Denise Clarke is an accomplished, respected contemporary dance artist who is a member of the Order of Canada. Over the course of her career she has been involved in all kinds of productions, but this show is personal.
Clarke entered from stage left wearing a large hooded parka and backpack, trudging along as if through a snowy field. That was in fact what she was doing. Through narration and commentary, Clarke told the story of her trek through an Edmonton park on her way to rehearsal two days before Christmas. She was on her way to rehearse this show, and began to wonder why she was bothering with a solo show that nobody would come to see.
Then she spotted a section of the park that was a pristine blanket of snow, you know, the kind that makes you think ‘wouldn’t it be great to mess up that perfection?’ So she did, and does in the show. She put down her bag and did a sequence of her choreography in the snow. That is, until a laberdoodle and its owner came upon her.
This love of dance, and the power of dance to lift our spirits, is a theme that runs through the show. She tells another story about being in an Ottawa park at 3:00 a.m., and having the urge to dance alone to the Paul Simon coming from her headphones. So she did.
This show is personal on another note, as well. While preparing the show, her brother and dad both passed away, and as she explains, her dad was the type of person who always said he didn’t want her to stop what she was doing “just because he kicked the bucket.”
Through all this pain, dance was a large part of her ‘cheer up program,’ and she brought a beautiful peachy pink ballgown to change into and waltz around the stage. She admitted that she’s always wanted to do that in a solo show. For this section, four girls came down from the audience, changed into their dresses, and joined her in a grand waltz.
Another part of this show that I loved were Clarke’s lists, which she translated into movement. She listed her favourite books, each with a corresponding movement, which she dances when she needs cheering up. Her ability to translate story into movement while incorporating witty, entertaining commentary is unlike anything I’ve seen.
Wag was presented October 21 to 25 at the Firehall Arts Centre. For more information, visit firehallartscentre.ca.