Edmonton’s KnK Collective brings contemporary dance pop-up site to Whyte Avenue – Edmonton Journal

KnK Collective dancers Kate Stashko, foreground, and Krista Lin bring a new site-specific work, titled once and after by Toronto choreographer Heidi Strauss, to a yet-to-be-announced location on Whyte Avenue, May 27-28, presented by Brian Webb Dance Company.
KnK Collective dancers Kate Stashko, foreground, and Krista Lin bring a new site-specific work, titled once and after by Toronto choreographer Heidi Strauss, to a yet-to-be-announced location on Whyte Avenue, May 27-28, presented by Brian Webb Dance Company. Photo by Marc J. Chalifoux /Supplied

Space is the ultimate frontier for so many artists in contemporary dance, even more so when it’s part of a special “site-specific” work like the show titled once and after, debuting next week from Edmonton’s KnK Collective.

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The tricky part here is the two Ks of KnK — dancer/choreographers Krista Lin and Kate Stashko, working here with Toronto choreographer Heidi Strauss — are keeping the pop-up site a secret until just before the show. But they have shared that it’s a big, empty southside interior where the audience will be seated for parts of the show but also move around to follow the dancers.

It definitely colours the character of the sets, costumes, original music and moves of the show presented by the Brian Webb Dance Company (BWDC).

“We’re in the space right now,” said Krista Lin on a rehearsal break, “working in it, building the piece, letting it inform what we’re doing. We kind of enhance the space in a way I’ve never done before.”

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That’s one of the many reasons they were drawn to work with Strauss, one of Toronto’s most prominent dance creators.

“Krista and I are both interested in making work that’s site-specific,” said Kate Stashko, “but Heidi has a wealth of experience. She has made dances in parkades and all kinds of outdoor spaces. We have learned a lot from her about how you integrate all the different elements of the production and relate it to that space.”

The mystery venue was chosen for its large, physical breadth, a crucial element to allow them to run riot.

“It’s a building that has some history that is perhaps known by some of the audience,” Stashko says. “It’s not a theatre but somewhere people might have a relationship with. We are definitely using certain architectural features to our advantage and really folding the environment that’s around us into the work.”

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Lin echoes those sentiments.

“Contemporary dance tends to get pigeonholed sometimes, as if only certain people can see it. By putting it in a friendly but unconventional space, not a theatre, we hoped that people might feel more welcome to come and watch it.”

When I spoke with KnK, the “extensive sets” were still being completed, the sound system soon to be tuned up by notable Toronto electronic/ambient composer and frequent Strauss collaborator Jeremy Mimnagh.

If you plan on attending, don’t fear that you’ll be wandering down Whyte Avenue searching for dancers. Ticket holders will be notified of the site 72 hours in advance. It’s a surprise until then for both business and artistic reasons.

Strauss came up with the title, once and after, explained in the online description as balancing change and suspending time, and Stashko relates it to the history of the space.

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“I think the work refers to different places and times in our lives, and the in-between when you’re in transition. There’s an instability and unknown that comes with that which can be unsettling but it’s also hopeful and full of possibilities,” she says.

This work was postponed several times since its original start with Strauss in 2018 but at least four focused two-week sessions went into shaping once and after. Look into the six-year history of KnK and you’ll find the duo often delineate their initial moves in improvisation.

“Krista and I share a movement quality with real range,” says Stashko, “between a fast, aggressive quality of attack or grabbing on to something and a slowly dissipating decay. We have similar impulses and instincts and we can read what the other person is going to do.”

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Kamloops-born Lin and Athabasca-raised Stashko brought extensive experience to founding KnK in 2016 starting with a love of dance from their childhoods. Among other venues, both trained at the University of Calgary and Toronto Dance Theatre where they came to appreciate a common aesthetic for their art. You may already have seen them perform with Good Women Dance Collective or Mile Zero Dance.

Dancing into Summer

Webb is excited to introduce a site-specific artist like Strauss to Edmonton audiences.

“Whenever you enter a new environment, dance changes,” notes Webb. “The audience is inside the dance in this adventuresome experience and that fourth wall disappears.”

Always looking forward, he’s also busy overseeing dance activities this summer.

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BWDC presents a single performance remount of Khog, the brilliant work local Indian dance goddess Usha Gupta and her dancers premiered here in 2018 before taking the show to India for the largest single tour of that country by any Canadian dance company (12 cities). Complete with a live music ensemble, it’s a fascinating slice of east and west, happening in MacEwan’s Triffo Theatre Aug. 20.

The BWDC website will be hosting several upcoming films. Webb’s interview of Montreal’s Edouard Lock (La La La Human Steps) will be back on the site shortly. A new dance film by Josh Bemish and Scott Fowler shows up in early summer, with two more in the fall, featuring Newfoundland’s Anne Troake with Backhoe Ballet, and Ankita Alemona, a Canadian Indigenous dancer who is studying south Indian martial arts.

Finally, it’s a real coup that BWDC will bring Lock’s next work to the Triffo Theatre for two nights, Sept. 1 and 2 on a double-bill with a new work by Vanessa Goodman. Look for tickets at BWDC.ca.

PREVIEW

Brian Webb Dance Company presents once and after

Who: KnK Collective choreographed by Heidi Strauss

Where: To be announced 72 hours in advance

When: 8 p.m., Friday May 27 and Saturday May 28

Tickets: $40 general admission, $30 students/seniors from bwdc.ca

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