Arts Dance

frost flowers/arctic death machine channels northern waters


You might think that a doomed voyage through the Arctic wouldn’t be rich fodder for dance—but you haven’t met Nancy Sandercock.

The Edmonton-based artist is the creative force behind frost flowers/arctic death machine, a multi-disciplinary artistic treatment of the wrecked 1845 Franklin expedition. Far from a solo effort, the new work is a collaboration with the Brian Webb Dance Company and with sculptors, videographers and composers.

The Franklin expedition—the disastrous attempt by Englishman Sir John Franklin to cross the Northwest Passage, resulting in two lost ships and all 128 men on board dying—has long held a space in Sandercock’s imagination.

“There’s a lot about it,” she says over the phone from her rehearsal space. “It’s the overlapping stories of the erased history of indigenous people. There’s the idea of people trying to consume the north. And then there are the amazing qualities of the nature up there. The long, long endless nights or days. And there were supposed to be a lot of people who succumbed to lead poisoning, so there were hallucinations going on.”

She argues that life in the far north and dance are similar in many ways.

“Like with frost flowers,” Sandercock explains. “These flower-like formations bloom on the ocean. Once the sun rises, it disappears. It’s ephemeral, like dance: there’s only a memory once it’s over.”

How to capture all of those visual, physical, historical and emotional ideas? Sandercock says she’s been rounding up collaborators to tell this story for the past two years. A musician and dancer, Sandercock will be performing movement with Brian Webb—whom she met when she was a dance student at Grant MacEwan—and others including her friend and This Hour Has 22 Minutes star Susan Kent.

She says it will be part installation art, with projections created by filmmaker Kyle Armstrong, interactive and static sculpture by Blair Brennan and soundscapes by Dave Wall.

“I felt that by using a lot of different media, it has the possibility to enrich the viewers’ experience—and enrich the performers’ collaborative experience,” Sandercock says. “I wanted to take the hierarchy out of the performer and the space. I wanted to allow the materiality to have a voice and become a performer itself.”

Thu, May 7 – Sat, May 9 (8 pm)
Timms Centre, $27

Leave a Comment