Neema Bickersteth is the creator and star of Century Song, seamlessly moving through the worlds created on stage by song, dance and art. She is accompanied on piano by Gregory Oh, who creates improvised soundscapes along with Debashis Sinha (percussion and computer). Here, Neema and Gregory reflect on the Century Song journey.
Q: What moment in the show always delights you/takes your breath away?
NB: Well, there are many moments that literally take my breath away leaving me a sweating, panting mess... but I love the very end of the show when I feel like I'm really a dancer moving in only light, no other visual distractions, just me in my body as myself.
GO: Delight: when Deb whips out his suitcase of toy instruments.
Breathtaking: City Kid visuals!
Q: What artist from the past century do you wish more people knew about?
NB: Kathleen Munn. We are using a work of hers from the 20's - of a nude woman painted in the cubist style. She was experimenting with styles that were very different than most of her peers in Canada at the time.
GO: Gerard Grisey. Vortex Temporum is one of the greatest works in the entire 20th century canon.
Q: Do you listen to music to get ready before the show? What music?
NB: Nope I don't listen to anything. We're making so much during the show, it's nice to have a bit of quiet.
GO: Never. Generally all I ever hear is Deb getting fanboy about buying 17 more Gigabytes of sound effect samples, but I don't really listen.
Q: This show’s been in development for 5 years. Have you ever done anything else that took five years?
NB: I don't think so but... I went to university for music for 7 years. I had 7 years of development/waiting before getting pregnant with my baby. Hmmm... now I'm interested in what will happen to Century Song after 7 years!
GO: Wooing my current partner.
Q: Can you tell us about a surprising or memorable moment during the creation of Century Song?
OH: There was the time we arrived at the NAC Ontario Scene Festival, and I was warming up on the piano, and using all sorts of extended techniques inside and outside to play the instrument, and somehow the little vibrator I was exciting the treble strings with slipped out of my hands and under the strings and into the action. Vibrators don't turn themselves off, and the only way I could get it out was to remove the lid, unscrew the keyblock pins and remove the entire action. It took a long time. It felt even longer. The technical crew was not impressed.
Q: What moment from the past Century do you wish you’d been a witness to?
GO: The 1998 Rose Bowl. National Championship! Woodson!
Either that or Nam June Paik's "First Accident of the 21st Century".
Catch Neema and Gregory in Century Song, running January 19-23 as part of Progress. Tickets can be purchased here.