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Interview: Alicia Grant

words by Nathaniel G. Moore
03.15.2011

If I could do it all over again and not bore people to death with my artistic dreams, performance-based emails, sense of mostly masculine entitlement, and general all around prehistoric shit-disturbing presence, I’d be Alicia Grant. I know this would require a time machine, surgery, an act of at least two Gods, and probably some Canada Council funding, but it’s be worth it. I don’t know anything about modern dance. Come to think of it, I don’t know anything about ancient dance either, but was intrigued to see Toronto dance artist Alicia Grant’s performance at Buddies in Bad Time’s recent Rhubarb Festival. Grant’s piece was a well-tempered exercise in restraint, excess, and comedy, so you know, a cross between The Matrix, Dirty Dancing, “Jersey Shore,” and The Vagina Monologues. And for at least half of it, there was no music.

Now that I’m fully qualified at accessing the merits of contemporary dance, and will clearly be asked to judge the next round of Canada Council grants, I can move forward and ask Alicia Grant some preliminary questions of just what makes her tick, or in some cases, dance.

Your performance Stay Here, Don’t Go was very emotional and reactive. It also had vapors of a satire on feminine quest for excess, fun, adventure, life cycles, and possibly a need for vulnerability in the superficial facade we live in. Can you talk about what were you trying to express in your piece?
For that piece, I was working with transformation. Mostly it’s that spiritual guru meditation feeling of staying present to the people and circumstances around me as they transform and not wishing for something else. When I went into a process with this intention, I found all sorts of things — all of the emotion, neuroses, humor, fear, and adventure that you probably saw in the work. I wanted to create a piece that had space for feeling uncomfortable, vulnerable, and pathetic. Often we want to present the best sides of ourselves — the beauty, the competency and the “I have my shit together” feelings. I wanted to see what it was like to share it all.

What do you do when you are not dancing around?
Practice and teach yoga. I cook a lot of lentils. I practice craniosacral therapy and lie down on my becalm balls. I read a lot of books. I like cracking jokes.

How long have you been dancing?
I’ve been dancing since the age of spandex hot-pants and me being fully committed to lip-synching Paula Abdul and bossing everyone else around.

You are from the East Coast — how does your geographic origin influence your art practice?
Newfoundland is a magical place. It’s rugged, raw, and isolated. It does not have finished edges. It’s a difficult place to live: no sun, mountains of snow, and the wind will cut you in two. You have to be resilient to survive there. Yet the people there are so warm and hilarious and tender. If I make that connection of geographic origin and dancing then that’s what I appreciate in my practice. I want to create something that is messy and difficult and uncomfortable yet can touch people in their tender little hearts and help them laugh at themselves.

What is the dance community like in Toronto? Is it supportive and organic or competitive and completely cruel?
The dance community in Toronto is a big ball of love. There is a multi-tiered support system. People of all generations are helping each other — from classes, to mentorship, to posturing, to steering committees. My friends Amanda Acorn and Eroca Nicols have co-founded the Toronto Dance Community Love-in. They provide a forum for discussion and run dance training workshops with great teachers. This is a very ripe time in Toronto and I’m excited about what’s happening!

What are some projects you are working on in the near future that we can look forward to?
I’m working on a sweet video project about two babes and their love of Can-Lit and special fashion outfits. I’m working on a duet for two women from random acts of dance that involves a fat gym mat! And I’ll be going to Berlin soon to work on a project with Zoja Smutny.

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