Interview with choreographer Bill Coleman

 “When Accidents Happen, You’re Very Attentive” – Bill Coleman navigates through difficulty in Dollhouse, a dance production presented at the NAC’s Canada Scene Festival in partnership with the Canada Dance Festival on July 15.

The NAC’s Canada Scene has a specific focus on contemporary artists to shift your perspective and blur artistic disciplines. Named Scene Makers, these events take place from July 9 to 16.

One of these Scene Makers is Canadian contemporary dance master Bill Coleman -choreographer, performer, and co-artistic director of Coleman Lemieux & Compagnie- who, with collaborator Gordon Monahan present Dollhouse, a collision of movement, tap dance and soundscape.

Born in Nova Scotia and raised in Scotland, Bill Coleman first got into tap dancing at the age of 15 after seeing Fred Astaire on television. He asked his mother if he could take classes, eventually going on to theatre school in London and studying ballet, taking his first jobs with Dublin City Ballet and in Germany. Coleman’s artistic direction changed after seeing Bill T. Jones perform. “Talking, moving singing, I didn’t know you could do all that in dance.” Having discovered contemporary dance, he moved to Toronto and then studied at the Merce Cunningham studio in New York, before going on to work with Bill T. Jones, Toronto Dance Theatre, and the Martha Graham Dance Company, among others.

Dollhouse, which Coleman calls “profund and disturbing, as well as kind of funny,” is a return to tap dance, his first love. “My love of tap dance comes out of also a love of those 40’s vaudeville-based movies which have a lot of slapstick. A lot of humour is bad things happening to a good person, and in a lot of slapstick humour, it’s things falling over... Chaos is still things living together in a certain way.”

Bill Coleman created and performs in Dollhouse with Gordon Monahan, an internationally-renowned experimental sound artist, and 2013 recipient of the Governor-General's Award in Visual and Media Arts. He is a “Father of Sound Art” according to Coleman and “the only game in town if I wanted to realize this piece fully.” As Composer John Cage once noted, “Gordon Monahan produces sounds we haven't heard before.”

The piece was created as a series of environments and performative tasks by somebody encased or entrapped in an enclosed space where things that move and make sound are happening to one person.  As Coleman explains, “When we dance, a lot of the time it’s navigating difficulty. When an accident happens, you’re very attentive. In Dollhouse, I keep myself in that heightened state of catastrophe. I’m trying not to worry if I’m I doing something right. I’m almost watching myself in performance.”

“With Dollhouse, the working practice, I’m being as open as I can be in front of the audience. I’m being as sensitive as I can, taking in the audience. I’m trying to be as complete and sensitive to everything around. That’s not a bad thing to focus on in these times.” Does Bill Coleman consider himself as a “Scene Maker”? He interprets being included in this Canada Scene  programming as acknowledging his continued curiosity in creation and dance.

“I’m very engaged in the physical art and very engaged in exploration and I’ve kept my edge keen that way. It’s a lot of work, and that allows me to go in directions which I would never anticipate.”

The Dance Current says Dollhouse is "a journey wherein every sound is an action and every action is a sound. Coleman is striking."

Dollhouse will be presented at Arts Court Theatre on July 15 at 8 pm.
Tickets are $25.

Learn more about Bill Coleman’s career and performance history

Learn more about the work of Gordon Monahan

Join our email list for the latest updates!