Sweating With Strangers, a Pandemic Dream

Sweating With Strangers, a pandemic dream, is my latest creative work. This short film is born from a recurring dream I had at the start of the pandemic in 2020.

Initially, the shut down was very challenging. Frankly, it’s been challenging all the way through, but the early days deeply impacted me because I am a hugger. I was an Registered Massage Therapist for 20 years. I really like touch. And suddenly, there was not touching allowed.

I was having one of my first zoom dates with a dear friend and I told her about this recurring I dream I kept having and how when this was all over, I wanted to go to Vancouver, plop myself smack dab into the middle of a crowded dance floor and dance up against as many people as possible. My friend said “Ooh, sweating with strangers!”. I immediately wrote those words down and crafted a narrative that wove my dream into words. Thank you again, Chloe.

I am a storyteller and I felt the story in my words but I wanted to see them play out. However, there were no stages on to which I could do that. And furthermore, there weren’t going to be stages for the foreseeable future. That was how the idea of making a short film evolved.

I wanted to see what I felt.

My husband, Dave Teichroeb, is an accomplished singer/songwriter with loads of recording equipment. He recorded my voice-over in our living room. We had to stop every time a car drove past the house because the sound bled through. Dave also filmed all the sequences with me and the dancers. It was the first time he and I had ever collaborated artistically. I can honestly say, I would collaborate with him again. He had a sensitive attention to detail that floored me when I saw the footage.

I asked my friend Sean Danby in Toronto, Ontario to help with editing. I collected all the stock images of crowds that represented how I felt and collaged them into a sequence that matched the narrative and Sean took my outline and created a seamless visual landscape that truly felt like my dream. Sean usually travels out to visit us once a year but, of course, covid. This project gave us a chance to stay connected despite the distance. I’d rather have him sitting on my back deck but this was truly the next best thing.

The dancers in this film are such a gift. Melissa Jane, SharmaRay Goldman and Valerie Mermot gave a joyful, elegant, sensual feeling to this film that I longed to express. Their movements breathed life into my words. They were the perfect foil to the longing and loss I felt. We filmed them during a time our bubbles were allowed to open up a bit. We live on an island, and are already quite isolated and it still felt like such a gift to be able to film them for this project.

I am deeply proud of and grateful for this work. It’s a reminder of the resiliency of art to move through us even during tough times. It’s also a reminder for me to stay open to catching these ideas when they fly past and to act on them no matter what.

Melanie Teichroeb is a playwright/performer. Creator of Shield Maiden. Sweating With Strangers is Melanie’s pandemic pivot from page to stage to screen.