For Vancouver dancer Robert Halley his passion for his art began with a production of Fosse, a blend of theatre, ballet, jazz, modern and tap. Fast forward some ten years and Halley joins the cast of Extra Extra in another unique hybrid of dance with a mixed media production from local contemporary dance company, Dancers Dancing.
“My turning point for becoming a dancer was after seeing that production of Fosse, in particular Desmond Richardson’s performance,” explained Halley. “It left me inspired and left me breathless on a natural high. I knew then and there that I wanted to be a part of that unique universe of artistic wizardry of transformation and transportation to other states of being.”
While having danced for 17 years, it was actually ten years ago that Halley began his professional career having studied at The School of Toronto Dance Theatre, The Ailey School in New York City and a little closer to home at Arts Umbrella.
As an independent dance artist, Halley finds it rare for consistent work month-to-month with periods of weeks and even months between projects; once a project does come his way though, as with the upcoming Extra Extra, Halley’s training regime kicks in big time.
“Prior to the beginning of rehearsals and during a contract I strive to take more dance, yoga, pilates/gyroknesis classes,” said Halley. “In my daily life I alternate days between yoga, upper body strengthening and most recently skipping to fun and fabulous gay club anthems as dancers always need to work on their cardio.”
No doubt Halley is cranking up the Gloria Gaynor and Kylie Minogue as he prepares for Extra Extra which runs December 1st through 4th at the Firehall Arts Centre.
Described as ‘an intricate and edgy experience sourced from mass print media’, Halley helped to explain what audiences can expect from that description: “It means that the inspiration and content for this production has been sourced from various images from magazines and newspapers and intricate and edgy because of the various themes that are explored and woven together in the various sections.”
With original choreography from Judith Garay, music by Ted Hamilton, costumes by Margaret Jenkins, lighting by John Carter and video by Flick Harrison, Extra Extra is not just dance, but a complete mixed media project which can, according to Halley, be appreciated on a couple of levels.
“I hope audiences walk away with perhaps with a greater awareness in knowing how they are personally contributing to aspects of society that resonate with who they are, instead of just being swept up, overwhelmed and brain washed by it all,” Halley said. “Or simply happy, inspired and satisfied from seeing healthy bodies express theatrical movement.”
Whether you attend for the deeper meaning or simply for those “healthy bodies”, Halley does say audiences shouldn’t get too caught up in trying to find meaning in everything they see in the show though.
“Ride the wave,” he said. “There may be some things in a performance that are literal or quite abstract but focus should be on the journey the art took you to. How did you feel? What images, memories or inspirations visited you during the performance? Just be open and let your mind and maybe even your body dance with the performers.”
Wise words from someone who talks about dance as “the most thrilling, wondrous, self-healing and awakening career” and probably the reason that despite time between projects in the past, this year Halley finds himself starting preparations for his next show in Victoria a day after Extra Extra closes locally.
Firehall Arts Centre
1 – 4 December 2010
The work is a fast paced powerhouse of explosively charged images and rich, multifaceted textures. An intricate and edgy experience sourced from mass print media, it reflects, magnifies and then fractures our perceptions of our evolved contemporary lives. This full length work pumps vividly, from beginning to end, and resonates with the frenetic energy of our world in the twenty first century.