Sense of Place is the latest offering by Weave Movement Theatre and, as the title suggests, is an exploration of the spaces and places in our hearts, minds, memories and everyday reality through physical theatre, soundscape, and visual projections.
Co-Director Zya Kane says the concept for the piece was sparked after she did some Sensory theatre workshops with Weave Movement Theatre (WMT).
“Janice Florance (WMT AD) and I talked about creating a project around this form together from some of the inspirations that happened, as well as the concepts around accessibility – through using the five senses as a tool,” she says. Then, during what has become an inspiration for many, they were partially in lockdown when they began really questioning the idea of place, and what that meant for different people being stuck in one place or removed from another, as well as the sensory environments and what they told about a place, mood, memory.
The purpose of the piece, says Kane, has been to delve into an exploration of what a “sense of place” means as an ensemble, and individually – a theme that is powerful for humans. And to share these personal stories with others in the hope of collective understanding.
“Sensory practice invites a shared experience through the senses and can be a vehicle to support a visceral connection of the themes and impressions,” she says.
In terms of themes, the team has probed a sense of place that is meaningful in a world where there is displacement, disorientation, being locked into place, and where original inhabitants are displaced from their spiritual homelands. The work involves disabled and non-disabled performers. “We have explored themes around disabled people in our society who are often seen as not having a place and are made to feel out of place and invisible… yet like all fellow humans we all have places we feel deeply connected to,” says Kane. “There have been many rich layers that have come up with this work, on a very intimate level.”
Launching in 1997, Weave Movement Theatre are a bold, diverse dance/theatre company made up of disabled and non-disabled performing artists. Kane has been working with the group for about five years. She tells me that most of the members have been with the company almost from the beginning with Kane attributing the longevity of the company to its passion to continue to create and challenge work, largely owing to artistic director Janice Florence who, Kane says, works tirelessly to keep the company sparking and creating.
“The ensemble are like a family and there is a general camaraderie among members, I think this gives longevity to any group. I understand that WMT started as a series of workshops and through people wanting to continue, turned into a company. Since then, they have done numerous projects and worked with many different choreographers/directors. With a lot more to come!”
Most of the dancers in Sense of Place have been working with WMT much longer than Kane but, says Kane, each has a unique performance style and together, as an ensemble, they compliment each other. Experience ranges, but all have creative backgrounds ranging from theatre and dance expanding to writing and painting. Kane is excited to say that they are a joy to work with and there is often a lot of laughing in the rehearsal room!
Sensory Theatre is at the core of this production and, with a focus on sensory and immersive theatre practice, is where Kane shines as she explores the intersection of contemporary performance, community engagement, and the power of play.
Kane explains that sensory theatre practice is a way of capturing the imagination through the universal language of the senses, playing with the atmosphere, and expression through light/shadow, sound/vibration, texture, taste, and smells. “The focus comes back to the senses, which is something we can all connect with,” she says. “Through the senses we can access memory, feeling, and guide intuitive stories from the body.”
Kane goes on to say that understanding others through the senses is a different access point of empathy and an instinctual way to find intentions and create work, it is also an accessible way to come to an idea. There is also a subtle understanding from honing on the sensitivity, noticing the world, and coming back to the senses brings you into the present.
“I find it is a deep way of connecting that can lead in surprisingly poetic directions – differently to the mind – and this is very exciting to me. I love to see people realise something that their “body” has told them, it’s really beautiful and very real. I’m always learning and experimenting, especially with scent. I find this really exciting. It is a very unconscious collaborator.”
Having said all that, Kane acknowledges that, as with all creative works, there have been challenges along the way. Some, she says, have related to technical matters and others wanting to achieve things that are not quite the same as your imagination!
“Time is always a factor too and we have had various members sick through the winter season. The joyful moments outweigh all of this, though! There is always a laugh, a tangent, and a joke and the ensemble have such a warm way together. I have found WMT always open to try a concept and look at things from different perspectives, they are a pleasure to work with and often come up with surprising and unconventional ways to express an idea.”
For anyone interested in becoming involved with the ensemble Kane says that every now and again WMT holds auditions but it really depends on the project. “There are often workshops and I would really suggest people get on the mailing list for these,” she says. “It’s a great way to work with the ensemble and get to know each other. Like any company, it really depends who fits in with the whole ensemble and what projects are happening at the time. I would also say get in touch!”
As for Sense of Place – Kane believes this work is very special and encourages people to attend if they want to experience something a bit different. “The show has some incredibly sensitive moments, beautifully poetic moments, moments to laugh, maybe cry, moments to smell, taste, see, hear, feel, and moments just to be.”
August 16 – 19