After their success at last year’s Toronto Fringe Festival, the co-artistic directors of JD Dance, Jordana Deveau and Jesse Dell, will be taking to the stage again in choreographer Shannon Litzenberger’s The Den.
It’s part of the late-night series “What You See Is What You Get” at the Dance: Made in Canada/Fait au Canada festival at the Betty Oliphant Theatre in Toronto.
The Den is a ferocious duet that explores the instinctual animal within us.
“Shannon was interested in looking at different parts of the female psyche and relationships,” Deveau told The CJN.
“There is a very animalistic quality to the movement. She also plays off the words The Den – both the animalistic side and the human side – because it can be both a home for animals and also it is a room in the house where we sit and have family time and where the undercurrent of different relationships can occur.”
Deveau hopes the audience has a visceral reaction to everything she does – that they feel something.
“I think there is a really dynamic and electric energy between Jesse and I in this piece that prompts the viewer to feel a lot of tension and excitement and maybe having a sense of getting in touch with a deeper psychological expression that we have,” the Toronto native said.
“I think audiences will be really drawn into the raw physicality of the piece – it is full of tension. There really isn’t a narrative presented. We’re not really specific characters, but more a physical expression of these strong emotions. We react to each other in almost a gladiator style… we are really going at each other.”
During their solos, Deveau said, their movements are very vulnerable and exposed, showing how they react to relationships with others when they are alone.
She said after the seven, 10-to-12 minute performances of The Den at last year’s Fringe, she was left exhausted yet vibrating with energy, adding that it has been really exciting to let the piece grow and develop since that time.
“It’s a real honour for us to be part of Dance: Made in Canada. It’s a major festival, and it’s exciting to be sharing the stage with some major Canadian dance artists,” Deveau said.
“This project with Shannon was an interesting experiment that has worked out really well. She wanted to be creating and we wanted to be performing and expanding our rep. Neither of us had any funding at the time, but we thought let’s get together in the studio and see what happens, and now we have opportunities to perform it and perhaps expand the piece.”
Deveau has been a force in Toronto’s dance scene for more than 10 years.
In addition to JD Dance, she’s a founding member and rehearsal director of Event Horizon Dance, directed by Miranda Abbott. She’s also the co-author, with Donna Krasnow, of C-I Training: Conditioning with Imagery, documenting Krasnow’s conditioning system for dancers, and she has danced in the United States, Europe and across Canada, performing in works by renowned choreographers such as Carol Anderson, Peggy Baker, Sidra Bell and David Earle. As well, she has delved into choreographic work herself and has worn many hats as co-artistic director of JD Dance since 2009.
“JD Dance is a multi-faceted fluid collective that reshapes and reforms for any given project, so we have brought on different artists,” Deveau said.
“Our mandate has expanded, and we are really excited about JD Dance not being just about the two of us. We are really trying to foster and support relationships between artists and across genres, so we have commissioned a couple of composers and choreographers.”
Deveau said her Jewish background is an important part of her identity, not so much in a religious sense, but a cultural one. It’s a big part of who she is, and she says she carries it with her wherever she goes. It connects her to her family history, and specifically to her maternal grandmother, who survived the Nazis and escaped Communist Hungary for Australia.
Last year, Deveau was commissioned to create High Tide, a dance inspired by her grandmother’s stories about her journey by boat leaving Europe. Her grandmother died last January, a few months before her 99th birthday.
Dance: Made in Canada/Fait au Canada runs from Aug.14 to 17. The Den runs Aug. 15 and 16. For information and tickets, call 416-533-8577 or visit www.princessproductions.ca. Information about The Den can also be found at www.jddance.ca.