Martial Arts + Comics for Shay Kuebler’s New Work

Photo: David Cooper

DanceWorks presents Radical System Art’s Glory, April 28–29, 2017 at the Harbourfront Centre Theatre, as part of NextSteps. In Glory, artistic director Shay Kuebler explores the glorification of violence in media culture. The piece includes a versatile performance language of martial arts, street dance, and contemporary choreography, while integrating film clips, gaming battles, and even lighting tricks.

We spoke to Shay about the inspiration for the work.

DANCEWORKS: Can we talk about the inspiration for Glory? Film? Artist? Personal experience?

SHAY: Glory has many different influences, but most significant was my childhood and foundation in martial arts. I grew up studying a form of karate that was very much against violence. The forms and techniques were only used for self-defence.

However, during this same period of time, the action/martial art movie boom of the 1980s and 1990s was in full swing. I was a huge fan of action movies because of the martial art performances, yet at the same time, the films were glorifying and beautifying violence. I soon realized how violence became more amplified and glorified to shock and provoke.

Additional influence came from cartoons that referenced samurai, ninjas, robots, and comic books – specifically the Marvel Universe. The way comics depict action – frame by frame, picture to picture, is a sort of stop motion collage.

DANCWORKS: The title Glory is a powerful word choice. Was it challenging to find just the right word for this work?

SHAY: ‘Glory’ is something one attempts to achieve in a battle. For me, the term also suggests glorify and glorification: taking something and amplifying, accelerating, and augmenting.

DANCEWORKS: Thank you, Shay.