My first post of 2013! And almost a year of blogging for me. This is the story of a Christmas project I undertook in July during our road trip from Southern Ontario to Alberta and back again. Because sometimes I am awesome I had the presence of mind to take yarn and needles in the midst of getting our family on the road and planned to get most of my xmas gifts done whist whiling away the miles with my favourite pastime.
I must say I was inspired by the gifts of my dear friend Christa, who’s been making wee knitted ornaments for years now for her friends. Each piece, a mitten, heart, snowflake, stocking, etc, carries the memories of the christmas it arrived with us and is woven full of the creativity and friendship of the maker.
Flying along an Ontario highway, I fiddled with my pattern for a full-sized hat til I was happy with the scale of the hat. I had the whole trip ahead of me, about 10 days of six-eight hour drives in total.
By the time we hit Michigan I was humming along, the second hat shaping up. After that each one took about two hours. That’s way more than time I’d usually be able to afford, but it was perfect for the road, allowing me to ignore squabbling in the back seat til it was at intervention-pitch and also freeing my mind to sail about as it does while knitting (I’m sure the knitters among you know what I mean!). I finished five-and-a-half hats on the way to Alberta and figured I had about eight more hats in me on the way home. Tiny hats for everyone!
Somewhere between Southern Alberta and the Cypress Hills of Saskatchewan I got back on the knitting-train and finished hat six. Hats seven and eight grew as we flew across the Montana, North Dakota and Minnesota. I was (and I am not exaggerating) six stitches from being done the eighth hat. We were all cranky and we all had to pee. We stopped at a Wisconsin truck stop. We peed. We bought charming state magnets for the states we’d driven through. We got snacks. We watched a biker couple arrive on separate bikes and have a loving exchange that belied their tough-as-nails exteriors. We stretched. We got back in the car.
After a few miles I reached for my knitting. Not at my feet. Not. At. My. Feet. Got a zing of panic through my chest. Tore up my bags, swore a lot (always classy in front of the children, ahem-hem). But that lovely ball of delicate computer-dyed wool, my tiny bamboo needles, and my NEARLY-DONE hat, gone. I must have kicked them out of the car when I got out or in, but I never felt it didn’t see my little knitting lying lonely on the pavement. There was a moment when I could see Adam calculating whether he’d be a happier husband if he turned around … he suggested it was a bit funny and I told him I needed about 35 minutes before it was even remotely funny. There was a lot of deep breathing and muttering from me. Eventually I could laugh, if that was the worst thing that happened on the road, I could take it I decided. I like to think some biker dude with a secret knitting hobby scooped it up and finished it. That’s the story I’m sticking to.
There were less hats than I’d planned for xmas gifting. And I didn’t have the heart or time to make more once we were home. But the ones I did make are probably that much better for the adventure attached to them. So if you received a little hat from me, now you know: it’s part of a pretty exclusive run of seven pieces. Number eight is on a biker’s tree in Wisconsin, I’m sure of it.
I’ve been tossing around the idea of doing a series of interviews with some lovely creative types I want to share with you. Since I’m heading to Alberta this summer maybe I have gold rush on my mind, but truly, each of the women I’ll feature here is a golden nugget of excellence in the career she’s carved out for herself! Therefore, I am delighted to present the inaugural:
Pocket Alchemy Nugget of Awesome Interviews: eight interviews with eight inspiring, artistic, self-starting women over the eight weeks of summer. I am proud to call each of them friend and am delighted to share them and their work here. Please note that I am replacing my regular Rearview Fridays posts with these interviews over the summer.
SUSIE BURPEEis someone I knew as a performer first. I remember her joining Dancemakers (a contemporary dance company in Toronto) in about 2000 while I was still at dance school and being mesmerized by her performances. The intriguing lady with the blond bob, gorgeous calves and insane technical and interpretive skills. In 2005 we presented dances on the same program at the Atlantic Fringe Festival. I was totally intimidated to meet Susie having kind of totally revered her for her stage work. Yet she turned out the be the most lovely, down-to-earth lady ever! I loved watching her work on the very beginnings of the fussy, hilarious, heartbreaking character who would grace her work The Spinster’s Almanac. In fact I often ignored my own studio time to quietly tuck in beside the piano and take in her thoughtful creative process, the best kind of education. Since then we vaguely knew and circled each other in the Toronto dance community until we managed, conveniently, to be pregnant at exactly the same time and to have the same midwives, fortuitous coincidence all around! So we decided we should start hanging out. And it’s been the best. Our 11-month-olds play in one another’s vicinity and occasionally grab the other’s ear while we share parallel motherhood victories and woes, ideas and hopes.
Susie Burpeecreates “fully human characters, struggling for connection” (The Toronto Star). Her work has received Dora Mavor Moore Awards for Outstanding Choreography and Performance, and she is a recipient of the K.M. Hunter Artist Award for Dance. Her performance works have been commended for their skillful use of contemporary movement to transform individuals on stage and showcase human complexity.
Susie Burpee was a company dancer for Dancemakers, Le Groupe Dance Lab, TRIP dance company, and Ruth Cansfield Dance. She now performs in her own works and continues to work closely with innovative choreographers Serge Bennathan, Lesandra Dodson and Tedd Robinson. She completed her professional training at the School of Contemporary Dancers (Winnipeg), augmented her studies at the Limon and Cunningham schools in New York, and trained in character and Bouffon at L’Ecole Philippe Gaulier (Paris). She teaches technique classes and workshops for professional dancers and students across the country, notably, 10 Gates Dancing La B.A.R.N. Summer XIntensive, Canadian Children’s Dance Theatre, and Dancemakers.
Pocket Alchemy Question: Tell me about your artistic work.
Susie Burpee: I work in contemporary dance. It’s been 20 years now. I started in ballet as a kid, and by the time I was 12 I was doing ‘modern dance’ at Winnipeg’s School of Contemporary Dancers. So I’ve been rolling on the floor, running in circles, and falling (purposefully), for a very long time. I did professional training, danced for some great Canadian contemporary dance companies and choreographers, and now work as an independent dance artist. What does that entail, you ask? Well, I wear a backpack and ride a bike, which gets me from pilates to dance class to the studio. My studio work varies from contract to contract. Sometimes I choreograph commissions for other dancers; sometimes I teach dance class or a workshop. Most recently, I’ve started to work in theatre, choreographing and sourcing movement for contemporary plays. I also perform in my own choreographic works.
PAQ: what is currently sparking your imagination?
SB: I have a new full-length production called Road Trip,which premieres October 18th, 2012 at Enwave Theatre in Toronto. It is created in collaboration with my longtime colleague Linnea Swan, and the two of us perform the work together. What sparks my imagination about the work is the fact that our longtime-colleague-ness means that we can do things other performers can’t.
We can anticipate each other’s actions, and respond in a way that elevates the work to a place of intimacy that is rare. And it means we can do weird and wonderful things that make people laugh. There are few things I enjoy more than making people laugh. It’s really difficult and really easy at the same time.
PAQ:How do you structure and manage your days/weeks/months to get it all in? Do you have micro/macro plans that you stick to?
SB: I have an almost-1-year-old now, so organization is key. Being an indie dance artist is already full of multi-tasking and planning. Adding Alice in the mix has actually clarified things and made me streamline what I do. I have lessened my activity because I’d like to stay home with her more than less. I am fortunate to have the option to do this.
Macro: I think about what projects are desirable and feasible and might have an extended life. If they are self-initiated projects, I think a couple of years ahead and organize funding strategies, as well as potential partners, well in advance. I have a part-time administrator that I pay out-of-pocket/project to help with things. Other projects that I’m hired for usually come to my door a couple of months to a year before they take place. Training is difficult to fit in these days. I have worked up my “kitchen barre class,” and head off to Pilates before the girl wakes up. I have never been that great at MACRO MACRO. I’ve never been one of those people who could say “In 10 years I want to run my own company”. I’m not sure anymore if that’s because my personality is a bit go-with-the-flow, or if I’m too scared to dream like that. It’s funny because I AM a big dreamer.
PAQ: What is a current favourite resource or material?
SB: People. People watching. Thinking about the people I’m watching. Always has been. I am just so interested in people and what they do and why they do it. Ask my husband. We’ll pass someone on the street, and when we’re out of earshot he’ll turn to me and say, “Ok, so what’s his story?” I think I would have been a great hire for CSIS. My work has always been about people. A lot of people call it “character work.” I find there’s still great value in illuminating humankind through live performance.
PAQ: What about your work keeps you up at night (for good or ill!)?
SB: One quality about myself that’s not so compatible with creating work for audiences is that I really love to please people. And when you make work, you can’t please everyone. A small but big vulnerable part of me always wants to make people happy. So the nights I’ve laid awake all night are the nights I’ve felt that somehow, through performance, I’ve let people down.
PAQ: How has your aesthetic evolved over the years?
SB: Oh jeez. Well, let’s look at the two ends of the spectrum. My first performed piece, at 14, was choreographed to Dead Can Dance, and had lots of running and drama and bum rolls. And this latest piece, Road Trip,has, let’s see … lots of running and drama and fainting. I’ve evolved from bum rolls to fainting.
THE WRAP UP
Susie Burpee and Linnea Swan’s show Road Trip is being presented by DanceWorks in Toronto from October 18th to 20th. For more info on that you can check out DanceWorks site, I wager it’ll be a worthy show to attend! For more info on her performance and teaching work, check out Susie’s website, she is a gem.
Yes. There are 3 “weddings” in the title. Not a mistake.Whew! On June 30th I was so honoured to act as Matron of Honour for my dear friend Jen’s wedding on Toronto Island. It was an exquisite, homemade, 100 mile wedding that went without a hitch. I made fun kits for the kids in attendance. I made the bags out of fabric that Jen had collected in Nigeria, hot glued the first initial of each kid on his or her bag with Scrabble letters (which I LOVE for crafting!) and stuffed them with snacks and age-appropriate toys, games and activities.
Then on July 1st, in addition to celebrating our nation’s birthday (O Canada, oh my!) we attended the wedding of another dear, dancerly friend. It was held in Dancemakers Studio theatre in Toronto, which was converted into a beautiful space for an afternoon cocktail wedding.
I helped plan and execute the decorations for this one, we tried to stay with the Canada theme without getting cheesy and I think we did well! We cut out hundreds of cream and white maples leaves and doves to hang from the theatre’s grid. I think the effect was magical as hoped!
I designed and made little red and white felt bags that got stuffed with custom-ordered M&M’s in red and shimmer pearl. And the tags were stamped with a maple leaf stamp I’d used for my own wedding invitations almost 9 years ago!
Lastly, I was so honoured to be asked to make a wedding dress for a dancer I’ve costumed a few times in the past. She’s a gorgeous woman and knew just the dress she wanted, a copy and formalized version of a dress she already had, a very vintage 50s looking piece. I am so proud of how it came out but will superstitiously only include a couple of details here til after the July 8th wedding, which is, of course, still to come!
And now I’m hittin’ the road Jack, making my way across the vast space between Toronto and Edmonton. I’ll be posting a series of interviews with amazing woman artists and entrepreneurs in the stead of my usual Rearview Fridays, so watch for that to start this week. And I’ll post some Road Reports as I’m able. Happy summer days all, may there be much long laziness.