ROCK BOTTOM MOVEMENT
Rock Bottom Movement is the Toronto-based home of choreographer Alyssa Martin's irreverent 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 act of live performance
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 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.
2012 - 2015
Rock Bottom Movement was founded in 2012 by choreographer Alyssa Martin, then a third year student at X 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 20 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, The Citadel, Collective Space, Canadian Stage, 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 X University's School of Performance.
2016 - 2018
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 DanceWeekend 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. In the summer of 2018 the company worked in residency at X University to develop fantasylover, an absurd feminist dance theatre work, tracing four distinct characters in their quest for utopia. This was Rock Bottom's first time working with a composer/sound designer to blend new and repurposed music. The company presented this work at SummerWorks Performance Festival in August 2018, where Alyssa won the Canadian Stage Award for Direction.
2019 - 2020
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. The development of hollow mountain continued through 2019, supported by residencies at The National Ballet of Canada's CreativAction Programme; Canadian Stage, where Alyssa was also Emerging Director in Residence at CanStage for the 2018/19 season; and Toronto Dance Theatre. hollow mountain was presented independently at Toronto's Collective Space in November 2019, followed by a tour to Montreal for the Wildside Theatre Festival in January 2020, and went on to win two 2020 Dora Mavor Moore Awards: Outstanding Production and Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in the Dance Division.
2020 - 2021
During the 2021/22 Season the company continued the creation and development of new works for both film and stage. With the creative assistance of her Rock Bottom collaborators, Martin choreographed and directed a full-length film entitled DinoLand on 53 dance students of X University's School of Performance, with the help of cinematographer Drew Berry, rehearsal directors Brayden Jamil Cairns, Sam Grist and Natasha Poon Woo and dramaturg David Bernstein.
During the pandemic, they hosted free weekly virtual NONDancer classes for their extended community which reached weekly participants world-wide. With SummerWorks Performance Festival they created From Love to SummerWorks a short form film. With Canadian Stage and The National Arts Centre they released sixty seven moo(n)s, a short solo film starring Brayden Jamil Cairns. They mini documentary, this is not a passion project was premiered as part of dance : made in canada. They were able to return to live outdoor performance with FUTURE DANCE a solo created for Sam Grist and presented as part of Solo in High Park.
2022 - present
In the Summer of 2022 Alyssa adapted DinoLand into a short work for the company. DINO premiered at the Festival of Dance Annapolis Royal and went on to greet hundreds of new audience members at the Festival des Arts Saint Sauveur and to perform to thousands of lake-side audience members at The National Ballet of Canada's Sharing the Stage Program.
Later that year the company, eager to re-engage in their signature biting live performance, decided to leap into the development of their long-kept-secret project, Sex Dalmatian. David Bernstein, Alyssa Martin and Pony Nicole Herauf joined together to pen a script that was equal parts ridiculous and heartbreaking, and with the help of producer Laurence Lemieux at Citadel et Compagnie the work grew into a wildly popular multi-media, trans-disciplinary spectacle. Sex Dalmatian premiered in February 2023 at Public Energy in Peterborough, Ontario and continued on to a sold-out run at The Citadel in Toronto, earning three Dora Mavor Moore Awards for ensemble, choreography and overall production.
In the Summer of 2023 the company hosted Guelph Dance's Emerging Artist Intensive, re-imagining an excerpt of DINO with over forty emerging artists to be performed at Guelph Dance in the Park. Later that summer, the company is premiered Kid Sister, at The Festival of Dance Annapolis Royal in Nova Scotia. Kid Sister is a reflection on imagination as a coping mechanism for grief. The work went on to be presented at The National Ballet of Canada’s Sharing the Stage programme at Harbourfront Centre, and CAPACOA in Ottawa before hitting LiveArt Dance’s mainstage in Halifax as a double bill with DINO in …
Early this year, Alyssa Martin, Brayden Jamil Cairns and Sam Grist travelled to Halifax to collaborate with circus artists and local dance artists to create a warped psychologically-motivated adaptation of The Wizard of Oz, called The Lizard of Pause. This project marks the company’s first foray into circus.
They look forward to presenting Sex Dalmatian as an encore presentation with Citadel et Compagnie, creating a new work for The Fifth Dance’s emerging artist summer intensive, and developing their new full length work, Big Time Mise.
More on that soon ... <3
In addition to creating performance, Rock Bottom 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.