Gotta Go Church received three Dora Award nominations, and two Dora Awards this year for Outstanding Performance by an Individual Female–Kate Franklin, Outstanding Lighting Design–Simon Rossiter, and Outstanding Choreography nomination for Valerie Calam.
In this piece, I was inspired to find a deep spiritual energy in Kate that could be carried and evolved through her physicality. More and more, I feel a pull towards ‘physical states of the body’ as a path towards being present onstage.
Kate and I created a space where she is free to make decisions in the moment, while maintaining a pre-determined structure and arc. We feel that it is important to leave space in the piece for Kate to feel the reactions to her actions.
I notice that my experience changes when I watch Kate trying to negotiate interaction, perspective changes, and recurrences in the moment. I am affected by the realness of her commitment. I see that this process leads the performer towards embodiment, which (for me) is the ultimate goal.
Choreography by Valerie Calam. Composition by Paul Shepherd. Performance by Kate Franklin.
REVIEW excerpt in The Dance Current/Mixed Messages by Bridget Cauthery
The second work, Gotta Go Church, presented another kind of yearning. Choreographed by Toronto Dance Theatre (TDT) veteran and indie maven Valerie Calam, the work is the culmination of her MFA research into “physical states of the body.” Calam has managed to transfer her signature idiosyncratic style onto performer Kate Franklin. Having watched Calam perform for more than a decade with TDT, I found it nothing short of eerie to see her movements, her corporeality, her facial expressions, her quirkiness, apparent in another body. At times it was like Calam had taken over Franklin’s body and it demonstrates how effectively Franklin has absorbed and transmitted Calam’s intention for the choreography.
The piece begins with Franklin moving diagonally across the stage towards a bright light downstage right. Sometimes drawn forward, sometimes repelled, Franklin performs a series of movements that appear to have been turned inside out and performed in reverse. Each step is awkward, twitchy and angular with Franklin’s facial expressions morphing from coy to wonder to ghoulish. The sound design by Paul Shepherd features loud distorted electric guitar that is as jarring and disjointed as Franklin’s broken-doll advance across the stage.
The piece is broken up into several sections that play on themes of centring and grounding the body. At one point Franklin enters the audience and encourages individual members to take deep, cleansing breaths with her. Another section sees Franklin sitting cross-legged in a pool of light alternately touching her head, her heart, her belly as though trying to connect with her chakras.
A particularly interesting section has Franklin up against one of the brick pillars at the rear of the stage, dancing beneath a red light. Franklin lies on the floor trying to push her body vertically up the wall, all the while smiling with the embarrassed effort of her task. (The scene reminded me of documentary I saw once about autism where a young women gets a sexual thrill from rubbing up against the side of a skyscraper … but I digress.) Here, Franklin is strangely sensual but also very vulnerable and the audience wants her to succeed. Overall, in this and every scene, it is a more mature and grown-up Franklin that emerges revealing a tremendous range of emotion and physicality.
REVIEW (excerpt) with a trace: an evening of compelling, wall-to-wall dance PAULA CITRON Special to The Globe and Mail Published Friday, Sep. 20 2013
Match three strong performers with three acclaimed choreographers, and the result is an evening of compelling, wall-to-wall dance.
There is something very satisfying about dance that is substantive on all levels – physical, intellectual and emotional.
This particular program is the quintessential example of what one sees with the eye, also challenging the mind, and even the heart.
The evening includes two solos and one duet by dancesmiths who represent both Toronto and Montreal. Holden performs a solo by Peggy Baker, and reaches over to Montreal for a duet with Marc Boivin, choreographed by Mélanie Demers. Franklin’s solo is by Valerie Calam.
Calam’s solo Gotta Go Church for Franklin is brutal. For most of the piece, the dancer must display highly controlled physicality that looks like she is being pummelled by unseen forces. Designer Simon Rossiter has given Franklin strong sources of light that act like a magnet. Composer Paul Shepherd has provided the suitably eerie, otherworld, electronica score.
The piece seems to explore spirituality and interior energy more than anything else – what Calam calls in her program notes, Franklin’s “physical states of the body.” Apparently, the piece is part structured improv, allowing Franklin to make movement decisions that react to the audience as she travels through a predetermined structure.
The ambitious Gotta Go Church takes Franklin on a far-flung journey. It is comprised of many mood swings, from despair as she struggles to lift herself off the floor, to the quiet reflection and tranquillity of yoga’s lotus position. There is even a playful interlude with the audience, as she tries to communicate with us on a very human level. Over all, Calam is cleverly showing us the inner soul through outward movement.