Kimberley de Jong is a Montreal-based dancer and choreographer, formerly with the Compagnie Marie Chouinard, who since February of this year has been running a monthly improvisation event called 5 on 5 at la Sala Rossa, in which five musicians and five dancers perform together during three 20 minute sets.
De Jong is invested in how improv can bridge artistic communities. Drawing inspiration from the Judson Dance Theatre of 1960s New York (a seminal moment in contemporary dance that emerged out of interdisciplinary workshops held in the Judson Memorial Church in Greenwich Village), she’s created a performance series in which audiences get a glimpse of what is typically a private aspect of artistic practice: jamming. What’s more, that sort of artistic experimentation is often uni-disciplinary, but at 5 on 5 not only is the introspection of improv practice made a little more visible, but musicians and dancers alike get to share in each other’s creative process.
De Jong took a moment to speak to Cult MTL about how her thoughts on improv and about the latest installment of 5 on 5: a four-hour outdoor event.
Nora Rosenthal: What was your initial aim in creating 5 on 5?
Kimberly de Jong: Really to connect more musicians to dancers and dancers to musicians and have an informal performance setting where we could still perform. Producing a piece is huge. You’ve got to go through grants and there’s a lot of time to take to write the grants and then wait and there’s so many people that just want to…jam and perform together. This is an opportunity for that performance and for that practise – a meeting ground – bringing people together from across the board and giving them that opportunity to practise and play.
NR: Do you often perform as part of 5 on 5?
KJ: I have. The last one I didn’t. It’s pretty neat actually to just watch. As a choreographer I’m looking for those interesting moments for ideas, or [for] what improvisational tasks work to create material.
NR: What are some of the tasks you use as prompts?
KJ: We have a set of abstract tasks and a set of relational tasks. The abstract task could be “let’s choose a colour together” and we usually do that five minutes before the show just to bring the group together and to have the audience involved. For fun we’ll make [the audience] guess what the colour was and they get a beer if they get it right. So we work with colours, we work with landscapes, we’ve worked sometimes with a poem or a word. Then for relational tasks we’ll work with ideas like less is more or small to big.
NR: Have you done a lot of improvisational work in the past?
KJ: I have actually. As a dancer that has sort of been my draw. When I worked for Marie Chouinard we’d do a lot of improvisation. Often [when] choreographers creat[e] material there’s a lot of improv going on and then they chisel it and make it more and more set. Through the improv ideas will emerge. It’s kind of like a stone or something that you carve.
NR: Have you noticed any patterns in the experiences or feedback of dancers who performed as opposed to, say, musicians?
KJ: I don’t really feel a huge difference. I think we’re all thrown into it and we don’t know what’s going to come out of it and that’s the exciting part.
NR: Do you think the series will continue as is do you think you’ll try different variations in the future?
KJ: [For] Marché des Possibles I invited more people, and because it’s four hours I’m really curious to see how it’s going to be without the time constraint. The only rule is that there are five musicians and five dancers at a time. It can be less but people will kind of come in and out. I’m interested to see what the duration does to it. I don’t know how it’s going to evolve yet but I’m testing things out. ■
The next edition of 5 on 5 is happening at Marché des Possibles (outside 5635 St-Dominique) on Sunday, July 21, 1–5:30 p.m., free