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Hilary Knee is about to make a return to the stage at the Corner Brook Arts and Culture Centre as part of “Dancing Here.”
The latest initiative of Corner Brook dance artist Candice Pike, “Dancing Here,” will feature three unique contemporary dance performances by Pike, Knee and Josh Murphy.
Knee and Murphy are both professional dancers who got their start in dance while growing up in the city.
The show, which will take place on Thursday, will include sincere, comedic and quirky performances that will blur the lines between theatre and dance.
Pike's performance piece, “Alice Falling,” was choreographed by Lois Brown, a multidisciplinary artist who was born in Corner Brook.
At 25, Knee has been pursuing a dance career as an independent artist. She graduated from the School of Toronto Dance Theatre in 2016.
She got her start at the age of five with Corner Brook’s Dance Studio West, where she was a student of Amy Andrews and later Pike.
“I’d always had the dream of becoming a dancer and I was very passionate about dance from a young age,” she said, during a recent phone interview from Toronto.
When she was 12, Andrews suggested she audition for the National Ballet of Canada.
The audition took place in St. John’s and Knee was selected to attend the National Ballet’s summer program in Toronto.
“And of course, that was more intense than what I’d ever done before, but I loved it still. I loved the work, the challenge, you know the hard, hard work and the devotion.”
Knee then decided to make dance her career. She was lucky to have her parents' support, because her next step was a move to Halifax at the age of 13.
It was there she pursued intensive dance training at the Maritime Conservatory for the Performing Arts, first in the pre-professional ballet program.
Like many young dancers, Knee thought she wanted to be a ballerina.
Two years into her training she was introduced to modern and contemporary dance and her focus changed.
After she completed high school in Halifax it was on to the School of Toronto Dance Theatre, where she was awarded the Sharon Moore Solo Project.
Through a four-week process Knee worked with Moore, a choreographer, director, writer and movement coach, to develop two solo pieces. Once of which turned into “Opera With Staircase.”
The piece premiered at the London Dance Festival in 2017 and is the one she’ll perform at the Festival of New Dance in St. John’s on Wednesday.
She credits the experience with Moore for launching her solo path.
It “takes a lot of persistence,” but she enjoys the opportunity to seek out projects as an independent artist.
“And I’m definitely loving exploring solo work.”
She’s currently working on a solo evening of dance show for which she received a grant from the Toronto Arts Council.
Her last performance in Corner Brook was in 2008. She’s talked a lot with Pike about coming home to perform, so getting the chance to do is a bit surreal.
Pike is an important part of the dance community in Newfoundland and Knee said this would not happen without her.
Knee described Pike and Murphy as interesting and devoted artists, and said she’s honoured to share the stage with them.
Some current Dance Studio West students will open the show with a piece by Andrews.
Hillary Knee in “Opera With Staircase” by Sharon Moore
In this piece, a muse recounts her tumultuous journey with life on the stage; fantasy, beauty, hope, wealth and poverty.
Grand and miniature, strange and heartbreaking, it explores a world of the dramatic heart and features an ongoing narrative that the dancer must recount out loud as she does the energetic dance steps.
Josh Murphy in “Who Knit Ya?” by Candice Pike
This dance evokes ideas of home and belonging/not belonging, queerness and perhaps a gritty/sensual side of rural living.
The movement combines Pike’s interest in sculptural and rhythmic subtleties with Murphy’s playful notions of concealing and revealing.
The choreography centres around those unique multi-coloured fingerless gloves sold at The Newfoundland Emporium and uses techniques developed by Murphy through his dance research supported by the Roberta Thomas Legacy Award into the relationship between burlesque and contemporary dance.
Candice Pike in “Alice Falling” by Lois Brown
Falling down the rabbit-hole of sensory experiences and human brain development, this piece explores images of human/animal hybrids, fainting and delicate stories of anxiety. They merge in a mixture of dance, imagery, narrative, audience engagement and tutus. Because, what is a dance show without tutus?
This piece was developed at multiple venues in Corner Brook during the past year using Brown’s unique, democratic approach to devising theatre.