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Calgary-born dancer and choreographer on the set of the UK Music Video Award-winning short film, Wrap Me Up. Photos submitted.
Calgary-born dancer and choreographer Brittney Canda on the set of the UK Music Video Award-winning short film, Wrap Me Up. Photos submitted.
Four years ago, Calgary-born dancer and choreographer Brittney Canda created a unique and slightly unsettling performance piece while working with musician Sheenah Ko at small venues in Montreal.
While Ko has performed with bands such as the Besnard Lakes and Bedouin Soundclash, she suffered from stage fright when it came to her solo shows. So Canda would offer support, giving early audiences at tiny bars or private parties “something else to look at” as Ko performed. This involved her posing as a seemingly erratic audience member who would start screaming and counting before breaking into an aggressive dance routine.
“I start off inconspicuously in the audience and for the first couple of songs people think I’m a psycho, weirdo,” says Canda, in an interview with Postmedia from her parents’ home in Calgary. “Most people don’t catch on that I’m part of the show until halfway through.”
That was the strange beginning of what Canda calls an “evolution of circumstances” that led to the stunning video for Ko’s synth-pop song Wrap Me Up. The initial idea was to make a short film in which an entire audience acts like Canda’s erratic dancer. But budget constraints required a more streamlined approach. So, two years ago, Canda and Ko and a small crew and cast of dancers, most of whom were friends or acquaintances, went to a church basement in Montreal to film the video. It involves a small support-group meeting led by a Ko that erupts into violence. Canda choreographed, co-directed (with Vincent Rene-Lortie) and dances in the video, offering a sense of elegant chaos as the members are overcome with rage and attack each other in combative dance before eventually reconciling and turning their anger to Ko’s self-help guru. In early November, the low-budget video scored a major coup at the 2020 UK Music Video Awards, earning a win for best choreography and besting high-profile, high-budget nominees such as Beyonce’s Already and Always by Waze & Odyssey, George Michael, Mary J. Blide and Tommy Theo.
Canda, who returned to her hometown last month, accepted the award online from her parents’ home. The award arrived in Calgary by mail earlier this week.
“It was interesting to have such a big award that would normally be at a big fancy event take place in my parents’ living room,” she says. “It was a pretty surreal, strange experience.”
A Central Memorial high school graduate, Canda began choreographing impromptu dance shows with her friends while growing up in Calgary, She took lessons at the Airborne Dance Centre and eventually left for Montreal’s Concordia University to study dance and choreography. She has collaborated with artists such as The Barr Brothers and Arcade Fire’s Richard Reed Parry, among others, and was a member of Montreal’s Trip the Light Fantastic as both a dancer and director.
She has also been a long-time collaborator with Ko. When it came to Wrap it Up, the two were inspired by David Fincher’s 1999 dark comedy The Fight Club, particularly its notion of unhinged support groups.
The video also features a diverse cast that includes Roya The Destroyer, a one-legged Australian performer, and Lola Ryan, a senior transgender dancer from Ottawa.
“I think it’s important in general to have as many people as possible represented,” Canda says. “Especially in this context, where in this narrative it doesn’t have to be a uniform cast. Uniformity wouldn’t serve this piece at all.”
As for Wrap Me Up beating out those with much higher budgets, Canda says it’s a reflection of the passion and DIY spirit of the video’s cast and crew.
“I was pretty proud of my cast,” she says. “They were really committed to the work and everyone was completely invested in this piece. I guess it’s a different approach when it’s a passion project versus a big job that you get hired to do. I’ve done big videos like that and typically we don’t have as much rehearsal time and people aren’t as mentally invested. When you’re working for bigger names, it’s not as fun necessarily.”
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020