Out Innerspace Dance Theatre is devoted to creating exciting and integral contemporary-dance works. Through their research and experimentation, the Vancouver-based company celebrates the importance of challenging preconceptions of what is to be experienced and expounded in contemporary dance-theatre. The company was officially formed in 2007 by David Raymond and Tiffany Tregarthen, after years of various collaborative endeavours together. During a pleasant conversation with Raymond, I had the opportunity to ask him for some more detailed information about the company, the process of creation of their last work, their methodology, and upcoming productions.
Where are you and Tiffany located right now? And what are busy with?
Currently Tiffany and I are developing a piece for Hessisches Staatsballett that will premiere on February 18th, so we just returned from Germany two weeks ago. We spent four weeks generating and developing material, getting to know the dancers and building some of the basis of the work. We go back in January for another four week long creation towards the premiere at the end of February. This is the first year we have worked with a company outside our own. We created a piece on NDT 2 early this year, and then a piece for Ballett BC (British Columbia) in Vancouver that was premiered in May.
How did you and Tiffany met? And when did you start collaborating?
We met in the dance scene in Vancouver. Tiffany had just moved back from New York City and I was finishing my preliminary training in a performance-company, but I was more in the commercial dance scene. At the same time I was trying to find my way into something else. I was very interested in exploring movement invention, trying to find different languages outside the world I was currently in. Tiffany and I started working together in 2004 and right away we felt we had shared values and desired similar things in terms of where we wanted to bring our dancing. Despite coming from different worlds we were both making dance, we were both very inspired by each other’s perspectives and approach. We both looked for a place to go to find different influences and meet different dancers and artists, so we moved to Antwerp, Belgium in 2005 and we spent two years in a residency. We had open studio-space so we spent every day to develop our movement language, experiment, and explore different kind of approaches and ideas, and also being influenced by the dance scene there, the creators, the classes of different forms. It was a period that allowed us to really focus on our own creative practice and also to develop movement languages from our own bodies whilst gaining other skills in different dance forms. That was the basis of how Out Innerspace was formed.
After two years we went back to Vancouver, we were trying to figure out whether we would should stay and base ourselves in Europe or not. Then our presence was starting to take root in Vancouver, we also felt the need and desire to be closer to our families and also we liked the idea to come back here and see if we could start something.
So we eventually made the decision to move back and we started making works as Out Innerspace just with the two of us. We made duets for a number of years and we were very focused on developing our own performance language. We were much inspired by dance theatre and many other forms of western, European contemporary dance but also, because of our background, extensively in commercial dance, stage and theatre based like Broadway, western American dance forms. The combination of all these styles found its way deep into our vernacular language or the DNA of the things we make.
What about the name of your company? What does Out Innerspace mean to you?
We have always had a fascination with the relationship between the macro and micro, the cosmos and the earth, and how external forces can mimic or match internal forces, and I think for both of us at that time dance was also a medium that allowed us to express or work through the abstraction of our feelings, our relationships, the way we relate to the world. We liked the idea to go deeper inwards and also to expand that in some way. A lot of our questions have to do with the relationship between the interpersonal, the internal guardian life and also how it connects to the external and the feedback between those two realms. That was the main influence of it, but I remember it was challenging to ask ourselves: how do we find something to call ourselves that we can get behind for a long time? (Laughs) But we found that Out Innerspace could allude to many different things, feels deeply connected to the core of many of our interests and influences, and tends to stay related to the things we strive to make work about or the questions we are asking when we are creating.
Is “Bygones” the first piece you worked on with other dancers? And how did that creative process unfold?
We have created a number of pieces prior to “Bygones” with other dancers, but in the piece we showed in Stuttgart we worked for the first time with two new dancers. With the lighting and video designer we had already worked on multiple projects together. Actually, with the lighting designer James Proudfoot, we had been working for almost 15 years, so basically we have collaborated with him since the beginnings of Out Innerspace. There is a long line of conversations, understanding and feedback loops going on between us. Regarding the dancers, David Harvey has been dancing with us for about four or five years. He is a Seattle-based dancer.
Tiffany and I run a post secondary dance-program in Vancouver called “Modus Operandi” and Renée Sigouin, Elya Grant and Aiden Cass were at some point dancers in that program; so we also had a long relationship and conversation going on with them over time, developing but also dancing together. Renée has been dancing with Out Innerspace since 2013-14, so she has been with us for quite a while. We had been working on a shared practice with “Bygones;” we spent quite a lot of time working on an improvisation practice, developing a specific way of dancing, and a specific set of tools that was needed to generate a unique physicality. We were really interested in the relationships between chaos and order, thresholds and moments of transformation. That was the basis of development for the movement language.
What is the story behind “Bygones”?
I think we try to get around this theme of something from the past that we all share, maybe is not the same event but somehow, in different ways, we all were affected by something universal, and at the same time there was also a sort of detachment for each of the players and characters in their own world. The common thread between all them was some form of disconnection, separation or loss that they had experienced, yet different narratives for each one. We tried to build a different story; a kind of back-history and exposition for each of the characters. And then we searched for a way to thread their world; find place for collision or alignment, a preterite intention to build through.
One of the central themes in that process was the cross-path between creation and destruction, thinking about beginnings and endings that are in a kind of loop; how beginnings are endings and endings are beginnings. We were trying to tap into our relationship with attachment, to the way in which we transform and connect to, or mould ourselves around things. The way we transmit between one another. The inexplicable, intangible forces that move through and around and influence us and the space that occupies things as well. For example, the objects in the piece have a life of their own, the chair and the book, and how human presence, history and time can somehow occupy those objects filling them with memory and giving them new life.
We spent lots of time digging into the idea of the Jungian shadow. That was a major influence in the work, creating this darker force and set of characters that enter into that world. We were asking questions such as, “What generated it? Where does it go? Is it a force that exhausts itself and dissipates?” A lot of the work was built from centering ourselves around certain types of interests and questions, and being tactile with the answers provided.
Are you thinking to go fully into choreographing and to leave the dancing to the performers or you’ll continue engaging in both?
I think we’ll keep doing both. There is a whole new realm of exploration and how to be as a dancer that is moving into new stages of life. There is so much to tap into in terms of embodiment and how the evolution of your body and your perspectives bring something new into what you you are working on. I also feel that one key to how our practice worked well until now is that we are very much there with the dancers, we have a very tactile connection. We danced with each other so much, we have a shared practice; so being separate from it incites a small amount of fear in me, and I feel it creates a kind of distance in being able to understand each other through non-verbal forms of communication. So the idea is to keep being in the work, but to figure out how we can manage that still caring for the work from the outside, and understanding what is building and accumulating from the world outside of the piece.
You mentioned you worked with Crystal Pite. Were you members of Kidd Pivot or in other productions?
Yes, Tiffany and I were long time dancers in Kidd Pivot with Crystal. We started dancing with her during “Tempest Replica” and then we were involved in “Betroffenheit” and “Revisor.”
The pandemic really created a big paradigm shift for everyone, but in the last years we have been moving more in the direction of our own work. We still have a long-standing friendship with her. We miss that family for sure, it’s a change in life.
What about the Vancouver dance scene?
It’s a super vibrant community of amazing artists of many influences, it’s a very inspiring place to be involved with. There are so many artists that inspire Tiffany and I, who are making work in different media and realms for different reasons. It’s a rich place to be based in terms of the information, the mastery and the artistry that people have here. There is willingness to share and also to connect and be in conversation with one another and that is really wonderful. In terms of what is influencing the community, there are amazing dancers in Vancouver, really wonderful dancers but the influences are also evolving. Just the increased ability for people to travel around over the last 10 years and be able to taste and connect with different parts of the world is transforming the work and the influences you hear a lot.
I feel there is a shift happening, maybe because of the pandemic, but also generationally there is a whole new generation of dancers and artists and educators and people involved in many different ways with dance, building their own light and momentum in the community. It’s nice to see all these new projects, all these different kinds of ideas, it’s very bubbly. There are many different perspectives and approaches, there is lot of experimentation, so it’s exciting to see and learn about stuff which is happening here that I wasn’t aware of. It’s always thrilling to go and see a performance, a work from an artist you don’t know, everyone with their own journey and past with their work that transforms in so many different ways. There are lots of stirring conversations happening here.