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Spectacle will utilize the same costumes, meaning new artists can reinterpret the original performance
From their current vantage point, the people of this province — the people of the world, for that matter — can truly say hindsight is 2020.
And if anyone was to train their eye on the ever-shifting rules of the previous year and the way artists adapted to find new ways to spread wonder, “The Fire Kedgy’s Howl” by Neighbourhood Dance Works, part of the National Arts Centre’s “Grand Acts of Theatre,” should stand out as a particularly notable spectacle.
In early October, a group of more than 20 dancers, dressed in headpieces of corrugated cardboard and draped in an assortment of newspaper, various fabrics and small lights, danced down the steps next to the Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court building in downtown St. John’s to Harbourside Park, like a bottled message making its way toward the ocean.
These slightly erratic, free-flowing characters were a whimsical reimagining of a Kedgy, a word from the "Dictionary of Newfoundland English" used to describe someone who does all the odd jobs on a boat, from sounding the foghorn to pulling up the lines.
Their message was a “cry for help,” meant to awaken the viewer to “the resilient nature inherent in all beings so we may do better in our current, conflicted world.”
That cry was backed by a choir directed by Kellie Walsh and music by composer Andrew Staniland, which included percussion, saxophone and electronics.
But almost as soon as that cry rang out, it disappeared, says Calla Lachance, artistic director with Neighbourhood Dance Works.
“The amount of effort that went into creating this large-scale, outdoor performance (and) with all the interesting collaborative pieces, meaning the music, movement, costumes, the headpieces, there was considerable resources that had to be put into that,” she said.
“It happened very quickly.”
With all the beautiful art made for it sitting in storage, Lachance decided it would be a good opportunity to make it an annual event by putting out a call to the local community for proposals.
“I think the way this project was structured, it makes it very accessible for people to just get involved, learn a very simple performative work and go out into the public and share it,” she said. “It just lends itself, in so many ways, that we don’t want to just shelve it and say, ‘it’s done.’ There’s lots to build on.”
The are many possibilities for the project and there would be few limitations on an artist’s imagination, Lachance said.
“Where would you bring your walk, what would you do? Would it be a special walk up on Signal Hill with lanterns? Would it be something in the forest in Pippy Park?” she said. “It’s sort of in that style of a flash mob … it has this very lively, in-the-moment feeling.”
If you couldn't get a ticket to 'The Fire Kedgys' Howl' - or if you simply want to re-experience the Kedgys' magic again...Posted by Neighbourhood Dance Works on Wednesday, January 6, 2021
This year also marks Neighbourhood Dance Works’ 40th year as an organization and the 30th year for its annual Festival of New Dance.
Lois Brown has been involved with Neighbourhood Dance Works since the beginning and was a consultant on “The Fire Kedgy’s Howl.” The original work reminded her of a child running to see a parade, so making it a yearly event is a great idea, she said.
Neighbourhood Dance Works is thankful to have had the opportunity to create a Grand Act of Theatre - The Fire Kedgys’...Posted by Neighbourhood Dance Works on Monday, October 12, 2020
“You have such a pool of different artists together and … there are people who are involved in dance or have a natural talent for dance that we don’t always think of, but this is the kind of project where you end up meeting people you don’t even know and seeing how talented they are,” Brown said. “It’s just really, really fun to have things happening outside that you can, as an audience member, that you didn’t know were going to happen and you can kind of join in the fun of it. I think that’s in part what downtown St. John’s is all about, having some kind of spontaneous fun.”
Lachance said a call for proposals will be issued in the summer and the program will go public this fall.
Andrew Waterman reports on East Coast culture.