It all started at a Kaeja show. Kaeja d’Dance is a modern dance company in Toronto, Ontario under the Co-Artistic Direction of Karen and Allen Kaeja. Over the past couple years I have had the incredible honour of being mentored by Karen in choreography and all things dance. There’s something about being around the Kaeja’s and watching their work that makes me feel like anything is possible.
It’s fall of 2015 and I was sitting in a darkened theatre watching these two artistic masterminds create movement out of thin air, right before my eyes. The show was created around rule-based improvisation: no two shows ever the same, but certain perimeters put in place kept the swirl of improvisation fixed around a chosen theme. The ingenuity of the movement and the serendipitous relationship of the partners held me transfixed but also, sent my creative mind into overdrive. The massive sheet of white paper stretched across the stage reminded me of the sound of dried, fallen leaves crunching together. The dancers walking along the edge of it made me think of balancing on the edge of a cliff. At the time we were living in Huntsville, Ontario. The outdoors enveloped me from every direction and was seeping into my imagination. An idea was born: I’ll dance outside and capture my experience with the hashtag #GetOutsideDanceOutside
The idea marinated at the back of my mind for a few days or weeks and then one day we went for a hike. As I was basking in the beauty of the view our cliff top destination provided I was struck with the desire to mirror the beauty of the hills in my body. I gave my husband the camera, devised a pose that reflected the shape of the hills and, voila:
Fall in Muskoka is an awesome experience: the canopy above and the crests of the hills joyfully exploding in colour. That incredible backdrop of colour called for a subject:
It made me want to reach and curve my head and spine all the way back so I could gaze at the beautiful colour. Fall is very much about exultation: celebration but with and upward or uplifted focus. As I’ve often heard it said, it’s like the trees are releasing a whole summers worth of stored up sunshine all at once:
And so the idea evolved and grew. The water tumbling down over these rocks sends me headfirst, up and over:
But, unless you have proper camera equipment (which I obviously do not) it’s hard to capture the essence of a pose, especially if it’s fluid or hard to hold for a long time:
But video! So many more possibilities with video. Plus, it gives me the opportunity to dance a little ditty, choreograph or improvise a mini dance around how I’m feeling or what inspires me about this place. If you’d like to see my video clips, visit me on Instagram @heatherlmills . The other joy about video is the ability to take a screenshot! No more need for a sport setting or getting the timing exactly right. This way I can create movement around a theme and then capture the one moment from that video which is expressed most clearly.
I was first inspired to create a video when we visited Palmer rapids on the Magnetawan River. It was such a lovely place but, like many places, a photograph wasn’t doing it justice. There was a lovely flat rock right at the rivers edge, which was begging for a dance. This was the beginning of November so it was quite chilly but I felt that my hiking boots were less than photogenic! So bare feet it was:
This was my first mini-video exploration and I was pleasantly surprised at how it turned out.
Here’s a bonus shot. Hands expressing how my insides feel when looking at the babbling, swirling water. Or something…
Planning to move back to Toronto we spent the day in what is now our new ‘hood: Roncesvalles. I’ve always loved this area of Toronto so I was very happy to wander the streets alone for a couple hours. Our life was teetering on the edge of misadventure and so I spent the afternoon exploring that concept. This little ditty is titled “The Edge of Reason”.
I’m planning to continue creating movement snippets throughout the seasons. What I learn through this research will then be compiled into some sort of performance, preferably in an outdoor setting in the summer! Maybe this summer! Stay tuned…