In a dance studio, tucked away on the edge of The Banff Centre campus, six dancers are practicing telepathy.
“We've been trying to work on mind-reading, essentially … trying to read their body language,” says Lisa Gelley, co-director of Company 605.
The innovative Vancouver-based dance company is cloistered away in the studio this week, preparing to premiere their latest work, Vital Few, at the Margaret Greenham Theatre on Saturday.
If you ask Gelley and her co-director, Josh Martin, Vital Few has been in the works for about two years. But it quickly becomes apparent that the show truly began in 2006, with the birth of the company itself.
In Vital Few, the company explores the delicate balance of unity and individuality, and the way that a single person is influenced by the people around them. What it means to “dance together, as opposed to dancing at the same time side-by-side," as Martin puts it.
That attempt to build a gestalt whole while still maintaining individual flavour has been one of the key ideas behind the Company 605 since the beginning. The company got its start in a small Vancouver studio in 2006, a gathering of dancers looking to connect with and learn from others artists. Their backgrounds and dance styles were different — everything from ballet to hip-hop, jazz to tap — but their desire was the same.
“Just trying to find a group of people who are really motivated to make something together, it is such a huge deal,” says Martin.
Vital Few can be seen as a commentary on that. How this company of dancers has brought individual skills to its collaborations, creating something greater than any one dancer they could have done on their his or her own.
It’s a reflection that takes a lot of work, and a lot of trust, to pull off. Even though the company is spending the few days before the premiere in intense rehearsals, it can’t be entirely scripted. Much of Vital Few comes down to reading the other dancers and reacting to what they do on stage — more anticipation than memorization.
The approach is the only way to maintain unity while still allowing the personalities of the dancers to shine through.
“The core of their movement remains with the same thing, but all their eccentricities and all their habits and all their personality traits, we try to put those front and centre,” Martin says.