It seems like the only time people want to see dancing is in the movies, whether it’s Patrick Swayze making knees sway in Dirty Dancing, or one of those many films where kids Step Up to the dance floor against the background of thinly-veiled class issues.
But real-life contemporary dance? No, thanks—after all, you won’t understand it, right?
That’s the sort of scenario dance company Wants&Needs is trying to change. Started by childhood friends Andrew Tay and Sasha Kleinplatz, the company strives to give artists a smaller artistic venue as opposed to Place des Arts-sized spectacles that invites people to break down the barrier of intimidation between themselves and contemporary dance.
Events such as Piss in the Pool—where choreographers take over empty pool Bain St-Michel—and Short&Sweet, where choreographers are given three minutes for their performances (the next instalment of which is taking place Feb. 16), are giving Montrealers less and less of an excuse to miss taking in some dance.
“We wanted to create an atmosphere that was more fun and unintimidating for people to see dance work. That’s why our shows aren’t in traditional venues, they’re usually at bars or unique spaces, like Piss in the Pool is in an empty swimming pool,” explained Tay. “That was one of the goals. And another one is to expose dance to people who don’t normally see dance work, and I think again it goes back to some people are scared of going to see a show that’s gonna be an hour long and they’re gonna hate it, or they’re not gonna feel like they understand it […] We want to expose dance to those people by making it more fun.”
Tay and Kleinplatz invite the choreographers to participate in the events; they encourage artists to send their work along to be considered for the next event. In the first round of Short&Sweet choreographers were allowed five minutes to present their work. The time limit was then changed to three minutes “to challenge the choreographers, to see what they could do in a short amount of time,” explained Tay.
Why do such short shows in the first place?
“[It’s all about] the idea of challenging yourself with what to say in the three minutes, what’s possible to be said in the three minutes and what different approaches you can do in the three minutes,” said Tay. “We thought that was fun for choreographers to think about. And also to create a format where people don’t edit themselves. A lot of the time when you’re choreographing bigger works, you’re like ‘oh, I shouldn’t do that,’ or you start to over-think, but when you have three minutes you can really just do one idea and that can be your three minutes.”
That’s not to say that performers haven’t tried to step out of the limit before, though. Past events have seen people trying things such as bringing their own lights to turn on and keep things going when the lights at the venue turn off to signal the end of the performance.
This year’s theme is collaboration and will present a different dynamic than past shows. “People are collaborating with theatre people, with filmmakers, with visual artists, so there’s gonna be a lot of cross-disciplinary work, and we think that’s gonna be really fun,” said Tay.
Next up for the company is to keep trying new ideas and, of course, continue to put on the events it has become known for. But for now, the dance-curious can—Valentine’s reservations aside—put away the remote and check out something that’s Short&Sweet in real life.
Short&Sweet goes down Feb. 16 at Sala Rossa at 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $10. For more details, check out www.wantsandneeds.ca.