Up to 15 professional artists performed in a live stream event by Compagnie ODD, the resident contemporary dance company at Ottawa Dance Directive.
Conceptualized by Yvonne Coutts, the Artistic Director at ODD, Take My Hand is a daring piece developed for remote collaborators who do not share a physical space and features a host of stellar performers (credits below). The dancers are in several locations including France, Montréal, Québec, Kingston, Gatineau, and here in Ottawa.
Ideas around presence and longing, sharing and togetherness shape this new work. “I kept thinking about loss and hands; healing hands, loving hands, the hands we long to hold or didn’t get to hold,” says Coutts about the concept of their experimental show.
As Coutts and her collaborators began to interact with the live video format, they started to enjoy the “awkward and interesting things” that would happen when moving in and out of virtual Zoom backgrounds. Instead of avoiding glitches, the dancers and choreographer explored how to integrate them.
“The process was an interesting level of technical complexity, with many specifics to figure out along the way,” says Coutts. “But we stayed in a kind of low tech version by using only what the actual format had to offer and not adding to that.” The greater complexity was in the actual performance streaming, engineered by associate director Lana Morton.
“The connection of the group is phenomenal.”
As solo singer-songwriters and small groups of musicians have moved to adopt live streaming as a way to keep connected with audiences, it’s no secret that theatre, dance and other performance artists wrestle with the limitations of digital media. Dance and theatre are, from the ground up, very particular about what is conveyed to the audience before and during a performance. The use of space and use of virtual space are in no way alike. Asked if reactions were at all mixed when she proposed the concept for Take My Hand, Coutts says “everyone was very positive,” and above all else, “craving to be creative again.”
“The connection of the group is phenomenal and they are a wonderfully compassionate and caring group of artists.”
Watch this performance live on YouTube at 2pm on Thursday, June 25. “Admission” is free. ODD is passing the hat (pwyc) to raise money for a fund which provides work to local dance artists throughout the pandemic. As part of their COVID-19 fundraising campaign, you can sponsor a dancer for an hour, for a day, or for a week of paid work. Visit odd-cdc.org/donate for more information.
Mary Catherine Jack
George David Weiss