Action at a Distance Dance Society
Action at a Distance Dance Society is a Vancouver-based contemporary dance company under the artistic direction of choreographer Vanessa Goodman. The priority of the company is to foster work that reflects the human condition, using dance to decode contemporary experience. It is the company’s goal to create immersive environments, working towards facilitating an engrossing experience for those who witness the work. Goodman was the recipient of the 2013 Iris Garland Emerging Choreographer Award. She has been commissioned to create works for the Dancing on the Edge Festival, The Gwaii Trust, Vancouver Biennale and Simon Fraser University. Most recently her work has been presented by The Canada Dance Festival, The Magnetic North Festival, The Dance Centre, Dances for a Small Stage, The Shadbolt Centre for the Arts, Push OFF, The Modulus Festival and The Chutzpah! Festival.
Action at a Distance is a non-for-profit registered charity, all donations made are tax deductible.
Vanessa Goodman holds a BFA from Simon Fraser University and is the artistic director and choreographer of Vancouver-based dance company Action at a Distance. Vanessa is attracted to art that has a weight and meaning beyond the purely aesthetic and uses her choreography as an opportunity to explore the human condition. She was the recipient of the 2013 Iris Garland Emerging Choreographer Award and the 2017 Yulanda M. Faris Program from the Scotiabank Dance Centre.
For ten years Vanessa was a company member of dancers dancing, under the artistic direction of Judith Garay. She also co-founded The Contingency Plan collective, where she interpreted new work from Justine A. Chambers, Rob Kitsos, James Gnam and Serge Bennathan. Independently she has danced with plastic orchid factory, Julia Sasso, Wild Excursions Performance, Jennifer Clarke Projects, dumb instrument dance, Mascall Dance, Holly Small and Judith Marcuse.
Vanessa has been commissioned to create works for the Dancing on the Edge Festival, The Gwaii Trust, Vancouver Biennale, Lamon Dance, Modus Operandi and the SFU Dance Program. Her work has been presented by The Canada Dance Festival, The Magnetic North Festival, The Dance Centre, Dance in Vancouver, EDAM's Choreographic Series, Kinetic Studio, Connection Dance Works, Small Stage, Northwest New Works, The Risk/Reward Festival, The Firehall Arts Centre, The Modulus Festival, The Chutzpah Festival, The Shadbolt Centre for the Arts and Push Off.
Vanessa continues her training locally and abroad, including intensives with the Batsheva Dance Company in Tel Aviv and the Hofesh Schechter Company in London. As a teacher, Vanessa has facilitated workshops and master classes in Toronto, Halifax, and throughout BC.
Action at a Distance's latest work, "Wells Hill", is based on the sweeping philosophies of Canadian luminaries Marshall McLuhan and Glenn Gould. The premiere will be presented by DanceHouse and SFU Woodwards in November 2017. Upcoming tour dates include a pair of solos: "Container", at The Dance Made in Canada Festival (Toronto); "Floating Upstream", at On The Boards (Seattle).
Board of Directors:
Pamela Jansen -Chair
Jessica Slonski -Vice Chair
Benjamin Milne -Treasurer
Benjamin Durie -
Judith Garay -Member at large
Kymm Girgulis - Member at large
Funders and Partners
Action at a Distance gratefully acknowledges the support from the funders and organizations that help to make the companies work possible.
The Canada Council for the Arts
The British Columbia Arts Council
The Province of British Columbia
The Scotiabank Dance Centre
The Chutzpah! Festival
The City of Vancouver
The Shadbolt Centre for the Arts
Floating Upstream, June 10th & 11th 2017 8pm North West New Works On the Boards, Seattle USA
Container, Dance made in canada/ fait au canada Aug 17 at 7pm, 18 at 9pm & 19 at 4pm 2017, Toronto
Container, Bienal Internacional de Dança Do Ceará, Oct 21 8pm 2017, Fortaleza, Brazil
Wells Hill, World Premiere DanceHouse and SFU W Commissioning and Presenting Partner, Nov 23rd Preview, Nov 24th & 25th 8pm, 26th 2pm, 2017 at The Fei and Milton Wong Experimental Theatre
(New Work), World Premiere, The Firehall Arts Centre Fall 2018
Wells Hill (remount), The Shadbolt Centre for the Arts Feb 2019
Wells Hill is an immersive contemporary dance work that celebrates communication and explores humanity's relationship with medium and performance. It draws inspiration from the work of Marshall McLuhan and Glenn Gould, two Canadian luminaries who altered how we consume art and information. With an incredible cast of performers backed by an innovative artistic team this work promises to be an exciting tapestry of movement and sound. Choreographer Vanessa Goodman’s thoughtful work strives to be a spectacle and has been praised for its "thrilling visual magic" (The Georgia Straight).
Featuring an incredible group of artists/collaborators:
Choreographer: Vanessa Goodman
Lighting Designer: James Proudfoot
Projection Design: Ben Didier, Milton Lim and Vanessa Goodman
Costume Design: Diane Park
Collaborating Dance Artists/Performers: Lara Barclay, Karissa Barry, Dario Dinuzzi, Bynh Ho, Arash Khakpour, Alexa Mardon and Bevin Poole
Composers: Scott Morgan (Loscil) and Gabriel Saloman
Apprentice: Shion Carter
SFU Interns: Samantha Penner and Anya Saugstad
Publication: Peter Dickinson
Production Manager: Jessica Chambers
Outside Eye: James Gnam
Chutzpah! Festival World Premiere Feb 25th-28th 2015
Dance in Vancouver Nov 21st 8pm 2015
Shadbolt Centre for the Arts March 2nd-5th 2016
DanceHouse and SFUW Commissioning & Presenting Partner
Fei and Milton Wong Theatre
Nov 24th & 25th 8pm, Nov 26th 2pm, 2017
Shadbolt Centre for the Arts Feb 2019 stay tuned for dates
Wells Hill was made possible with generous support from Canada Council for the Arts, The British Columbia Arts Council and The City of Vancouver.
Container premiered June 9th & 10th 2015 with Small Stage at the Canada Dance Festival and the Magnetic North Theatre Festival at the National Arts Arts Centre, Ottawa. Then performed at DOTE 2015, PuSh Off 2016 and at The Shadbolt Centre for the Arts in March 2016. Recent tours include Northwest New Works at On the Boards Seattle and Risk/Reward Festival Portland.
Aug 2017 tours to Toronto for the Dance made in canada/ fait au canada Festival.
Created with support from Small Stage and The Shadbolt Centre for The Arts.
Container is a new work by choreographer and performer Vanessa Goodman that explores heritage, culture and resilience.
"Goodman's solo Container, a version of which she presented earlier this June at the Magnetic North Festival, showcases what an amazing mover she is. Clad in nude-coloured dance semis and what looked like mini combat boots, and combining hyper-kinetic android-like movements with various club grooves, Goodman reminded me at various points of a cross between Priss from Blade Runner and Miley Cyrus--but without the look-at-me twerking, and with a much more gorgeous silhouette. At one point, early on in the piece, Goodman launches into a deep lunge, arching her back in way that had me wishing I could mimic that pose on the beach. Then, too, there is Goodman's innate musicality, as when she pulses her upper body and arms in simple yet hypnotic time to the electronic sound score by Loscil (the Vancouver-based artist Scott Morgan). To go back to that sci-fi connection I made via the Blade Runner reference, Container ends with Goodman dancing in a single, slowly fading spot upstage (the lighting is again by Proudfoot), her upper body raised to the ceiling as if she is about to be transported to another world, one that is big enough to contain her outsized talents."
Peter Dickinson/Performance, Place and Politics (2015)
Created by Loscil
Special thank you to The Shadbolt Centre for the Arts
What Belongs to You
What Belongs to You premiered July 5th & 6th at The Dancing on the Edge Festival at The Dance Centre Faris Theatre
Set: 200 white balloons, 10-13, 20" HDX Black Fans, Plastic Sheeting. All provided by the artist.
This new contemporary dance work is a physical journey motivated by human desire and led by the senses. What Belongs to You is driven by the need to connect, survive, remember and understand the human experience. It is anchored by Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, which describes the pattern that human motivations move through in life.
As the performers execute the innovative movement hundreds of white balloons cascade through the space. These balloons become instruments of motivation, acting as catalysts for the performers’ experience and transformation. Their innate spontaneity creates a dynamic environment that enhances the performers’ journey through this richly complex work and draws the audience into a thrilling performative experience.
"Goodman, winner of the 2013 Iris Garland emerging-choreographer award, shows depth, innovation, and maturity with this new piece, while expressing herself in a way that is massively accessible because of the spectacular, sensory effect of the balloons and the visual tricks she achieves with them. This is dance that anyone would enjoy. And if she can do this with a few standard items from Home Depot and Party Bazaar, there’s no stopping her."
Janet Smith/Georgia Straight (2014)
MOving into Wells Hill
A five page article by Peter Dickinson discussing Wells Hill. Please click on the article to advance the pages.
Peter Dickinson is Professor in the School for the Contemporary Arts and the Department of English, and also Director of the Institute for Performance Studies, at Simon Fraser University.
News & Updates
"In the evening, it was back to The Dance Centre for Saturday night's mainstage presentation of Vanessa Goodman/action at a distance's Wells Hill and Delia Brett/MACHiNENOiSY's plaything. I've blogged about the original presentation of Wells Hill, as part of the 2015 Chutzpah! Festival, [below]. The movement is as gorgeous as ever, at once languid and sinewy and robustly energetic in a way that is equally responsive to Gould playing Bach and to Gabriel Saloman's original immersive sound score. It was also interesting to see the piece in the more intimate setting of The Dance Centre (which I gather partly inspired the new costumes designed by Ziyian Kwan), and to witness the individual embodied contributions of new cast members Karissa Barry, Dario Dinuzzi, and Alexa Mardon. I look forward to the premiere of the full piece in 2017 at SFU Woodward's."
Peter Dickinson/Performance, Place and Politics (Nov 2015)
"Last night at the Norman and Annette Rothstein Theatre, the Chutzpah! Festival presented a double bill of dance. The evening opened with the premiere of a new work by local choreographer and SFU Contemporary Arts alum Vanessa Goodman. Wells Hill takes its name from the street in Toronto where Marshall McLuhan lived before moving to Wychwood Park, and where he wrote three of his most famous works: The Gutenberg Galaxy, Understanding Media, and The Medium is the Massage. (It helps that I live with, and was sitting beside, a noted McLuhan scholar.) Goodman takes inspiration from McLuhan's ideas about mass communication and, especially via his collaborations with Glenn Gould, how media affect the ways we produce and consume art.
To a recording of Gould performing The Goldberg Variations, a sextet of incredibly gifted Vancouver dancers (Lara Barclay, Lisa Gelley, James Gnam, Josh Martin, Bevin Poole, and Jane Osborne) begin moving in formation stage right, their deconstructed white tuxedo shirts and grey skirts and slacks evoking elite private school uniforms (the costumes are by Deborah Beaulieu), an image reinforced by the evocative floor and overhead florescent lighting design by James Proudfoot. The five dancers, initially tightly grouped and moving their arms synchronously and geometrically to frame their heads and torsos, slowly break apart and fan out across the stage. At this point, Barclay begins weaving in and around them, our focus drawn to her different movement patterns, the amount of space she is covering relative to the others, and, in this instance, the deliberate showcasing of her virtuosity. If dance is a performance medium that also in some senses performs us, Goodman seems to be asking, in this opening sequence, a key structural question: how, to paraphrase W.B.Yeats, do we separate the dancer from the dance?
This parts/whole, content/form equation was what I kept focusing on throughout the remainder of the piece. For example, following the opening group sequence we get a gorgeous duet between Gnam and Poole; as they finish, they move upstage, making way for the pairing of Gelley and Osborne. As kinetically compelling as the the downstage duo is (and these women are truly exceptional movers), our attention is necessarily divided between them and the upstage duo, a reminder that in contemporary dance our awareness and sensory-motor perceptors are being hailed in multiple ways, and often simultaneously. So too is it when Martin joins the group a bit later in the piece; he is moving differently than the others, more fluidly, and as he floats in and out between the others' bodies we cannot help but follow his progress. Finally, there is the stunningly arresting final tableau that Goodman gives us: Barclay, having first been grabbed from behind by Gelley, is steered stage left, as one-by-one the other dancers attach themselves to her body (and to each other) from the wings, manipulating her limbs like she is a marionette (an image with obvious dance-world resonance). However, Gnam remains apart from this group, dancing a solo in counterpoint to the larger group machine.
A lot is going on here. On the one hand, Goodman seems to be suggesting that if the dancer's body is a medium, then it is the choreographer who ultimately works it over. But sometimes even the most disciplined bodies can resist being conscripted for a particular message--hence Gnam dancing alone off to the side. Then, too, the dance-as-performed works on us (including kinaesthetically), a reminder that in the feedback loop of communication it is the audience that completes the circuit of both the medium and the message. This is something Gould recognized. Influenced by McLuhan, he famously gave up live performance for the perfectibility of the recording studio. But he never forgot who was at the other end of "his master's voice," that his records needed to be played and listened too. (Gould and McLuhan both appear at various points in screen projections curated by Goodman and Ben Didier). Likewise, in this very smart and important new work, Goodman recognizes that if, in McLuhan's words, "Art is anything you can get away with," that art nevertheless demands a response."
Peter Dickinson/Performance, Place and Politics (Feb 2015)
"Goodman’s Wells Hill (named for the street of McLuhan’s family home) uses dance to comment, sometimes ironically, on the texts of Gould and McLuhan, who shared many prescient ideas about technology and art. (The Canadian icons also appear in fuzzy video.) The piece opens with a projection of the famous McLuhan quote “Art is anything you can get away with,” counterpointed by Goodman’s dancers going through classic dance motions to echoey studio-piano music.
Wearing white dress shirts and grey bottoms, like deconstructed suits from the McLuhan era, the six dancers are top-notch, including an expressive Lara Barclay and James Gnam. The most powerful moments are when they enact, metaphorically, the hold media has on us, punctuated by voice-overs like the one of McLuhan warning that TV is feeding an unprecedented amount of information at high speed into children’s brains. At one point a dancer manipulates Barclay like a doll, covering her eyes, moving her hands and legs, and doubling her over; soon others join in, moving her till all five of her stage partners have overtaken her body. It’s in scenes like this you can really sense Goodman’s ability to choreograph; she also excels at creating a look and atmosphere, here with James Proudfoot’s stark white spot and fluorescent lighting and Gabriel Saloman’s original-sound compositions."
Janet Smith/Georgia Straight (2015)
"The night opens with local choreographer Vanessa Goodman’s work Wells Hill. Inspired by the text and theories of Marshall McLuhan and Glenn Gould, the piece begins with a delightful juxtaposition: McLuhan’s quote “Art is anything you can get away with” is projected on screen while traditional ballet piano plays and the dancers begin their contemporary movements. This tongue-in-cheek attitude towards contemporary art is part of what made Wells Hill a joy to watch.
Visually Wells Hill lives in a simple-yet-stunning greyscale, with bright white lighting on grey and white costumes. The movements of the dancers are simple and light, the whole thing feeling as airy as a breezy summer afternoon.
Intending to explore communication and our relationship with medium and performance, this light touch reflects the way we easily accept and incorporate new media into our lives without realizing that we are ultimately letting it control us. This concept is relayed clearly in a final image of a dancer being manipulated, first by one other dancer, then another and another, until she has a small mob following and controlling her, and she barely even notices it’s happening."
Andrea Loewen/Vancouver Persents (2015)
WORKS FROM 2014
what belongs to love
“What belongs to love” was a beautiful and simple look at connection -
Andrea Loewen / Vancouver Presents
"What Belongs to Love performed by Jane Osborne and Bevin Poole (choreographer Vanessa Goodman) told the story of love's many phases. It was very cleverly lit by Jonathan Ryder, the lighting designer for the evening. One could interpret many aspects of love in the lighting and in the movements of the dancers. A clever and innovative piece, What Belongs to Love highlighted the theme of the evening on the eve of Valentine’s Day". Nancie Ottem / ReviewVancouver (2014)
the longs indoors
"Goodman’s final work on the program was the most “dance-y”—and trance-y—on the program, and made it clear the young Iris Garland Emerging Choreographer Award–winner is well on her way to finding a unique choreographic voice. In her haunting the long indoors, crack dancers Kwan and Jane Osborne convulsed in their own, skittish groove under red-glowing, organlike blobs suspended from the ceiling. Moving to a soundscape that ranged from techno-industrial to heartbeats and what sounded like blood gurgling through veins, the pair moved almost like alien forms, lunging, partnering, then hurtling off in their own separate directions again. At one point Osborne seemed to fuse her fingers to Kwan’s neck, working her like some attached new member of her body, curling her up and arching her backward. Athletic, driving, and hypnotic, it felt hip—and fraught with mystery." Janet Smith / Georgia Straight (2013)
"Vanessa Goodman, co-artistic director of The Contingency Plan directs and collaborates with Jane Osborne and Ziyian Kwan in the long indoors, a duet that completes the program. The 2013 recipient of the Iris Garland Emerging Choreographer award, Goodman lets the movement build in conjunction with her electronic arrangement, such that the dance is propelled by increasing intensity, quicker tempo and a driving beat in the final sections.
The work opens in semi-darkness with the sound of crunching and grinding that gets louder and louder as Kwan and Osborne slowly shift and transfer their weight from side to side; rising and lowering on their toes; alternating one arm overhead, guided by slow undulations of the spine. Dressed in tank tops and boxer shorts, the costumes are perfect for giving the viewer the opportunity to observe the body in motion without the distraction of fabric or nudity.
Osborne partners easily with Kwan. The pair capture the complexity of relationships and a sense of the inter-subjectivity or interior feeling that characterizes all friendships. The notion of Jane becomes the space between the performers, as well as the conflict and commonality that arises in relationships. In one of many strong moments, the two dancers move horizontally across the stage, their heads locked together, arms intertwined around shoulders and necks, like conjoined twins in motion.
In several places, Osborne simply witnesses Kwan soloing, a generous and effective choice that lets us settle our attention on Kwan’s ease and facility moving in and out of the floor. Then, reversing roles, Osborne performs a series of low backward walks, falling off her centre repeatedly – a device that is strangely interesting. By the final sections, the combined steady rhythm and shadowy lighting produce a powerful trance-like, hypnotic effect.
One puzzling aspect of the long indoors is the set feature, two matching papier-mâché-like creations hanging downstage at ceiling height. In some way they balance the space, but whether they reference capillaries, body organs or something else is a total mystery." Mary Theresa Kelly / The Dance Current(2013)
"For the final piece, The Contingency Plan premiered the long indoors, choreographed by Vanessa Goodman and danced by Jane Osborne and Ziyian Kwan. Featuring a bright red, bulbous paper sculpture installation by Amelia Epp hanging above the stage, this work was an abstract study of the internal body and its mysterious physical systems. The sound design added to the atmosphere of being inside the body, and the choreography was fluid with striking partner work. This collaborative effort was an enjoyable, thought-provoking evening of dance." Tessa Perkins / Press Plus 1 (2013)
"The third offering, the long indoors is a more finely detailed choreography than the previous works. Two dancers, Ziyian Kwan Jane Osbourne, share roughly equal responsibility for the execution of the dance vocabulary, with each dancer relying on their own individual strengths. Both performers display sensuous physicality and each bring a distinctly aesthetic dimension to Vanessa Goodman’s work." John Jane / Review Vancouver (2013)
Down Goes Fraser
"I was ... given goosebumps again and again by Vanessa Goodman & Deanna Peter’s Down Goes Fraser." Heidi J. Loos / Vancouver Weekly (2013)
peeling away like a bubble in wallpaper
"Vanessa Goodman’s peeling away like a bubble in wallpaper is performed downstage, and this choice conveys an immediacy and connection. Goodman, co-artistic director of The Contingency Plan collective, credits the choreography as a collaboration with the four performers. She uses no objects or visual media, instead focussing on movement phrases supported by segments of recorded conversation between individuals about their illnesses. For instance, a man’s voice says: “I was diagnosed with a detached retina. Legally, I’m blind.” Michael Kong, Erika Mitsuhasi, Jane Osborne and Bevin Poole are a tight ensemble; Osborne’s quickness and lightness, Poole’s octopus-like fluidity, and Kong and Mitsuhasi’s sensitive partnering effectively evoke a sense of wonder from a work about the human senses. The dancers grab the rhythmic pulsation of each phrase, gathering in, consuming and metabolizing the space around them. The work is graced by the feeling that here, in these young artists, is the next generation of contemporary dancers." The Dance Current / Mary Theresa Kelly (2012)
"The dark and evocative mood... continued in Vanessa Goodman’s peeling away like a bubble in wallpaper, set on Contingency Plan dancers Michael Kong, Erika Mitsuhashi, Jane Osborne, and Bevin Poole, and to the music of Swans, A Silver Mt. Zion, and Silk Saw. Goodman’s title suggests a process of reduction, but instead the piece builds in complexity and momentum, rising out of half-lit vignettes (a lone woman fighting unseen forces; two dancers scooting across the floor on some sort of wheeled contraption) before becoming a quartet of considerable complexity. On an abstract level.... the dance was powerful, with the androgynous Poole the standout in a strong cast." Alexander Varty / Georgia Straight (2012)
Iris Garland Award
"Other BC artists making headlines include Vanessa Goodman, who recently received the Iris Garland Emerging Choreographer Award ($5000), and Su-Feh Lee (pictured) for receiving the Isadora Award for Excellence in Dance ($500 plus subsidized rehearsal space)." Cindy Brett / The Dance Current (2013)
"At a ceremony April 29 at the Scotiabank Dance Centre, Goodman received the Iris Garland Emerging Choreographer Award.
The biennial prize gives an artist between 19 and 35 $5,000 to produce their work at Scotiabank Dance Centre in Vancouver.
Through the award, Goodman, a co-artistic director of The Contingency Plan, plans to premiere what belongs to you, her first full-length work, in 2014." Janet Smith / Georgia Straight (2013)