House Gifts

Canadian Choreographer Furs, Fins, and Feathers His ‘Nest’

There's something faintly professorial—though hardly absentminded—about House, who appears much younger than his 46 years. His father, a neurologist, is the lieutenant governor of Newfoundland, and a pioneer in developing techniques for using computers to assist medical diagnosis over great distances.

If House had his career to do over again, he says, "I would have done it differently, enjoyed my dancing more. But because I never really wore myself out, I'm still happy to go and do workshops." He's studied recently with contact-improvisation pioneer Danny Lepkoff and choreographer Stephanie Skura, and takes a central role in Nest, his first full-length work, which premiered to rave reviews in Toronto in 2000.

Nest is not his newest choreography; that honor belongs to Severe Clear, the result of a commission from the Yukon Arts Center that took him on a wilderness trek: whitewater rafting, hiking, and swimming in the Arctic Sea. "I was reading Bruce Chatwin, and being shadowed by a journalist. I realized that I would have access to documentation of everything that happened on the trip. So I had exactly the ammunition I needed for the next piece. It's about how you develop your official memory of an event when you're traveling, which has to do with storytelling. You experience however many billion nervous impulses. It gradually gets filtered down—you embroider things, and lie a bit."

Writing with the body: Toronto Dance Theatre’s Christopher House (right) coaches Kristy Kennedy and William Yong.
photo: Cylla Von Tiedemann
Writing with the body: Toronto Dance Theatre’s Christopher House (right) coaches Kristy Kennedy and William Yong.

So why isn't he bringing Severe Clear to the Joyce? "I thought it would be a little bit too innocent to present in New York, maybe too specifically Canadian. People sing in it."

In Nest, House quotes Virginia Woolf and bursts naked out of a cocoon. He's probably made the right decision.

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