Shah Mat

Left: 'King and Doctor': performers Brandon Groves and Katelin Richards; photo by Laura Astwood.
Right: 'The Consort Blinded by the Meteors'; Emmanuelle Lussier Martinez performing; photo by Laura Astwood.

Spring 2011 Research/Creation Full Time Intensive

From April 29th to June 9th 2011, we undertook a full-time intensive to concentrate on the development of ensemble performance skills, to work with various master teachers and to create some fragments from the script of a performance to be called Shah Mat.

Guest Teachers

Vocalist Natascha Nikeprelevic (Berlin/Köln) spent a week sharing with us her approach to improvised contemporary vocal music in a master class entitled Receiving the Spirit of the Very Moment. Actor Gey Pin Ang (Singapore/Italy) led us in Sourcing Within, a detailed study of physical action, song and the role of body-memory in acting. Composer Rainer Wiens (Montréal) challenged us with complex rhythms and my partner Laura Astwood (Ottawa) put us up on stilts!

Our guests also performed: Natascha premiered a new solo All Ears/Tout Ouië at the Ottawa Dance Directive. Gey Pin presented fragments from her performance You Shen (Mandarin for 'Wandering Spirit') and explained her approach to creating them in a working demonstration entitled A Creative Stream, also at the Ottawa Dance Directive. We are very pleased to have been able to present works by these two internationally hailed women and hope to continue to host such events in collaboration with the ODD.

'Ensemble Circulation 1': performers Emmanuelle Lussier Martinez, Katelin Richards, Colin Lalonde,
Gabrielle Lalonde, Artem Barry, Amelia Schembri, and Brandon Groves; photo by Laura Astwood.


Along with all this, we have continued to practice our own approach to actor training and original performance creation. The vehicle for all these explorations is Shah Mat, a new script by American playwright Michael Geither, who wrote Circe/Landfall the performance which we presented last year at the Canada Dance Festival.

Shah Mat is the Persian phrase from which the expression "checkmate" derives. The original inspiration for this piece was a post-apocalyptic scenario of political intrigue that I dreamed up after a holiday spent reading the speculative fiction of Iain Banks and Alastair Reynolds:

Traveling from South to North across the Central Desert, the Doctor's caravan is destroyed when it happens across an ambush in progress, set to assassinate the King of a small Northern state. The Doctor saves the King, who adopts her as his personal physician and good luck charm. She is introduced to the Game, the national obsession in the King's northern state. The Game grants its most skilled Player the reward of Rulership. The attack on the King was a part of the endless maneuverings of the Game. A stranger to the etiquette of the Court, the Doctor's solitude is mitigated by her teaching. The Doctor befriends the King's Consort and saves her vision by removing her cataracts. She also teaches the newly-sighted Consort massage and anatomy. The Doctor falls in love with the King, but never tells him, even though it appears that he is interested in her...

Project Details

The team at work on this project included Laura Astwood (stilt character creation), Paul AuClair (lighting), Artem Barry (performer), Mallorie Casey (aide-de-camp), Jean-François Dubé (vidéographe), Billy Fox (composer), Laurie Fyffe (scribe), Fanny Gilbert-Collet (apprentice director), Brandon Groves (performer), Colin Lalonde (performer), Gabrielle Lalonde (performer), Emmanuelle Lussier Martinez (performer), Katelin Richards (performer), Amelia Schembri (performer), Marc Tellez (associate director and performer) and myself.

Shah Mat, performed in 2011 at the Ottawa Dance Directive in the Arts Court, Ottawa, Canada; 3 performances, 108 spectators.

Click for video:

There is also a new documentary about Les Ateliers' Summer Intensive 2011. It is called Liberté [in Motion] and directed by Jean-François Dubé.

Click here to watch: