REAson d'etre productions with choreographer Kathleen Rea

Dancing with the Universe
- dance theatre production
April 9 to 18 2020 at the Betty Oliphant Theatre, 404 Jarvis Street Toronto.

REAson d’etre dance productions presents
"Dancing with the Universe", premiering April 9 to 18, 2020 at the Betty Oliphant Theatre in Toronto, is a dance theatre production adaption of Vivian Chong's one-woman show "The Sunglasses Monologue". The production is co-directed by Vivian Chong and choreographer Kathleen Rea with dramaturge by Tristan Whiston. It tells Vivian's life story and is performed by Vivian Chong alongside an ensemble cast of six dancers and cellist Cheryl Ockrant. The show features Vivian’s drawings and her original songs. "Dancing with the Universe" is a multi-disciplinary journey of human emotions—a story of vulnerability and strength that shines a light on loss and grief.

In 2005, Vivian Chong experienced a rare reaction to Ibuprofen that caused third-degree skin burns over her entire body. She was put in a medically induced coma for two months. Upon waking, she had to relearn how to breathe, eat and walk. She was not told that her reaction to Ibuprofen would eventually cause complete loss of sight. As her vision deteriorated, she accepted her sight-loss and learned new ways to navigate her environment. In 2007 she realized the reaction to Ibuprofen was still unfolding when she woke up one morning with severe hearing loss that required the use of hearing aids. She eventually had surgery that replaced her eardrum and most of her hearing returned, however, the quality of sound was forever different.

Her experience of losing two senses and the extreme isolation this caused, led her to turn inwards and re-discover herself as an artist through dancing, writing, pottery, stand-up-comedy, singing, drumming, ukulele, piano, and music composition. With these various disciplines, she created a one-woman show, "The Sunglasses Monologue". Her sense of humour and ability to laugh at her situation played a huge role in her emotional healing and defined her as an artist. Vivian’s courageous vulnerability leads other to embrace their human experience and understand the power they have within them.

When Vivian was in the process of losing her sight, she was driven to document her medical experiences through drawing. She created the first 100 pages of a graphic memoir before sight loss made it impossible to draw further. This draft sat on her shelf for twelve years, until she found comic artist Georgia Webber who collaborated with Vivian to bring the rest of her story to the page. Vivian’s graphic memoir "Dancing After TEN" will be published by Fantagraphics and images from the book appear in the "Dancing with the Universe" production. The book launch will take place on April 12, 2020 at the matinée performance of "Dancing with the Universe".

Vivian’s one-woman show "The Sunglasses Monologue" has received rave reviews.

"An amazing experience. Through music, drama, laughter, and tears, Vivian squeezes your heart and shares her joy." - Brian Green

"Vivian takes you on a dynamic journey of heartfelt surprise, leaving you to marvel at the tenderness and fortitude of the human spirit." - Barbara Young

"Courageous and inspiring. You pushed our emotions every which way, and left us wanting more! Bravo!" - Shirley Yanover

Thursday, April 9 at 8 pm - Dancing with the Universe Opening Night Production

Friday, April 10 at 8 pm - Dancing with the Universe Production
ASL INTERPRETATION provided for this performance

Sunday, April 12 at 3 pm - Dancing with the Universe Production and Dancing After TEN Book Launch.
RELAXED PERFORMANCE and AUDIO-DESCRIPTION provided for this performance (Please contact to get on the list for a headset).

Friday, April 17at 8 pm - Dancing with the Universe Production

Saturday, April 18 at 8 pm - Dancing with the Universe Production Closing Night

Betty Oliphant Theatre, 404 Jarvis Street, Toronto (Wheelchair accessible. Please let us know at if you are attending in a wheelchair so we can reserve a good seat for you)

This project received project funding from the Canada Council for the Arts and the National Ballet of Canada's Open Spaces Residency. REAson d’etre dance production currently also receives operation funding from the Toronto Arts Council.

Ashley Belmer

TEAM FOR “Dancing with the Universe”:
Story: Vivian Chong
Co-Direction: Vivian Chong and Kathleen Rea
Choreography: Kathleen Rea
Dramaturge and Lighting: Tristan Whiston
Monologue Text: Vivian Chong
Dance-theatre Script Arrangement: Vivian Chong, Kathleen Rea and Tristan Whiston
Original Songs: Vivian Chong
Original Music and Performance: Vivian Chong (Piano, Ukulele and Vocalization) and Cheryl Ockrant (Cello and Vocalization)
Recorded Music: 100% WoOL album Monkey Vs. Panda (artists Vivian Chong and Serge)
Ensemble: Vivian Chong, Brayden Cairns, Hannah Drover, Karen Kaeja, Ben Landsberg, Emily LeBlanc, Suzanne Liska, Elise Tigges
Drawings: Vivian Chong with some backgrounds by Georgia Webber and with colour additions by Chelsea Wirtz
Props, Puppets and Costumes: Kathleen
Animation: Sabrina Simmons and Kathleen Rea
Video Editing: Kathleen Rea
Voice Coaching: Anthony Bergamin
Swing Teachers: Jonathon Neville and Kristin Light (Bees Knees)
Producer: Kathleen Rea
Produced by: REAson d'etre dance productions

Dancing with the Universe Production Facebook Event Page:

RDDP Facebook Page: @reasondetredance

RDDP Twitter: @REAson_detre

RDDP Instagram: @reasondetredance

Dancing After TEN Toronto Book Launch Facebook Event Page:

The prop featured in this video is a 20 foot long 1-foot wide piece of crinkled white paper. Vivian Chong is dancing in gray pants and a dark blue shirt and six ensemble cast members wear black and gray. The studio is bright and has a ballet bar along the walls and a gray dance floor. Fade in: Crinkled white paper in the background with text overlaid: Vivian Chong lost her sight due to a rare medical reaction and reinvented herself as a multidisciplinary performer. Vivian and her ensemble cast go on a vulnerable journey that demonstrates the human spirit in the face of loss. Web site is listed. Fade into a closeup of hands moving a narrow and long sheet of crinkled white paper. Vivian encased in crinkled white paper with only half her face visible. Vivian reaching out while ensemble floating the paper around her. Suzanne Liska pulling Karen Kaeja towards her. Brayden Cairn reaching up. Ensemble bunching up white paper prop against Vivian’s body as she stands. Close up of Vivian's hands crawling along the paper. Vivian dance/miming drawing intensely on the paper. As she draws, the dancer’s hands come in, covering up her view of the paper. She pushes their hands away. Brayden covering Vivian’s eyes and the ensemble are all covering each other’s eyes. Karen and Suzanne embracing. Karen sweeping her arms and legs aggressively as she wraps the crinkled white paper around her body. Dancers undulate like waves on the floor. Karen being lifted. Close-up of Cheryl O intensely playing cello, and Vivian playing piano. Vivian delivering text and then laughing. Vivian playfully dancing with Brayden. Both are laughing. Vivian stumbling forward reaching for help as dancers twirl behind her. Ensemble sweeps their arms around Vivian as she sways. Ensemble lifting Vivian in the air and turning her as they lower her. Text fades in: “Dancing With The Universe”., April 9 to 18 2020. Betty Oliphant Theatre, Toronto. Video Drew Berry. Trailer music 100% WoOL.