Taking Flight in The Alberta Dance Festival


Swallowed up by the breadth of DanSpace, Kathleen adjusts her glasses to take a moment of reflection. She’s invited me to the studio to take a look at her piece and talk about her involvement in The Alberta Dance Festival 2016.

On her fifth week of practice for her new solo work her feet firmly plant to the floor as she walks me through her process. She slowly untangles her work in front of me describing her research on Amelia Earhart’s life; specifically her last flight before she disappeared.

I remember a few years ago when I found documentation of a flight path AND crash. Slowly turning the pages of a document I knew weren’t meant for my eyes, I caught an eery glimpse of the details of one flight’s demise as a blip in history.


Doherty’s process has delved further into another real and desperate tragedy. Reading of Earhart’s life certainly touched on Doherty’s inclination to forge a new way through history. Describing the feeling of loneliness one must feel as the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic, Doherty’s expression remarks empathy. She too has experienced some loneliness in this process of making a solo; though hasn’t been without the help of the community. Loneliness, she explains, does not always tell of sadness. There is some comfort in knowing that you are the first, the first to make this movement, the first to fly alone across the Atlantic, the first to take that breath in that moment.

Having honed in on her interest, Doherty’s approach has lead her to the final flight path taken by Earhart in 1937.Using the path as a structural approach she is guided through movement to the final scene.


As I watch Doherty settle into her beginning pose and slowly tip sideways, everything softens around her. The breeze audible, birds in clear sight through the immense windows of DanSpace, the setting is perfect. With moments of inward conflict and outward contemplation, the piece moves Kathleen just as Earhart was moved by her plane. With suspended gazes upward I can see the depth below as the plane glides across the ocean. Suddenly Kathleen is in front gazing left then right. Her gaze peels away as she slowly melts into the background, just as Earhart did so many years ago, no one understanding the absolute of her disappearance.


The romance of a strong independent historical figure gives this piece its’ life. Though not to be taken for granted, as Kathleen works through this week at DSW’s creative workshop, the whole of it will be mashed up and rewritten for the sake of creative process and mentorship. As Doherty takes the stage Sept 8-10 she will at the very least know that her journey has been long, lonely and fruitful; symbolically mimicking those of Amelia Earhart’s.

Alberta Dance Festival The Leap: Bold Moments in Time
Sept 8-10 2016
Tickets: (starting at) $20
Pumphouse Theatre