JumpStart Performance Society
Founded by Olympic runner Lee Eisler and writer Nelson Gray in 1984, JumpStart Performance Society quickly made a name for itself with its dance-theatre works characterized by a potent mix of words and movement and its pursuit of theatrical applications for emerging communications technologies.
In its first years JumpStart fulfilled prestigious engagements at EXPO 86 in Vancouver, where it was commissioned to perform at the Canada Pavilion and the World Festival, and at the Winter Olympics in Calgary. Significant dance-theatre works produced during the Eisler/Gray years include Cory, Cory (1987) and Berlin Angels (1990).
The founders went their own ways in 1992, with Eisler assuming sole artistic directorship and Gray forming the multimedia company Savage Media. Under Eisler JumpStart has continued its tradition of creative partnerships, working with painters, poets, singers, composers and comics, as well as dancers. Company trademarks include the layering of text and body language, imagistic dance narratives and charged physical relationships, and humour as a means of slicing through to the centre of things.
In the mid-1990s Eisler's deepening interest in the non-linear, perspective-shifting techniques of film and video informed JumpStart's trilogy on women and power: Laughing Years, 4 Fridas and Matters of the Flesh. Her dance video work from this period includes The Last Bough (1994), Stonewash (1996) and Deep West (1997), the latter a video translation of a live stage work. Eisler's dance videos have been shown on PBS, Bravo and the Knowledge Network.
JumpStart Performance Society has toured in Canada, the Northwest and Midwest US and Europe. Berlin Angels was shown in Essen and Frankfurt, Germany, on a 1991 tour. The company has performed at the Canada Dance Festival in Ottawa and the Montréal Festival International de Nouvelle Danse. Other appearances include the Seattle Bumbershoot and On the Boards festivals, and residencies at the John Michael Kohler Art Center in Wisconsin and with Dancers with Latitude in Whitehorse.
Recent work represents a shift in the artistic director's focus and interests. Running Shoe Point (1998) featured dancers performing on pointe in specially designed running shoes, a convention Eisler explored further in Desperately Seeking (1999). A collaboration between JumpStart and WINNIPEG'S CONTEMPORARY DANCERS, Desperately Seeking merged the two companies for performances in Vancouver and Winnipeg. It also crystallized Eisler's commitment to creative experiment through collaborative work, and to an emerging role as a teacher and mentor. Most recently she has developed and presented creative labs for choreographers, dancers and performers working in the fields of physical theatre and dance theatre.
Lee Eisler was honoured for her contribution to dance in Canada with the Canada Council's Jacqueline Lemieux Prize in 1995.