Vancouver choreographer Tara Cheyenne Friedenberg met Italian choreographer Silvia Gribaudi at a dance space in Embra, Scotland. They took an interest in each other’s work.
Presented by the Chutzpah Festival and The Dance Centre, Friedenberg and Gribaudi’s collaboration, empty.swimming.pool, a work that includes dance, theatre and comedy, will be on at The Scotiabank Centre Feb. 16–18.
“empty.swimming.pool explores the places where we are very similar and also very different,” says Friedman whose favourite adage is “Tragedy plus time equals comedy.”
Collaboration is a privilege
Friedenberg thinks adding humour to this show could help audiences contemplate how to navigate communication in cross-cultural situations.
“I feel comedy is a great tool for changing how we see things and for helping us cope with things that are difficult,” she says.
She would like the show to encourage people to examine how they look at each other, how they navigate cross-cultural situations, how people communicate and find understanding beyond language.
“How [do] we find understanding beyond language because most communication happens through bodies, through the eyes… ” says Friedenberg.
Friedenberg and Gribaudi (who have performed solo dances in the past) consider cooperation a privilege. Although they speak different languages, the barrier didn’t stop them from resonating with each other’s ideas.
“[Gribaudi] speaks English but not perfectly. I don’t speak Italian, I speak Spanish. We sometimes speak three or four different languages in order to understand each other. That’s really funny and interesting,” says Friedenberg.
Similar yet different
For Friedenberg, if artists want to grow, they should push themselves outside their comfort zone. She enjoys being surrounded by people, hearing what they say and watching what they do.
“I just love observing and listening,” Friedenberg laughs, “I am fascinated by who we are as individuals, and as a group of people. I am always learning because everyone is different. And we are all the same in a lot of ways as well. ”
Friedenberg was born in Saint Mary, Ontario, but mostly grew up in Calgary. She described herself at the age of two and a half as “a very serious ballet dancer.” She was sent to Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet School. Even as she took ballet classes, she found herself to have a keen interest in comedy.
“I was also interested in making other little girls in the ballet class laugh. It’s who I am.”
As a teenager, she pursued dance and studied theatre at the University of Calgary. Friedenberg came to Vancouver in 1992 to study dance at Simon Fraser University.
Italian village dances and a Buddhist path
Gribaudi, 42, still remembers dancing at village festivals in the company of her father.
“We call them (village festival dances) sarge in Italy, they are popular festivals in small villages. I felt important with him (my father).”
Gribaudi learned classical and modern dance when she was young, and at 28, began to explore other kinds of dance and theatre, ranging from operetta to vaudeville, before going back to contemporary dance.
While performing vaudeville, Gribaudi discovered her humorous side. She then attended clown art workshops to fully develop her sense of humour.
“I danced before, but used very tragic choreography, and then in comic theatre I found the possibility to explore a part of me I didn’t know. ”
If today Gribaudi fully enjoys her artistic life, she once had moments of doubt.
“When [dance] became a job, I [sometimes] felt lost as to why I began in the first place,” says Gribaudi, “Through a Buddhist path in Soka Gakkai I found again the joy to do this job, with a deeper sense, and I found again the sense of creating value through the arts.”
Gribaudi feels comedy can be difficult to understand and people are more inclined to judge it in a harsh way.
“I think being comedic involves taking a risk and exposing yourself. Sometimes it doesn’t work and you are in front of an audience and you feel like you want to die. But failure is part of clowning and it becomes strength,” she says.