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Posted on September 11, 2018 in General
Katie Duck: Improvisor + Innovator

Internationally-renowned improvisation pioneer Katie Duck comes to Vancouver this month and will perform CAGE, her trenchant feminist analysis of the human condition, on September 28. Ben Brown, musician, composer and founder of Music and Movement Mondays (MAMM), is one of the local performers joining her on stage, and he has been instrumental in bringing her to our city.

We sat down with Ben to discuss CAGE, his relationship with Katie, and dance/music improv collaborations.

The Dance Centre: For the uninitiated…. Who is Katie Duck?

Ben Brown: Katie is a movement, text and sound artist based in Amsterdam. She has a career that spans over 30 years, working closely with live musicians. She is my teacher, collaborator and friend.

TDC: How and when did you meet her?

BB: Katie and I met on a gig in Amsterdam. In 2014, I received a Canada Council Grant to study with Dame Evelyn Glennie and Katie Duck in Europe. Katie agreed to have me join her improv workshops in Amsterdam, but our first real meeting was performing together at the 0T301 venue alongside sewing machine musician, Lisa Simpson (who has worked extensively with Vancouver dancer Kelly McInnes) and some excellent local musicians and dancers. That night was an unforgettable greeting into the Amsterdam improv scene.

TDC: What made you decide to bring her to Vancouver?

BB: It was the next step in our on-going mentorship and some necessary karma. For the past 4-5 years I have been travelling to Amsterdam to work and study with Katie. She has been nothing but deeply generous with sharing her time, expertise and community with me. I felt it was time to return the favour by hosting Katie on my home turf. So, I wrote and received a BC Arts Council Grant to conduct a two-way mentorship where I worked with Katie in her hometown and then my own. I will learn a great deal by seeing how Katie interacts with my own community and how the teachings are received within Vancouver’s music and dance communities.

TDC: What is she like as a person?

BB: Katie’s humour, quick wit, work ethic and curiosity are infectious. I’ll often go over to her place for a brief visit and end up staying for hours – talking, making food, listening to music, sharing the practice. I have never met anyone who cares about their work/community with so much vigour and heart. 

TDC: How would you describe her performing style?

BB: Present.

TDC: Tell us about CAGE and what your role will be.

BB: We (Katie, local musicians James Meger, Roxanne Nesbitt and me) are currently researching and developing Vancouver’s CAGE score via emails back and forth. But certainly, we will all be performing, there will be no orchestra or guy pushing buttons on a laptop in the corner. 


“The title CAGE also refers to how the institutionalization of absolutely everything, the loss of love, the need to face the anatomic technology perfection of what the Vagina actually is, and the use of death as a tactic for fear has suppressed our emotions and feelings forcing us all to live in a CAGE”-Katie Duck

TDC: How do you think CAGE will resonate in the context of the #MeToo movement?

BB: As far as I can tell, both the #metoo movement and CAGE are about women’s voices being heard and their experiences validated. It is vital to continue supporting these types of platforms, so that listening to and respecting women become integral practices for ourselves, our communities and the world.

TDC: How much of the show will be improvised? How will you prepare for it?

BB: CAGE is comprised of a semi-improvised score. Katie designs a music soundtrack and video, so these will be set. The four artists involved are all fantastic improvisers and risk takers, so I’m guessing there will be surprises for all.

TDC: Why do you like to do improv performances?

BB: It keeps me honest. It beats playing the same song every night.

TDC: What other dance/music improvisation collaborations have you been involved with?  What were the results?

BB: Between 2014-2017 I created and facilitated Vancouver’s improv music and dance improv series MAMM.  The results were the beginnings of a common practice between musicians and dancers. In 2016 I did a project with Vancouver dance artist Justine Chambers called ‘We’re Making A Band’. We hired two dancers and two drummers to transpose the physicality of the drummer into the choreographic. This is where my interest lies now, in exploring the physical expression of drumming and how this movement influences compositional choices.


Katie Duck: CAGE

Friday September 28 2018, 7pm

Scotiabank Dance Centre, 677 Davie St, Vancouver


Photos: Top and Right courtesy of artists, Left: Jason Ma




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