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Posted on January 29, 2015 in General
SPLAY: Practice Space

SPLAY is a collaborative project by Josh Martin and Lisa Gelley of 605 Collective, and dance artist Justine A. Chambers. In this guest blog post, Justine introduces the project and describes its purpose and scope:

SPLAY is being developed to create an ongoing series of dance happenings that take place behind the doors of the mostly unused Granville Street side of Scotiabank Dance Centre. The origins of this space are hard to ignore. The facade clearly indicates that the space is a bank. When I first moved to Vancouver almost 9 years ago, I remember using the ATM that was embedded in the wall behind the doors which have become our performance/practice space. The hole where the ATM once was is now covered by a piece of plywood that has been painted white to blend with the walls. Adjacent to this space is an office with its contents intact, as though quickly abandoned: a desk, three quasi-ergonomic chairs on plastic casters, a PC, a large printer/fax machine, filing cabinets, and dated bank literature. The presence of the bank is felt, and I am reminded that I am not just in The Dance Centre - as I usually think of it - but The Scotiabank Dance Centre. This acts as a reminder of the many things we do as artists and arts organizations to survive, thrive and continue the work.

The title of the project references the architecture of the doorway, the appearance of a dance in a display case, and the play between performing bodies and passers-by. The specificity of the location, the architecture of the space and the activity of the streets outside have become both catalyst and content for the work being practiced.

I specifically use the phrase “the work being practiced” because SPLAY has become a practice space. A space to work through ideas without being product-driven. Josh, Lisa and I aren't making a work, we are working on working. We are working through performance ideas and movement concepts in a space at street level situating ourselves directly in the path of the general public. This intrinsically situates our practice as a performance - allowing us to remove the necessity for the theatre, notions of production and/or production value and the often complicated coordination of support staff. To be clear, we aren't making do, nor is it necessarily DIY - the construct is exactly what we are working with. It's a moment to re-imagine what, where and how performance can exist. Arguably another survival technique of the milieu, but also a way to continuously define the form, ask something else of ourselves as dance and performance makers, and invite the viewer to understand they are part of what is happening.

Finding ways to share this project is a way to broaden and continue to develop a dialogue with our peers. I am currently working on the project We're Making a Band with musician Ben Brown. We relocated our rehearsal from China Cloud to the SPLAY space one night as a way to feel the work with an aloof audience. Throughout the month of January, Alexa Mardon and I have been reading in the space once a week for one hour. We set up two chairs and an area heater facing Granville Street, stack our books in a recess in the wall, and tape a large piece of kraft paper on the wall to record all and any tangential thoughts we may have while reading. This is an invitation to the public to witness our shared research, which is one facet of a larger project.

As we continue this research we would like to invite other artists who are interested in collectively developing a series of movement or performance propositions with us as a way to be in conversation through practice. Sharing time, sharing dances and sharing performance as a way to animate the space through a collaborative and cumulative practice. Please contact me with a short letter of interest if you would like to contribute to the conversation.

Upcoming happenings for SPLAY:

On-going – Practice/Performance with Justine A. Chambers, Lisa Gelley and Josh Martin (and guests)

On-going – Reading Room with Justine A. Chambers and Alexa Mardon

March 3, 17, 24, 31 - 2:15pm – 4:00: Research with Justine & Modus Operandi Training Program

April 14, 15, 16 – 2:00-3:00pm: Research with Justine & Modus Operandi Training Program

April 21, 22, 21 – 3:00-4:00pm: Research with Justine & Modus Operandi Training Program

April 28 and April 29 (International Dance Day) – 3:00-4:00pm: Research with Justine & Modus Operandi Training Program


Photos by Justine A. Chambers.


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