What might the audience want to know about this piece?
Ok, what do they need to know?.... How long have we been working together?
Ya, I was just thinking—
—Ya, so long, 5+ years probably
—probably, that piece that we did at the Shadbolt
Cuuuute. You've been talking about company names that long too!
[laughs] Oh god!
So we've been working together about 5 years.
And we've been working on this partnering stuff for.... like 2 years already.
I can't believe time....
Umm. 2 years... and even before that we did the Edam (contact dance) Scholarship together, so we danced a lot together at that time.
Oh ya.... it's funny how you do decide things subconsciously... I was like that—who can I do a duet with? Maxine! forgetting that we did that scholarship together.
That you watched me partner for like a year before—Ya that's so funny... but we had already been working together.
Yes, and we did—for the Edam show—for 'Self Portrait' we did all that partnering.
Yes! [laughs] so you got used to me being insane, and you're like, "oh that's useful!"
Yes, that is definitely where... cuz we were doing that rolling over game. And I think you were the one that was like, "what if you just stand on me? where can you stand? stand all over me?"
Probably. That sounds like me.... "can you stand on my head?"
[laughs a lot] I remember googling 'how much pressure can the human skull withstand?'
Ya, I think you googled it while we were in rehearsal.
[laughs] I never found the answer!
[both discuss potential for standing on ppl's faces]
Ya... So these are important facts.
Ya. That was kind of the beginning of this work....
I like that we've been working on, as much as the actual choreographic structure of this piece, we've both been talking a lot about communication in partnerwork and using each other's bodies. But using them with a constant capacity for a yes or a no with respect to the risks we are taking with each other. You know? The awareness of the risks and also with the bravery and willingness to try things. All of those things are relaying on our personal dynamic
That's one of my favourite elements—
—trust... and communication around that—communication that it takes in order to trust each other.
In one of the improvs you were talking about if people take care of themselves... if everyone takes care of themselves—
—then everyone is taken care of.
Yeah. And I think that is something that I've been feeling too. That we both have confidence to take care of ourselves. And that makes it easier to accept responsibility for the other person, because you are like, "I'm going to do my best to take care of them, but they are also—"
—responsible and able to save themselves when needed.
They know it's a risk, and I'm not a hundred percent sure...
And they are still saying yes, knowing that they will have to do some work if it fails.
Yeah, that is something that was stressed in the Edam scholarship for me. That no one is responsible for catching you or holding you up or taking your weight; you just have to reach for the floor, you have to find your own way.
In this kind of context when we are doing more "tricky" things, there is an element of addressing the risk beforehand, so it's been much more direct. But it's a similar principle.
Yeah, that's something really interesting about the circus techniques, is that there are definitely more instances where you are less able to save yourself in certain hand to hand— if the base person can save it only if you are fully committed to letting them control your body then—
—then that's your job—
—then it's your job to trust and not save yourself which is another challenging thing. [laughs]
And it's funny because we have been switching back and forth and having Jen (our rehearsal director) in the room has been great because there are times when I've been like, "we are going to try this and we can't save ourselves and you have to save us." And times when she's been like, "I can't spot this, so if something goes wrong you have to accept the responsibility."
Giving over control is a part of taking responsibility for yourself. Giving you my weight and me blocking out and letting you save me is a part of me taking care of you. And that's a weird compromise, because not putting myself first, not saving myself first, letting you save me, giving into that power, is actually me giving you that control. And that is a part of taking care of each other. That's why it's so frustrating underneath, why we confront that feeling of, "let me do it!" and it's like this inner... fight, because it's like, "you don’t trust me!" or "you're making it hard for me." Because you're doing something that in a contact improv would be generous, but in this different context it's actually selfish.
We kind of have to flip back and forth, and I love when we talk about it after, when something falls apart, we're able to recognize those instinctual responses. Where say, someone drops you and you're like, "fuck you," or someone doesn't let you save them and you're lik, "Ahhh stop it." Confronting that. There is an animal emotion behind it, and the logic of it, and the interpersonal, and the actual physical. So there are all these different layers to work through. That feels like the work we are doing.
Yeah! I feel like an important element of that is that we've been trading roles the whole time. Which generally, in dance or circus, you don't do that. It's a crazy thing to do. But it totally changed that dynamic, when you have a moment of frustration or where your intentions are in conflict. It's so easy to be like, "god, why won't you just let me save you?" but then when I'm flying, I'm like, "ahhhhh I won't let you save meeeeee." [laughs]
I'm like, "oh this is what she was doing... "
Ya! That's why basically every time I learned the flyer role, I had to base it before I was good at flying. I can't understand it otherwise.
Ya. It makes so much more sense when you can see both sides of it. And it's easier to trust too, because if you've been in the control position and you feel like you can handle it, then when you are in the giving up control position you're like, "oh she's got it."
Totally. It's also that empathy thing. When you're like, "I can't step on you like this, I feel bad, everything in my body is telling me I'm hurting you and I don't want to hurt you." All of those reactions. And then when you're on the bottom, it's like, "oh, it doesn't hurt it's fine." You're like, "oh ok. I can step on you and not feel bad because I let you step on me and it didn't hurt." Or, "oh I let you step on me and it sort of hurt but it's fine and now we're even—"
[both laugh a bunch]
Right? They both work.
Ya, this would be a very sad piece if it was always one way.
But that is so many dance pieces! I think that's what is so cool about it.
It's normal for it to only be one way.
That is so true. I was looking at those photos—the rehearsal photos—and so many moments, if you take the still image, it looks so abusive. Because the power dynamics are so physically clear.
But I think that you're right. In most performances that is it. And that is why I feel so uncomfortable watching a lot of 'pas de deux' kind of stuff.
Because it seems like an abusive relationship.
Ya, and no one is ever like, "are you good?"
"You ready? is this one ok?"
It doesn't seem like they're good!
I just want to ask from the audience. That is something that I like about this work too. I feel like we get to take care of the audience also in that we can ask the questions that we feel in the room even. You know? Like how we are talking about addressing it in that one exercise, but also in the duet, if I can feel the tension getting there or us being nervous, or these energetic things, whatever they are, if it's adrenaline and something is shaky, you can be like, "are we still good? like... is this still going to work with all this noise that is happening?" And then being like, "ya ya, I'm just nervous or whatever." We can say that stuff. And then the audience is like, "oh that's a normal thing I guess. They're fine."
Totally. They don't have to worry about us.
We're taking care of each other and ourselves.
Exactly. It's the responsibility thing again. It's like, "We got this... we got this area over here on the stage."
"We're just gonna do this thing."
"We're doing it."
"You don't have to worry about it. You get to just watch it."
Ya man. It's so chill. And today felt easy!
Oh my god. I know.
Did you feel chill?
Ya for everything. Like even when it was like, "uhhh." I did the one leg thing and it was like, "ughhhhhh.. ok"
—it was fine
—we made it up. That's all you need.
When we made it to the end I was like, "it's the end already?? shit!"
I know. It's great.
But it's just gonna keep going! I'm excited.
Is there anything else you wanted us to say other than that?
I feel like that's good. I bet we said smart things.
You definitely did.
You definitely did!
Photos of Julianne Chapple (choreographer) and Maxine Chadburn by Ed Spence