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By Eric Lam

Betrayal can be expressed in many forms, but for Ryerson alumnus Ray Hogg, performing in acclaimed Toronto choreographer Julia Sasso’s the betrayal project, the best way is through dance.

“It’s a full evening work based on the premise of betrayal,” Hogg explains between rehearsals of the highly anticipated and controversial new performance. “We, (an ensemble of five performers), all play both the betrayer and the betrayed. It’s very satisfying to express such a wide range of emotions, and it’s all nonverbal.”

Hogg describes his character as an archetype with no name who, along with the other performers, must express the brutal emotions of betrayal through physical movement. “We developed relationships through solos, duets and trios, and the elements of betrayal are expressed through a solo or duet being interrupted by the entrance of another actor,” Hogg says.

“It’s a heavy subject. The themes in contemporary dance are more heavy and weighted and the ideas are more intangible and intense.

“If there’s a scene I’m not in and I’m watching (from the sidelines), I can experience and relate to what’s on stage, even though there aren’t subtitles saying, ‘I will leave you now.'” Sasso’s the betrayal project has its world premiere the evening of Jan. 31 at the Harbourfront Centre’s Premiere Dance Theatre.

It’s the second collaboration between Julia Sasso Dances and Nightswimming, an award-winning developmental theatre company. Their first co-commission, Beauty, premiered to audiences, and critical acclaim, in 2003. For Hogg, who trained in Ryerson Theatre School’s three-year dance program, the opportunity to work with the highly regarded and experimental Sasso was a long time coming. “(Sasso) called me, and I’ve been attached to the project since last spring,” Hogg says.

“But we’ve seen each other’s work and we’ve been hoping to work with each other for a long time. The actual project has been in (the) process for over a year.” While Hogg is a veteran of both contemporary dance and more mainstream musical theatre, he can’t bring himself to choose favourites.

“I don’t want to put one down over another, because I love both so much,” he says, noting that both forms of artistic expression work in two very different ways. “In musicals, I’m telling you how to feel, and in contemporary dance, I’m showing you.”

Hogg also speaks fondly of Ryerson’s Theatre School, which he attended for three years starting in 1996. “I loved my time at Ryerson. I have friends from there I’m still in touch with.” Gushing about the faculty, which Hogg describes as highly desirable, he has also recommended Ryerson as an excellent place to train for budding performers.

Another gem of advice from Hogg is to focus on your chosen career. “If you want to be an engineer, you don’t work at Starbucks. If you want to be a dancer, focus on your dance career, not your barista career.”

Taking summer stock jobs as extras in musicals is another way of getting your name out, although Hogg worries that his former professors would hate him for saying that. While the betrayal project doesn’t have a story, “no point A to point B,” Hogg says, he promises that “you can’t help but be moved in some way.”

Still, contemporary dance can seem intimidating to the average person. When Hogg hears this, he likes to point to a favourite saying from Karen Duplisea, a Ryerson dance faculty member and former teacher: “‘There can be no cultural identity without cultural activity.’ “You need to stimulate your own creative thoughts. There are millions of engineers, journalists, landscape architects — you name it.”

But only a handful are successful at what they do. Hogg suggests that the only way to succeed is to at least try.

“Why? Because of creative thinking. So go for your own darn good!”

The betrayal project runs at the Premiere Dance Theatre, Harbourfront Centre, from Jan. 31 to Feb. 4 at 8 p.m.

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