In The Fire
Femmes Du Feu Creations | Concept, created and performed by Holly Treddenick | Original score by John Gzowski | Directed by Monica Dottor
MULTIDISCIPLINARY, AERIAL, DANCE | CANADA
“Femmes du Feu, artists are, as the name suggests, all women, has set itself the guiding principle of combining circus arts and contemporary dance in innovative ways.” —LERÉGIONAL.COM
Memories, trauma, self-discovery, aging, and love. In The Fire is a solo dance/aerial circus show about Holly Treddenick’s father, based on his experience as a firefighter. The production uses rescue equipment as invented apparatuses—including boots, a rope loop, and an aerial ladder.
Many rescue workers experience trauma and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in their line of work. This research is only beginning to be discussed and acknowledged. The more we bring these issues forward, the more we can transform them and ourselves.
FdFC creates performance work through collaboration with artists across disciplines, combining contemporary circus with artistic curiosity, risk and reflection, aiming to create authentic, experimental and intelligent works, exploring outside the edges of the genre.
The movement vocabulary, discovered on the floor, on the apparatus, and in between. Working with the apparatus is similar to working with a dance partner, sometimes low to the ground with parts of the body still in contact with the ground. Contemporary circus is a divergence from the traditional 3-ring circus we know from the past, now more aligned with the current contemporary dance genre.
By Abigail Pope for PEAK Performances
In her performance, Holly Treddenick takes audiences with her on a journey to understand and connect with her firefighter father.
In the Fire is a solo dance/aerial circus show that presents audiences with a different perspective of what first responders, specifically firefighters, go through. Due to the harrowing nature of what they are exposed to in the line of duty, many first responders experience trauma and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, but the discussion and research on these topics are only just beginning.
Treddenick uses boots, a rope loop, and an aerial ladder to physically explore her father’s accounts on stage, and elements of her aerial work derive from research she conducted in a hose tower where firefighters hang hoses to dry. Notably, Treddenick is not attempting to portray her father on stage. Rather, she is interpreting what she knows about his traumas and divulging her own challenges as the daughter of a first responder.
As a child, Treddenick found her father’s career exciting; this show is about her close relationship with her father. When she got into her teenage years, her father recounted “abstract poetic” fragments of his experiences. “I was scared of his trauma and I didn’t understand.” The excitement she once felt about her father being a firefighter was replaced by unease and discomfort, which made her want to distance herself from what her father was enduring. She sensed that he did not want to process what he braved and struggled between wanting to talk about it and wanting to keep it private.
Treddenick says that creating In the Fire became a “platform for us to have those conversations…he’s been a lot more open and honest.” In preparation for this show, she confronted her own disquietude and interviewed her father about the difficulties he underwent. He relayed more stories and details of what he witnessed during his career as a firefighter. Just as the show served as a platform for Treddenick to better understand her father, she hopes that audiences will grow their appreciation for first responders and the struggles they face.
This show challenges Treddenick in new ways as an artist. She grapples between creating work that is unfiltered and hesitating to disclose private aspects of her personal life. Not only is the content of the show exposing, but it is also a solo performance. With the exception of a chorus, Treddenick is alone on stage. Usually, she prefers to collaborate and share the spotlight with others, and so this is “the most vulnerable work I’ve created.”
Taking risks leads some audience members to approach Treddenick after performances. These audience members express that they truly empathize with her hardships because they have family members who are first responders, too. Developing this show helps Treddenick bond with her father and creates an avenue for both of them to process some of their tribulations. Performing this show allows Treddenick and audience members to relate over shared experiences. Forging these new connections with people at her performances is one of the most important parts of the process for Treddenick. Thanks to her show, conversations are happening around the topics of trauma and healing for both first responders and their loved ones.
In the Fire is a “lifelong project in retrospect” with an “unconscious or subconscious organic development,” says Treddenick. She started dancing at the age of three and continued on to a career in dance, through which she was introduced to fire skills and aerial work. She experimented with combining dance and contemporary circus resulting in her own unique performance style.
More than 20 years ago, Treddenick paired her dance and contemporary circus skills with firefighting in a shorter show, which she continued to build upon and refine over the years as she acquired new opportunities. By 2017, the show was 25 minutes long and involved invented apparatuses; the full-length iteration of the show started with pitches made in 2020, but production was delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. In November of 2022, Treddenick is performing the full-length version of the show in Montclair.
The world premiere of Femmes du Feu Creations’ In the Fire is at Alexander Kasser Theater on the Montclair State University campus Thursday, November 10, and Friday, November 11 at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, November 12 at 8:00 p.m., and Sunday, November 13 at 3:00 p.m. For tickets, call (973) 655-5112 or go to peakperfs.org.
Choral composition commissioned by PEAK Performances at Montclair State University. In The Fire received preliminary support from the MICC Working Group on Circus Commissioning (TOHU, Montréal), an international consortium dedicated to advancing new circus globally.
Programs in this season were made possible, in part, by the Alexander Kasser Theater Endowment Fund, PEAK Patrons, and the New Jersey State Council on the Arts.