We sat down with dance artist Alexis Fletcher in June, after her technical residency with New Works at the The Dance Centre in May 2021.
During the residency Alexis brought to life her first full length creation: assemble. The majority of this creation was born during her time spent in solitude, given the restrictions of the pandemic.
“Creating solo work has been my first exploration into my voice on my own as a choreographer, as opposed to my voice as an interpreter during my 14 years dancing with Ballet BC… it felt really right to make this solitary endeavour.”
When asked about her inspirations for this work, Alexis shared with us that several questions arose in her process. Questions like: What happens in that moment directly after a major event? What kind of inward journey does one embark upon when our lives suddenly change course? How is memory stored in our (cellular) physical bodies?
What emerged was assemble, this full evening solo performance which highlights her rigorous and virtuosic contemporary movement language, as well as her reflective, personal insights into the human experience. Evocative musical scores by Sigur Rós and Dustin O’Halloran set the tone for this contemplative evening of contemporary dance. In assemble, we follow the solo performer, described as “honed and intensely expressive” by Stir Magazine, through rich and theatrical stage environments created by visual designer and filmmaker Sylvain Senez, and lighting designer Theo John Hunter Bell. This 55 minute performance is a poetic work focused on how the sharing of our individual, personal stories can and should encourage others to reflect on their own. assemble weaves together layers of text – written and spoken primarily by Alexis herself – with Senez’s multifaceted set design and projected films, which transform the stage atmosphere continuously throughout the performance. assemble explores memory, loss, and the capacity of human beings to voyage inward; finding in themselves reserves of hope, joy, and personal growth even within times of struggle.
Alexis pointed out that although the limitations of pandemic eliminated the in-person experiences of presenting the final stages of work for many artists, there is a potential beauty in the ability to live in one’s own creation for a longer period of time and to witness evolutions of the work that wouldn’t have developed otherwise.
There were several drawbacks, delays, and logistical changes that came up with the fluctuating BC health orders and COVID-19 safety protocols affecting all industries during the planning phases of this residency, and there was a prevailing trend of migrating to digital livestreams, even for works that weren’t created for digital audiences.
“I just love the choice that New Works made – they never gave up. They never cancelled. The fact that they allowed me as the artist to call the decision making shots, about how to adapt, and pivot and change timelines… there was a feeling of empowerment.”
She shared that by the end of presenting her technical residency to a very small audience of trusted colleagues and family, tears were shed as a result of sharing a live in-person performance space with others after so long. Alexis and her team are excited to welcome audiences live to the World Premiere this January.
“We felt that this work needed to be shared in person and not through livestream, so we have waited until we were able to welcome audiences back into our theatre spaces again to do so. We are extremely grateful to New Works for their unwavering support from the first creation phases through the presentation phase we are now entering.“
Alexis commented on the impact and growth that came with her newly found skills and experience in coordinating a whole team and producing her own work for the first time – all of which came as a result of this residency. Her and her partner Sylvain are also grateful for the new artistic relationships that came out of this residency with Theo John Hunter Bell (Lighting Designer), Jill Henis (Dramaturge) and Neil Griffiths (Stage Manager).
“We quickly became so close, like family, and that was a beautiful experience.”
This tech residency gave way to Alexis’ first full-length presentation as a soloist and while she said it is emotionally intense and physically demanding to spend that much time on stage alone, it is also generative in a sense, and ultimately satisfying to come to the end of such an introspective and personal journey. An almost universally parallel feeling for many of us as we all yearned to witness the end of a self-quarantined lifestyle adaption.
She also reflects on the fact that she never feels alone on stage because the rich visual elements created by Sylvain and Theo feel like they become additional characters in the performance – the visual elements such as projected film and the set design feel like storytellers in their own right during this piece.
New Works is now delighted to announce the World Premiere of Alexis Fletcher’s assemble on January 13 – 15, 2022, at The Scotiabank Dance Centre in Vancouver and tickets are now on sale!
In addition to the ongoing support from New Works, assemble is generously supported by a Presenting Sponsorship from Ballet BC, as well as by The British Columbia Arts Council, The Bank of Montreal, The Dance Centre, Dance Victoria, Shadbolt Centre for the Arts, Lamondance, Dance//Novella and the generosity of individual donors.
Choreographer and Performer
A dance artist, creator, and producer, I have danced with Ballet BC for 14 years and subsequently have been a guest artist and Artist in Residence. Now independent, I hold the position of Artist in Residence at Vancouver’s Chutzpah! Festival, Dance Victoria, and Shadbolt Centre for the Arts. I am also a member of the Creative Hub at Presentation House Theatre. My creations have been supported by Dancing on the Edge, InFrinGing Festival, New Works, Vernon Performing Arts Centre, The Gordon Smith Foundation, BC Arts Council, Canada Council for the Arts and Dance Victoria.
With Ballet BC I have had the opportunity to work with world-renowned choreographers and designers, have been involved in numerous creative collaborations where I have worked closely alongside choreographers to create their movement. These creative visionaries include Crystal Pite, Emily Molnar, Johan Inger, Stijn Celis, Jacopo Godani, Medhi Walerski, Fernando Hernando Magadan, Serge Bennathan, Gioconda Barbuto, John Alleyne, Cayetano Soto and Jorma Elo among others. I have also been honoured to interpret existing works by leading voices such as Martha Graham, Twyla Tharp, William Forsythe, Sharon Eyal and Ohan Naharin. I was also privileged to be one of the core group of dancers, led by Emily Molnar, who built the renowned creation-based company it is today, sharing our work on world stages such as Sadler’s Wells, Jacob’s Pillow, Canada’s National Arts Centre, The Joyce Theatre in New York, BAM, Movimentos Festival, Teatre Grec, among many others.
Independently I have worked collaboratively with creators such as Sidra Bell, James Gnam, Simone Orlando, Rob Kitsos, Wen Wei Wang and Vanessa Goodman.
As a producer, I have co-created a multidisciplinary performance space and series with my husband, Sylvain Senez, at our home in Vancouver. On our outdoor stage we curate and present annual performance events, entitled The Dance Deck. This series has been running since 2015.
We also host art film nights inside our house as a way of supporting independent filmmakers.
As a dance artist I am fascinated by how exploring the movement potential of the human body becomes a way of accessing the inner landscapes of our spirits and psyches, and this is the primary motivation behind my own physical practice and choreographic interests. I believe that dance is a unique vehicle with which to share, research, and discuss our humanity.I acknowledge, with gratitude, my privilege to be working and creating on the unceded territories of the Coast Salish Peoples: Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), Stó:lō and Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) and xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam) Nations.
Visual, Set and Film Designer
Sylvain Senez has been active on the professional Canadian dance scene for over 40 years. He danced as a soloist with Les Grands Ballets Canadiens, Judith Marcuse Dance Company, Coleman Lemieux Company and a principal artist at Ballet BC. Sylvain also appeared in The Strange Adventure of Myself, a full-length solo created for him by Serge Bennathan.
From 1991 to 2016 he has worked for Ballet British Columbia as a dancer, Ballet Master and Rehearsal Director where he has had the privilege of working and assisting for the remounts and creations of many internationally renowned choreographers. He was the stager for remounting Medhi Walerski’s ballets, assisting him for creations, as well as playing the role of Father Capulet in his Romeo and Juliet creation for Ballet BC. He has choreographed for the Ballet BC choreographic workshop, Dancing on the Edge and the Vancouver Opera. He is an accomplished ballet teacher, a videographer, and a photographer specializing in dance and portraiture. He has carried his artistic interest with film and stage design to the productions of Alexis Fletcher’s Altar’d and light in the rafters, and Rachel Meyer’s Quartet and Transverse Orientation. He and his wife Alexis Fletcher are the Artistic Directors of Casa Om Presents. This platform produces The Dance Screen, a dance art film presentation, and The Dance Deck, an annual multi disciplinary performance series that is presented in their backyard.