Tonight marks the world premiere of Lisa Phinney Langley’s latest work, Grand Hotel, a  dance-music-poetry-visual collaboration featuring performances by Sarah Rozee, Nicolas Labelle and Miriah Brennan (dance), Colin Matthews and Catherine Little (cello), and Ardath Whynacht (poetry). A beautiful music score composed by Sandy Moore, an integral set designed by Peter Dykhuis and costumes by Elise Chase-Sinclair bring this work to life. Recently we caught up with the choreographer to discuss her passion for her profession and what audiences can expect this weekend (Thurs-Sat).

Lisa Phinney Langley
Photo by Scott Munn
Sourced from

When and why did you first become interested in dance?
When I was 13, I left gymnastics and was looking for something to fulfill my physical and artistic (and, it turns out, social!) side.

Are they the same reasons that you continue to be involved today?
Yes, definitely. I love the way that dance fills me up physically, intellectually, emotionally and spiritually.  And, still, it's a social art form. We don't do it alone. I still dance with the friends I made when I was a young dancer at Halifax Dance; they're a significant part of my professional circle.

What are the challenges of the vocation?
Well, hmm. The challenges are also the reason why dance is so compelling.  We have very little infrastructure. So that's hard sometimes - there's nothing to fill in the gaps - it's completely self-propelled. But then, that same thing lets us also be free, to respond to the moment, to fulfill a vision. I've worked in federal government which is functionally the opposite of the dance profession in many ways, and that has its challenges too.

What are the rewards?
We get to create; to make something from just the ideas and the collective skills and talents of our creation group. It's pretty inspirational. Having a great team, like our Grand Hotel team, all working towards bringing a vision to life, is a very amazing thing to be a part of. Bringing this work that we do to the audience is the ultimate reward—offering something that moves an audience and gives them a sense of what is possible beyond the everyday hum of life. We all have to do the laundry, cook dinner, clean up… Sometimes that's all we have time for in a day! Having the opportunity to offer a novel experience to an audience—something fun, transformative, collectively moving—is definitely a reward.

Is your creative process more 'inspirational' or 'perspirational'?
Inspirational at first, then perspirational. You need the inspiration to find a spark. But there is always toil and hard work and you need a toolbox so that when inspiration fails (or sometimes when it's at its highest) you can rely on the work— the perspiration—to get through to the next breath of connection.

How has your work evolved over the years?
I've been growing my toolbox. When I first began creating it was very inspirational—I went by feel. Now, I try to preserve that but also channel it through skills and perspectives that I've been learning so that I can have a handle on it, so that I can create more intentionally.

What have been some highlights?
Working with my Phin collaborators is definitely a highlight. The energy in the room when we meet or rehearse is palpable and I feel so fortunate to work with such amazing, intelligent and talented and generous human beings.  Any time I'm working with people who bring something to the table, who I can learn from, and who are also open to the synergy that can happen when you are deep in the creation process—that's what it's all about. I've felt that in other creations too—for example, creating Beside Myself, Gasping with Mocean Dance—when the vision is building through the input of all the artistic collaborators, when each listens to what the work is beginning to say and begins to contribute and offer from their perspective but in a common direction.  It makes the work rich and full.

What inspired Grand Hotel?
Originally it was Poe's The Masque of the Red Death. We then drew on the themes of boundaries, walls, the space between. What is it that we'd like to wall away, to keep out? Is it possible to wall it out, or is it within us all along?  It has grown to include a much larger sphere of research, so it's definitely a departure from the story of the Masque, but very much in keeping with the themes and what has grown from exploring those themes through movement, text, music, image…

View a trailer of Grand Hotel:

What can audiences expect to experience this weekend?
They can expect to be given a full experience, and to connect to the moments they witness in their own way. I hope they can expect to be transported by the visceral experience of the piece, perhaps lose themselves in a surreal world for about an hour (better than TV!). The dancers—Sarah Rozee, Nicolas Labelle, and Miriah Brennan—are just so amazing, and Sandy Moore's music is beautiful, played by cellists Colin Matthews and Catherine Little.  Poet Ardath Whynacht contributes another perspective to the piece. And it's visually rich, taking place in a set designed by Peter Dykhuis. It might make the audience think, feel, experience a new point of view.

What's next on your creative agenda?
We're performing at Nocturne: Art at Night at the Cathedral of All Saints, and after that we're preparing for our first fundraising event November 2nd at the Via Rail Station—it's called Strangers on a Train and it promises to be a night of art and intrigue. The theme is another expression of our research for Grand Hotel, so we're having lots of fun with it.

Grand Hotel at the Sir James Dunn Theatre in Halifax
Oct 3-5, 8pm

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