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Campus performances tackle PTSD and climate change through dance

By Jason Herring, January 19 2016 —

Two School of Creative and Performing Arts dance faculty members are tackling topics like post-traumatic stress disorder and climate change in their works. Professional Series: Dance runs from Jan. 21–23 at 8:00 p.m. in the University Theatre.

Marie France Forcier is a SCPA associate professor involved in the series. She started her award-winning dance company, Forcier Stage Works, in Toronto before moving it to Calgary in 2015. Forcier extensively studied PTSD during her schooling, and this is reflected in her choreography.

“Everybody knows someone who’s gone through trauma, if not themselves. A lot of those traumas are filtered and processed through the body, which creates a kinetic empathy from the audience,” she says. “My choreography is a lot less set in the sense that it’s a lot less traditionally clean.”

Her two pieces reflect those ideas. Lab Rats, which Forcier originally presented in 2013, is an unorthodox duet featuring dancer Molly Johnson and a fish tank, which represents an obsession with something haunting. She’s also premiering The Peahen with long-time collaborator Linnea Swan.

“In [The Peahen] we looked at ways that oftentimes people suffering from post-traumatic stress end up using extreme behaviours to self-medicate,” Forcier says. “It has a lot of text in it, and all of it is related to peacocks. There’s a lot of scientific facts about peacocks, but it becomes clear fairly early on in the piece that she’s using the text as a way to relate to the audience because she can’t use the words she wants to.”

Similar ideas are explored in University of Calgary associate professor and kloetzel&co. founder Melanie Kloetzel’s work. She’s presenting Staging Rooms, a piece that explores the idea of living in temporary structures to cope with the inevitable consequences of climate change.

“I was very interested in how people who are potentially going to have to deal with issues of climate change are going to have to live in very temporary structures,” she says. “Being here, in the centre of oil country, it becomes a much more pressing issue because there’s the issue of culpability and who’s to blame for this kind of activity that’s happening around the world.”

Staging Rooms takes place on a unique set that Kloetzel and several collaborators built specifically for the performance. The show features multiple manufactured ‘rooms’ on-stage that present the illusion of a confined space while still allowing audience members to see what’s taking place inside.

“We tried to brainstorm what a temporary structure would look like that you can see in and perform in. So we got an idea of a particular room that looks a little bit like a tent,” Kloetzel says. “It ended up being much more challenging than expected, to create a variety of rooms once we started to elaborate on the idea.”

Kloetzel thinks her work will pair well with Forcier’s because they both deal with contemporary issues.

“What [Forcier is] exploring is very personal trauma that’s enacted on an individual, while mine is a very global phenomenon,” she says. “But I think in the idea of trauma, there’s a lot of links between what we’re doing. And it’s really interesting, because I’m using a very large perspective on the issue while she’s using a much smaller perspective. I think it’s interesting to see how those two communicate with one another.”

Another thing Kloetzel and Forcier agree on is that there’s plenty in Professional Series: Dance worth checking out, even if you aren’t a fan of dance.

“You don’t have to have an expansive knowledge of dance to know what is going on, which I think is the reputation dance gets,” Forcier says. “I think people are intimidated a lot of the time because they don’t know what’s happening. But I think this show has works that are relatable to anybody and are about topics that are current and presented in a way that may make people reconsider their current views on the topics of climate change and trauma.”

Professional Series: Dance takes place from Jan. 21–23 at 8:00 p.m. at the University Theatre. Students can get into performances free through the SCPA’s Claim Your Seat program.

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