ROCK BOTTOM MOVEMENT
Rock Bottom Movement is the Toronto-based home of choreographer Alyssa Martin's ironic absurdist dance works.
Rock Bottom Movement is an interdisciplinary performance company dedicated to blurring the boundaries of theatre and dance in pursuit of refreshingly approachable art. We believe in using any tools at our disposal, regardless of what form they belong to. We believe in utilizing rigorous structure to elicit the anarchy of surprise. To us, the nerve-wracking obligation of “singing for your supper” should be treated like a booby-trap and treasured like a gift.
We believe that anybody can be a riveting actor. We believe that anybody can be a beautiful dancer. We work with performers who have a unique and cultivated presence, and who are particularly adept at being many facets of “themselves.”
Our work strives to push the boundaries of live performance in Canada while reaching out to diverse and broad audiences, many of whom might be new to one or more of our disciplines. Interesting art doesn’t have to be alienating. In fact, we think the most interesting art of all strives to be fundamentally not so.
Rock Bottom Movement was founded in 2012 by choreographer Alyssa Martin, then a third year student at Ryerson Theatre School in Toronto. The impulse to make her own work began with a feeling of unease towards the traditional separation of “dance” and “theatre.” She envisioned an aesthetic universe free from the genre distinctions imposed on artists and audiences alike. After all, both disciplines often use voices and bodies to evoke emotion and engage directly with an audience. She founded her company, Rock Bottom Movement, with a mind to prioritizing this engagement over neat categorization.
Within its first year, the company premiered two short outdoor works, utilizing public spaces in downtown Toronto, and a full-length performance at the Hamilton Fringe Festival, kid A, kid B. The former were experiments in pure, often humorous, audience courtship, while the latter told a traditional story through physical means.
After a series of eclectic short pieces that toured theatres and galleries in Ottawa and Toronto, the company created their first evening-length work, Meet the Andersons. A humorous fairy-tale pastiche referencing the films of Wes Anderson, the piece was the first to combine the company’s twin pursuits: storytelling through physical means and evocative dancing as direct audience address.
The company has since created over 15 new works that seek to confuse genre boundaries and delightfully upend audience expectations. They have presented work at Stratford’s Factory 163, Toronto’s DanceMakers Centre for Creation, Winchester Street Theatre, Pia Bouman Theatre, Fleck Dance Theatre, and Harbourfront Centre, as well as venues in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and Brooklyn, New York. They instigated a collaborative project between Martin and a filmmaker, composer, and textiles artist which resulted in the short film WANDERLAND. They have developed an original performance technique designed to enrich performance professionals and laypeople alike with the psycho-physical showmanship and joyful bravery of a Rock Bottom work, and in 2015 were invited to create a new work for 18 student dancers at Ryerson Theatre School.
In 2016, Rock Bottom presented MANICPIXIEDREAMGIRLS, the company’s first work to have an extended life. The work premiered in short-form at Dance Ontario Weekend and went on to be workshopped at the Center for Performance Research in Brooklyn, NY and self-produced in full at Pia Bouman’s studio theatre. Eventually, the work was presented at Next Stage Festival in January 2017. Having found their niche in genre-blending and radical absurdism, the company went on to develop within this realm sharing Dolphin as the Dance Ontario Creative Commission and later at SummerWorks Performance Festival. Their engagement at the festival earned Dolphin nominations for Direction and Production. Leaning into their theatrical tendencies in 2017, their quasi-autobiographical play, String Quartet No.14 in G Major was the company’s first work to use a written script and feature an equal blend of performers from dance and acting backgrounds. This work was co-produced with DanceWorks CoWorks at The Citadel in December 2017. Most recently, the company worked in residency at Ryerson University to develop fantasylover, an absurd feminist dance theatre work, tracing four distinct characters in their quest for utopia. This was their first time working with a composer/sound designer to blend new and repurposed music. They presented this work at SummerWorks Performance Festival in August 2018 where Alyssa won the Canadian Stage Award for Direction.
Shortly after wrapping up at SummerWorks in 2018, the company travelled together to the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity where they incubated themselves in a studio in the mountains for two weeks to begin creation on a brand new work. Letting go of the need to repurpose popular culture as means to generate content, the collaborators created a new world from within their shared bond as close friends and likeminded feminists. Here, they began creation on “hollow mountain” a sci-fi-unplugged-folk-musical explored with contemporary dance.
They will continue to develop hollow mountain this Spring. The company is spending time in residency at The National Ballet of Canada through the CreativAction Programme and then at Canadian Stage, where Alyssa is currently an Emerging Director in Residence. They will also have a one-week residency at Toronto Dance Theatre in June.
In addition to creating performance, the company also hosts workshops for “Non-Dancers.” These workshops are designed to hold safe, mood-boosting spaces for people to explore their freedom within dance under some pressure-less guidance.