***It’s spring and Whim W’Him activity is stepping up! So from now through Approaching Ecstasy (May 18-20, 2012) I’ll be posting on Tuesdays as well as Fridays. VFB***
Last spring Tory Peil took a big step professionally. Her career in its prime, she resigned from Spectrum Dance Theater to explore the wider world. She was packing up to go to San Francisco and try her luck there, when Olivier Wevers contacted her about dancing in his new piece thrOwn (premiered at Intiman Theatre, January 2012, as part of the Casting the First Rock in Twenty-twelve program). Tory was a commanding presence in thrOwn—furious, anguished, tender—with her whole expressive body.
Having something definite you have to do for ten hours a day is both a habit and a preference. Tory is 24 and long chose her rigorous life as a company dancer.
Since she started at age 12 with Pacific Northwest Ballet School summer intensives and serious training in Oregon, this is essentially the only period in her life when she hasn’t had compulsory daily dance class.
“We start so very young,” she said when we talked recently. “It makes us ridiculous people. I’m still eating takeout, even when I have plenty of time. It’s why we’re so screwed up and childish. All we can do is fry an egg and sew pointe shoes!” With a grin, she added “This is the first time I’m actually free-lancing. Now, I’m a real person. I’ve even taken up knitting.”
Tory’s most recent performance for Whim W’Him was at a dance presenters’ showcase in Victoria BC—of a new solo piece by Olivier, danced to Charlie Chaplin’s poignant monologue at the end of The Great Dictator. She will also dance in Approaching Ecstasy, which will premiere at Intiman Theatre on May 18-20, 2012.
By contrast with her highly choreographed Whim W’Him work, Tory also enjoys the crazy unstructured frivolity of performing with the cabaret act Can Can Castaways.
“It’s great fun with no pressure—people in the audience shouting and applauding, wearing sequined bras, high heels, a brass band.”
Most of all, what Tory loves about her new life outside the protection, nurturing and confines of a company, is the chance to invent her own existence and discover what she can do. A friend of hers, a former dancer, went on to become a student in bio-chemistry. He was amazed at how easy he found it, when others were struggling. What it took was clear, logical thinking, working out how to get through a problem, and self discipline.
I think the intelligence of dancers is very much underrated. They’ve got to think clearly, but they can’t just sit around discussing matters. They have to do. Ideas must be enacted immediately, so they need to think fast. Not to speak of working closely with others, exercising extreme self-discipline, taking orders well, and—at least the good ones— converting all of that hard, repetitive work into transformative art. Whether on the large stage of a well-known company or on a tiny platform in a night club with a few tables, dance is the best example I know (aside, perhaps, from childbirth) of gritty, real-world, physical labor metamorphosing into something that touches the soul.
Which is why I can’t get enough of it watching it all unfold…
Next week: Whim W’Him artistic director/choreographer Olivier Wever’s work with Grand Rapids Ballet and the independent dancer’s life of Jim Kent