Vancouver artists discuss collaboration and representation in upcoming Words in Motion performance

Words in Motion is a remarkable collaboration between Vancouver-based authors and choreographers. This month — for two days only — Vancouverites will be witness to three different interpretations of writing through dance at UBC’s Chan Centre.

Nancy Lee, assistant professor in Creative Writing at UBC is the author of Dead Girls, a surreal and rule-breaking collection of short stories that centres on “the events of a predator in Vancouver.” Lee said she was honoured and excited when Wendy Atkinson, the Chan Centre’s artistic director and the brain behind Words in Motion, called to tell her Dead Girls would be interpreted by Greek-Canadian choreographer, Paras Terezakis. 

Even better, when Lee met up with Terezakis who runs Kinesis Dance Company, they were on the same page from the start. Neither artist wanted the final product to be a direct translation. Instead, they wanted it to “bust out of the form of the stories” and provoke thought about what it means to live in a city where we view a percentage of the population as disposable. Terezakis, after reflecting on how he interacts with the city as an immigrant, told The Ubyssey that a goal of the piece is to portray the complexities of the city.

Lee and Terezakis worked closely throughout the almost year-long process. Lee became well acquainted with the dance world and marveled at Paras’ emphasis on the present moment. She reflects that the process of choreography is a “release from the solitariness of being a writer.” She and Terezakis worked thoughtfully to find dancers who would represent the Dead Girls’ characters accurately. 

“We need bodies to communicate,” Lee said. “Representation is so important.” 

It’s clear that another product of the collaboration between Lee and Terezakis is a great relationship and a respect for completely different art forms. Even though Lee began working with Paras knowing there was an entire language in dance that she didn’t have access to, she realized quickly that there is an opportunity to enter these deep dark holes in a completely different way with dance.

Terezakis said he and Lee have been in a very imaginative place and that the communication was quite inspirational for them both. 

This respect and friendship is, in part, due to the thoughtfulness of Wendy Atkinson, who paired all three authors with the three choreographers chosen by the dance centre. In regards to Terezakis and Lee, Wendy felt a similarity in their work was the edgy view of urban life. She wanted to leave the door wide open for artistic interpretation. 

Words in Motion, Atkinson feels, is an excellent representation of art in Vancouver. 

“All three pairings are very different,” explained Atkinson. “Some pieces, like Terezakis and Lee's, tackling topical issues and some are focused more on lyrical or poetic form. Usually the Chan Centre showcases big names from all around the world, but this series will have a greater sense of city pride.”

Neither Terezakis or Lee aim to teach the audience a lesson, despite the piece’s heavy and close-to-home context. 

“I don’t come to any solutions. I’m not there to teach anybody. I don’t want to be literal,” said Terezakis.

Words in Motion runs March 18 and 19 at UBC’s Chan Centre for Performing Arts.