Whitehorse is a hotbed of artists, dancers and performers brewing with ideas and creativity and this weekend we’ll have an opportunity to see what’s in their minds.
On Friday and Saturday the Brave New Works show will be presented at The Old Fire Hall. This year co-artistic directors Mellisa Murray and Zoe Verhees have invited eight artists working in film, dance, poetry, music and other disciplines to create presentation touching on the theme Brief Encounters.
Zoe Verhees gets a kick out of seeing what the artists come up with every year.
“They have free reign,” she says. “Every year, every show we do we pick a different theme and to see what the artists come up with is really exciting.
“We don’t get to see what the artists have come up with until a week before the show.”
Brave New Works is an outlet for artists to bring their own their fertile ideas to the stage. They dig into their creativity, develop their performance or art piece, and present it in front of an audience.
“It’s a safe place for them to perform their new pieces,” says Mellisa Murray.
She is speaking from experience. She and Verhees performed in Brave New Works shows before they started co-producing it three years ago.
Their background is dance and they know the feeling of stepping out of their own comfort zone, exploring new techniques, absorbing feedback and growing as artists.
“It’s ‘safe’ because it’s more informal than, for example, performing at the Yukon Arts Centre, with full lighting and the pressure to hit their cues, and to know exactly what you want to do,” Murray says. “It’s an opportunity for them to grow and develop as an artist, whether it’s in their own genre, or experiment with a new genre at a supportive venue.”
And the performers are all seeking feedback from the audience. A key element that dates back to 1999 when Yukon artist Trace de Jaray founded Brave New Works is that the audience is asked to provide feedback on the artists’ work. At The Old Fire Hall this weekend the audience members will be given cue cards and pens and asked to write down their thoughts on the performances – and not just compliments. The artists want to know what works and what doesn’t, from the audience’s perspective.
“Sometimes we just get ‘Good job,’ and sometimes the cards are filled out on both sides,” Murray says.
This year the participants are Lee Covin and Calla Paleczny working with music, Maude Caron doing performance theatre, Kelvin Smoler and Allyn Walton working with music and dance, Léa Roy working with dance, Amber Walker working with visual arts, Christian Kuntz working with short film, Kelly Murray working with music, What’s Up Yukon editor Lori Garrison working with performance theatre and poetry, and the co-producers Mellisa Murray and Zoe Verhees themselves performing a dance duet.
The one-and-a-half hour show will feature nine performances that the artists have developed themselves, and two dance-based performances with the whole group that have been developed with Meaghan O’Shea, an Ontario-based artist who has a dance and physical theatre background.
These group dance performances are an opportunity for the participating artists to push their creativity, given that they most of them are not dancers. That’s another key element to Brave New Works – it offers local artists an opportunity to explore an artistic discipline outside of their normal comfort zone.
Brave New Works runs March 18 and 19 at The Old Fire Hall. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and the show will start at 7 p.m. and concludes around 8:30 p.m.