Chutzpah! Festival – Dance as an embodied translation – all my being is a dark verse

For Arash Khakpour, beauty is very much in live performance. | Photo by Peter Smida

Merging literature, visual art and dance, an exciting performance by Ballet BC resident artist Alexis Fletcher and Iranian-Canadian dance artist Arash Khakpour will premiere on Nov 9 at this year’s Chutzpah! Festival.

The dance’s namesake, all my being is a dark verse, is the opening line of the poem reborn by famed Iranian female poet and film director Forugh Farrokhzad. Inspired by her poems, the dance project hopes to explore and express the idea of translation – from one language to another and from words to body movements.

“I discovered Forugh’s work as an English speaker. I was deeply touched by her words and felt that they were really about my own life, somehow personal but also very universal,” says Fletcher. “We started with the idea of literal translation but then we started talking about how there’s something very interesting when language is translated in an intangible abstracted way into the body. Particularly with contemporary movement language, there is something that is non-literal and non-linear, like a new language with new neurological pathways.”

Khakpour describes the dance as an adaptation of Farrokhzad’s poem, echoing the poem’s theme of rebirth.

All my being is a dark verse/which will carry you/to the dawn of eternal growths and blossoming, it reads.

“When you love something, you allow it to change you. We allow ourselves to be changed by the textures and the images in her poems and in response add more to the creative palette. It is also the collective knowledge and so many realities in the world that come through the dance that we are working to give birth to,” says Khakpour.

Aside from poetry, the project also incorporates elements of visual arts, partnering with Canadian-Iranian visual artist Nargess Jalali Delia.

Dance as a conversation

As a duet performance, the dance is a conversation between the two artists, as they state that “dance is a powerful and distinct tool for communication and connection” and the collaboration acts as a vehicle of exploration of “self and other.”

“The poem is a beautiful example. I think everybody could read the same words and get something very different depending on where they are at that moment of their lives, and it’s certainly the same process for dancers. We are different every day, our bodies are different every day. The way we’ve structured the work is really asking us to be present in that particular moment, and I think that will be reflected in the performance experience when there are also viewers,” Fletcher says.

Khakpour adds that the beauty is very much in the live performance, and they want to allow space for the choreography and the emotions to change.

“We want to stay true to that moment and not strive to just execute things,” he says.

A long-anticipated collaboration

It is the first collaboration between Fletcher and Khakpour, though the pair has crossed paths for many years and have always admired each other’s work. The two artists have always talked about working together and with the right context. This project materialized organically.

Khakpour was born and raised in Iran and moved to Vancouver with his family in his teenage years. He was studying engineering and dropped out of college to be fully committed to performance art. He currently runs the Biting School with his brother. In his own words, the school is a platform for people to explore and grow as human beings through the art form of live performances.

Fletcher, a B.C. native, was trained in ballet and has spent 14 years with Ballet BC before going independent to create her own work in recent years. Since 2015, she has been running The Dance Deck with her husband, which is an outdoor multidisciplinary performance space.

This upcoming world premiere of the performance was developed through an artistic residency at Norman & Annette Rothstein Theatre. Fletcher says she is grateful that they can be in a place with so much help and resources to work on this project.

“The presence of the audience is also essential. It allows for our practice to grow and get fuller together. Live performances can only fully exist when witnessed, and it is our hope that this project brings together unique audience demographics who can all meet one another in new ways,”
she says.

The 22nd Chutzpah! Festival

The performance will be part of the Chutzpah! Festival, now in its 22nd year. This year’s program will run from Nov. 3 to Nov. 24, offering live and digital performances from across the globe, including Canada, the United Kingdom, Israel, and the United States.

Covering a diverse range of performing arts, this year’s festival will showcase new dance works, theatre, comedy, concerts, storytelling and interactive multimedia works paired with workshops and stimulating conversations. There is also special programming highlight this year that brings Jewish and non-Jewish artists of Persian heritage together to explore how these communities have intersected in their artistic expressions.

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