TG20: Embers Burning On

Teasing Gravity 2020 Spotlight: Jera Wolfe's Embers

Embers, choreographed by Jera Wolfe, was CCDT’s WinterSong 2019 commission, as well as part of the 2020 Northern Ontario touring program. Surrounding the theme of the winter solstice, Jera utilized many ideas that would be associated with the season of winter, such as finding warmth from the cold through huddling, and the intensity of what a snowstorm is like. Although Jera had implemented his own vision into the piece, each of us as individual dancers have discovered our own interpretation of the movement and the story behind it.

From my perspective, I interpreted the piece based on the role that I have in relationship to the other dancers; I saw that the dance really defined the relationships among us, and how the cold brings us together, both physically and emotionally. Early on in the piece, six of the dancers leave the stage and only one is left on stage. As the dance progresses, three dancers re-enter, and eventually the three others come on, demonstrating how the harsh cold winter brings people together. There are many moments where one dancer or duets are showcased, emphasizing the idea of community support. Even the understated moments -- when some dancers are in the background dancing smaller, simpler movements, or even just observing -- are still key to giving the full story to the audience. Each of us in the cast plays an integral role in bringing everything together to create a moving piece for the audience to watch.

The Creation Process

From the beginning, it was mostly Jera generating movement, which reflected a lot of his past artistic experiences and the styles of dance he has delved into. Early in the process we would learn multiple phrases, then later put them into the context of the piece by connecting them, thus creating a theme. We also spent time working on contact partnering, as well as many lifts. The partner work we do in this piece is very different than what I've done in other dances, where Jera asked us to take more risks and find a new trust in one another.

Being a part of the creation process has definitely impacted the way I dance and perform. From a technical aspect, Jera’s movement was very difficult in a sense that we wouldn’t normally do those motions in our daily training. His movements varied from a hip-hop style to more contemporary, which taught me that it’s possible to execute movement in different ways, with different qualities. For example, we could have done intense floor work characteristic of street dance, but directed to approach it in a more classical fashion. We needed to take larger risks in order to follow along and to keep up with the demands of Jera's creation process. It took time to be able to refine the movement as well as the artistic intent, as both individuals and a group.

From Studio to Stage

Of course, as with any other dance, rehearsing and running a piece in the studio is very different from an actual performance. The addition of the costumes, the stage lighting, and a live audience transforms the entire energy and brings the whole piece to life. So far this season we have performed Embers seven times, and in this time, the piece has been able to grow. We have become more comfortable with the movement, better at adapting to the stage, and more consistent with the success of performing the piece. With each performance we have become more aware of each other and the energy each of us brings to the work. Our connection to one another has grown stronger, and our artistry within the piece has flourished as well.

Moving An Audience Through Movement

Although this work was created around themes of warmth and community support, every viewer's interpretation of Embers will be different. In some way, each person’s elucidation of the piece will reflect upon their past and what they have been through. I think because any art form encourages people to find their own meaning in it, the audience viewing this dance will further connect it to their own life. That personal connection -- along with the relationship portrayed between the dancers, and the emotion-provoking music by Luke Howard -- has the ability to move people and allow them to find their own joy when seeing this piece.

Although the technique and physicality of Jera's movement may be impressive to watch, we as performers must keep story and emotion infused into our dancing, in hopes that the audience will see past the movement to a deeper facet of the dance that speaks to them more profoundly.

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Melodie Yeung is 18 years old and in her second and final season as a member of CCDT's Company. With CCDT she has danced the works of choreographers Carol Anderson, Jennifer Archibald, Gioconda Barbuto, Colin Connor, Roderick George, Alyssa Martin, and Deborah Lundmark, among others.

WATCH: Embers Trailer Video

Meet the artists and discover more about Teasing Gravity 2020 here.

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Performance Photos by David Hou (2019)

Costume Design by Angel Wong

Costume Production by Krista Dowson

Lighting Design by Arun Srinivasan

Embers original cast dancers: Paris Forbes, Lola Rose Jenkins, Jeffrey Lapira, Kaiya Lee, Jaedyn Richards, Sydney Runions, and Melodie Yeung; Understudies: Nikkie Jeong and Daniel Santokie

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