Monday, August 26, 2013

The Question... Dyana Sonik-Henderson on Grim (Fringe: Victoria)

photo by Koh McRadu

Gretl, Snow White, Goldilocks and the Magic Mirrors
by Estelle Rosen

Dyana Sonik-Henderson is a dance instructor, choreographer, and Artistic Director of the Victoria-based company Broken Rhythms.  Since returning to Victoria after seven years of travel and study, her productions and choreography have been performed locally at the You Show, the 2012 Fringe Festival (winning Pick of the Fringe), and UVic Dance Company. She has been commissioned to set choreography for local companies and has participated in community events around Victoria. Her show Grim toured in the 2013 Island Fringe Festivals. She has also toured nationally and internationally with Carnival Cruise Line; OIP Dance where she worked with Luther Brown from SYTYCD in Toronto; Royal Winnipeg Ballet; and Decidedly Jazz Danceworks, Calgary, in their show Live and Insync. Dyana has also had the opportunity to study dance and theatre at the Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music in Greenwich, England, and has performed in shows in Italy; London, England; Vancouver; Calgary; Toronto; Hawaii; Las Vegas; Texas; and Cuba. 

CHARPO: We understand your presentation of Grim at Victoria Fringe is inspired by Grimm's Fairy Tales. Assuming the background of this inspiration stems from growing up with Grimm's Fairy Tales, how will your dance/theatre piece reflect the tales which will be the focus of this production, and which tales? 

SONIK-HENDERSON: When I was young I went to bed with Grimm’s Fairy Tales and many of the stories had a profound effect on me. They allowed me not to shy away from darker elements, but rather to embrace and enjoy them. I believe this genuine engagement has been pivotal in creating the dances I’ve choreographed. The gothic elements of the tales have been very inspiring for my work.  Like many post-modern artists, I’ve found these elements particularly open to inquiry and re-interpretation.

On the one hand, there are the archetypal patterns that present the recognizable stories we, in the western world, all understand and connect to.  We’re familiar with stories that involve evil stepmothers, talking animals, and parentless children on quests. I use a variety of these tales and their archetypes to explore the human condition via dance.  The piece entitled “Stepmother and Snow White,” for example, arises from my interest in the social construction of woman with power. The “evil” stepmother is constantly present in fairy tales. Eventually the little princesses (Snow White) will grow old and have to come to terms with the distortions of feminine power that are experienced in her world.  The question is, when this happens, will she be able to resist following the well-trodden path of “feminine evil”?  Can she resist that social construction? The magic mirrors in the piece reflect (pardon the pun) all of the social judgments working against her.

In Hansel and Gretel, rather than focusing on the victimization of abandonment, I tried to recapture that feeling of wild excitement we have when first liberated from strict parental rules.  In the dance, the brother and sister, away from their parents for the first time, manically play video games, hit the clubs, and finally, after experimenting with drugs and having hallucinations of ginger bread houses, fall into a bad trip. They’re not adults but they’re not kids either. The dance expresses that in-between stage when adolescents do things they know they shouldn’t, when the moral voice is absent and they’re testing boundaries.
I’ve found that fairy tales also offer a perfect vehicle for the style of dance that I’ve created (Rhythmical Contemporary). The animal inspiration and quirky movement suit the various storybook characters. The style of dance allows the dancers to render something fantastic and larger than life, but at the same time, something authentic and true.
I’ve enjoyed working with some of my favorite fairy tale characters in Grim and presenting alternate interpretations for their motivations. For example, Goldilocks is a spoiled narcissist who gets chased by a family of sprit bears, and the rats in the pied piper are crafty but eventually succumb to the piper’s hypnotic spell. In Rumplestiltskin, I’ve enlarged his foot stomping rage by cloning him.  
The element of “story” is incredibly important in the way I choreograph and in the way the dancers embody the show, and I believe we’ve all found that these fairy tales have opened avenues of expression to us that we wouldn’t have been able to explore otherwise.

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