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Start with a Seedling

Start with a Seedling is a unique intergenerational program that brings together community volunteer [ ... ]

Let’s Talk About Cycling

The City of Charlottetown will set up the third “Let’s Talk About Cycling” pop-up during Park( [ ... ]

Applied Poetry

Judith Scherer's "Something White" and "Point-Virgule"

Review by Shauna McCabe

On June 23, Judith Scherer presented the premiere of her dance-sound installation "Something White" and a second piece "Point-Virgule" at the Carrefour Theatre, in advance of her contemporary solo dance performance of the works at Dresden Dance week in the Festspielhaus Hellerau in Germany this July. In Prince Edward Island, where dance experiences in the summer run to the pizzazz of musical theatre and music is often traditional, modern dance and electroacoustic composition provide an important alternative in the spectrum of art and entertainment.

In its abstract form, modern dance performance can be challenging to understand. The key is knowing the artist's obsession-the mystery they are trying to define and solve. In this case, Scherer's big question is the nature of the relationship of the human figure to its surroundings, to space. "The human being is always disturbing space," says Scherer. "Something White" uses the metaphor of the sea as it moves from fluid to ice and stillness, exploring the movement between the extremes of violence and harmony. Different sounds, like a knife on stone and moving water, are brought together to reinforce this continuum in the form of "musique concrete"-the composition created digitally from transformed recorded material.

This question is also grappled with in her second dance piece, "Point-Virgule" (Semicolon), inspired by a musical piece by Jean-François Denis, a Canadian electroacoustic composer. The music was developed through five approaches, concluding with an exclamation point, which Scherer matches in the choreography with danced moments which follow in succession.

Although this contemporary dance performance takes an abstract form, it draws from her concrete personal experience and concerns. Born in Zurich, Switzerland, Scherer studied dance and communication in Germany and New York, and has consistently developed performance projects that bring together movement, visuals, light and sound. She settled in Prince Edward Island in 1989, creating such recent performances as "Gate" and "Island" which show different approaches to the relationship of human beings to their natural surroundings-the theme she has been following for some time.

In "Something White" as well as "Point-Virgule", Scherer's artistic strategy is integration, creating multimedia performances that address these fundamental questions in different ways. The printed words that begin "Something White"-a poem, "August: Nietzsche in Turin" by Gennadi Ajgi, projected on a screen at the back of the darkened stage-speak to her source of inspiration, as well as this cross-disciplinary approach. To her dance performance and the video projection of the poem passing in time, another cinematic layer is added -a video projection of the changing seasons of the beach and sea near her home at Dalvay, Prince Edward Island, as well as the electroacoustic music sound track.

Scherer's performances draw upon others working across boundaries of technique and media. In the development of these pieces, she has worked with composer Shawn Ferris, as well as Hans Samuelson, who provided digital image manipulation and sound creation. The effect of the collaboration is a clean, incisive performance and an artful and layered dance presentation that clarifies Scherer's search for a certain harmony. And as her work crosses boundaries-between sources, media, genres, and techniques of expression-a certain artificiality and awkwardness of categories themselves becomes clear.

Visible Memory

by Shauna McCabe

They are all over: cues as to how to see the landscape. Monuments and cairns, historic plaques, interpretive signs-all try to draw out the trace histories that lie along the furrows and roads of this Island.

Farmlands Trail.

It is a given that places themselves, our physical surroundings, affect experience. But our experience is also shaped by the way places are framed, the words used to describe where landscape has met biography.

Bubbling Springs Trail.

A key source of these cues on Prince Edward Island is the National Park. A coastal park, it extends along a 40 kilometre strip of sand dunes, beaches, saltmarshes, bays and cliffs. And though the beaches are abandoned to the shorebirds as the weather turns colder, much information awaits quietly around them. On Prince Edward Island, the coastline is history; in it are layers of natural as well as cultural residue.

The old Stanhope community cemetery was once part of an active farm community. Over 160 years of history are buried deep...

Lifting these stories from the landscape with respect and holding them up so we can see them is one role of the park. Its mandate is to protect areas in an unimpaired state for future generations, as well as for public understanding. In the summer, interpretive programmes offer cultural campfires, guided hikes and walks, and presentations about the natural environment and the cultural resources found there. As winter approaches, programmes shift to focus on the winter landscape: walks examining animal tracks and changing animal and bird patterns, school visits, as well as activities such as pond skating and moonlight skiing.

Some of the stories stay the same across seasons. Evidence of historical change, altering settlement, and age old natural processes, is always there. Along walking and ski trails, words are maps. They bring into view these marks left on the land, still and silent as fossils, visible if you know what to look for.

Ancient fences
Along this trail several clues of past settlement are still visible. Long mounds of earth, now lower than in the 1800's, are called dykes. At one time, these dykes marked a farmer's field.

Sometimes such words direct your perception; sometimes they bring something completely new into vision. Beyond the number of visitors it attracts, the park has established a reputation for the quality and integrity of the stories it tells-about the human experiences that physically created this landscape out of water and wood, soil and sand, as well as the natural forces at play.

Long pond was once a sheltered bay fished by early Acadians. Over time, the onshore winds and waves have pushed offshore sandbars inward forming the coastal dune system and this "barachois" pond.

Though everything is always changing, there is always something left behind. The park is a good place to learn about traces. Beyond revenue or tourist numbers, the park offers one shape of landscape memory.

For more information on winter programmes in the National Park, call (902) 672-6350.

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