Entry from Acts of Transfer:
Duration: 7 min 55 sec
Format: ¾” Umatic
Jane Ellison has been a critical participant in Western Front’s multidisciplinary experiments merging art and life. As one of Western Front’s early artists, Ellison is also the sole dancer to have contributed to its activities. Over the years, Ellison has collaborated with many artists, musicians, dancers, and choreographers, and continues to teach out of the studio of EDAM Dance which has been located at Western Front since 1982. Ellison began teaching exercise dance classes at the Front as a means to make a small income, as well as process what she was “learning about and interested in” by way of teaching and researching it through the body. The class eventually developed the multifarious monikers “Boing Boing,” “Boing,” or “The Boing” at the suggestion of fellow peer and dancer Margaret Dragu, illustrating Ellison’s love for playful and organic processes. While some may consider Ellison’s class a performance, hers is undoubtedly a praxis that seeks to create conditions for participation, improvisation, collaboration, and emergence using the body and its many abundant expressions as a form and mode of research. The loosely guided, meditative format of the class incorporates the practice of finding presence and freedom within oneself: one that is open to a continual unfolding and processing.
As demonstrated by her presence in Oh Yes, Oh No (1979), Aboutabout (1979), and MOVEMENTARTS (1979) on the Acts of Transfer timeline, Ellison is a frequent contributor and familiar face in Western Front’s archives. All made in the same year, each work uniquely demonstrates Ellison’s range of skills and interests while maintaining choreography as its foundation.
Aboutabout (1979), recorded days after Oh Yes, Oh No (1979), is another collaborative work by Jane Ellison, this one with dancers Helen Clarke and Peter Bingham. Both Oh Yes, Oh No (1979) and Aboutabout took place as part of the Living Art Performance Festival, an ambitious multi-day performance event that occupied many spaces across Vancouver for live performances to occur and “performance tapes” to be screened. Aboutabout is a live work that animates a hollow papier maché sculpture so that it resembles an insect-like organism or breast. Three white figures in full bodysuits, hidden underneath the carapace, move about the stage in clumsy unison, trying to manoeuvre their shared form. A soundtrack plays the country bluegrass folk tunes “The Custom Made Woman Blues” and “Don’t Put Her Down, You Helped Put Her There” by Alice Gerrard and Hazel Dickens. The performers eventually separate from the shell, roll around freely, bump into each other, and stand up. They wiggle sporadically to shed their skins, extracting their heads and arms from their bodysuits. Fully released, they move in unison, then move each other, as if learning how to function both individually and collectively. Heads, hands, fingers and tongues gesture with curious exaggeration, exploring new body movements. Aboutabout (1979) can be found here.
1 – EDAM is an acronym for Experimental Dance and Music.
2 – Ultraviolet (Interview with Jane Ellison)—Project Rainbow. Produced by Project Rainbow. Featuring by Jane Ellison. 2013. Accessed April 2018. https://front.bc.ca/events/past-is-prologue-project-rainbow-screening-and-talk/.
3 – Ibid.
4 – Ultraviolet (Interview with Hank Bull about Jane Ellison)—Project Rainbow.
5 – Ellison, Jane. “About Jane.” Jane Ellison Classes. Accessed April 2018. http://www.janeellisonclasses.com/about-jane/.
A performance of a big breast cavorting around the stage on six legs, like a pink bug.
Part of the Vancouver Living Art Performance Festival.