Caroline Niklas-Gordon, like me, grew up in Newfoundland. I sat down to speak with her at The Gladstone Café in Toronto about her show Words & Motion: an evening of dance and readings and was immediately met with a storm of conversation and a pot of tea — just like walking into a relative’s house back home, where people always have a story to tell and a knack for telling it.
The show took place December 9, 2017, and was created by contemporary choreographer and performer Niklas-Gordon in collaboration with writer Karin Ivand. The show had a casual atmosphere. “We are calling it a kitchen party,” says Niklas-Gordon. “We want the mingling and the chatting.” At a Newfoundland kitchen party, the side door is unlocked for family and friends to waltz on in, pick up an instrument or a drink, have a dance and listen to a whiskey-drinking granddad tell stories of how he had to hop in a boat to get to the next town over to see the lady he was “courtin’.” The casualness is part of the show.
The underlying concept of the show is about resettling in some way, either physically relocating or psychologically adjusting. With words performed live and recorded, written by Ivand, the show includes a solo of gestures by Niklas-Gordon and a duet of prompted movements with her six-year-old daughter, Bella. The words are inspired by events experienced by mother and daughter. As an artist, Niklas-Gordon values a story onstage. “Nobody doesn’t like a story,” she says. “We eavesdrop because we want to hear a story.”
Vince Fernandez read from his new book, Little Sister, in which a character is based on Niklas-Gordon. She told me the story of how they knew each other years ago when she taught his daughters, who are now in university, ballet. Recently, years after they had last seen each other, Fernandez recognized Niklas-Gordon on an Ottawa-bound train and prepaid for the drinks that she had ordered with her friend. When the waiter arrived with the drinks, he told the friends that the drinks were paid for and pointed to a man — an amazed Fernandez. They got to talking and he told her how she had inspired a character in his book, even though their relationship was limited to teacher and parent. Unable to ignore the serendipitous timing, she invited him to read in the show. “I spent so much time with his daughters,” says Niklas-Gordon, “and after years apart, we are back working together.”
Like I said, Newfoundlanders always have a story to tell.