Tara Cheyenne Friedenberg: Cultch Artist-in-Residence

Tara Cheyenne Friedenberg is a Vancouver based dancer, choreographer, director and all around creative person. Right now she can be found completing an artistic residency at The Cultch, working hard on Highgate, a piece that explores Victorian funeral culture. We caught up with Tara to find out a bit more about Highgate and how she feels about completing an artistic residency with us here at The Cultch!

For those of us who don’t know, can you tell us what a residency is?

A residency is when a theatre (or arts centre) invites an artist to create in their space for a concentrated amount of time. The theatre supports the artist and the work in progress by providing space, technical, and administrative support. For the artist, a residency is a great opportunity to really focus on a creation without distraction.

What does it mean to you as a choreographer to have a residency at The Cultch?

For me this residency at The Cultch is a fantastic opportunity and a privilege. The Cultch is one of my favourite places to perform and to see work, so to be creating in the building has a special vibe for me. It’s also a great facility. The Culture Lab is a little theatrical oasis.

What are your thoughts on the importance of organizations helping out the artistic community though things like residency programs?

I think that the collaboration between organizations and artists is essential. We are part of the same cultural ecosystem and I think better things happen when there is an exchange of support and ideas. I certainly feel I have grown and learned a great deal through the residencies I’ve been involved in. It also helps establish relationship with the organization (I’m talking about all the passionate and talented people that make a place like The Cultch work) and the artist. When we understand and know each other we can positively affect one another.

Can you talk a bit about your creative process when creating new works?

My process is usually quite long. I start with a little idea, a character, and image. Then I start researching, finding out as much as I can on my subject. For the piece I’m working on — Highgate — I spent a lot of time at Highgate Cemetery in London, UK, and read a lot about Victorian funerary fetish. It’s fascinating stuff and really creepy. I’ll often make a few studies or short pieces to see what works, sometimes performing these bits to see how an audience receives the material. At this point I’m working with mentor/director Nigel Charnock at The Cultch. Nigel is my art hero and has made an incredible body of dance-theatre work. Having him work with me in the studio is pushing me beyond my comfort zones to look at the material in new ways. It’s very exciting!

Where do you look for inspiration when creating new choreography?

Everywhere! I usually start with something I find interesting like crime drama or heavy metal. But sometimes I just see an interesting person on a bus moving in an interesting way and go back to the studio and try to capture what it was about that person or moment that interested me and from there a new character might emerge.

Can you tell us a bit about the work you’re currently rehearsing at The Cultch and what your hopes are for it in the future?

I’ve been dreaming of Highgate for over a year; making studies, researching and with this time I’m really able to dig into the work with Nigel and the dancers. This will be my first group work; I’ve mostly done solo up until now. I’m excited to see these ideas and characters on multiple bodies. I’m looking forward to seeing Highgate premiere at The Cultch in the Historic Theatre. It’s such a fantastically evocative space and I’ve always imagined the piece there with all the Victorian gothic trappings, fog, graveyard sounds… The Dancing on the Edge festival will present an excerpt/work in progress of Highgate on July 10th and 11th. This will be another good chance for me to see how the work is received. And I have a fantasy of performing the piece at Highgate Cemetery in London. I’m not sure if they’d go for it but I’m certainly going to try.

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