Better Get Hit in Your Soul – Dancer Feature – Catherine Hayward
DJD’s upcoming production, Better Get Hit in Your Soul is dances inspired by the music, life and times of Charles Mingus. The show was originally mounted in 2013 as Kimberley Cooper’s first work as Artistic Director. For company dancer, Catherine Hayward this is also the second time she will be performing the show. A remount is a unique experience that doesn’t always happen. Here’s what she has to say about Better Get Hit in Your Soul the second time around.
WHAT WAS IT LIKE SETTING BETTER GET HIT IN YOUR SOUL THE FIRST TIME? HOW MUCH DID YOU KNOW ABOUT CHARLES MINGUS THEN?
Before we mounted Better Get Hit in 2013, I had already been introduced to Mingus’s music. I had danced and listened to it in our company technique classes, used it for teaching, and on a few occasions created choreography to his music. Prior to 2013, I had done some reading in order to research themes and find inspiration for choreography, this research was specific to the pieces I was using and when and why they were written.
When we first mounted the BGH show I learned more about Mingus’s life. His life seemed quite difficult at points, but this never derailed him from his music. There are many sides to his personality; passion, anger, vulnerability, protectiveness. These attributes manifest quite vibrantly. This struck me as unique from my own human experience where we often display one side more intensely then another.
His music at this time was extremely difficult to my ear. In one piece Tonight at Noon I couldn’t hear the downbeat of each bar, this made it difficult to execute the choreography. I had to practice and rely on the other dancers to help me feel the music. In many other parts of the show the music was too difficult to count, we would memorize the melody, the notes, the different instruments you hear to be in time with each other. It’s a bit like memorizing a poem or a speech that you practice over and over to find the perfect flow. I should clarify that it’s very common for jazz dancers to count or sing the music when learning choreography. The deeper our understanding of how the musician is playing the music can help us to become another instrument in the music.
WHAT IS DIFFERENT ABOUT BETTER GET HIT IN YOUR SOUL FOR YOU THIS TIME?
A few things are really different about the show this time. The first is my dancing body. It’s six years later. I was 31 when we first learned this show and now I’m 37. This may not seem like a huge difference but the way I feel as a dancer inside my body is completely different. I’m more relaxed, my energy is calmer, I’m more sensitive to the music and the movement, I’m more focused on what I’m communicating in each moment. I think I’m strong in a different way then I was at 31.
The other thing that has dramatically changed is learning a show you’ve danced before. We’ve relied on video and our memories of what Kim was saying when she first created the show. Myself, Kaleb, Shayne, and Natasha have relearned sections to teach to the dancers who are new to the show. Something that strikes me the most about this experience is perspective. I’ve come to realize we all have our memories shaped through our own lens, and this was evident when my memories would differ from another dancer. I think this is because we all attach ourselves to different kinds of information. Some of us like practical details, others sensory details, others like to understand the story. This is pretty fascinating because we arrive at the same place, but we’ve taken different journeys to get there.
Another huge difference is moving from an intimate space like the Big Secret Theatre to the DJD Dance centre. In 2013, there were points in the show where I would lean forward and touch an audience member, and another moment where myself and former dance Dinou would climb through a row in the audience in a chase sequence. In the opening of the show we would hang out in the audience riser and speak to people we saw. This created an interesting kind of intimacy, an electricity with the audience. In the 2019 version I feel more intimacy with the other dancers and musicians. It creates a different kind of relationship with the audience. The audience will be able to take in more of the whole picture than in the first iteration.
Something else that really changes things is a different and larger cast. I think every dancer brings their unique personality and sensibilities to the work. It’s very different dancing a show with different people. For instance, when I partner with Shayne or Kaleb it’s almost like putting on a piece of clothing you’ve worn before. You settle back in to how it fits you. With a new partner you spend time navigating how you will negotiate through a movement together. Little things that seem inconsequential can make a section feel entirely different. For instance, I’m taller than Jason in my heels, whereas my original partner was much taller than me. When I go to spin under his arm I have to find a completely new position for my body.
Lastly, I would say it’s interesting to perform a show for the second time. I’m excited to bring something different to the stage in my performance than the first time. I am hoping it won’t feel the same but very different, more mature, more nuanced, and this will speak louder to an audience watching.