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Tammy Forsythe
See the printed matter: Show poster / Show program

Holy Body Tattoo
See the printed matter: Show poster / Show program

1996 was a good year for mixing kickass dance with rock ’n roll. This entry in The Time Machine showcases three examples: Tammy Forsythe from Montreal, Holy Body Tattoo from Vancouver and SCAG (Serious Contact Artists Group) from Peterborough.

Montreal choreographer Tammy Forsythe was the first to bring the exhilarating combination of dance and punk to Peterborough. Back in 1993 she and her dancers performed a startling program accompanied by the Montreal punk band Bliss as part of Artspace’s Kicking Habits dance series. That one galvanizing event changed the local dance scene irrevocably, so that by 1996 Peterborough dancers were performing their own pieces with live rock, thrash metal, and punk scores at places like the Union Theatre and the Only Café/Gordon Best Theatre. The quintessential example of this was SCAG’s production of Pent, performed 5 dancers and 5 live guitarists. Pent debuted in 1996 and was remounted with the the same cast in 1997 – excerpts of that production are featured here, as we don’t have video from 1996.  The description accompanying the video tells you more about the artists and circumstances that brought about this significant event. Watch it here.

January of 1996 saw Tammy return to Peterborough after a 3-year absence with a duet called Bu, performed with Sioned Watkins and presented on a shared program with works by Natalie Morin and Yvonne Coutts. Watch excerpts of Bu here.

And later that year we saw the first appearance in Peterborough of two artists who took the rock ‘n roll esthetic to new heights by fusing it with sophisticated imagery in the form of the Holy Body Tattoo. Their work called our brief eternity, a trio performed with Chantal Deeble, was presented by Peterborough New Dance (now Public Energy) in October at the Market Hall. The trailer for this show gives a pretty good feeling for it.

Perhaps it’s too early to identify the impact of the Holy Body Tattoo on dance in Canada. After all, its two protagonists – Dana Gingras and Noam Gagnon – have busy individual post-HBT careers that continue to add to their achievements. But their time together as the Holy Body Tattoo produced a brand of gut wrenching, no holds barred dance that raised the bar for the generation of independent dance artists coming of age in the 1990s. While dancers like Louise Lecavalier were throwing around their bodies with highly skilled abandon in big company productions (La La La Human Steps) on international stages, Dana and Noam brought their own addictive mix of dance and pop culture to the country’s small-scale independent dance scene and places like Peterborough, Ontario, which had not experienced this new take on dance first hand. Eventually they too conquered the world.

It’s probably no coincidence that Holy Body Tattoo and Tammy Forsythe came out of the same fertile Montreal dance scene, although HBT had moved to Vancouver by the time our brief eternity was created. On the surface, the similarities between the two – and with Peterborough’s SCAG collective – are remarkable: the angry attitude, extensive floor work, dressing in t-shirts and combat boots, employing industrial noise rock and hardcore punk. In fact, HBT’s move to Vancouver revealed there were probably more differences than similarities in esthetics and purpose. Forsythe employed a relentless DIY approach to life and art that stood in stark contrast to HBT’s high tech collaborations with art stars like author William Gibson, who wrote text for our brief eternity, and poster designer Steven R Gilmore, an internationally renowned album cover artist. Nevertheless, by utilizing the most current musical styles and subject matter drawn from popular culture, Tammy, Dana and Noam pioneered a style of dance that brought a new generation to contemporary dance.

– Bill Kimball

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