Dance Review: The happy-happy As I Am Dance

By Naomi Sturtridge

A groan escapes the lips as you roll over to turn off the insidious machine interrupting dreams of lazing about on a tropical beach. Slowly awakening and stumbling out of bed in search of the bathroom, that’s when you catch a fleeting glimpse of yourself in the hall mirror and stop.

This can’t be right. Slender, tanned and gorgeous in your dream, now your eyes narrow as you creep closer to the mirror. After a thorough inspection for zits, dandruff, baggy eyes and fat you continue on the trek to the bathroom, ready to begin your day, with the nagging question of, “Is that how I actually look?” floating in your brain.

As obsessive-compulsive as it sounds, negative self-image is an issue most women and men deal with everyday. The latest project from Calgary-based eko dance projects, As I Am attempts to challenge the contemporary ideas of beauty and the attitudes placed on physical appearance by both the self and society.

Formerly known as Youth Dance Unlimited, eko dance formed in 2002 with goals of expanding from its sole focus of youth dance to that of a multi-generational company. Erin O’ Connor, the artistic director of eko, views As I Am to be an expression of this new focus.

“[We] have performers of all shapes, sizes and all ages,” says O’ Connor of the 18 performers involved in the performance. “[As I Am] completely challenges [the dancer image] cliche. I am going to make the audience question. Does dance have to be about the thin, little 5ïž´2 90 lb. dancer image?”

Two years in the making, the company has worked with and found inspiration through many different community organizations such as the Tom Baker Cancer Centre, The Alberta Mental Health Board and local high schools in the production of As I Am.

“I feel very honored to have been allowed into some very personal stories,” says O’Connor. “[The performance] does not present any single person’s story, we’ve really just highlighted some very poignant, real and honest observations and real life situations.”

Considering the message of the piece is fairly contemporary, the dance methods and media are elements used to highlight the personal movement self portraits and mediated image themes.

“The show itself is a mirror. It reflects, reveals and projects changing viewpoints between the self and others so we really needed to use mediated image in order to allow this projected other viewpoint. Media and video imagery is also a really key part,” emphasizes O’ Connor.

Specific to the extremely general idea of self image there are many different self perception concepts presented which O’ Connor believes will aid everyone who sees the performance in being able to relate to the performance.

“It is really vulnerable how we inhabit out bodies and the show itself is sometimes uncomfortable and rather intense but more often completely relatable and humorous,” she praises. “The performance brings a lot of things to the foreground. I can’t believe that anyone could come away from this without witnessing something that is very central to who we are in our bodies and how we live in them.”

Everyone has to look in the mirror. eko Dance’s As I Am manages to dispense with those thoughts of unnecessary improvements to your physical appearance. Learn to appreciate the flaws in your body. Even if you think you’re the hottest thing to hit this world since the sun.

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