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Performing in Protest

By Grace Wells-Smith
  • Evans / Photo by Jonathan Elliott
  • Photo by Jonathan Elliott
  • Photo by Jonathan Elliott
  • Evans / Photo by Jonathan Elliott

Yesterday, hundreds gathered in Toronto to march in support of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs opposing the Coastal GasLink pipeline, a pipeline that will run through Wet’suwet’en territory in British Columbia. Some protesters not only marched – they danced.

Organized by Aria Evans, ten people performed what Evans described as a “performative protest” – a thirty-minute structured group improvisation – before the march left Christie Pits Park.

The march is one of many across the country, and Evans saw an opportunity to get involved as a dance artist.

“I think our bodies are powerful,” Evans said. “Our bodies also span across language. In a city like Toronto that is so multicultural, if we can centre the body as being a primary language, I think that’s what the power of dance is.”

Evans is the artistic director of Political Movement, a dance-theatre company in Toronto. She said her work has always been socially and politically engaged and she wanted to bring that work outside of the theatre.

“I think it’s really easy to put arts inside of a hierarchy,” Evans said. “I wanted to actually show up and do something that went beyond putting something on a stage.”

To do this, Evans put out a call on Facebook this past Friday, inviting friends to participate in the performance: “Movers (anyone/everyone): who wants to join? I’ll provide details on what we can do with our bodies for the land!” she wrote. And what they did with their bodies took place on a long silver banner spread out over the ground, like a runway. The word RECONCILIATION was painted in bold black letters. The performers had four roles. One group collapsed on the ground, and others traced around their bodies with permanent markers. Others splashed red paint around the outlines of the bodies or danced with plastic water bottles strung together like scarves.

Photo by Jonathan ElliottPhoto by Jonathan Elliott

 

Ximena Huizi, a theatre artist who is originally from Venezuela and one of the performers, believes that holding viewers’ focus for a longer period of time, with a performance, allows them to reflect on what the performance is saying. “We just installed our bodies in expressions of simple images that represent the violations that we are witnessing,” they said.

Huizi / Photo by Jonathan ElliottHuizi / Photo by Jonathan Elliott

 

Evans believes that artists shouldn’t be scared of making this kind of work. “I think if we make work that reflects the world that we live in and is asking questions, and diving into hard conversations, we’re contributing to the world we want to be a part of,” she said.

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