Tara Cheyenne Friedenberg was a teenager during the 1980s and spent her high school years hanging out with communists and listening to lots of heavy metal. All of which has served the 39-year-old dancer well. In her acclaimed dance-theatre hybrid bANGER, Friedenberg inhabits the slouchy posture and hard rocking tendencies of a teenage social misfit named Ivan. Much head-banging ensues. First seen as an excerpt at the 2005 Dancing on the Edge Festival, where it received the People's Choice Award, bANGER returns for the 24th edition of the contemporary dance festival, which runs July 5 to 14, before heading to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August. Friedenberg kindly locked devil horns with the Courier to discuss the art of rocking, the health benefits of head-banging and, naturally, Slayer.
1. What was the inspiration for bANGER?
I was going through a bit of a rough time and heavy music was helping me cope. I started listening to stuff I listened to in high school. I also saw Metal: A Headbanger's Journey-a doc by Sam Dunn and got really inspired to investigate this massive genre.
2. Is there a difference between bangers, rockers and heshers?
Good question. I'm not super familiar with the term hesher, it seems more of a negative term that covers everyone with long hair and rock T-shirts. Rockers seem to be people who might like "heavier" music but don't necessarily align themselves with metal in the true sense. This is where I start to sound like the metal geek I am. A headbanger is really someone who loves heavy metal- not hair bands or Green Day-metal! Although metal is a big category.
3. Growing up in '80s I don't recall the headbangers at school being particularly coordinated or inclined to dance. Was that your experience?
The physicality of moving to metal is a lot different than what we might think of as "coordinated," but it actually is. It is an extremely expressive and cathartic form if you look at it from a dancer perspective. I think these kids tend to be shy in general but let loose at metal shows or on their own, which is important because everyone needs a physical outlet.
4. What was the most difficult aspect of transforming head-banging and heavy metal into a dance piece?
I had to spend many hours in the hunched-over, loping posture of a teenage headbanger boy, investigating how he moves and how I could translate that into dance, how I could exaggerate pedestrian movements to really express. I developed new muscles that's for sure and a whole new way of moving that I'd never experimented with before.
5. What's the secret to avoiding head-banging injuries?
When I first started making the piece my neck got stiff and sore, but now it feels really good to head-bang. It actually releases alpha waves in the brain and calms the system-seriously. The best thing to do is work into it slowly. Start with one song and build up to a five-band mega metal show.
6. What's your favourite dance move that you perform?
I really like the "windmill," which is when you spin your head around so your hair spins like a windmill. It feels so metal!
7. Do you model your moves after anyone in particular?
I studied a lot of bands (Slayer, Lamb of God, Metallica etc.) and went to a lot of concerts to just be in the vibe and watch people move. So there's a bit of a lot of people, but metal fans might be able to pick out a few signature moves from a few of the bigger metal stars.
8. Who's your favourite heavy metal band?
I'd have to say Slayer because they are just so very metal and I like their politics. It's very fast and very loud... what can I say. But I also really like Arch Enemy-they have an amazing female lead singer.
9. Do you ever worry that flashing the devil horns has lost some of its power?
A bit, yes. People seem to use the horns a little too casually. But I also love that the sign is very close to "I love you" in sign language, which is excellent because I often feel like metal shows are a great big love-in.
10. Have you seen the movie Rock of Ages?
No not yet. I have a 10-monthold baby so I'm not getting to a lot of movies these days.
Friedenberg performs bANGER at the Firehall Arts Centre, July 14. For more information, go dancingontheedge.org or call 604689-0926.