Gruff Goat Dance’s production of Mountain Meets Cloud has been a long time in the making.
“How long?” you ask.
Think back to the days before you had ever heard the term “COVID-19.”
“I pitched the concept of a Sea to Sky myth, a romance between the mountains and the clouds, to Mo [Douglas, executive director of Arts Whistler] in the spring of 2019—something that would be of cultural significance to all of us in the corridor,” says Trish Belsham, founder, creative director, and choreographer of the Pemberton-based group. “She liked the idea a lot. I began working on it with the dances in studio, fleshing out ideas, creating movement motifs for different dances involved.”
But then, as it did with so many groups and events in the last several years, the pandemic sidelined those plans.
The studio had to contend with restrictions, then shutdowns, and, eventually, moved to Zoom rehearsals. While they were able to release a dance video—thanks to one of their videographer members, Elena Aranguren—set to the music of former Whistlerite Jesse Thom, the show was ultimately put on hold—until now.
After four years, Mountain Meets Cloud will finally hit the stage at the Maury Young Arts Centre on June 9 and 10 at 8 p.m. Revisiting the project hasn’t been without challenges, though.
“It was like herding goats,” Belsham jokes. “Some cast members had moved away, but resumed rehearsing online. Some new members joined and, two babies later, we were good to resume once more.”
In total, nine dancers will perform in the show, which Belsham describes as “a tale of truth and love: told through song, dance, clown, and storytelling.”
“It’s multi-disciplinary, and offers a range of emotional content through storytelling,” she adds. “It’s sometimes scary, but fun and deeply engaging for the audience, judging by the reactions of folks who continuously drop into rehearsals. It’s definitely not boring. And I think [it] appeals to a broad spectrum of audience members, not only dance enthusiasts, including children and their parents looking for content on cultural themes that appeal to all ages.”
That said, the show they started back in 2019 has seen a few tweaks along the way.
“We’ve rehearsed the hell out of this whole show for so long, but there’s new members and it has continued to grow,” Belsham says. “I just have that feeling in my gut it will work out. It also has a lot to do with the conviction and talent of the performers.”
But it could also be attributed to the fact that this show marks the group’s 10-year anniversary, too.
What started as Belsham responding to a call-out for performers for potential outdoor festivals turned into a “choreographed hip-hop hoedown,” featuring the two women who showed up for the first class and performed at a fundraiser for the Downtown Community Barn.
“I chose a name that I thought reflected the vibe of the locals, and Gruff Goat Dance was born,” she says.
Looking beyond the upcoming performance, Belsham hopes to take the group to the next level.
“I’d like to have people that don’t necessarily even dance, but love to perform [join] and see if we can expand the range of disciplines,” she says. “It’d be great to have musicians and actors and people doing spoken word.”
Tickets for Mountain Meets Cloud are on sale now at showpass.com/gruffgoatdance.
For more, visit gruffgoatdance.ca.