VIDEO: Near-death experience brought to life on stage

Langley choreographer Meredith Kalaman presents new work at Dancing on the Edge Festival

Exploring the impact of near-death and the challenging weight of heroism, 34-year-old Meredith Kalaman’s newest work debuts at the 31st Dancing on the Edge Festival in Vancouver, July 5 and 6.

Titled The inbetween, her new contemporary dance peice recieved it’s inspiration from a love of Marvel movies and the Langley choreographer’s desire to create.

Kalaman grew up in Brookswood and found her creative career path by following in the footsteps of her big sister.

“My older sister was a dancer and I wanted to do everything she wanted to do when I was three – three and a half,” Kalaman explained.

With a future in ballet mapped out, an accident that left Kalaman with a broken leg made her see dance in a whole different light.

“When I was 16, I was hit by a car doing a right turn on a red light walking home from school,” Kalaman said. “My leg was broken and I just wanted to do whatever it took to get back into it.”

The hiatus made Kalaman notice the world of choreography – a behind-the-scenes aspect of dance which requires a more creative approach.

Read more: Langley students dance for suicide prevention takes top prize

“Movement changes perspective. It’s exciting for me to be a creator generating ideas and working with bodies. I enjoy being a vessel for creativity and being part of other creative ideas,” Kalaman said.

She enrolled in the Ballet BC program in Vancouver and developed her first peice of choreography at the age of 21.

Since then, Kalaman’s own work has toured Canada, the US and throughout China while her first full length project, Femme Fatales, premiered in May 2017 at the Shadbolt Centre for the Arts in Burnaby.

It was the Dancing on the Edge Festival, however, that started out as one of her biggest influences and ultimately became a significant goal.

“I remember seeing people make works on the stage when I was young and turning to Dad and saying ‘I hope I can do that one day’,” Kalaman recounted.

Dancing on the Edge is Canada’s longest running professional contemporary dance festival, having started in 1988 to showcase performances and provide workshops, classes, and lectures to the artistic community.

Attracting dancers from all over the world for six mixed showcases and three full programs, performances run from July 4 to 19 at the Firehall Arts Centre, Warehouse Space (1490 E Georgia St, Vancouver), and even Granville Island.

Kalaman attended a workshop in Victoria last summer where she met dancer Matthew Wyllie and discovered the seed for her current project.

“I met Matthew [Wyllie] at a choreography lab. You don’t know what you’ll be choreographing until the day of. It was fairly open-ended, we were tested to make a solo [performance].”

Partnered with Wyllie, the basis of the performance came from a near death experience he had faced three years ago.

“I was in a 4×4 accident near Merrit BC, it left my best friend and I pinned underneath a truck in 3 feet of water,” recounted Wyllie. “I was able to pull myself out but he wasn’t as lucky. With the help of two strangers the 4 of us managed to flip the truck off of him and pull him out.”

“We started with this experience but then we also bonded over our love of Marvel superhero movies.” Kalaman explained.

The result was a fifteen minute solo examination which Kalaman said “defies gravity” and incorporates aspects from well know heroes such as Captain America.

Nearly one year later, the pair reunited to dust off their creation, which Kalaman said they had not touched since the workshop.

“We initially built the whole piece in under five hours and things seemed to just flow out of us,” Wyllie said. “She [Kalaman] really gave me the reigns for a lot of the movement and a chance to make my own interpretations. It makes me feel like it is really mine.”

Though finding their rhythm mere weeks before Dancing on the Edge posed a bit of a challenge, Kalaman said trusting in herself and each other was the key to creating.

“It’s about trusting that you’ll have ideas again – new inspiration by letting go of the judging voice saying ‘this has been done already’,”

The inbetween debuts alongside work from Korea’s Dab Dance Project and Calgary’s Linnea Swan as part of the Edge 1 showcase.

Tickets are available for both performances, July 5 at 7 p.m. and July 6 at 9 p.m. at www.dancingontheedge.org in the Firehall Arts Centre.

Kalaman has entered a piece every summer into the Dancing on the Edge Festival since 2012.

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