Inverted Mountains offers unique outdoor performance
The great outdoors, music, dance and theatre come together this weekend for what promises to be a unique free one-day community event.
Inverted Mountains, created by Toronto-based Compagnie Coleman Lemieux with The Banff Centre and Parks Canada, is a day-long performance slated for Sunday (Aug. 12) beginning at 5:30 a.m. at Tunnel Mountain with a dawn symphony and continuing throughout the day at the Hoodoo Trail, Bow Falls and the Banff Park Museum National Historic Site. A dusk performance planned for Tunnel Mountain has been cancelled.
Bill Coleman, Compagnie Coleman Lemieux co-artistic director, said Inverted Mountains is part of his company’s Off the Beaten Track site-specific projects that are designed to marry the arts and the environment as a means to help people develop a greater appreciation for natural spaces.
These projects, however, are not meant to supplement the beauty or the uniqueness of each location. Instead, the projects are meant to be subtle and complimentary to the landscape.
As a result, for these site-specific projects, such as Inverted Mountains, there’s no stage or speakers, just the audience and the performers in an intimate and natural environment.
“They’re (the audience) presented with the environment as it is, as pristine as we can get it,” Coleman said, “and then we’re adding things that are poignant or beautiful that sometimes juxtapose with the environment or fit. Ideally, they’ll make us experience these places differently, more keenly.
“We’re acknowledging that they are already beautiful, but by having certain things happen it will allow us to see where we are, differently. But in combination with the beautiful environment and some of the movement and sound, those things will join forces and make our experience something completely unique and different.”
It’s an idea that Compagnie Coleman Lemieux has taken to Gros Morne and Grasslands National Parks, Mongolia and even a construction site in Toronto.
And as there are no barriers between audience and performers, including dancers, musicians and singers, Coleman said the performers have to be a special type of person.
“You have to have people who are great (performers) who are also adventurous and generous. It really helps because people have lots of questions about what we are doing; so we have to bring people who are quite happy to share the process,” he said.
Inverted Mountains, all told, will include six dancers, three musicians, a visual director, three technical support staff, about 20 individuals from The Banff Centre and Parks Canada and about 15 brass players and singers.
“Being on Tunnel Mountain and having this chorus of beautiful voices and the horns will allow us to focus more purely on what we are watching as the sun comes up and heighten that already beautiful experience. It will be the same in the woods, looking into the woods, straining, watching, looking for things and seeing things appear, make us look into the woods, slightly differently and more intently than we would.”
And rain or shine, Inverted Mountains will go ahead. In fact, Coleman said, interesting weather adds yet another layer to the performances and the experience.
As the weather is seen as part of the performance, Coleman said it is not one of the challenges. Instead, the company has to ensure they work with the place they are performing, as opposed to against it.
“The first thing you have to conceptualize is that the outdoors is your stage and you have to treat it as such. You can’t be too intimidated or enamoured with it, you have to go, ‘OK, we’re going to do something that relates the environment, but will be delivered in a professional manner.”
As part of that, Compagnie Coleman Lemieux has been working closing with officials at Banff National Park to manage environmental concerns and to ensure the performances occur in appropriate locations.
The other challenges Coleman faces is creating a performance that inspires the performers and remaining open to changing their initial vision, allowing each place to influence the performances.
“We start off with very specific ideas of what we think will work and what we think will be nice. And then you start working with the dancers and musicians and begin to try things and that is where there is a second level of creativity where you realize there are some beautiful things you never thought of, which are fantastic, or some things that you thought were beautiful were not.”
For more information, including a program with map and schedule, go to The Banff Centre website and click on “Event.” From there, scroll down through the schedule to Aug. 12 and click on Inverted Mountains by Compagni Coleman Lemieux.
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