This article is published through our Regional Reporter Program. We acknowledge the support of the Canada Council for the Arts through the Digital Now initiative.
This January, ĀNANDAṀ’s Ephemeral Artifacts will be in Whitehorse as part of Nakai Theatre’s annual Pivot Festival. The multi-channel video, sound and lighting installation, which was originally presented at Toronto’s Theatre Passe Muraille in June, is coming to Whitehorse from Jan. 11 to 22.
Ephemeral Artifacts is an ever-evolving work created by ĀNANDAṀ’s artistic director, Brandy Leary, in collaboration with dancers of diverse artistic backgrounds. The most recent iteration of the work, featuring and co-created with tap dancer Travis Knights, was intended as a live performance and then reimagined as a four-channel video installation with the onset of the pandemic.
Nakai Theatre’s presentation of Ephemeral Artifacts: Travis Knights will span 10 days, during which the work will play on a loop in the windows of the Yukon Arts Centre’s Old Fire Hall venue. The location and medium of this public performance could become means of engaging a new audience in the city.
“I think contemporary dance is a challenging marketing event at all times, especially in a community that doesn’t have a habit of it,” said Jacob Zimmer, artistic director of Nakai Theatre. “So [we are] doing it in a way that is public and available, where there will be lots of people who will see the work without having made the choice to go to a contemporary dance show.”
Whitehorse’s Old Fire Hall is at the corner of Front and Main, a highly frequented area of the city’s waterfront. This installation of Ephemeral Artifacts: Travis Knights will bring life to the building, which Zimmer feels has been underused, especially since the beginning of the pandemic. “It’s like bringing light into the darkness of January,” said Zimmer.
Leary and ĀNANDAṀ’s Ephemeral Artifacts has gone through many different iterations since 2017. The work contests the common perception that dance is an ephemeral art form. “I believe it’s not,” said Leary. “The body very much is, but dance is not – it’s passed through this artifact of the body.” This particular edition of the work, created with Knights, examines Knights’ embodied knowledge of tap as a Black form and pays homage to the people and communities who shaped this dance form. The piece includes a tap solo by Knights and a sonic composition featuring the voices of many of his teachers and mentors. “You’re hearing the words of wisdom from my teacher Ethel Bruneau asking whoever is within earshot: ‘Whose shoulders are you standing on?’ ” Knights said. “It’s a big deal for me that her voice and her words of wisdom will be heard across this country.”
In the depth of the cold and dark northern winter, many Yukoners share a sense of isolation, a feeling that the pandemic has greatly amplified. The Ephemeral Artifacts installation at Theatre Passe Muraille was created during a period when Knights felt particularly isolated, along with much of the world. “This iteration of Ephemeral Artifacts served as an antidote, a way to get people out of their homes,” he explained. Zimmer believes that the installation will have an enlivening and connecting effect in Whitehorse, hopefully sparking conversations between people. “It’s both beautiful on the surface and it’s also worth spending some time with,” said Zimmer.
Ephemeral Artifacts: Travis Knights is coming to Whitehorse at a time when connection is as important as ever. While public art is not a new idea in Whitehorse, the prospect of this installation running for 10 days in such a high-traffic area is fresh and exciting. “Public art is pretty important to asking … ‘Who are we to each other and how do we contribute to expanding the public imagination – with different narratives, different discourses, different bodies, different questions?’ ” said Leary.