Shion Skye Carter embodies a brushstroke in Residuals (住み・墨)

The SFU alum reconnects with Japanese calligraphy in her dance solo

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Shion Skye Carter posing in white paper garments in front of a black background
PHOTO: Lula-Belle Jedynak

By: C Icart, Staff Writer

Residuals (住み・墨) culminates as Shion Skye Carter pulls out a delicate paper dress and puts it on to dance. Presented through The Dance Centre’s Iris Garland Emerging Choreographer Award, this captivating solo dance performance at the Scotiabank Dance Centre marks Carter’s search “for her own, distinct artistic voice.” Carter won the Emerging Choreographer Award in 2021 after graduating from SFU in 2019 with a major in dance with a minor in kinesiology. 

住み・墨 combines the Japanese words “to reside” and “ink,” which are both pronounced “sumi.”

In Residuals (住み・墨), Japanese calligraphy becomes a vehicle for Carter to explore memories that result in “a journey of self-discovery, where the layers of her identity begin to unfurl.” It was fascinating to see how she drew on the art form to explore her relationship with her heritage. Carter was born in Japan, moved to Canada at the age of six, and began learning calligraphy before she became a dancer. 

After taking a break from calligraphy to focus on school, Carter reached out to her calligraphy mentor, Yoko Murakami, to begin retaking lessons for this solo. “Now, calligraphy is a practice that I can come back to when I need a meditative activity to regain a sense of groundedness,” they said.

As someone whose dance experience is limited to the happy dance I do when I eat something delicious, I felt pretty out of my element attending the show, but seeing how Carter used her body and the space to tell a story was amazing. 

The colour scheme of the performance revolved around black and white, representing ink and paper. As Carter dances surrounded by paper, the abstract lighting helps recreate her grandparents’ home. The dance performers’ willingness to play with shadows and darkness created striking images. Carter begins in a box, illuminated only by a ray of light which she reaches towards. As Andie Lloyd, who did the lighting design for both pieces, mentioned during the post-show artist talkback: they are not afraid of the dark.

The show post-show artist talkback included Carter and Stefan Nazarevich, the composer for Residuals (住み・墨), along with others in the show. Throughout the performance, she embodies the ink, the brush, and the people in her family. “​​Sometimes, I feel that I’m better able to express myself through my body rather than with words,” said Carter. “Calligraphy, merged with movement, has acted as a portal for me to reconnect to parts of my Japanese heritage and cultural expectations.”

Residuals (住み・墨) shows that Carter is an innovative and incredibly talented artist with a truly unique point of view. They’re already in the process of creating Threading Echoes, a collaborative dance performance about the history of shifu, a traditional Japanese fabric weaving technique. Follow her on Instagram to keep up with this exciting upcoming project, and more.