SCA News

Posted on 26 Mar 2014 in

- SCA Grads go East for Canadian Frame(lines) project

Alexandra Caulfield and Ryder White exhibit opens at Interurban Gallery

SCA grads Alexandra Caulfield and Ryder White embarked on a cross-Canada odyssey from Vancouver to St. Johns. An exhibition documenting the trip is opening tonight at the Interurban Gallery and runs to March 29.

The Canadian Frame(lines) exhibition consists of 74 films made by the residents of eleven small and rural Canadian towns. Participants were given basic instruction, a camera, and a roll of black and white Super 8mm film with the instruction to make a movie about their communities and what they thought of when they thought about home. What resulted was a collection of images as diverse as the country’s population.



Alexandra Caulfield was born and raised in BC's Lower Mainland. After graduating from Simon Fraser University in 2011 with a degree in film production, she took on a number of short film projects as a director and producer before moving on to organize the Canadian Frame(lines) film workshop series. Caulfield is an avid writer and is currently working on her second feature film script. She lives in Vancouver where she enjoys cooking, gardening, and consulting on independent films.

Ryder White grew up in Albuquerque, New Mexico and moved to Vancouver in 2008 to study film at Simon Fraser University. His work encompasses traditional filmmaking, installation, interactive new media, and sound art as he searches out the intersection of community and personal identity in a modern context. White is an analog film proponent and has taught over 100 people to hand process their own motion picture film as part of the Canadian Frame(lines) project. In his free time, White likes woodworking and writing for Contenders Magazine.


Find out more about their adventures in Dean Lastoria’s interview with Alexandra and Ryder.

You graduated 2011, then crossed Canada in an old bus, and are now ending with an exhibition in a converted transit station a couple of blocks away… can you talk about the round trip?
It almost seems like a fantasy to think that we trekked all the way out to St. John's and back in that crazy bus! Everywhere we went we met very kind and responsive people who took great care of us and made sure that we A) didn't starve, and B) had the chance to experience the various unique aspects of their communities. We've joked to each other that in many ways this trip was a continuation of university... we spent everyday learning, and we were also able to bring stories and perspectives with us between communities that probably wouldn't have garnered external attention otherwise.

We’re thrilled to be working with the Interurban Gallery because there are few community galleries in Canada that have done as much to showcase the uniqueness and value of each individual perspective as they have.

I've advised in the program for nine years and have seen so many partnerships start and continue on after graduations. What is it about our program that fosters this?
Ryder and I have been working together since 2010, when we came up with the idea for the Canadian Frame(lines) venture. At that time, I had just completed my fourth year in the program and Ryder was just coming out of the second year, so we were both very much in a production mindset.
I think there is something to be said for grouping creative people close together, but there is also an element of curation in the way the programs are put together. The admission process to SCA, in my mind, is not based solely on the applicant's individual talent, but also on how well they will interact with their cohort and other arts students. SCA is very good at recognizing what attributes in prospective students are complementary... it's natural that the process results in long-lasting collaborations.

You graduated from our film program, but your project is ending in an exhibition in a gallery. That sounds sort of interdisciplinary?
Indeed it is! Ryder in particular has an interest in film as visual art, so this isn’t his first gallery exhibition. Even in the early stages of this project we knew that the films our participants would be making were probably not suited to being stitched together as a fixed-length traditional cinematic experience. One of the important guidelines for our project is that we do not edit the films after our participants are finished, and since we've gathered nearly four hours of footage, it would be a pretty difficult thing to sit through. We also want people to be able to compare the images–what is the same between Alberta and Nova Scotia, and what is different–so a gallery space, where viewers can move through the screens a their leisure, is highly desirable.

Everywhere we went we were also collecting sound samples, and so, because the films themselves are silent, there will be an aural landscape to accompany the visual one. That's something else that came out of the electroacoustic music program at SFU!

Interdisciplinary is a pretty hot word these days, and sometimes I think people take it as an obligation when it really should be liberating. This show is not going to radically alter any paradigms, but it was nice to be able to have the background to say, "This traditional format is not going to work for this material... what if we try something else?" That's what the SCA is really good for, I think.

Is this the final bus stop for the project? What's next?
Well, though we had tons of fun with it, our bus days are over for a while I'm afraid! The active stage of the project, with the community workshops, has passed. However, we are treating this first show at the gallery as a demonstration run, which we will be extensively documenting in the hopes of being able to stage it in other locations in the future. Ideally, we'd like to be able to bring the show to a number of other cities in Canada so at least some of our participants will get to see the final product. There is also a spin-off documentary called Come Home that we are working on–it's about the "Come Home Year" festivities in the small Newfoundland town of Baie Verte.

Posted on 14 Mar 2014 in

- Native Green comes full circle

Megan Walker-Straight restages Merce Cunningham work

Photo courtesy of the Merce Cunningham Trust
Photo by JoAnn Baker

This April, our Mainstage dance show contains a project that has been in the works for 2 years. Faculty member Megan Walker-Straight is remounting Merce Cunningham’s Native Green (1985), a piece that has great meaning for her – she loved dancing in it when she was part of his company in New York City.

Native Green will by performed by SCA dancers as part of Perspective/Retrospective running April 2 - 5 at 8 PM
Tickets: $15/$5

We asked Megan how this project came about and what the experience has been like.

This is the first time Native Green has been licensed by either an educational or professional group. How did you gain permission to restage the work?
I received a 2013 Fellowship from the Cunningham Trust to re-stage Native Green. This Fellowship program allows selected former company members to remount Merce’s choreography at the Trust’s studio at City Center in NYC. This is done using a select group of dancers and with access to all existing assets including Merce’s original notes, video footage, and the whole hearted support of the Trust community. I was in the original cast of Native Green and of course worked directly with Merce when the piece was created. I spent last summer in New York reconstructing the piece for two casts of dancers who then performed the piece. That experience has led to my restaging of the dance at SFU.

It is considered one of Merce Cunningham's nature dances. How would you describe the movement?
When I danced Native Green I was always intrigued and challenged by Merce’s choreographic taming of huge movement flow with an odd and precise boundary of phrase. This created a perplexing and awkward balance between limitation and freedom. Native Green is a very lush, sensual mix of goofiness and elegance much the way the elegance of a heron’s step co-exists with the goofy unpredictable dive of its head into water while fishing.

What has the experience choreographing the piece taught you about Cunningham's legacy in dance?
This process has been a window looking in from a perspective I never knew in my years in the Company. At that time focusing on my steps took all of my attention. In this project I can experience Native Green as a whole, layered with connections and humor, dense with the choices Merce made based on the chance structures of his choreography, the particular qualities of his movement style, and the personality of his dancers. The amount of preparation time has been unbelievable. It has been a work of devotion to his genius and devotion to the history of dance which offers support, inspires, and like a sling shot shoots us forward. Not unlike walking a tightrope, I have struggled to execute his choreography faithfully and still balance what these new dancers bring to the movement.

Students will be wearing the original costume design featuring hand printed designs by William Anastasi. How did you get a hold of them?
Cunningham’s sets and costumes were donated to the Walker Art Centre, but a few were inadvertently left behind with the Trust. The costumes for Native Green have been loaned to me for the performances. They each have the nametag sewn in from the company member who last wore them. This has given the students a poignant sense of history as they re-wear the same costumes, execute the same steps, and very likely share the same technical and expressive challenges and joys of these former dancers.

Alex Mah, a music student will be performing the music by John King live on violin. John gave Alex private coaching on the piece. How did that come about?
Alex will be performing Gliss in Sighs, which was John King’s first collaboration with Cunningham and the start of a long relationship with the Company and the Cunningham Foundation. When he was in Vancouver recently to work with Ballet BC, he had two one-on-one sessions with Alex. Alex also had access to the Dance Capsule which contains a record of all the creative elements of the dance and is provided by the Cunningham Trust. The dancers do not hear the music until the performances in April as was always the case in Merce’s work. Dancers dance and musicians make music and we meet in the same space and time on opening night; two separate and equal partners. As John Cage, Merce's life long partner and musical collaborator once explained, "the music and dance are created separately, but are performed together for the convenience of the audience". Two shows for the price of one!!