Dancer serves muse, makes meal of fine dining

There is likely no other industry whose ranks include as many frustrated and/or failed artists as the restaurant biz. Just ask Laura Hicks, a choreographer who spent a dozen years serving in the gilded trenches of fine dining establishments.

However, unlike many artists who try to keep their hated day jobs separate from what they consider their “real” work, Hicks chose to embrace her servile circumstances in order to create Nosh and Stammer, a new contemporary dance work that explores the delicate art of waiting tables.

Contemporary dancers Caroline Farquhar (left) and Laura Hicks (right) rehearse a scene from the restaurant-inspired piece Nosh and Stammer.

“When you know you’re an intelligent human being with multiple skills and you’re working in a subservient role, it gets to you after a while,” said Hicks, who has finally traded in her server’s apron for a pilates instructor’s mat to help make ends meet.

Nosh and Stammer makes its premiere this weekend as part of the annual Dancing on the Edge festival and serves up plenty for audiences to chew on.

“We are attempting to explore hunger–hunger for food, human connection, change or personal growth–sincerity, human connect and disconnect, and where the personal fits into the professional,” said Hicks of the 35-minute piece, which includes performances from fellow dancers Anne Cooper and Caroline Farquhar, as well as experimental musician Rachael Wadham. She added that the piece will tackle some of the darker aspects of the restaurant industry, including sexual harassment, but will also include elements of humour.

Hicks’ final stint as a server was at Vancouver’s now-defunct Kettle of Fish and she hopes some of her old co-workers and even managers will come out for Nosh.

“I worked there from 2005 to 2009,” said Hicks, a graduate of both the Toronto Ballet Ensemble and the local Main Dance school who also holds a Political Science degree from McGill. “This piece, I began thinking about it a lot when I was working [at Kettle of Fish], so the people there kind of knew what I was working on. The owners were also kind enough to let me go in during the research process, and a lot of the sound we use was actually recorded there.”

While many local seafood lovers are still mourning the loss of the Pacific Street restaurant, which closed its doors last October after more than three decades of operation, the Vancouver dance community is now suffering the loss of Hicks after she recently beat feet back east in search of greener artistic pastures.

“I moved back to Toronto in January,” said the dancer, who pulled house and cat-sitting duties to put a roof over her head during the show’s rehearsal period. “It’s been great being back for six weeks, but I’m heading back after the show. It’s kind of sad because my entire professional career has been in Vancouver and I really love it here, but they cut all the arts funding in B.C. I’m one of the few who ran away.”

(This story was first published July 8, 2011. © Copyright (c) Vancouver Courier)

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