million viewers on the CBC TV series Road Movies.

Theatre Calgary’s Dennis Garnhum to Speak

UVic grad Dennis Garnhum is a Canadian theatrical success story

Big news for both theatre students and fans of homegrown theatrical success stories: Dennis Garnhum, artistic director of Theatre Calgary, will be speaking to Department of Theatre students, faculty and staff from 12:30-1:30pm Wednesday, February 8, in the Roger Bishop Theatre. (But students and colleagues from other departments are welcome to attend as well.)

While not officially part of the Alumni Week celebrations, the timing is perfect—not only is Garnhum a UVic theatre graduate (BFA 1989), but he’s also currently in town directing Carmen for Pacific Opera Victoria. (He’ll also be directing Barber of Seville for Vancouver Opera in March.) Garnhum will be interviewed live on stage by celebrated design professor Allan Stichbury.

Artistic director of Theatre Calgary for seven years now, Dennis Garnhum has directed shows in Toronto, at the Stratford and Shaw festivals, the National Arts Centre and in most of Canada’s regional theatres, as well at various American theatres. He is a produced playwright—The Wars (Theatre Calgary, Vancouver Playhouse and The Ottawa War Museum) and Lost a Memoir, which premiered last year at Theatre Calgary and has since been performed at Neptune Theatre, Indiana Rep and is currently running at Prairie Theatre Exchange in Winnipeg—and worked for three years in New York City as a director and producer prior to his appointment at Theatre Calgary. Garnhum also directed the world premiere of the west coast rock musical Beyond Eden, which debuted as part of the 2010 Cultural Olympiad at the Vancouver Playhouse.

Book, Prized

When last we heard from Jonathan Goldman—assistant professor of music history, musicology and theory for the School of Music—it was to announce the publication of his book, The Musical Language of Pierre Boulez by Cambridge University Press. Now, that same book has just won an Opus Prize in the category “Book of the Year.”

Awarded annually by the Quebec Music Council, Goldman describes the Opus Prize as “kind of like the Quebec classical music Grammys.” (But, we’re assuming, without appearances by the likes of Lady Gaga or Snoop Dogg.) Goldman was also mentioned in this Montreal Gazette piece on the Opus Prize. This latest accolade comes on the heels of Goldman’s previous “Article of the Year” Opus win for “Charting Mémoriale: Paradigmatic Analysis and Harmonic Schemata in Boulez’s … explosante-fixe …

Specialising in 20th-century music history, Goldman is also editor-in-Chief of the journal Circuit, musiques contemporaines. He completed his undergraduate studies in philosophy and mathematics at McGill University, and went on to earn an M.A. and PhD from the Université de Montréal under the direction of Jean-Jacques Nattiez, with a dissertation which deals with form in the thought and works of French composer Pierre Boulez; he wrote the preface to Leçons de musique (2005), a collection of Boulez’s writings published in France by Christian Bourgois.

Goldman is also interested in the history of analytical practices and is a member of the research team “Mise en tableau/Écoute segmentée” at IRCAM (Institut de Recherche et Coordination Acoustique/Musique) in Paris. Somehow he also has time to perform on the accordion and the bandoneon, focussing on tango repertoire; in 2002, his arrangement of an orchestral piece by Astor Piazzolla was released by music publisher Éditions Henry Lemoine.