Three over-the-hill dancers are over the moon about a new piece making its world premiere at Metro Studios this week.
Modern dance matriarch Lynda Raino, 65, celebrated soprano Cathy Fern Lewis, 58, and acclaimed choreographer Denise Lieutaghi, 54, have created a vocal movement piece that celebrates the unique bonds of women’s relationships — from wedding and spirituality to the kitchen and writing the church bulletin — through movement, dialogue and song.
And it comes from an older woman’s perspective. “We’re older performers,” says Raino. “Ageism is something to fight. Everything isn’t done by someone in their 20s … the creation process doesn’t stop.” And she would know. Raino recently retired and sold her studio to flamenco dancer and protégé Monique Salez.
While Lewis is more widely known for her stunning soprano voice, she’s well versed in the art of vocal movement, having attended Simon Fraser University’s choreographic symposium in 1984.
“Since then I’ve been working with dancers from the voice out,” says Lewis.
And while both Raino and Lieutaghi are well known as dancers and choreographers, both have sung in choirs for many years and have beautiful singing voices. “But this is so much different than standing still and singing,” says Raino.
Together, these three ladies created the vocal movement piece Opera She Saw, which features modern dance, dialogue and three-part harmonies, with music ranging from Gabriel Fauré, Johannes Brahms, and Thomas Bateson’s 17th century madrigals to the likes of Sam Cooke, pop-star Robyn, and the national anthem. They sing in English, Latin and German — and even sing Alex North and Hy Zaret’s “Unchained Melody” in Italian.
For the most part, the music was chosen by Lewis. “I tried to choose songs that would suit their voices,” says Lewis. “The arrangements are tailor-made.”
At times funny, sometimes serious, Opera She Saw runs the gamut of emotion and circumstance — and is touching, entertaining and quirky — including the props they use: rakes, eggs, hats and teacups.
So far, the creation process has gone smoothly, but with Lieutaghi living on Lasqueti Island (where she’s artistic director of Off the Grid Dance), the ladies are only able to meet twice weekly for rehearsal.
“Geography has definitely been our biggest challenge,” says Lieutaghi.
“But we get around it with three-way Skype sessions,” says Raino.
“It’s really fun because we’re all really visual, auditory and physical,” says Lieutaghi. “One has an idea and another enhances it and it grows from there.”
The women earned a BC Arts Council Creation Grant to work on this piece. “That was a huge moment for us,” says Raino. “It was such a huge vote of confidence.”
The work, originally called Three Good Women, was also supported through Dance Victoria’s Dance Accelerator project, which raised $1,535 from 30 individual donors in February. Three Good Women was also supported by Dance Victoria’s LOLA Projects, which saw Vancouver-based dance artist Farley Johansson travel to Victoria to work with the women as an “outside eye.”
“We felt like we got two votes,” says Raino.
The ladies are applying for a production grant that would allow them to take the show on the road. “It would be really easy to tour and would be great for Fringe Festivals,” says Raino. “We definitely hope it has a life beyond this weekend.” M
Opera She Saw
Metro Studio (1411 Quadra)
Friday and Saturday at 8pm
and Saturday at 4pm
$22 at ticketrocket.org