“The often forgotten purpose of the dancer is that of a warrior who is tasked with protecting the sacred memory of humanity.”
Gabreïl Spiegelschrift 1995
The rough-and-tumble beginnings of THEVARS on one hand resembled the struggles of most new artistic directives trying to establish a place in a crowded forum. On the other hand, in the atmosphere of late 80s dance scene of Toronto, Ontario, THEVARS was an enigmatic anomaly. In hindsight it is shown that Gabreïl Spiegelschrift followed a different pantheon of dance and theatre which did not correspond to the directives and traditions entrenched by fellow dance professionals and institutions. Reaching out beyond this small community initiated collaboration with both musicians and other mix media artists allowing THEVARS to reach national and international audiences and the opportunity to focus the artistic vision.
THEVARS had its birth in Gabreïl's childhood nightmares. Extreme in images, the dreams centred around dwarf like figures (called "thevars", as named by his childhood friend) carrying lanterns and sticks coming to abduct the young Gabreïl. Imaginary, or not, this started the journey into universal archetypes and religious symbolism that would provide the foundation for all of THEVARS' work.
Unlike many boys that go into dance, Gabreïl didn’t want to grow up to be a Fairy Prince or Princess; King of the Thieves was a more suitable goal. Raised on a pig farm outside his birthplace of Fergus, Ontario, he began learning Tap, Jazz and Ballet at the Anna Marie Oliver School of Dance in Guelph. Arriving in Toronto on his own at the age of 16, the country-boy-cum-street-punk dropped out of the dance program at The Claude Watson Arts Program, after watching German Dance Artist Gerhard Bohner revision (1977) of Oskar Schlemmer’s "Triadisches Ballett" (1922), ending his formal dance education.– after only two months of studies. Although blessed with brief ballet teachings of Roz Ornstein, this also marked the end of any formal dance training.
“The fine art of spontaneous combustion”
Circle Ball Fair/ NOW magazine 1993
Finding a kinship in German, Belgian and Japanese Dance creators and set to the backdrop of then flourishing Montreal Danse scene, Gabreïl continued teaching himself, like he had throughout his teenage years, contemporary dance from pictures and films he saw on TVOntario. After his first full scale production of the infamous 'Heathens, Heretics and Christians. - Pagans standing room only'(1990) and sometimes billed as THEVARS - The Royal Bad Ass Ballet, at the age of 19, the success of his solo ‘Young Man Intrigued by The Flight of the Non-Euclidean Fly’ (1992), inspired by the same-titled Max Ernst painting, paved the way for Gabreïl to bring his choreographic work out of the counter-culture night-club and fashion art scene to more diverse audiences.
Inspired by his working class origins and archetype story telling, Gabreïl combined a vast array of dance styles and techniques into to his signature style of “raw brute force” to create acclaimed and eclectic work. Early years involved various productions from street performances – Toronto International Circle Ball Fair (1993/94) – to more traditional dance venues – Toronto 808 Dance Series (1993), Vancouver Dancing on the Edge (1995) – and lots of stuff in between. This allowed Gabreïl’s work to be presented to many diverse audiences, including performances with various Canadian and International musicians from the punk, jazz, classical and world music scenes; such as industrial pioneers Malhavoc, punk band SuckerPunch, swing favourites Tyler Yarema and his Rhythm, and of course the legendary eclectic group Rheas Obsession; who would contribute to several performances and productions.
Collaborating with visionary filmmaker Justin Stephenson resulted in several award-winning dancefilms such as ‘five short movements’ (1993), featuring motifs from the solos ‘Young Man Intrigued by The Flight of the Non-Euclidean Fly’ and ‘Icarus;landed’ (1992); ‘nearly home’ (1994) which included the duet ‘Fire and Water’ (1993) created and performed with Sonya Biernath; and the third film, ‘Tabulæ Anatomicæ Sex’ (1994) which contained parts of the acclaimed duet ‘Luft und Erde - Air and Earth’ (1994) created and performed with Nichole LaRochelle. These dancefilms were broadcast in Canada on TVO and the Canadian Arts Channel Bravo! Festival highlights include Canada's Moving Pictures Festival (1994/95), IMZ Dansescreen'96 Lyons.
At this time Gabreïl also teamed up with filmmaker Antonia Thompson to create two dancefilms ‘Salamandrina’ (1993) and ‘Earth, Wind and the Underground’ (1994). The latter included choreographer D. A. Hoskins, music by Rheas Obsession and parts of the Persephone solo that would be later featured in ‘Caoineadh Pheirseifine’ (2009).
Gabreïl then turned 22.
“The Royal Bad Ass Ballet” with dancer Alexis Dunphy, featuring the old THEVARS typeface by Jane Murray circa 1991.
the darker ages
Exhausted and burnt out Gabreïl retreated from the Canadian dance scene to focus on a large scale theatrical project that consumed the next couple of years. Doomed for a tragic end the project was abandoned due to funding conflicts. This absence would continue for several years, resurfacing sporadically for the occasional production such as the 1996 CBC presentation of a collaboration with Irish Step Dance choreographer Michael Patrick Farrell for the John McDermott (CBC)/ duMaurier Concert Series in Vancouver with Ashley MacIsaac and The Paper Boys.
All though working out of the city, it was 4 years before Gabreïl presented again in Toronto at ‘Four Dances, Two Nights’ (1999) – along with choreographers Sonya Biernath, Jennifer Lynn Dick and Jessica Runge – which saw the work-in-progress presentation of the ‘Boudica’ (1999) solo featuring long time dance partner and powerhouse Nichole LaRochelle, to the live accompaniment of Rheas Obsession. Flaunting versatility and debauchery the infamous burlesque show ‘Grynde Haus’ (1999), was his next and last “leaving with a bang” production in Canada for awhile.
From 1997 forward Gabreïl started teaching social dances as an alternative to the creative dances. The change of dance scene found Gabreïl reconnecting himself with his working-class roots and reaffirming his desire to bring new audiences to contemporary dance. This renewed inspiration started what Gabreïl would later refer to as the “surrealism of vérité” period of his work – combining a more sentimental element to his abstract narratives.
This of course brought him to the shores of Ireland, where, living periodically, he connected with his roots as he researched for the planned productions ‘The Bogmen’s Tango #5 ’, ‘Seanfhocail - Proverbs’ and the solo ‘Seasfaidh mo chuidse crainn - my trees will stand’. Like many people September 2001 had Gabreïl put his creative ventures aside as he returned to Canada. Dividing his time between Fergus and New York City he would spend the next several years nurturing his family relationships, before a string of family loses in 2004.
at the gates of Chapel Perilous
Turning darkness into light, Gabreïl started production on a dance film remake of the Persephone solo ‘Caoineadh Pheirseifine - Persephone's Lament’ with dancer Karen Rose. With a limited production window of Autumn and Winter, the project would take 5 years to finish filming. The creative collaboration with Karen continued with the premiere of the memorial ‘Tangó na dTuaitíní Uimhre 4 - The Bogmen’s Tango #4’ (2005) – with the Guelph Concert Band, under conductor Colin Clarke – inspired from Gabreïl’s maternal grandparent's youthful days. This theme continued in August 2007 where Gabreïl presented the performance of ‘he misses her’ (2007) about his grandfather contending with difficulties of his grandmother's death, featuring cellist Elinor Frey. For several years THEVARS would be teaching and working out Montréal developing various projects including another collaboration with Elinor Frey, 'ricordo al futuro' (2009).
In 2011 Gabreïl relocated to Ontario for health care related to a car accident. Focusing on recovery and the occasional teaching, THEVARS would eventual settle in Hamilton, Ontario in late 2014.
4 dancers with hurdy-gurdy
created and choreographed by : Gabreïl Spiegelschrift3 Thoughts, and counting is a raw reflection on the last 25 years of projects from choreographer Gabreïl Spiegelschrift (THEVARS). A seeming fragmented conversation pieced together through minute intimate moments and motion excerpts from previous works, this anthology reveals the connections, ideas, and purpose that has driven the body of creations.pre-production15
created and choreographed : Gabreïl SpiegelschriftA revisit and remaking of a previous elemental project with the hindsight of two decades and the serendipitous find of old text.pre-production15
created and choreographed by : Gabreïl Spiegelschrift
created and performed with: Karen Rosedevelopment14
De Duodecim Abusivis Saeculi
created and performed by : Gabreïl SpiegelschriftGabreïl Spiegelschrift returns to the fields and forests of his youth with the cinematic reworking of the ‘Wind: Persephone Solo’ (1995). Acclaimed dancer Karen Rose, as Persephone, boldly refines the intricate theatrical psychology and pithy character dance into a beautiful but sorrowful lament, literally bound, in this Goidelic-themed contemporary examination of the complex and contrasting dualism of the Innocent Maiden – ruthless Queen of the Underworld.post-production05
Lachóigín sa choill
created and choreographed by : Gabreïl Spiegelschrift
developed with/performed by: Karen RoseCompelled by the research during The Bogmen's Tangos "Thou shalt not dance" is a documentary about the effects of the complex post First World War moral and political sentiments in Ireland as represented by the PUBLIC DANCE HALLS ACT of 1935. With the intention of preserving Irish culture it would instead have a heavy hand in eroding it.pre-production98
The PUBLIC DANCE HALLS ACT 1935
research and direction by: Gabreïl Spiegelschrift