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“I wish work like this existed in Toronto!” - A conversation with Julia Cratchley

January 15th, 2018     by Michelle Schwartz     Comments

Photo credit: Alvin Collantes

Photo credit: Alvin Collantes

Julia Cratchley is the Artistic Director of the Transcendance Project, a contemporary dance company based in Toronto. Starting out as a dancer in a fine arts high school in Richmond Hill, Ontario, she’s gone on to dance and choreograph shows with companies across Canada. Julia is the creator, director, and choreographer for Eve of St. George, an immersive recreation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, inspired by Sleep No More, an immersive show still playing in New York.

In immersive theatre, the audience wanders through the set, choosing their own path and even interacting with the performers. Each audience member’s experience of the show is unique. Eve of St. George will be taking over four levels of the Great Hall in Toronto at the end of the month. We spoke with Julia Cratchley about her artistic process and the creation of Eve of St. George:

Can you tell us a little bit about your journey from dancer to being the artistic director of your own company? What advice would you have for young dancers and artists just getting started?

For as long as I knew I wanted to dance I also knew I wanted to create my own work. I was lucky that as a working professional dancer I was able to assistant choreograph many of the projects I was a part of. This was a really awesome way to learn the ropes and transition more into the creative side. So as far as my advice to younger artists goes, I would tell them the more experience they can get with people who inspire them the better. Be a sponge and take in every little detail you can!

Eve of St. George features an original score by Owen Belton and a cast of sixteen dancers. What has it been like to collaborate on this project with so many people? As artistic director, what kind of role do you take in building a creative work together?

This is a massive project and definitely at times can be overwhelming, but I’m lucky that my team has been absolutely incredible. Collaborating with Owen was a dream! Not often do choreographers get to have an original score created, but I thought to have the ambiance I wanted, it needed to happen. Neither Owen nor I had created on a show like this before so we came up with our own system that really worked well. It was a super cool experience for me to work with him.

As far as creating with my cast I mainly stand in the choreographer role. That being said, I hire incredible artists for a reason and I like hearing what they have to say as well. I’m very much a person that believes in creating work on the dancer - meaning working with what looks good and feels natural to them - so if the ideas I have in mind don’t work, we scrap them. There is a small element of improv or ‘task work’ in this show, in which they get given the idea or task to work with, then the rest is up to them. It could change every night!

I was lucky enough to see Sleep No More in New York. It was definitely one of the most unique experiences I’ve ever had, and it was so unusual to attend a performance with friends, and yet all have such different experiences. I had one friend who spent the whole show just poking around the drawers and closets of the set. Can you tell us about your own experience seeing Sleep No More, and how it inspired you to create Eve of St. George?

When I first saw Sleep No More I was completely blown away! I couldn’t even begin to understand how someone could create a show like that. The second time I saw it I left thinking, “Wow, I wish work like this existed in Toronto”. The third time I saw it I decided I wanted to be the one to make something like this happen in Toronto. After seeing some other immersive work I decided I liked the format of Sleep No More (where you as an audience member get to decide where you go in the show). After talking to some other creators, I also realized this was the most complex way of creating this type of show, but I was stuck on the experience I wanted to give.

The recent Guillermo del Toro show at the AGO highlighted his love for Frankenstein and the influence the book had on his work. Sleep No More was inspired by Macbeth. Can you talk about the choice of Dracula as the basis for Eve of St. George? What does the book mean to you? Are there other artists or stories that have inspired your work?

This was actually the first time I decided to work with a full narrative. It was an interesting task for me, as usually my work is not so story and text driven. I knew I wanted to have a story that people knew (even if they don’t know it well), and I wanted a story that had suspense, thrill, and seduction but wanted to steer clear of Shakespeare (because of Sleep No More). A friend of mine gave me a bunch of books to look through, Dracula being one of them. As soon as I started reading it, I knew it was going to be a perfect story for this type of work. It ended up lending itself to the structure of the show even better than I had imagined! After reading it now numerous times, it’s interesting seeing what new stuff develops with each read. It’s been awesome taking all that information and adding more layers to the show and these characters. I love how dark and sensual the book is, yet how you can find the softness and tenderness in each of the characters.

I think artist inspire artists all the time, and that’s how it should be! I have been inspired by many others, and other books, some of which may become other shows.

You’re funding the remount of the show with an Indiegogo campaign - what have you learned from your experience crowdfunding your art?

Crowdfunding definitely isn’t easy! It’s also always hard asking for money. That being said I really believe in the experience we are trying to bring to this city, so I will do everything I can to make that happen! I am extremely thankful to everyone who gives anything to our campaign, it shows me they believe in it too!

Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?

The show happens January 26-28th at the Great Hall, tickets available at If you are looking for a truly unique night out you should come check it out. This show has been created with the general public in mind. You don’t need to be an avid arts goer to enjoy it, but having an open mind and sense of adventure always helps! We hope to see you there!

Tags: arts


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