Saturday, June 22, 2024
June 22, 2024

Loneliness, isolation explored by Shay Kuebler dance event

By KIRSTEN BOLTON

FOR ARTSPRING 

In 2018, when dancer, choreographer and Radical System Art’s artistic director Shay Kuebler learned the U.K. had just appointed a Minister of Loneliness, he felt the concept of social isolation and loneliness might be a relevant theme to explore for his next work. Little did he know that with the arrival of Covid, that disconnection would take on a whole new meaning and even greater global resonance.

The result was Momentum of Isolation (MOI), a show about isolation created in isolation through 2020 and 2021, which debuted as the first live performance back on stage in Vancouver after lockdowns. It was deemed to be arguably the most formidably compelling piece in his repertoire to date.

Through inventive and powerful choreographic language, MOI beautifully translates this universal emotion. Kuebler’s signature style — highly physical dance rooted in his background in martial arts, urban dance and theatre — is on full display, along with his versatile chorus of seven energetic performers.

“It is a topic that has so many layers for me, including society’s shifting values and our ever-advancing attachment to technology and a digital way of life,” said Kuebler from his tour stop in Vernon. “The story very much highlights how important our social bonds are for meaning and real connection.”

In one of his company’s most theatrical and narratively driven works, Kuebler plays a character who works alone, speaking only occasionally to his single green plant and inanimate objects, creating a disconnection with reality. The ambitious production furthers this sensation by integrating video, sound, puppetry and stage craft to surround the dancers and shape its vignettes of a digital world.

With these effects and production values in mind, Kuebler is quick to point out that audiences often find themselves surprised by the emotional range of the scenes. 

“One of the things I cherish the most about MOI has been the diversity of reactions we have received,” he explained. “In one talkback, we had both youth and senior audience members equally respond to the work, but differ entirely on their interpretations of it and why. For me, it sheds light on our goal of being accessible yet inventive to reach people at different levels.”

Since forming in 2014, the Vancouver-based company Radical System Art has represented Canada at the Incolballet Festival in Colombia and the CanaDanse Festival in Israel, performed with the National Arts Centre of Canada three times and completed 12 provincial, national and international tours. Edmonton-born Kuebler, formerly of Vancouver, is now based in Courtenay. 

Prior to the performance on March 27, Kuebler will sit down at Salt Spring Coffee with café proprietor and ArtSpring’s Dance Connector Robbyn Scott to host an informal all-welcome community chat on Tuesday, March 26 from 1 to 2:30 p.m. This is the community’s opportunity to enjoy a coffee and engage with Kuebler over his thoughts about the human value of creativity, play and exploration after 20 years of working in arts and entertainment. 

In bringing now his fifth show over 10 years to ArtSpring, Kuebler is reflective. 

“I’ve always enjoyed my time on Salt Spring Island,” he said. “There’s a sense of community and support here that is very unique in B.C. — a genuine passion, curiosity, and interest for the arts that makes performing here such a privilege.”

Tickets for next Wednesday’s show, which begins at 7:30 p.m., are on sale at tickets.artspring.ca or through the box office Tuesdays through Fridays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. 

Thank you to Joan Farlinger and Salt Spring Coffee for sponsoring this performance, and a special thanks to Dance West Network for supporting this presentation.

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