Sitting in the Black Box at the Bus Stop theatre, a place I’ve become familiar with over the years, I look from dancer to dancer of The Nostos Collectives and ask, glancing at my notes…Shall I start from the beginning?
And click. The lights black out. Trying not to panic we stand moving towards the light of the lobby; shuffling through the dark trying to shove one eery thought to the backs of our minds
How quickly comfort and safety can be taken away. How menacing life can feel when safe spaces turn hostile. This is why I’m here, the girls of Nostos have compiled pieces of choreography to put on a delightful, technical and all around fun show. However, with the unfolding of recent tragic events coinciding with their residency in the Bus Stop, home of many Pride festivities and across the street from everyone’s fave gay nightclub they were posing a question of ethics having noticed some very strong and strange coincidences strung throughout their work. As news stories came out and the girls prepared for their show, they noticed some eery similarities to the choreography in their show and the actual events unfolding only after they had solidified and created their full-length production.
When art imitates life, what do you do? Do you change the script to skirt around a hot issue?
Being the curious kitten I am I scoured the internet to find examples in history where art mimicked life, predicting real world events.
Here is what I found:
A famous ship disaster was foretold by the novelist Morgan Robertson called “The wreck of the Titan” predicting details of the sinking Titanic; hitting an iceberg around midnight, even down to the location and nautical speed the boat was going when it hit the berg.
John Byrne, a comic writer for DC managed to find himself in untimely situations, writing and illustrating events such as an NYC blackout, The Challenger Disaster and Princess Diana’s death completing the comics in almost coinciding timing, but all before the actual event happened.
It seems uncouth for an artist to take credit for seeing the future, but for Claire Fearon, the coincidence was too much. Just over a year before an Earthquake in Japan caused a nuclear disaster, Fearon was overcome by depression and compelled to paint a scene that she would later recognize in the news reporting the disaster.
I’m not writing in order to convince you that somehow Nostos’ show managed to predict the future. It’s up to what you’d like to believe. Coincidences and similarities do and have happened in the past however, and the question I pose is this. When these coincidences happen, should the artist change their work to avoid offending those around them? Should the artist be censored when something completely coincidental could cause a stirring in audience members?
I say most certainly not. Viewing art can bring up all kinds of emotion, and this is it’s purpose. Whether it be an abstract painting that speaks directly to you through form and colour or a photograph of a 9 year old girl hit by napalm in The Vietnam War that touches the whole world; art can horrifyingly mimic real life but can also serve as a way for stories to be told, and for healing to begin.
Watching the young dance company move through their show it transformed from a fun 40 minute dance show into a relevant and captivating voice for recent unfolding events. The responsibility is clearly worn on their shoulders as they perform; telling the story of tragedy, lifting us through cathartic pain and beginning a journey of healing and empowerment. We have to forge forward and be honest, acknowledge our responsibility as artists and create safe spaces where expression is paramount, absorbing the shock that allows us to really move forward telling the stories of and learning from the societal disasters that plague our world today.
Unpredictable things happen that can quickly strip us of our feelings of security. When in the dark we need to hold hands and forge forward toward the light; dealing with fear and sadness along the way.
Don’t be fooled by my musings on this particular element of the show. The overall production has an airy fun cabaret feeling. Props are used to situate the story and technical choreography is performed with such ease that the dancers could even carry out conversations during their run through. With a variety of numbers showcasing their talents in jazz, hip-hop tap dance and contemporary the girls of Nostos bring forth an evening of entertainment and delight through movement.
Nostos Collectives will be performing this Saturday and Sunday featuring Olivia Aubrecht, Gwen Chiasson, Chelsea Dahlgren, Jessica Lowe, Taylor Shive, Georgia Skinner and Leandra Zieglar.
Sat & Sun/June 18-19th/2016
Sat: 8PM Sun: 2PM& 8PM
Tickets: At the door $12