February 3, 2022

Alumni Feature: Tia Kushniruk

Glass Fields; Christopher House. Dancers (L-R): Aiden Cass, Calder White, Tia Kushniruk
Photo by Ömer K. Yükseker

This month we welcome back 2017 graduate Tia Kushniruk as a guest teacher and choreographer working with our second year students! 

We sat down with Tia to chat about her practice and how it has evolved since leaving the School, her work with Shay Kuebler and Radical System Art (RSA), and her vision for the work she’s creating with our students. 

We began the conversation by reflecting on her time at the School and how it feels to come back as an alumni. “I know exactly how it feels to be in second year, and I can’t describe or even understand what these artists must feel like to be a student doing art during COVID. It must be so stressful. I’m just excited to be able to bring some happiness, joy, and silliness to them.

In 2018, Tia headed to Vancouver to work with Shay Kuebler and RSA, where she rediscovered her love of urban dance, martial arts, and theatre. These experiences helped shape her perception of dance and her own practice. “As soon as I started working with RSA in Vancouver, it reminded me that anything can be dance. You can social dance. That is dance. It is a technique, and it’s just as valuable as ballet and modern. After graduating and continuing on this path of freelancing and following my own curiosity and intuition, it made me wonder things like: how can we make play a genuine part of the space? How do I make a piece as entertaining for the audience because I don’t want to bore them? No one wants to be boring in theatre!

Her entire practice now centers around improvisational theatre. “Theatre improv gives you a different idea of giving space, and taking space, and how to be a supporting character, in a way in which dance improv specifically doesn’t offer. If you’re in an improv theatre game and you have to be a tree for the whole scene, you have to be a tree. And you can still be a tree and be funny and have these quips, but you aren’t personally the main character, are you now? And letting go of that ego is something that I find doesn’t happen very often with dancers. I find that dancers are the greatest method actors of themselves.”

Concept art for Tia’s upcoming piece

Tia is also an illustrator, a moderator, an animator, a curator, a stand-up comedian and a writer. Along with this beautiful concept art she’s created in preparation for her work with our students, Tia talks further about extending her interdisciplinary approach into her working style. “For this particular work, I’m invested in the additional themes of ‘youth’ and ‘hedonism’, and what happens when these indulgences/allowances collide with control/violence. And in my usual dance-theatre style, I’m working with several lovely collaborators. What can I say: I’m a team player.” 

Regarding her upcoming projects, Tia mentions that she will be spending some of her time writing grants for future projects, as well as going on an international tour with Shay Kuebler and RSA in April 2022 to perform their newest work, MOI (Momentum of Isolation), centered around themes of loneliness and social isolation.

In addition to what she had to share about her work, Tia talked about the importance of collaboration and connecting with artists across the country. “This School, and particularly the way in which it’s going to be working, evolving, and pushing forward, is going to create opportunities for some really unique potential collaborations, and also ways in which dance can be interacted with in the future. More specifically, it will challenge how people see dance, and the values of dance technique.

We are thrilled to be working with Tia and we look forward to seeing her piece in May at MOMENTUM 2022!

Photo: Kristen Innes-Stambolic

More about Tia Kushniruk:

Tia Ashley Kushniruk (亚 女弟) is a queer woman of Chinese-Eastern European settler heritage from the Treaty 6 Territory of Amiskwaciwâskahikan/Edmonton. She is the inaugural recipient of the CONFLUENCE Fellowship from Catalyst Theatre in Edmonton. Her research has been supported by the Alberta Foundation for the Arts, and the Canada Council for the Arts, since 2014. 亚 女弟 is a current company member of Shay Kuebler/RSA in Vancouver, Canada. If she could be a fictional character she would be Garfield.

https://www.facebook.com/tia.kushniruk/

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