Rivers inspire Nanaimo dancer’s tale

Genevieve Johnson performs in Rivers: What the Water Whispers at the Malaspina Theatre Friday (Jan. 4) at 8 p.m. The piece created by Holly Bright is presented by the Crimson Coast Dance Society.  - Roy Ostling Photo
Genevieve Johnson performs in Rivers: What the Water Whispers at the Malaspina Theatre Friday (Jan. 4) at 8 p.m. The piece created by Holly Bright is presented by the Crimson Coast Dance Society.
— image credit: Roy Ostling Photo

Water has a voice.

It whispers. It roars.

Like people’s lives it flows, weaves and pushes over the earth, connecting and mingling with others.

The water of the river inspired dancer and choreographer Holly Bright, artistic director of the Crimson Coast Dance Society, to create Rivers: What the Water Whispers.

The seeds for the dance were first planted when Bright watched the U.K. film, A Guide to Yorkshire Rivers by Simon Warner. It is a tale of three rivers and follows the course of each simultaneously until they meet at the Humber estuary.

“It really struck me, as I watched it, each river has its own personality,” said Bright. “It reflects the sense of regardless of what is happing in individual lives, at the end of the day, life goes on.”

Water speaks to the deep level of connection, said Bright. She said communities are built around bodies of water and there are stories built around them as well.

“Life, like a river, runs slow, easy or turbulently and at times with facades that hide or reveal,” she said.

She began to expand on the idea and weave stories from the Nanaimo community and issues around the Nanaimo River and estuary into her dance. She collaborated with performer Genevieve Johnson.

Johnson is dancing Butoh. It is a dance based on images, while western dancing techniques are based more on vocabulary and choreographed steps, Johnson explained.

“The dance is always personal interpretation. It’s a moving poem,” said Johnson, adding that each individual watching could have a different view of the piece.

During the first part of the dance Johnson is a glacier.

“It’s hard. It’s breaking,” said Johnson. “They don’t have to know I am losing a piece of arm and it is floating away.”

Bright said the dance produces a piece of poetry that is “very profound.”

Rivers has been performed previously at dance festivals on Vancouver Island, but Bright has continued to change it.

She’s bringing Rivers to Malaspina Theatre Friday (Jan. 4) with the help of Mike Taugher and Andrew Pyre who are designing the set along with Robert Seaton and Bright.

Pyre is also working as lighting designer and was recently awarded the Larisa Fayad Memorial Scholarship to help support his participation in the project.

The evening, Rivers to Avatars, features two dance performances. Rivers: What the Water Whispers and Avatar: I Post Therefore I am.

Avatar, created by Freya Olafson, is a piece about how technology distances people from each other and it explores identity and how people communicate in cyberspace.

Olafson, from Winnipeg, is a dance artist who works with video, audio, painting and performances. She has presented her work nationally and internationally at festivals and galleries.

The performances begin at 8 p.m. Tickets are $20/$15 students/$10 groups and are available by calling 250-716-3230 or www.crimsoncoastdance.org.


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