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Posted on August 23, 2016 in General
Simile: A Creative Camaraderie

In Vertebrate Dreams/photo David Cooper

Dance artists Ziyian Kwan and Vanessa Goodman share some of the ideas and inspiration behind Simile, an evening of contemporary dance coming up as part of the Scotiabank Dance Centre Open House on September 10.

Why Simile?

Ziyian Kwan:

Vanessa and I have chosen to call the show Simile because it refers to something that is like another. From my perspective, it’s an intentionally ironic title because our aesthetics, approaches and interests are worlds apart. Yet there is something uniquely simpatico about how we work together. Simile is an evening of dance that celebrates our creative camaraderie.

Vanessa Goodman:

The production on September 10 is very exciting for me, as Ziyian and I have been supporting one another and collaborating in a number of ways since 2013. Simile is in many ways a culmination of our interest in each other's work and friendship. It is always such a pleasure and honour to collaborate with colleagues in new ways to see where you can grow and be challenged inside your artistic practice.

Still Rhyming/photo Katie Huisman

What are the works that will be performed?


For Still Rhyming, singer-songwriter Jo Passed has written original music and will be performing with me. The piece responds to Patti Smith’s book M Train by addressing questions that I have about creative muse. It’s an invisible force that I find both irksome and profound. I can never predict, tether or even see it yet I have such an intimate relationship with it. In M Train, Patti Smith writes this koan: “what is nothing – nothing is what you can see of your eyes, without a mirror”. I think this is what muse is, Nothing. It’s a ghost that I’ve had a love affair with for the last 30 years.

Vanessa and I are creating and dancing a duet called In Vertebrate Dreams. We’re working with the idea of the animal within to explore how we are distinct creatures with opposing yet complimentary characteristics.For me, this is emblematic of a larger tenet: 'live and let live’. We are each of us, unique sub-species within a species that enjoys myriad political, spiritual and sexual practices, learning to coexist and embrace each other’s values.


I am creating and performing in a new solo titled Floating Upstream with an original sound composition by Vancouver-based artist Loscil. This work explores the notion of having one's head in the clouds where anything is simultaneously possible and impossible. Textures that are currently inspiring the creation of the work are the lightness of vaporous qualities in juxtaposition with the density of storm clouds. It will be a visceral journey for me and the audience. Loscil and I have been collaborating on several works over the last year including my solo Container that just toured to the Seattle's On the Boards’ Northwest New Works Festival and Portland's Risk/Reward Festival. It is so great to be continuing our creative process together as I find creating with his soundscapes so rich and driving. 

In Vertebrate Dreams/photo David Cooper

What Inspires You to Create?


I’m interested in finding an expression of pathos and grace, shadow and clown. For me, productivity is antithetical to creativity. But the seduction of play is explicit and delicious.

I knit constructs just so that there is yarn to unravel. Like a cat reveling in a mouse's slow death. Only I am both the cat and the mouse, preying on my own psyche to find a talisman that is symbolic of the hunt.

The adventure is always enriched by exchange with artists from dance and across forms. So I’m learning that the autonomy I crave is only as potent as its ability to receive and respond. I think this is why I’ve embarked on a collaborative work with Vanessa. It’s also what I’m trying to express through my piece Still Rhyming. In M Train, Patti Smith writes of many artists, alive and dead, of how their work enlivens her imagination. I feel much the same way. Creativity is a lush forest, a living ecology through which we traverse, alone and together, to discover something other.


Inspiration comes from many places in all artistic practices. I am inspired by everything I see, read and hear. The priority of my creative process is to foster work that reflects the human condition. I invest in task-based explorations to create authentic, in-the-moment experiences for both the performers and the audience. It is the sincerity of sensation that excites me creatively and drives my practice. Intentional chaos also informs my practice, and I strive for the element of surprise. Ultimately, I believe in using dance to reflect how we engage with the world around us and to decode contemporary experience.


The Dance Centre presents Simile, featuring work by Ziyian Kwan | dumb instrument Dance and Vanessa Goodman | Action at a Distance, on September 10, 2016 at 8pm at Scotiabank Dance Centre.


Photo credits top to bottom: David Cooper; Katie Huisman; David Cooper. 


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