Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Stories lost, history suppressed

Choreographed by Lori Hamar. Featuring dance artists Brandy Baybutt, Jung-ah Chung, Nicole McSkimming and composer Dave Chokroun.
Blood Line photo by Miles Lowry

Blood Line is a new contemporary dance work by Victoria dancer and choreographer, Lori Hamer.

It is the first section of a three part work she plans to have completed and premiered in 2012.  The final phase will see the work expanded into a full-length dance theatre production (45-60 minutes) featuring live music and an exploration of Lori’s personal ties to the Ukrainian culture and the impact of specific historical events on the culture.

Lori felt compelled to share her experience of Ukrainian-related history as she has been discovering it, as well as her personal experience of the powerful force behind this irrepressible culture.

Her interest was sparked by her discovery of the internment of Ukrainian Canadians during the First World War. Connected to her cultural background, she was inspired to understand more about the character and conditions of Ukrainians. During this learning process, she began to wonder if she had a choreographic response to the many layers the research uncovered. Her answer was a resounding yes!

Blood Line had its debut on Sunday, January 30, 2011 at the Metro Theatre in Victora,as a part of the LOLA Projects program during Dance Days in Victoria.

Lori’s intention is to reflect a Ukrainian experience in Canada – one that acknowledges the complexity of Canadian Ukrainians who continue to practice a traditional way of life that no longer exists in their motherland, as well as the vast majority of ‘non-practicing’ Ukrainians who carry a genetic blueprint of their ancestors’ resilience and traditional values.

Blood Line has evolved into a trio of dancers. One represents a Ukrainian immigrant while the other two exchange roles between literal expressions of supporting characters to figurative expressions of image, emotion and concept.

Last Sunday’s performance of the first phase of Lori's dance work explored themes of physical resistance and perseverance. New music was composed for it, by Vancouver-based composer Dave Chokroun. Symbols and props from Ukrainian culture consisted of a pysanka (Ukrainian Easter egg), scarves, and a vinok. Lori enjoyed the support of Victoria's Veselka Dancers in incorporating authentic cultural elements. (Veselka was out in full force for the performance, and I had the pleasure of meeting several of them.)

Recorded music and a mother-child dialogue in Ukrainian were also featured in Sunday's performance. The latter in particular resonated with some audience members, who commented on it after the performance.

An unusual component was a spoken part quoting excerpts from Danny Evanishen's story of the internment, published in Kobzar's Children: A Century of Untold Ukrainian Stories. In the process of obtaining permission to use excerpts from Marsha Skrypuch, the editor of the anthology, the two came up with the idea of having copies of the book for sale at the theatre.

As one of the contributing authors to the anthology, I was thrilled to be invited to the performance to autograph copies of the book. It was an absolute delight to meet Lori in person, on the heels of a very enjoyable interview for Nash Holos which aired the week before. 

It seems we are both the type to be the last to leave the party. Here I am, after the show, with an exhausted but exhilarated (and stunningly gorgeous) Lori.

Pawlina (L), Lori Hamar (R)

Lori has promised to keep me posted on the development of her project, so that I can share it with Nash Holos listeners and readers of this blog. After driving the Malahat for the first time myself, I am now looking for any excuse to visit Victoria again!

So, stay tuned!


Kenneth said...

Excellent interview and blog posting!! I just listened to the show last night -- and now I get to read about the event. I think you even commented that you would be there "weather permitting."

Pawlina said...

Thanks for the kind words Kenneth!

Yes there is a stretch of highway ("the Malahat") just north of Victoria that wise Islanders know to avoid in bad weather. Fortunately I had good weather both ways. (The view was spectacular!)

Glad you enjoyed the show and the blog post. :-) Thanks for commenting!