Many a performance career has taken flight at a musical theatre intensive. Not Riley Sims’s though. The Toronto-based dancer-choreographer found his one and only experience with the summertime version of Fame a total turn-off.
“I was with a bunch of Broadway babies and I hated it,” he says. “I found the whole thing so phony.”
Seeking something more in line with his personality, he gave up his dream of being a triple threat to focus solely on dance. Since graduating from the School of Toronto Dance Theatre in 2010, he’s worked for Darryl Tracy, Michael Trent and Noam Gagnon among others. Not content to restrict himself to performing, he also wants to be a creator. His fledgling company, Social Growl Dance, is already catching significant attention, being featured at showcase events like Dance Matters and Fresh Blood.
Though movement is his medium, his current project, Are You Still Coming Tonight?, takes its creative cue from a different direction. A reaction to shows in which “all the dancers do is dance,” Coming uses the personalities of the performers as its starting point.
“Of course I love dance and choreography, but I don’t always find the dancers relatable,” he says. “Too much dance in a show is so fucking boring, and I spend my time wondering about the dancers I’m watching. What do they smell like? What would it be like to kiss him? How would that person’s orgasm sound?”
Set around a table, the piece begins with six performers eating dinner. What starts as a regular gathering gradually unfolds into a strange new reality. With plenty of near-nudity and a healthy dose of dry humping, the show aims to capture the dirty, gritty side of human nature.
“I’m interested in group dynamics, habits and idiosyncrasies,” Sims says. “When people get together there is so much, energetically, going on under the surface, and I try to magnify that in the context of performance. I’m interested in our animalistic sides, our basic instincts to eat and fuck. Of course, we’re more complex than that. But it’s comforting and scary to know that we’re all really just needy horny animals who just want to eat dinner and be loved.”