Wants&Needs Danse has a history of performing in unconventional venues, like empty pools, and in unconventional formats, like three-minute numbers. Their mission? To challenge choreographers and dancers to think outside the box of traditional dance theatre, and to bridge the gap between dancers and audiences. I spoke with Sasha Kleinplatz, who with childhood friend Andrew Tay founded Wants&Needs in 2005.
Nancy Berman (NB): Tell me about Wants&Needs Danse and its mission.
Sasha Kleinplatz (SK): I started Wants&Needs with Andrew Tay, whom I’ve known since we were 9. We grew up together in Windsor, Ontario. We started organizing events before we had identified ourselves as a company, events outside of traditional dance theatre. We wanted to show our own work but also to focus on the idea: what does it give to a choreographer and public to perform outside of traditional theatre, and to relax traditions around how we normally dance. We wanted to see if we could engage a new public, and see if choreographers would take more risks if they weren’t in a traditional dance space. We tried to implicate ourselves in the Montreal community by performing in rock show spaces (like Sala Rossa) and visual arts spaces.
NB: Have people responded well?
SK: Normally our shows are sold out. Short and Sweet features three-minute dance pieces/performance works. After three minutes we shut off the light and sound. We challenged choreographers to answer the question: what can you present in concisely three minutes that touches your audience, or confuses them? The idea came out of the question, why did dance pieces need to be so long? Maybe they do, but maybe not. Piss in the Pool took place at Bains St. Michel, an empty indoor pool. Choreographers had three weeks to create site-specific pieces.
NB: Tell me about Chorus II, the piece you’re performing at Place des Arts for Danse Danse.
SK: I started looking at the back and forth swaying Jewish men do when davening (praying). The piece evolved over time. At first I wanted to reproduce the swaying motion, then I started improvising with it, changing it, changing the timing, the height. Out of the improvisations I started looking at ideas about community and men relating to each other as a group. I was interested in tenderness, play, caretaking. The idea came from watching my grandfather pray when I was little, and how the praying pressed buttons in my memory about how I viewed him: fierce, but when praying also matter of fact, sometimes tender. I was looking at different states. But then it became a lot bigger than that, became an exploration of what was going on in the space between the men. The work is for six male dancers and one male musician.
This work was created collaboratively with everyone involved. I came in with a seed that I was interested in researching, but the research was done by everyone. It’s a common misconception that people have about choreography. Contemporary dance is created by everyone in the piece and is not just brainchild of the choreographer.
NB: What was it like to work with only men?
SK: Before this I worked with just women for three years, in a piece looking at how women related to each other. So I was interested in doing the opposite.
NB: Have your experiments in non-traditional venues/formats influenced your works for more traditional venues?
SK: For sure. For me no matter where you are I think of it as site specific. I adapt the space to the work. So for example for Chorus II at Cinquième Salle we’re building a seven-foot high wall that dancers can climb up that almost touches the catwalk that already exists in the theatre, so dancers can use that as well. We always ask what can we do to make the theatre ours, and integrate the specific theatre into the work.
Wants&Needs Danse performs with Tentacle Tribe as part of Danse Danse at Cinquième Salle at Place des Arts October 21, 22, 23, 24, 25. 8pm. Sold out.