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Out Innerspace Channels the Human Instinct to Dance

The contemporary dance company summons the avant-garde music of Asa-Chang for Ballet BC's NOW.

by Yasmine Shemesh

Photo by Marcus Eriksson

Tiffany Tregarthen and David Raymond first heard Asa-Chang’s music almost 20 years ago. The artistic directors of Out Innerspace were in the early days of their collaboration, at a residency in Antwerp, Belgium, when a friend introduced them to the avant-garde percussionist and former bandmaster of the Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra—and whose music would forever transform how the artists interpret movement. 

Now, the Vancouver-based contemporary dance company is revisiting Asa-Chang, and the creative process he inspires, in the world premiere of a brand new performance for Ballet BC. 

“It’s so great to return to a piece of music, and a music artist, that had such a strong impact on the start of our choreographic career, and be able to use it as a reflection point to see how we continue to be inspired similarly,” Tregarthen says, “but [also], how we’ve departed away from what we insist precision needs to be connected to.” 

Ballet BC artists Sarah Pippin and Sidney Chuckas. Photo by Peter Smida

A variety of songs, remixes, and samples from Asa-Chang’s band, ASA-CHANG & Junray, including tracks “- 花-a last flower -” and “Kage no nai Hito (The Shadowless One),” quite literally inform the impulse of the work. The music sounds like “nostalgic futurism,” as Tregarthen describes, and features a collision of staccato, grinding, and industrial textures. Tregarthen and Raymond sat down, listened, and visualized, then translated the feeling and rhythm that materialized in their inner worlds into tangible movement in their bodies. It’s a simple approach that reflects the very human instinct of wanting to dance when one hears music.

“That whole process of listening to the music and asking ourselves, ‘What is it communicating? What do we see? What is it telling us?’ It’s a weird thing,” Raymond explains. “It’s almost like another collaborator in the process, in many ways. And in a way, a director showing us, revealing, what to do or what we see.”

Artists of Ballet BC. Photo by Peter Smida

The choreographers were particularly drawn to the contrasts in Asa-Chang’s work: the proportions of rhythm to arrhythmia, spaciousness to density, familiar to bizarre, humour to profundity. The result is seen in the satisfying ways the dancers speak the sonic language—bodies vibrating when the electronica twitches, long and slow extensions as the vocals drag and distort. 

“We knew it would be a big undertaking to meet the specificity, density and complexity of the music,” add Tregarthen and Raymond, “but we also knew that the Ballet BC dancers would meet our ambition and have the chops to do it.”

David Raymond and Tiffany Tregarthen. Photo by Peter Smida

Out Innerspace’s piece is part of NOW, Ballet BC’s latest program for its 2023/24 season that celebrates female creators on the west coast. Also featured in the program is a new commission from Micaela Taylor, a Los Angeles-based artist and one of the most sought-after choreographers in North America, and the return of Ballet BC alum Crystal Pite’s critically acclaimed The Statement, which combines dance and theatre.

NOW takes place at Vancouver’s Queen Elizabeth Theatre from March 7 to 9, the weekend of International Women’s Day, as well as from March 22 to 23 at Surrey’s Bell Performing Arts Centre | TICKETS & INFO