Ironically, there’s little room for movement in the studio at Spazio Performativo, Mile Zero Dance’s new home in the heart of Little Italy. The former yoga classroom has been co-opted by MZD and its cohort of collaborators since last spring, and of late they’ve turned it into a compulsive hoarder’s dreamscape for the upcoming show, Archival BAM (Beings & Matter).
The studio walls are lined by metres on metres of VHS tapes, the back flank covered by 300 kilograms of old issues of National Geographic. Flats of kitschy salt-and-pepper sets are stacked on top of tables overflowing with doo-dads and whatchamacallits—all reminiscent of the crowded attics of so many relatives and grandparents who survived the ’30s.
As MZD’s artistic director Gerry Morita leads us through the meandering path they’re starting to carve out in the cluttered space, a quiet “ow, ow, ow,” comes from performer Amber Borotsik in one corner.
“Just a bit of broken glass,” Borotsik says to fellow dancers Pamela Tzeng and Richard Lee, kneeling to remove it from the ultra shaggy carpet it was found in.
“Could be a [wear your] shoes piece,” laughs Morita, who adds that the paths snaking through the mess today aren’t necessarily going to be the same ones used in the performance. For the first time, MZD is able to mount its mainstage show in the company’s actual home and rehearsal space, which offers the cast a great deal of time to “sit with” the objects they’ve collected—largely from re-use centres—and discover the meaning and emotion behind the objects.
“Sometimes there’s such a sadness or heaviness to seeing all this stuff. And other times it seems quite joyful and funny, like finding a box full of chickens,” Morita says. “Do these items still have joy in them to share with people that we can bring out in dance? Or do they need to be exercised through a dance ritual and released?”
Audiences attending Archival BAM can expect a series of “goodbye dances” for a selection of objects, of which there are literally hundreds to be excised (Morita also hinted that there may be gifts or souvenirs—after all, this stuff can’t stay at Spazio forever).
Of the inspirations Morita and her team—including “professional hoarder” of film and lighting accoutrements Patrick Arès-Pilon—have consulted, there’s the widely read minimalist treatise Spark Joy by Marie Kondo, and the series of de-cluttering stories penned by Fish Griwkowsky for the Edmonton Journal last year. Morita also nods to the public fascination with reality shows on hoarders, and that the “buy low/sell high/crush dreams mentality” therein is ruthless, even hurtful.
“I go back and forth: sometimes [Kondo] seems really mean. It just seems so harsh and complete and idealized,” Morita explains, noting that Kondo’s spiritualist bent implies that people who hold on to things are somehow inferior. “People keep things to make themselves feel safe, it doesn’t necessarily give them joy. There’s a fear of emptiness, which is death and the great unknown. It’s the fear of an empty future.”
So what does it mean for contemporary generations who have never collected cassette tapes or records or magazines, who store their clippings and files in digital realms (and on a device which usually is replaced every two years)?
“Where’s the pleasure?” Morita grins. Minimalism be-damned, indeed.
Fri, Apr 15 – Sun, Apr 17; Fri, Apr 22 – Sun, Apr 24 (8 pm Fri and Sat; 2 pm Sun)
Spazio Performativo (10816 – 95 St), $20 – $25