Studio glimpse: Jennifer Mascall with Robin Poitras and Nathan Wiens
Nathan Wiens, Robin Poitras and Jennifer Mascall on a new collaboration for The Outliner, opening this July in association with Dancing on the Edge 2016.
THE OUTLINER: four nights only: limited seating!
DATES July 6-9, 2016 VENUE 1130 Jervis Street, Vancouver.
TICKETS: http://www.dancingontheedge.org 604-689-0926.
Jennifer Mascall invited Robin Poitras, Artistic Director of New Dance Horizons, and her brother, designer Nathan Wiens of ChapelArts, to collaborate on the new solo work which completes THE OUTLINER. Over the past month, the three have developed design and vocabulary at a high heat.
Nathan Wiens, Jennifer Mascall and Robin Poitras
Founding Artistic Director, curator and choreographer of New Dance Horizons in Regina, Robin Poitras is recognized internationally as an interpreter of new dance work, and an important element in the work of numerous Canadian dance artists such as Paul Andre Fortier, Daniel Levaille and Edward Poitras. This is her second collaboration with Mascall.
Designer Nathan Wiens has previously collaborated with MascallDance as well, on CARIBOU (1991) which Mascall created for Ron Stewart. More recently, he hosted MascallDance in residence at ChapelArts on Dunlevy, the creative art space he founded and animates, where The Three Cornered Hat premiered, in association with Dancing on the Edge.
The Outliner: Jennifer Mascall, Nathan Wiens and Karl Simmons at Wien’s woodworking/design studio, Cordova@Dunleavy in Vancouver.
As a kid, I was a potter, and those elements have emerged in woodworking. The vocabulary of my work has a unique process I call “tunnelling.” We shuffle a deck of all these parts that create shapes, out of flat panels, kind of like a topographical map, using the CNC machine. Like architectural models do the landscape – in layers. We do this with wood, on budgets sometimes modest, sometimes grand.
We’ve done some interesting large scale pieces based on that process. We package stores that go across the continent in the same spirit as matrioschka, Russian dolls. One fits inside the other. It all comes out of a big stack of plywood – and they’re all unbelievably efficient. Then you make a crate, 4 by 8 by 4 feet high; then we tunnel all this stuff, glue it together and pack it back into a 4 by 8 crate. When it gets to the location, it starts to explode into the space, creating a store.
What I do is apply the tools at hand, then push the limits. So to create a dress, I applied this same process. You’ll see that the emerging design is a Russian doll. It’s very formal – I had this notion of having a very formal moment. And it’s a dress. Now they have the elements in the studio and are playing with them. Jennifer teases me that they’ll have to give me a choreography credit because the object I’ve created very much determines the performance process.”
“I’m discovering how he works,”
Robin Poitras says, in the studio during a final rehearsal at The Dance Centre. As the week of work culminates, a concentrated Poitras applies Amelia Itcush’s spiralling patterns to her activation of the wooden design.
“The snails are awake!”
she says drolly, when things start to cook. I think about the sensitivity and vulnerability of snail antennae, and how antennae transmit signals. Mascall and Poitras merge a meticulous intuition. It’s as though one dowses, observed under a microscope by the other.
They transmit ideas. Mascall eye accompanies Poitras through a delicate uncovering: layer upon layer of imagery. Poitras renders the design’s latent implications with a surgical imagination. Mascall responds with spare directives.
Extremely subtle nuance compels the viewer’s attention. Achieving it technically draws on a complex of skills. Musing on theses hidden aspects, Poitras says:
“I’m using my spine, elbows, knees feet to control the wood; and sometimes I’m blind inside the wood – it has an affinity to work with puppets..“
“Come out and hunker,” says Mascall.
“Let’s talk about how you felt it. Can you draw it?
The meeting of two such forces in Canadian dance in one room has a high voltage. Observing, assisting and videotaping, MascallDance intern Amy Donnelly says:
“They are working on another level. At this point they’ve gone far into it. Watching them come up with ideas at a level I’d never in a million years glimpse – they have a depth of somatic knowledge and experience.”