Vancouver dance troupe Holy Body Tattoo was internationally recognized when they went on hiatus in 2005. Since 1992, choreographers Noam Gagnon and Dana Gingras worked with Voivod composer Jean-Yves Thériault to produce frenetic and fierce shows that made use of multiple art forms, including cinema, music, visual art, and of course dance. Perhaps the nine dancers of the troupe are perhaps best known for monumental, a piece performed to the music of Godspeed You! Black Emperor. This April, Holy Body Tattoo and Godspeed You! Black Emperor are bringing monumental back to the stage in a show that combines live music with dance. Angela Beaupre talked to choreographer Dana Gingras about this return.
Angela Beaupre (AB): You were an international success. Why did you stop working on The Holy Body Tattoo after the first production of monumental?
Dana Gingras (DG): Our last performance as The Holy Body Tattoo was in 2007. We performed our brief eternity at the Sydney Festival. By that time both Noam and I needed to explore other themes and nourish ways of working on our own. monumental was the culmination of our work as The Holy Body Tattoo. It would have felt redundant to go on. We always said we would only do HBT for 10 years. We went a little longer.
AB: What made you decide, after 10 years, to revisit monumental?
DG: David Sefton who produced monumental at UCLA in 2006 (and at the Adelaide Festival 2016) has always been a huge supporter of HBT and a fan of Godspeed You! Black Emperor so it was his crazy idea that one day the show could happen with live music. When monumental premiered in 2005 the band was on a hiatus so we never thought that this was a possibility. By 2010 the band were back together so this opened up the previously unthinkable possibility that we could remount the show with live music. It has taken almost five years of hard work to made this collaboration happen and here we are another decade latter.
AB: What inspired your collaboration with Godspeed You! Black Emperor? Has this partnership changed the work?
DG: The original version of monumental used a lot of the band’s first album – f♯ a♯ ∞ – plus some other sourced music and electronic sections that were created by Roger Tellier-Craig. For this collaboration with the band playing live we wanted to re-work the score to make the most of the band performing live. We also wanted a chance to use some of their more current compositions. The music and the fact that it is live is the biggest change to the original version of monumental.
AB: Have all the original members of HTB back to perform the work, or are there some new additions? Has this affected the work?
DG: The only dancer from the original piece is Sarah Williams and she is the rehearsal director for this remount. We have an entirely new cast for this version of monumental with Godspeed You! Black Emperor playing live. Since the production is based out of Montreal most of the cast are from here. They are Caroline Gravel, Louise-Michele Jackson, Kim de Jong, Louis-Elyan Martin, Esther Rousseau-Morin, Sovann Tep, Jamie Wright and two dancers from Vancouver Shay Kuebler, and Nic Lydiate. They are a phenomenal group of dancers who have definitely brought their own personalities to the work. They are a fierce ensemble.
AB: Currently the reunion has only 3 performances in Canada: Vancouver, Montreal and Quebec City. Any plans for more Canadian dates or any international showings?
DG: We already performed at the Adelaide Festival in February which was our first international outing. monumental will be in Toronto at the Luminato Festival June 14th and 15th, followed by shows at the Edinburgh International Festival in August.
There is more to come but we can’t talk about it yet.
Holy Body Tattoo is appearing in Montreal at Place Des Arts (Theatre Maisoneuve) on April 11 and 12. 8 p.m. $33 and up. Tickets are available HERE.