Earlier this afternoon I interviewed Lara Barclay for our Vancouver Dance Histories project. I got to know Lara while participating as one of the community dancers on the PuSh Festival presentation of Sylvain Émard's Le Grand Continental, for which she served as rehearsal director. Since that time I have enjoyed watching her perform in work by Jennifer Mascall and Vanessa Goodman, among other local choreographers. And yet while Lara grew up and began her dance training in Port Moody, most of her adolescence was spent studying at the National Ballet School in Toronto, where, as she put it, she was always the tallest girl in the class (and frequently taller than her male partners as well). Following graduation from NBS, Lara won a scholarship to study in Europe, and she ended up in Hamburg, taking class and studying with John Neumeier. Her first company job, however, was in the northern port city of Kiel, Germany, where she danced repertoire that included works by Johann Kresnik and Martin Stiefermann. While in Europe, Lara also took class with Bill Forsythe at Ballett Frankfurt and workshops with Frey Faust and Lloyd Newson. As she put it to me, it was in Europe that she discovered a whole other world of dance--and also that ballet was, quite literally, not ever going to be the right dance fit for her.
Following this initial stint in Germany, Lara moved back to Toronto to take up a position with Toronto Dance Theatre, where she remained for three years, dancing in works by Christopher House and James Kudelka, and also reconnecting with mentor Peggy Baker, who first taught her modern dance at NBS. Dominque Dumais and Kevin O'Day, who were just starting up a new company in Mannheim, lured Lara back to Germany, but it was in 2006--following a soccer-themed gig during the world-cup with Brazilian-based choreographer Deborah Colker--that Lara and her husband made the big move back to Vancouver. This coincided with the birth of Lara's first daughter and a slight shift in focus to teaching (with Monica Proença, Lara is the co-founder of the Lamondance Company, a pre-professional training program in North Vancouver). However, very soon after arriving back in the Vancouver area, Josh Beamish asked Lara to work with Move: the company. And then, in 2012, came a transformative collaboration with Aszure Barton, who invited Lara to be part of the creative process that led to Awaa, a piece about motherhood and masculine-feminine relations that I remember seeing at the Chutzpah! Festival, and in which Lara is the lone female dancer among a cast of six other male dancers. Lara continues to tour the piece in slightly different iterations to this day (including an upcoming stint next month in LA), and she said that working with Barton taught her to discover patience on stage.
Lara ended our interview by saying this is a transformative time in her career. She's recently had surgery on her right foot, which has meant making certain adjustments in her dancing. As she framed things, aging as a dancer means you have to become better at listening to your body, and also choosing work that pertains to what it is that you are still able to do to the best of your abilities, and without fear of injury. Lara is also interested in moving into the area of expressive arts therapy, and she and her family are contemplating a move back to Germany. If and when this happens, I will be sad to have Lara leave the Vancouver dance community. In the immediate future, however, I can look forward to seeing Lara (alongside VDH co-conspirator Alexa Mardon) once again in the full-length premiere this fall of Vanessa Goodman's Wells Hill.