Ron Stewart:  Older and Reckless in the Nation’s Capital

Ron Stewart: Older and Reckless in the Nation’s Capital

The Canada Dance Festival is underway in Ottawa, and Jennifer Mascall’s solo GRAFT, performed by longtime MascallDance associate Ron Stewart will be performed there in good company.  According to The Georgia Straight,Vancouver audiences will recognize almost one-third of the Canada Dance Festival’s programming this year (June 4 to 11).  “That’s because it’s kind of a hotbed right now” says Jeanne Holmes, Festival Artistic Director.  

Ron closes the Festival at ArtsCourt on Saturday June 11, 2016 at 8:30 PM when Older and Reckless tears up the stage. The Stewart/Mascall  solo appears along with Robert DesRosier, Claudia Moore, Louise Bedard, Esmeralda Enrique, Lina Cruz. Catch Ron and GRAFT at the Artscourt Theatre, Saturday June 11 2016  at 8:30PM  –    More info HERE

Below, Ron talks about preparing GRAFT for performance.


Ron headshot

Ron Stewart

is an accomplished dance artist and movement educator who acted as interim artistic director of MascallDance during Founding Director Jennifer Mascall’s sabatical over a decade ago.   His field of expertise combines Yoga and mindfulness with trauma-based healing and sexual health. He is a certified Yoga instructor, Somatic Experiencing practioner (based on the trauma release work of Peter Levine) and Somatic Sex Educator. He talks about the evolution of his work on GRAFT:

O  oder n reklesOlder and Reckless  is a really successful Toronto performance series – a salon-style event which is a platform for mature artists and their work. Claudia Moore, who founded and curates it, formed a collective of mature dancers called Cloud Nine and about seven years ago,  invited me to join the collective and perform a Cloud Nine evening of work by Tedd Robinson and Susie Burpee with  Karen Kaeja Graham McKelvie, Sylvie Bouchard and Claudia.


Ron Stewart, Claudia Moore in Disconcertante   Choreographed by Tedd Robinson  Photo:  Ken Ewan

That led to various things, and when Older and Reckless was invited to present work at the Canada Dance Festival, Claudia approached me to see if I’d perform a solo work, and Jennifer, about setting something on me.  That’s how I became involved with THE OUTLINER, the collection of solos MascallDance premieres next month.

I wish I could also perform the work at THE OUTLINER premiere in Dancing On The Edge this July. Sadly I’m leading a retreat – not available. It would be great to be in the larger context, and get a run at the solo over a series of performances instead of only one shot.  And it’d reunite me with Robin Poitras, a great friend. Robin and I developed Reve a Deux – a duet repertoire a few years ago, including Fielding by Jennifer, with a gorgeous film component by D Anne Trepanier. It’d also be fun to reconnect with Nathan Wiens – he did a great design for a solo work called Caribou that Jennifer made for me in a Dancing on The Edge years ago.


Photos: Andrea Rabinovitch

I’ve actually never seen GRAFT performed – so I can only actually speak to the work from inside it, and of the process of preparing.

O Ron 2 Saltspring 2015

I worked with Jennifer at the August 2015 Saltspring MascallDance residency. More recently, I worked with the costume on my own, followed by studio time with Jennifer in Victoria last month. She changed some things, added others, and left it with me to develop.

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I needed time on it so I was travelling with the costume, between San Francisco and New Orleans.  In San Francisco, I started heading out to this cul de sac over Highway 101 to work on it every day or so.  I didn’t have to pay for studio space – and it’s spacious and private there. It was weirdly industrial – actually – I’d sweep up the broken glass and stuff.  I’d meander a bit with the costume…move around in it, switch the sleeves, pull the shoulder straps, experiment to try to get my “feel” with it.

I still just didn’t have a handle on it at all.



Then I took some classes from Sara Shelton Mann that were very helpful. There I experienced how habituated my body had become to symmetry and shape through my yoga practice and teaching.  Yoga is very linear, and this called for a return to my improvisational, more dynamic dance body.

GRAFT demanded weight and swing – a sense of pendulum motion.  It depends on my feeling my limbs swing and sway in gravity – as well as the limbs of the costume, which are outside my body.  That requires a sensitivity to something outside the body – like working with the Silke costume during Proverb, a duet by you for Robin and I, learning to speak through the 40 yards of silk.

The Still Project by Susan McKenzieRon Stewart & Robin Poitras in Proverb by Susan McKenzie  Photo: Don Hall

Drop and sway – the class re-activated that momentum in me. Then I worked for an hour on the solo with Sara. She said some things that were poignant, I saw it through her eyes, she appreciated what I saw – it boosted my wavering confidence and grounded my preparation for the solo.  It needs floor work and articulation before even entering the costume.

I found that the solo was becoming a life metaphor – where any situation could be expressed through chaos or beauty. Inside the solo, it feels very tenuous – the dance deals in a real way with chaos. I don’t know how to work it or what it’s doing – I feel plastic tubes flying around me of their own free will –  I flip into a threshold of fear, chaos, despair in my mind. Sometimes it’s natter – “I mean, what am I doing? Am I totally insane – 54 and going through all this for eight minutes in this crazy costume!”    I enter the chaos and the vulnerable in my life. There is real terror in this shadow side, the desire to dump and run. Then, when I see with lightness, I see beauty, expansiveness, the discoveries. It is cathartic to struggle through it.

Those 20 PVC pipes follow the spiral and twist of my body. Doing the primary work on the floor before getting into the costume has a big effect. The range of the solo is the range of shifting form produced by that spiral, twist, breath…

Then yesterday,  my neighbour, dance artist Kim Tuson and I did an invited showing of dances on the lawn at Deer Leap, where we live.

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So now, the process has shifted from sheer frustration to organized chaos!

It was great to get the support of friends; with their eyes and some performance adrenalin,  the solo moved forward.

Catch Ron and GRAFT at the CANADA DANCE FESTIVAL sharing a program with Robert Desrosier, Esmeralda Enrique, and a new work by Lina Cruz for Cloud Nine Collective, featuring Louise Bedard, Karen Kaeja and Claudia Moore,    Older and Reckless  at the Artscourt Theatre, Saturday June 11 2016  at 8:30PM  –    More info HERE