Public & Private

Photo of Hayley Gawthrop and Erika Mitsuhashi
by David Cooper
Tuesday to Saturday, Nov 13 – 17 & Nov 20 – 24, 2018
8pm @ Left Of Main (211 Keefer Street) 
Tickets Here

Dumb Instrument Dance premieres Public and Private, a full-length ensemble work that in ways both elegant and raw, is a decidedly feminist inquiry. Dancing to the metered urgency of live Taiko, a tribe of female-bodied artists travel within to make selectively public, what was previously private. Choreographer Ziyian Kwan is joined by a team of renegade collaborators who imbue the work with poetry and verve.

Dancers: Deanna Peters, Delia Brett, Erika Mitsuhashi, Hayley Gawthrop

Taiko Drummer: Eileen Kage

Dramaturg: Heidi Taylor

Set Design: Paula Viitanen

Lighting: James Proudfoot

“To move forward is predictable. I want to move sideways, upside down, to slide backwards into things that don’t yet exist. I invite a team of remarkable artists into this work, so that we can mine our autonomy and in so doing, invent an microcosm of community”. Ziyian Kwan


Ziyian has invited collaborators Delia Brett, Erika Mitsuhashi, Deanna Peters and Hayley Gawthrop  to write about the work, to share in a public format, the private musings that inform creative process. Joining the ensemble is Alexa Solvieg Mardon, who will facilitate post performance discussions and write about the work. 

February 14, 2018 – from Ziyian

Today, we resumed a discussion about what the work is about. Deanna suggested that perhaps the work doesn’t need to be about anything. I explained that I want the work to be about something. Why? Because I feel a responsibility to consider what will be seen.  I want my work to be rooted in meaning and for it to be received as meaningless or imbued with other meanings by those who witness it.

In these early stages of research, the meaning that I bring to the work is aloneness and intimacy. In art as in life, we arrive alone and leave alone. In between, we do something together. It’s intimate, this interaction of aloneness that we call together. In real terms, when we are together during creative process: we talk, we laugh, we share snacks during rehearsal breaks – and sometimes we dance. 

When I asked Delia, Deanna, Erika and Hayley for insights, they offered thoughts that helped me understand what the work is becoming. My summation is that we are unique in our aloneness but have in common, a craving and appreciation of solitude. We bring to our meeting in the studio, treasures that we find on our own. We travel within and in so doing, make selectively public, what was previously private. I find this to be a most exquisite alchemy.

 February 15, 2018 – from Ziyian & Delia

Yesterday, Delia offered the idea of alterity and proposed that respect and admiration for individuality fuels my creative curiosity. This morning, Delia emailed me a conversation that  she recorded with her partner Alex Ferguson about otherness. In her words: “about the ethics of respecting alterity and the trauma of astonishment as it relates to his research, theatre, experience and understanding of Emmanuel Levinas.”

 I will listen to Delia and Alex’s recording, enroute to our rehearsal this afternoon, which courtesy of Deanna Peters, is in residence at Gold Saucer Studio.

Photo of Deanna Peters
by David Cooper

February 15, 2018 – from Deanna

Written by George Eliot from her work Middlemarch (with gender neutral pronouns added by Deanna): “Rosamond, taken hold of by an emotion stronger than their own – hurried along in a new movement which gave all things some new, awful undefined aspect – could find not words, but involuntarily they put their lips to Dorothea’s forehead which was very near to them, and then for a minute the two of them clasped each other as if they had been in a shipwreck.”

February 19, 2018 – from Ziyian

I have listened many times now, to Alex and Delia’s conversation about Emmanuel Levinas, while integrating it with images of Delia by David Cooper. So much of what is said here, resonates with my ethos. The recording is 12 minutes and well worth the listen. 

Delia was moved to record this the morning after she  introduced the word alterity to our discussion that touched on aloneness and meaning. During this discussion, Deanna had proposed that we only learn to know ourselves through other people, and I countered with yes, but you can never really know another person just as they can never know you. I think that the agreement between Deanna and me, in our friendship and also represented in the words above, is a simple echo of these beautiful words of Alex and Delia, paraphrased from the recording of their conversation: 

You encounter the other as unknowable. The other isn’t an alter ego and remains other to you. But, in encountering the other, you receive the other as a kind of wound. So you become aware of your own vulnerability. And, the one thing you do understand about the other, is the other’s vulnerability.

You never can collapse the other into a version of you – it maintains its alterity. But, paradoxically you understand its vulnerability and are therefore responsible for the other. You are responsible to keep and care for another human being’s alterity. 

In a state of unknowingness, you are open – open to the other. “

Recording of Delia and Alex talking about Levinas, art and life. 
With images of Delia by David Cooper

Link to Alex Ferguson’s site: Talk Performance

February 25, 2018

During 18 rehearsals we’ve created source material – 8 vignettes with makeshift transitions. We  have a few more rehearsals and this coming Friday, share our work in progress with friends and colleagues.

Throughout the process I’ve been thinking about generosity. About how the dancers provide an undercurrent of attention that allows ideas to be easily transposed from my imagination into recognizable and repeatable forms in time and space.

I usually think of generosity as a cooperative quality but I’ve noticed that equally generous are the objections, disagreements and demands that my collaborators offer. I need Deanna to say No as she frequently does; for Hayley to explain that they need time to work out movement pathways; for Erika to say that there are some things she’s not comfortable talking about.

And as choreographer, the most generous thing I can do is assert the needs of the work even though the rigour of repeated trial and error is tedious and tests the patience of the room. I’m learning that what seems like resistance is actually motion.

To move forward is predictable. I want to move sideways, upside down, to slide backwards into things that don’t yet exist.

I invite Delia, Deanna, Kage, Hayley and Erika to my work because I see them as renegades who offer talismans of agency and vulnerability. I hope that by making space for autonomy, whether it results in laughter or in conflict, we create something authentic to the humanity of our creative meeting.

Photo of Erika Mitsuhashi
by David Cooper

March 1, 2018 – Hayley

Public and Private is produced with the generous support fo The Canada Council For The Arts, The British Columbia Arts Council and through Creative Residences at The Shadbolt Centre For The Arts, Gold Saucer Studios through Mutable Subject and Left Of Main through machInenoIsy. Our media sponsor is The Georgia Straight.