TORY PEIL. Powerful. Intense. Voracious.
Tory Peil is warm, funny, verbal, and full of strong feelings. She loves the exaggerated physical comedy of burlesque or Olivier’s reimagining of Les Sylphides and is equally capable of great dramatic range, as in artistic director Olivier Wevers‘s 2011 thrOwn, the first Whim W’Him piece she danced.
Some clues to Tory’s personality and attitudes to life:
•The most important characteristic for a work partner, significant other or close friend— “Someone who makes me laugh. Humor. I’m drawn to it. I love laughing.”
•What she likes about herself—”I’m passionate in a driven, stubborn way. I like to be committed, I don’t like half-ass anything—it’s a waste of my time.”
•And what she doesn’t like so much—“The same thing. Always thinking I’m right. Even when I know I’m wrong, I’m pretty sure I’m right.”
•She does not care for improv. “I’ll do anything—no, but not that!” She grins and adds, “I’m such a ballerina. I want to be given what to do in black & white. I like being given a specific task—and see how gracefully I can wrap the box.” And not surprisingly, the choreographic bug hasn’t bit (yet).
•A perhaps less expected side of her—”I’m a real homebody—I love to be by myself and to be an introvert. I can get so full of dance and performance.”
•And as to the future?—”I’m not a planner, I move on to next thing that’s going to push me forward for the next artistic level.” She pauses and adds with her disarming grin, “That sounds canned, but it’s true.”
I talked to Tory about her life and art at her house a few weeks ago. When recently I sent some follow-up questions suggested by Whim W’Him executive director Katie Bombico, Tory’s answers were phrased so exactly in her own voice that the best thing I can do here is to quote them, virtually verbatim:
“Why do I dance?
“Because from the age of 4 that’s what I wanted to do. It brings me back to my home base. Without it I find myself flailing through the world for a few weeks, unable to pinpoint my disgruntled outlook on life, but the minute I get back in the studio at the beginning of our season it’s as if the entire world makes more sense to me.”
“What does it mean to perform in front of people?
“We, as dancers, spend so much time in the studio which is a pretty lonely environment. We’ve spent our entire lives training, pushing ourselves, being our own biggest motivators and tormentors. If we’re lucky, we then graduate to being in a company and get to spend our days in the studio creating and being molded into others’ visions. But still this is a very solitary experience.
“The mirror, the choreographer and in Whim W’Him’s case only 6 other dancers and myself get to experience the process of creating work. On opening night, to finally be able to share our creation with hundreds of people is a big part of the process for me. Not for the adoration or applause (although a standing ovation never hurt anyone), but for the vulnerable process that I have to push through to share my body, my mind and my will to hundreds of strangers. And the vulnerability and energy that I feel radiating back from them (the audience) in return. It’s the one moment that I get to share my work and it changes, for just a few short hours, from a my singular experience to a group experience. That feeling is magical.”
“Is Whim my dream job?
“When Olivier was first starting the company and some of my peers were working with him, I have to admit I was seething with jealousy. I fell in love with the work he was doing and the community of people he was surrounding himself with and I desperately wanted to be a part of it. The funny thing is, due to my shyness I never reached out to him. Fortunately when I left Spectrum Dance Theater I received a message via LinkedIn and it was Olivier asking to meet and discuss possible dance opportunities. (1st of all I had no idea I even had a LinkedIn profile. 2nd of all I have been unable to sign in to my account ever again since that day because of lost password, but I am so grateful that little message somehow came through.)
“Since meeting him for lunch almost 5 years ago this whole process has been an inspiring dream come true. To live in my favorite city and watch someone I respect so much as a friend and artist work so hard to create this important addition to an amazing dance community is an honor. I never envisioned myself here, but I am so grateful I am.”
“What has Whim given me that I can’t find elsewhere?
“Whim W’Him in its few short years of life has grown to give 7 dancers in this community a stable job that pays them fair if not exemplary wages. So often as dancers we are asked to perform for little to no money, and we will because we love what we do and as we all know the arts are way underfunded. But Whim has never asked the dancers to volunteer their time. Olivier was so recently a dancer himself he understands how hard it is to live this life and he works tirelessly to make our time worth while.
“The experience within this company is different because it has such a family dynamic. In every other company I’ve worked for I’ve never been invited to board meetings. The board invites us because they think that in our careers as artists it is also important for us to learn the business side of an organization. Our volunteers are literally family members and friends. From our blog writer to our photographers, from our executive director to my fellow dancers, I feel like Whim has given me a community and a family. I’d do anything for them, and I have already seen them go above and beyond for me. It’s a rare thing to find in such a stressful non-profit world but somehow what Olivier has created is really special and I feel lucky to be part of it every step on the way.”
“Some less heady, blurb-worthy facts about me—
Favorite color: White, white leotards, white sheets, white plates, white jeans, white walls, WHITE!
Favorite smell: Nag Champa incense, I was raised by hippies
Favorite food: I cannot pick just one, I was raised by a Chef
Favorite beverage: Champagne
Guilty pleasure: Watching Real housewives in the bath tub
Pets: I have 5 chickens and a miniature poodle named Sam
If I could throw a dinner party with any guest dead or alive: I’d say screw it, I don’t want to make dinner, and Bob Fosse and I would go to the dive bar down the street for ribs and Whiskey while I peppered him with questions about his life.”
And finally, I asked Tory just one more question—What do you enjoy about burlesque?
“Burlesque came into my life at the time I was leaving Spectrum Dance Theater. Rainbow Fletcher and Jonathan Bechtel, of the infamous Can Can, gave me a job in their incredible group of performers and they let me hit the ground running. I had just left a company known for its hard topics, physically violent choreography and over all intense work that left me feeling angsty and sad to say the least. To suddenly be onstage smiling and covered in sequins was exactly what I needed in my life at the time. Since then I have found so much joy in the “lighter” side of performing. Exploring different characters is an aspect of burlesque that I love.
“Wearing beautiful clothing and then stripping it off usually in a humorous, effortless and sexy way has given me a lot of freedom in my ‘performance art.’ It’s just a relationship that occurred at exactly the time I so desperately needed it. A relationship where I could be myself, literally down to my birthday suit, but also be accepted as this not completely perfect entity, this flawed, sometimes raunchy, sometimes awkward girl who every once in a while likes to trade in her pasties for a well tailored suit. Burlesque accepts everyone, and I’m so glad it has accepted me.”
Upcoming performances (as Tory Tiara):
with House of Verlaine
, March 27th & 28th
, April 3rd & 4th, 2015 at the Broadway Performance Hall
And of course, on May 29-31, 2015, Whim W’Him presents X-POSED at the Cornish Playhouse in Seattle Center
Earlier Whim W’Him Behind the Scenes posts about Tory: