January 12, 2024

Breaking Physicality and Convention
By Alison Neuman

The idea for Crave, to bring the human stories and costs of addiction to the stage, came to me in 2020
before the pandemic, but the reality of being unable to be in a physical space with other people put the
project on hold. That time gave me the luxury of working on crafting the structure and the story of the
piece and building connections with the community to make sure their reality and voices could be
woven into an abstract dance piece.

Being a disabled choreographer and wanting a certain physicality in Crave, I knew I needed to find a
special person and dancer for this recreation. They would translate movements into their body and
present them to the dancers so they could learn them. I had the privilege of working with Kate Stashko
on the intention and physicality, creating them for performers with more flexibility and mobility. The
process was collaborative and creative, allowing my art to grow past the limitations of my own body.
I have been fascinated with hand and finger tutting for the past few years, but I can’t teach a movement
phrase when my fingers and hands are fused. I met with Kate, and we reviewed the inspirations and
intentions for the movements. The piece had three main characters; I wanted each to have a tutting
phrase that was theirs alone. Those phrases were a response to the character's stress level. With Kate’s
help, we found movement phrases and worked with the dancers to make them accessible for their
fingers and hands.

I wanted the audience to have access to the performers and for them to be a part of the intimate urban
space. Mile Zero Dance, with the help of their staff, pulled the curtains back to reveal white cement
walls and uncovered the windows of the loading door to provide a view of the back alley that, during the
performances, had movements and darkness and was a reminder of the reality of the outside world.
This space allowed the audience and the performers to interact before and after the performance,
which connected all of us.

Creative thinking and problem-solving made the physical possible through words, movements, and
collaboration to achieve what was not accessible. Pulling back the curtains and meeting the audience
before and after the performances created magic beyond theatre conventions. Along the creative
process, and for each of the Crave performances, there was a safe place to be vulnerable, watch, feel,
and learn.


Photo credit: Marc. J. Chalifoux



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