Photo by Catherine Mytofir

It’s been 20 years full of the finest contemporary dance and performance art from around Canada and the world for the local presentation group Public Energy.

Founded in 1994 as “Peterborough New Dance,” Public Energy has been an integral part of the Peterborough arts scene ever since its inception.

The group has been doing contemporary dance and performance art so long that its first productions could now be considered classics by connoisseurs. As an organization, it’s now older than most incoming Trent students.

Artistic Producer Bill Kimball says that, through the years, the organization’s greatest accomplishment has been “bringing contemporary dance and theatre, all kinds of contemporary arts, to a city the size of Peterborough on a regular basis.”

The group prides itself on presenting works from the most talented performance artists from across Canada, while also fostering the development of local talent through presentations of local work, classes, and workshops.

The next event the group has in store, titled Eesti: Myths and Machines, was created and will be performed by Peter Trosztmer.
Despite this seemingly solo effort, the work is highly collaborative in nature.

“He has created a collaborative work with a sound artist [Jean-Sébastian Durocher] and a sculptor [Jeremy Gordaneer] who have made a machine that sits on stage, which Trosztmer interacts with,” says Kimball.

The work was inspired by stories Trosztmer grew up hearing about his grandfather’s escape from Estonia during World War II.

The machine itself acts as a metaphor for a jail cell, a boat, and a machine of war.

Kimball points out that this collaboration is in addition to the lighting artist, Rasmus Sylvest, dramaturge, Lois Brown, and creative assistant, Thea Patterson, who all contributed in important ways to make the piece what it is.

The piece is more story-driven than the typical dance number, further underscoring the multi-disciplinary collaboration that is at the heart of the project.

Eesti will be performed on September 14 at 8pm in Market Hall Performing Arts Centre, Public Energy’s main venue. Tickets are $22 for the general public, $15 for students and the underwaged, and $5 for high school students.

Kimball pointed out that discounted tickets are just one of many benefits Public Energy offers for students.

There is also a free-to-attend Open Rehearsal and Q&A session Friday September 13 from 4-5pm in Market Hall that students with an interest in dance are encouraged to come to. Audience members will have the chance to interact in-person with the artists.

For Kimball, Public Energy gives an important “window into the world of contemporary dance and theatre, and opens up your experience of what dance and theatre can be, beyond what [students] may have grown up with.”

“Dance is an art form that speaks to a different part of the brain. … It’s nonverbal so it can speak across all cultures, and creates a potential for shared experiences” Kimball tells Arthur.

Public Energy’s 20th season was officially kicked off September 3 to coincide with Artsweek, but the unofficial start to the season came in July with the second annual Dusk Dances. The event was comprised of four pieces that took place in various locations around Rotary Park. Host Dan Watson toured audience members around the park, and engaged viewers of all ages, with special attention paid to engaging the youngest in the crowd.

The Dances proved to be a huge success for the second year in a row, drawing large crowds all four nights.

In true Public Energy tradition, the Dances incorporated both professional dancers and talent from the Peterborough community. The piece Incandescent was comprised mainly of volunteer dancers from around Peterborough.

Kimball told Arthur that over the course of the past 20 years, through events of this nature, Public Energy has “produced a couple hundred local artists … at least 200.”
Incandescent alone hosted 25 of these artists, some for the first time ever.

While there is much to be excited for in the 2013-14 season, Kimball is most anticipating a dance to be titled Erring. The event is still in the works, but will take place in the Spring in an unused building slated for renovation somewhere in Peterborough.

The event is a call back to one that took place in the summer of 1996 in vacant apartments above The Only Cafe, the space that later became The Gordon Best Theatre.

“Audiences went from one room to another to watch these short pieces, and that’s what we want to do again,” says Kimball.

The owners have yet to confirm the building’s availability, but Kimball seems certain that the event will take place one way or another.