Rhodnie Désir, a Montréal-based contemporary dance artist, has embarked on a multi-year, multinational project that investigates the local expressions of a shared African diasporic culture. George Stamos profiles an artist trying to make connections across borders.
For her current project, BOW’T TRAIL, Désir is travelling to locations significant to the African diaspora to examine how shared cultural roots, spread by the Atlantic slave trade, are expressed and moulded by current geographic and political forces. In each location she re-expresses her 2013 solo work BOW’T, drawing on local artists, musicians and academics, as well topics and issue of local concern. In this project, as in her work more broadly, Désir seeks to find embrace diversity while finding linkage between individuals across space and time, encouraging viewers to engage as thoughtful global citizens.
Dans son projet BOW’T TRAIL, la chorégraphe et danseuse Rhodnie Désir voyage à des sites importants de la diaspora africaine pour examiner comment les racines culturelles partagées, répandues par la traite négrière transatlantique, s’expriment et se forment selon les forces géographiques et politiques d’aujourd’hui. Dans chaque lieu, l’artiste de Montréal réexprime son solo BOW’T de 2013 en dialogue avec des artistes, des musiciens et des chercheurs locaux, et en tenant compte des questions particulières de la région. Dans sa pratique comme dans ce projet, Désir cherche à accueillir la diversité en mettant en lumière les liens entre personnes à travers l’espace et le temps, et en encourageant les spectateurs à s’engager comme êtres réflexifs et citoyens du monde.
Rhodnie Désir / Photo by Nans Bortuzzo
Across the country, older Canadians are bringing their energy and enthusiasm to the dance community. This photo essay presents a range of different contexts in which seniors are participating in and shaping the Canadian dance landscape.
Seniors energize the Canadian dance scene. From volunteering for professional companies to performing themselves, thousands of Canadians over the age of sixty-five are engaged with dance in generous and inspiring ways. For many, their commitment to the form started at a young age and has lasted a lifetime. For others, the love of movement has been fanned into flame since retirement.
In these images, seniors are presented dancing in a variety of contexts, from recreational social dance to professional stage performance. Many other older Canadians are behind the scenes, giving their time through ushering and fundraising for large dance companies. In addition to its artistic and social aspects, the health benefits of dance are also an important reason for senior participation, including dance therapy programs, like the specialized work with people with health problems such as Parkinson’s disease. In each of these companies and programs, we see a glimpse of how dance keeps Canadians healthy, connected and young in spirit.
Les ainés amènent une vitalité au milieu de la danse canadienne. Que ce soit à titre d’interprète ou de bénévole pour une compagnie professionnelle, des milliers de Canadiens de plus de soixante-cinq ans participent à la danse avec une générosité inspirante. Pour nombre d’entre eux, la danse a toujours fait partie de leur vie. Pour d’autres, l’amour du geste s’annonce et s’intensifie depuis la retraite.
Les images montrent des ainées qui dansent dans une variété de contextes, de la danse sociale récréative aux spectacles professionnels. D’autres Canadiens du troisième âge œuvrent en coulisse, et font don de leurs temps comme placeurs ou dans des campagnes de collectes de fonds pour les grandes compagnies de danse. En plus des aspects artistiques et sociaux, la danse procure des bienfaits pour la santé qui motivent la participation des personnes âgées, y compris dans les programmes de danse-thérapie, comme le travail spécialisé avec les personnes souffrant de maladies telles que le Parkinson. Dans chacun de ces programmes et compagnies, nous constatons comment la danse est une source de santé, de connexions et de vitalité.
Spice Guys of Burlington Footnotes in Bad / Photo by Bob Hatcher
The role of professional training and skill in dance is one numerous dance artists consider as they use pedestrian movements in their work and engage non-specialists to perform. In this feature, artists discuss how they understand professionalism and what is gained and lost by letting it go.
Community-engaged dance practice brings those who have not chosen or were not able to gain the skills taught by a committed dance training into the field of dance performance. Mark Mann speaks with several dance artists about the role of professionalism in dance creations. What does professional training bring to a dance performance? And what, alternatively, do untrained bodies bring? Karen Jamieson, Sylvain Émard, Justine Chambers, Naomi Brand and Margaret Grenier, all artists differently considering ideas of pedestrian movements and community-engagement, discuss how art can be made through the performances of bodies with less training, what is gained in the process and which skills created through that training remain significant.
Les pratiques de danse dans la communauté accueillent ceux qui n’ont pas choisi ou n’ont pas eu l’occasion de suivre une formation poussée en danse. Dans cet article, Mark Mann interviewe plusieurs artistes de danse sur le rôle de la professionnalisation. Qu’apporte la formation professionnelle à un spectacle? Et, inversement, qu’est-ce que les corps non professionnels y contribuent ? Karen Jamieson, Sylvain Émard, Justine Chambers, Naomi Brand et Margaret Grenier explorent différentes idées autour du geste quotidien et de l’engagement communautaire. Les artistes expliquent la création artistique par des corps moins formés en performance, les acquis issus de ce processus, ainsi que la résonnance de ces expériences sur les participants.
Le Continental XL by Sylvain Émard presented in Festival TransAmériques in Montréal (2011) / Photo by Robert Etcheverry
In light of cases and allegations of abuse made by former students at different dance training institutions in this country, Marie France Forcier discusses safety with professionals of varying expertise. They provide suggestions about what teachers, studio owners and parents need to know about protecting young dancers and how to create environments that will support them.
Several cases of alleged abuse have surfaced in Canada over the last few months involving dancers-in-training and professionals in positions of power within the dance world. These include, but are not limited to, the allegations against Royal Winnipeg Ballet School’s former teacher Bruce Monk and those against Roger Hobden, a Montréal-based physician well-known to the dance community there for his osteopathic practice. Hoping to provide information on this important topic and advice on how to identify, intervene and prevent it, Marie France Forcier spoke with Margaret Powell, a Toronto-based occupational therapist and psychologist with an expertise in both abusive matters and the specificities of dance training, Jorge Ramos and Cynthia Bryson of The Shepherd Group, a full-service insurance brokerage with a specialty in dance-related matters, and two faculty members from Canada’s National Ballet School (NBS): Deborah Bowes, artistic faculty member, and Susan Leslie Berkis, head of residence.
Dans les derniers mois au Canada, il y a eu plusieurs cas d’allégations d’abus mettant en cause des danseurs en formation et des professionnels en position de pouvoir. Ceux-ci comptent (mais ne se limitent pas) aux allégations contre l’ancien professeur du Royal Winnipeg Ballet School Bruce Monk et celles contre Roger Hobden, un médecin à Montréal reconnu dans la communauté pour sa pratique en ostéopathie. Marie France Forcier cherche à fournir de l’information sur ce sujet important ainsi que des conseils pour identifier, intervenir et prévenir les abus. Elle interviewe Margaret Powell, une ergothérapeute et psychologue à Toronto spécialisée dans les questions d’abus et de formation en danse ; Jorge Ramos et Cynthia Bryson du Shepherd Group, un courtier d’assurance spécialisé dans les dossiers de la danse ; et deux employés de l’École nationale de ballet du Canada : Deborah Bowes, membre de l’équipe artistique et Susan Leslie Berkis, directrice des résidences.
Deborah Bowes and students of Canada’s National Ballet School / Photo by Johan Persson
In dance, there is a tension between a desire to have bodies move in ways that require the skill and understanding gained through committed practice and an interest in the way human bodies move in their day-to-day lives. Seeing skilled technicians explore the possibilities of movement and musicality continues to be a source of fascination for me. At the same time, movement, in general, and dance, in particular, are so closely intertwined with how humans interact, how we find meaning and share that with each other and how we experience the physical sensations of our bodies that the untrained body remains a site of important and necessary exploration.
This issue’s feature article, “The Great Divide” by Mark Mann, and the photo essay, “Young in Spirit,” compiled by Rachel Silver, both consider how dance acts as a builder of community but, more particularly, as a site of art creation for individuals with a variety of levels of engagement with dance. Mann speaks with several dance artists about the opportunities for working with those without dance training, but also the core elements of professional training that remain significant. Silver presents older Canadians participating in dance in numerous contexts across the country.
The profiles present three exceptional dancers. Rhodnie Désir of Montréal is midway through BOW’T TRAIL, a project in which she travels to locations in the Atlantic African diaspora. In each place, she revisits her 2013 solo BOW’T, informed by local themes and artistry, to examine the shared cultural roots of descendants of the African slave trade and how they express themselves differently in diverse geographic and social situations.
Pulga Muchochoma, a dancer with Toronto Dance Theatre, began dancing as a young adult, and his energy and movement quality quickly brought him notice both in his home country of Mozambique and then in his acquired home of Toronto. Michaela Hinds, however, is a young adult whose career is already coming to an end. As an Irish dancer, she has won almost every competition possible, including the world championships – six times – and is now looking to share her knowledge and commitment with a new generation of dancers.
On April 29th, we celebrate International Dance Day. It is a time to reflect on the communities created through and by dance. And with its wide and varied participation, it will provide us the opportunity to enjoy both the movements of those with a committed practice and those, as Mark Mann puts it in his article, in “the crowd of untrained social dancers – rigid, goofy, daunted, wild, drunk, sexy, ecstatic, alone.”
Contemporary dancer Pulga Muchochoma draws from his Mozambican roots to fuel his artistry.
Muchochoma, a company dancer with Toronto Dance Theatre (TDT) born in Quelimane, Mozambique, credits much of his success to a deliberate decision to infuse his present and future with his past. Discovering dance as a young adult, while competing in a high-level soccer game, Muchochoma has since made his mark at TDT through his sense of space, his long lines and his infectious enthusiasm.
Pulga Muchochoma / Photo by Shy Alter
Irish dancer Michaela Marie Hinds
At twenty-one, instead of being an emerging artist, Michaela Marie Hinds is nearing retirement and considering a transition into teaching. Her career hasn’t been cut short – in fact she has had a long and full career in the field of Irish dance, including an extraordinary six World Championship wins. Hinds discusses the combination of athleticism and artistry this genre requires and the teachers that have inspired her to follow in their footsteps
Michaela Hinds / Photo courtesy of Hinds
Saving money and thinking about retirement for dance artists
Artists in Canada do not make a lot of money from their art. And dancers are among the lowest earning artists. It is therefore a truism that saving money is difficult for most dance artists. Yet, while saving (and getting out of debt) can seem like unachievable tasks, they are worth some serious consideration. What should dance artists know about saving money?
Melissa Klassen of Acrobatique on the rise of acrodance
Acrodance is based on the style of acrobatics but incorporates the tricks seamlessly into dance routines, generally drawn from lyrical and jazz repertoires. The tricks, such as handstands, cartwheels, tumbling lines and aerials, are presented with an emphasis on musicality, grace and long lines. Melissa Klassen, creator and director of the Acrobatique AcroDance Syllabus in Calgary, discusses her philosophy and program for acrodance training.
Melissa Klassen and student / Photo courtesy of Klassen
Returning to dance safely after having a child requires patience and care
Before jumping back into the studio after having a child, it is important for new mothers to take it slowly. Pregnancy and birth are no easy feats, and the demands of motherhood can take their toll emotionally and physically. The postpartum period is necessary for mothers to heal from childbirth, for the uterus to return to its normal size and to establish breastfeeding, if that is the case.
Je-an Salas Leavens and Greta Hodgkinson / Photo courtesy of Je-An Salas Leavens
During the postpartum period, Greta Hodgkinson, who is celebrating her twentieth year as a principal dancer with The National Ballet of Canada, focuses on getting enough food and nutrition while breastfeeding and returning to training.
Greta Hodgkinson / Photo by Karolina Kuras
Artistic director of Alberta Ballet and award-winning Canadian composer collaborate on a new work
This April, as part of its season celebrating Canada’s sesquicentennial, the National Arts Centre presents ENCOUNT3RS, three newly commissioned works, pairing three choreographers each with a composer. For their creations, Jean Grand-Maître, artistic director of Alberta Ballet, and Andrew Staniland, multiple-award winning new music artist, have drawn inspiration from the concept of phi, or the golden ratio.
The Dance Current asked these new collaborators about their inspiration and collaborative processes for this new work.
Jean Grand-Maître / Photo courtesy of NAC
Co-founder, Hataw Performing Arts
As a mother of three young children and co-founder of Hataw Performing Arts, a modernized dance group based on the folk dance of the Philippines, Crista Aguinaldo is always on the go. “I often have no time to pack a proper dancebag,” says Aguinaldo, “so it ends up being my purse that I lug around daily (even with my dance stuff in it). I either have nothing or everything with me at any given time.”
Photo courtesy of Crista Aguinaldo
Paraskevas Terezakis of Kinesis Dance somatheatro on lighting the way forward after thirty years
The thirtieth anniversary of Kinesis Dance somatheatro of Vancouver, founded by artistic director Paraskevas Terezakis in 1986, is seen by Terezakis not as an opportunity to dwell on the past but to bound bravely forward. “I use the past only to try not to make the same mistakes,” he says. “I do not want to trap myself in nostalgia. The past is not a block. The past makes me go forward.”
For the celebration, Kinesis Dance is presenting In Penumbra, an expanded exploration of a work from 2015, U>W. Both explore the tensions between dystopia and utopia, between light and dark, and the shades of grey in between. Instead of the theatrical lighting of the theatre space, the piece uses a variety of lighting sources with which the dancers interact. In particular, Terezakis explores the tension between incandescent lights, a fragile and increasingly obsolete technology, where most of the energy is lost as heat not light, with LED lights which are more resistant physically and more efficient. The dancers work with the lighting media: the bulbs, the cords, the sound and the light. For the audience, the changing lighting becomes part of the physical experience of the work.
After thirty years, Terezakis says he is still “excited to see how viewers see and experience the work I do. That, for me, is what propels me to do what I do.”
In Penumbra runs March 1st through 4th at the Scotiabank Dance Centre in Vancouver.
Paraskevas Terezakis, Renée Sigouin, Elissa Hanson, Diego Romero and Arash Khakpour in rehearsal for In Penumbra / Photo by Chris Randle