If you think Mark Segal is off the wall, you’d be right. The 36-year-old, Toronto-based aerialist and actor will be performing for the first time with choreographer and founder Brandy Leary’s Anandam Dancetheatre in Divergent Dances for Windows and Walls running until July 28 at 8:30 p.m. at Toronto’s The Bata Shoe Museum.
Divergent Dances for Windows and Walls is the second offering of three instalments in The Precipice Project, a multi-year choreographic project with the Bata Shoe Museum.
The aerial dance company’s piece travels through the internal and external areas of the museum; telling their tales from the roof and walls to the street windows, the grand atrium staircase streaming onto the museum’s entrance.
Audiences travel along with the performers, as both spectators and as active participants. The performance mixes planned and spontaneous performance art.
It begins outdoors on the street as the audience watches the aerialists descend the exterior walls of the building.
“It is a really interesting show—nothing like I have ever been involved with before,” Segal says. “It is really cool…an inter-active piece with the building itself, the audience, and amongst ourselves. It’s kind of a human installation. It is the idea that you are installing the human body as an art piece into the museum environment. Lots of stuff is happening all at the same time.”
Segal says audiences should feel less of a division between themselves and the performer than in more traditional theatre.
“It is not about sitting back and allowing something to happen in front of you. It’s about actively participating where boundaries are vague. We are encouraged to talk to the audience and to each other and interact in a day-to-day kind of way. The things are dance and aerial but perhaps the trappings are not to be that of the performer, but of that of the human being. What that means is I can talk to you, I don’t have my performer face on, it is not that I’m in my world and you are observing my world.”
Leary’s contemporary dance-theatre has been called “soulful and sensuous” by the New York Times. Joining Segal and Leary in performance are dancers Natasha Danchenko, Amy Hampton, Louis Laberge-Cote, Ryan Lee, Kevin O’Connor, Jennifer Robichaud and Lucy Rupert.
Segal never had formal dance training but says he is learning along the way. He went to school at Sheridan College for illustration, and then worked in film as a prop builder. Ready to move on from the film industry, an ex-girlfriend who was a dancer told him about The Toronto School of Circus Arts. He checked it out and fell in love with it, and ended up teaching there. He also performs with the school’s company as well as other companies.
When Segal decided to run away with the circus so to speak, his parents told him they were okay with it, but he would have to make it on his own. Realizing how serious he was, they have since become his greatest supporters.
In addition to his performances at the Bata Shoe Museum, Segal is an understudy in a children’s theatrical play this summer at Centre Island’s The Lagoon Theatre called Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland.
When Segal is not flying off the walls, he likes to read, watch movies, listen to music, paint, sculpt and draw.