Watch This New Vancouver Dance Performance Inspired by Calligraphy

Shion Skye Carter’s "Residuals" takes audiences back to her grandparents' home in Japan.

“Calligraphy and dance really come together quite organically,” says Shion Skye Carter, the local dancer behind Residuals. The Japanese calligraphy-inspired show premieres in Vancouver at the Scotiabank Dance Centre on November 4, 2022 at 7:00 p.m.—but Residuals has been three years in the making, and Carter has been practicing the skills required to perform it for decades. 

Shion Skye Carter Residuals dance show
Photo: Lula-Belle Jedynak

Carter was six years old when her family first moved from Tajimi, Japan to the Lower Mainland, and she enrolled in calligraphy lessons at Burnaby’s Gladstone Japanese Language School when she was ten. “I feel like calligraphy and embodiment are innately related,” says Carter, who describes setting up her workstation as a “calming collection of gestures”: laying down the felt mat, sliding the paperweight to smooth out the paper, preparing the inkwell, et cetera. She practised calligraphy for several years, but eventually, teenage obligations (dance, sports, school) pulled her away from the art. 

Residuals at Scotiabank theatre in Vancouver
Photo: Lula-Belle Jedynak

And while dance may have been one of the responsibilities that drew Carter from calligraphy, it’s also dance that led her back to it. As part of the creation process for Residuals, Carter enrolled herself back in lessons at the same school—and with the same teacher, now-octogenarian Yoko Murakami. The dancer used the gestures and teachings of calligraphy to inspire her dance: sometimes, her body acts as the brush, sometimes the ink. Carter’s own calligraphy paper takes the stage with her as part of the performance—and her grandparents’ house makes an appearance, too. 

Shion Skye Carter Residuals 3 photo Lula-Belle Jedynak
Photo: Lula-Belle Jedynak

“After immigrating from Japan, I felt as though I had one foot in one culture, and one in the other— I felt like I wasn’t quite living up to Japanese expectations,” says Carter. “In discovering my identity and my queerness and gender, there were parts of myself that were conflicting and fighting with and pushing against each other,” she continues, “and part of that tension that I was feeling was not feeling Japanese enough.” The dancer says that reflecting on this led her to think about where home is, and she realized that her Japanese grandparents’ home was the most consistent physical location that felt like home to her. 

Shion Skye Carter holding calligraphy on stage
Photo: Lula-Belle Jedynak

Thanks to some inventive lighting design, Residuals takes audiences through that home. “We were able to recreate the different rooms of my grandparents’ house using lighting on the stage, and the movements are affected by my memories in each of those rooms,” she explains. 

In addition to Residuals, Carter is welcoming another soloist to the stage: and up-and-coming dancer Juolin Lee. Lee will be preforming Awake of Dreams, a short solo choreographed in collaboration with Ziyian Kwan. 

Residuals runs on November 4 and 5, 2022 at 7:00 p.m. at the Scotiabank Dance Centre. The show is presented through The Dance Centre’s Iris Garland Emerging Choreographer Award and co-presented with Powell Street Festival. Get tickets here.