Hannah Briggs McNeill is a Guelph-based dancer and creator. She attended Ryerson Theatre School from 2009-2012, where she majored in Performance Dance. Since then she’s worked as a contemporary choreographer and instructor. In 2015 Hannah choreographed and stage managed The Muddy Mary Project’s production of Finding Temperance. Interested in people and performance cross-culturally, Hannah is currently wrapping up a second degree program, this time in International Development. This summer Hannah will begin work on a multi-disciplinary project she’s creating and choreographing for Sonderlust called This Place I Call Home (TPICH). TPICH has been supported by the Ontario Arts Council, Canstage, and Pat the Dog Theatre Creation.
What does your creative process look like coming from a background in dance?
Because of my background in dance, I think I prioritize the body or the visual impact (which makes complete sense!). My mind works in patterns and symbols more. I believe that sometimes the most powerful moments are those without words. You can tap into something more honest or more genuine without even opening your mouth. Those moments are incredible and universal. They resonate so easily when done effectively.
When I begin to think about a piece, it comes to me in snippets – little flashes that I have to piece together. Some artists work off of words – others off of music, etc., but I am definitely propelled by the visual – by the patterns I see starting to come together in my mind. Then Nicole and I usually sit over drinks and sweet potato fries as I try to explain these images. Slowly but surely, we start to sort out what they all mean and go from there. She is far better with words – words are her thing, but I speak through feeling and imagery.
Tell us a little bit more about the project you’re currently working on for Sonderlust.
This Place I Call Home (TPICH) will follow the same template as Sonderlust’s first project, Wives Tales — beginning with meetings conducted with women from the community, followed by a stage of workshops and intensives, and eventually culminating in a theatre piece that will be based on the initial meetings.
By exploring the idea of “home” and what that means for different women, our goal is to create a fully immersive performance that transports the audience into the female psyche and reveals the mind’s representation of a physical space. By using dance, but also sound, media and art installation (designed by Sarah Dennison), we’ll transport the audience into a world inspired by 7 different women’s experiences of home.
What is it that intrigued you to explore “home” and what space means to different people?
“Home” is something that is universal and, in the same breath, so unique to each and every person. Every person experiences space differently – the same space can have different connotations for each individual, but I think there is something interesting about the way we can all relate to how each of us interacts with the space around us. Is a room just a space that you happen to live in? Or is a room the sum of all your experiences that took place there? I love the idea that one experience can change how you look at a space – it can alter it forever – in a good or a bad way. It’s interesting to think about the difference between what a space physically IS vs. what that space represents in someone’s mind, what stories lie there and what that space can tell us about the intricate person that lives in it.
If you would like to be involved in the initial phase of This Place I Call Home — check out our call for participants here.
Cover art by Jason Cianelli