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Dancing on porches

March 3rd, 2012 · No Comments


Maxine Heppner has lived in the Annex since the late '70s. Courtesy Maxine Heppner.

By Rebecca Payne

Maxine Heppner has been involved in dance her whole life. The choreographer, performer, and teacher has been an Annex resident since the late ’70s.

“I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else in the city, quite frankly.”

She says the diversity of the neighbourhood is what makes it such a vibrant and inspirational place for artists. “If you stop to pay attention, there’s a lot of material.”

A run of Heppner’s latest project my heart is a spoon, which she choreographed and directed, just concluded at The Theatre Centre (1087 Queen St. W.). She began to develop the piece almost six years ago, when she was touring Asia. During her time performing in Tokyo, she was introduced to manga, a Japanese style of cartooning. The manga books inspired her because “the books are really energetic and they are powerful when you open up a page. The artists are really free in the way they draw.”

“If you take this amazingly difficult experience and you swallow it, you hold it inside”—Maxine Heppner

Modern manga is a direct development from traditional drawings and wood etchings, also known as manga, that have been dated back to the 17th century. Heppner also studied these traditional works of art, and was stirred by the difference between the two. “It seemed to me that they kind of sucked you in; all the soft colours, you look inside the painting to see all the detail. Whereas the [modern manga] kind of leapt out at me.”

The differences in the energies of these two forms interested Heppner, and this lead her to consider and observe how people contain and release energy.

my heart is a spoon also explores the condition of rage, which she notes is, from a psychological perspective, more about a release of pressure than the violent-anger definition that usually comes to mind. According to Heppner, this release can happen in many ways, which the piece explores. In putting it together, she spoke to psychologists, sociologists, political scientists, and those in the medical field.

She also spoke to survivors of Hiroshima. “I was told that they, and [other survivors] were told that they should swallow their rage, and this was a strong statement to me. [Because] it meant that if you take this amazingly difficult experience and you swallow it, you hold it inside. But at the same time I thought, it’s interesting because if you swallow something then you digest it, and it becomes a part of you. This was the beginning of my thinking about alternate ways we live with difficulties in our lives.”

In the spring, Heppner will be leading various workshops, as well as contributing to a project with Kaeja d’Dance Company. She is one of five choreographers who will be creating dances that are to be performed in the Porch View dance series. These performances will take place, as the name suggests, on community members’ porches and front lawns in the Seaton Village area, and will be free for the public to attend.

For more information on Heppner and her upcoming workshops, please visit For more information on the Porch View series, please visit

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