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Cassone / Photo by Ken Browar
 

Magnetic Candour

By Philip Szporer

It’s easy to be charmed by Céline Cassone, principal dancer and artistic coordinator for Les Ballets Jazz de Montréal

The globe-trotting BJM, known for its mixed program ballets, is a group of artists, and the radiant, petite, French-born Cassone is an integral member of the team; at forty-one, she’s very much in the mix. Philip Szporer catches up with Cassone between rehearsals for the upcoming Leonard Cohen-inspired production Dance Me, where timing, energy and being in the moment are everything.

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Lorsque l’on rencontre Cassone, artiste principale et coordonnatrice artistique des Ballets Jazz de Montréal (BJM), sa grande humilité nous charme facilement. Je l’ai vu pour la première fois il y a plusieurs années dans le pas de deux Closer de Benjamin Millipied, un duo acclamé qui a ouvert des portes pour sa carrière. Mon souvenir le plus vif : Cassone qui s’élève sur demi-pointe avec une beauté délicate et limpide. Les globetrotteurs BJM, reconnus pour leurs programmes mixtes, sont un véritable regroupement d’artistes. Et la radieuse et menue Cassone fait partie intégrante de l’équipe : à 41 ans, elle est au cœur des choses. Philip Szporer la rencontre entre deux répétitions pour la production inspirée par l’œuvre de Cohen, Dance Me, où le timing, l’énergie et la présence sont clés.

Cassone / Photo by Ken Browar

Pavlychenko Folklorique Ensemble, Rynok Square, Lviv, Ukraine / Photo courtesy of the Ukrainian Dance and Culture Festival
 

Hopak Across Canada

By Inga Bekbudova, Andrea Roberts

Ukrainian-Canadian dance troupes have been delighting audiences for many decades, from church basements to international stages. Take a peek into some of these groups, who embody tradition and innovation through regional and diasporic variation.

Dance and music have always been essential elements in Ukrainian cultural life. As early as the third millennium BC, dance and music were used in Ukraine to depict legends and enact rituals. More recently, it has also been a way for settlers to communicate and process their experiences in a new land.

Weaving folk dance, ballet and modern techniques, these hybrid dance inventions have become known for vibrant kaleidoscopes of patterns and colours, beautiful musical harmonies, jaw-dropping tricks and nauseating spins. This article highlights a few, but certainly not all, of the ensembles that have made significant contributions to the dance community.

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La danse et la musique ont toujours été des éléments essentiels de la vie culturelle ukrainienne. Dès le troisième millénaire av. J.-C., la danse et la musique servent à représenter des légendes et animer des rites en Ukraine. Plus récemment, elles sont aussi un moyen pour les colonies de communiquer et de comprendre leurs expériences dans un nouveau territoire. Un tissage de danse folklorique, de ballet et de danse moderne, les danses hybrides inventives sont reconnues pour leur vibrant caléidoscope de couleur, les belles harmonies musicales, les acrobaties époustouflantes et les tours vertigineux. Cet article souligne quelques-uns (certainement pas tous) des ensembles qui ont contribué de façon importante au milieu de la danse.

Pavlychenko Folklorique Ensemble, Rynok Square, Lviv, Ukraine / Photo courtesy of the Ukrainian Dance and Culture Festival

Fitzsimmons Frey family, choreography by Kate Alton, Porch View Dances 2016 / Photo by Monica Salazar Arcila
 

Dancing in Domestic Spaces

By Helen Simard

Traditional black box theatres allow audiences and performers anonymity from each other. How does domestic performance put these relationships at the forefront of the work?

“It’s like everyone’s right there with you in the front row,” says Winnipeg-based choreographer Alexandra Elliot, and co-founder of Art Holm.

It’s not only the relationship between performer and audience is being considered in these informal performances, but also the relationship between artist and presenter. While traditional modes of presentation often create a power and financial imbalance between the artist and the institution or organization programming the work, domestic performances are often based on grassroots ideas surrounding the sharing of resources. 

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Si la boite noire du théâtre a permis, historiquement, au public et aux artistes d’évoluer avec une certaine distance ou une forme d’anonymat, les spectacles à domicile mettent leur relation à l’avant-plan. « C’est comme si tout le monde est juste là avec toi, dans la première rangée », explique la chorégraphe winnipegoise Alexandra Elliott, fondatrice d’Art Holm. Ces présentations informelles questionnent non seulement le rapport entre spectateur et performeur, mais aussi entre l’artiste et le diffuseur. Alors que les modes traditionnels de performance créent souvent un déséquilibre de pouvoir et d’argent entre l’artiste et l’institution ou l’organisation qui présente le travail, les spectacles à domicile s’inspirent souvent de mouvements populaires basés sur le partage de ressources et la proximité.

Fitzsimmons Frey family, choreography by Kate Alton, Porch View Dances 2016 / Photo by Monica Salazar Arcila

Lina Jimenez in Jaberi's Behind the Stained Walls / Photo by Nzeghwua Anderson
 

Recreating vs. Representing

By Amelia Ehrhardt

What are the complexities involved in depicting gender-based violence onstage? Amelia Ehrhardt speaks with three dance artists about framing and contextualizing violence for audiences.

On the heels of the #metoo campaign and an already ongoing dialogue about depictions of sexual and gendered violence on stage, Ehrhardt facilitates a conversation to open up the dialogue to talk about representation in contemporary dance practices.

The topic is inherently intersectional. Roshanak Jaberi, Lee Su-Feh and Alexa Mardon weigh in on the issues at stake: how lenses of viewership are never neutral; that framing and context are crucial when presenting difficult subject matter; and how, in dance, there are real bodies and performers on the line.

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Sur les talons de la campagne #moiaussi et un dialogue déjà entamé sur les représentations de la violence sexuelle et genrée sur scène, Amelia Ehrhardt anime une discussion sur la représentation dans les pratiques de danse contemporaine. Le sujet est intrinsèquement intersectionnel. Roshanak Jaberi, Lee Su-Feh et Alexa Mardon réfléchissent ensemble aux enjeux : comment l’acte d’observer n’est jamais neutre ou objectif ; pourquoi l’encadrement et le contexte sont essentiels dans la présentation de matière difficile ; et comment, en danse, les artistes et les corps sont véritablement exposés.

Lina Jimenez in Jaberi’s Behind the Stained Walls / Photo by Nzeghwua Anderson

Departments

Emma Doran / Photo by John Carvalho

Editorial

By Emma Doran

As I sit down to write this note, the Toronto sky is grey and gloomy. There’s a chill in the air that’s telling me to hibernate. To match this interior season, Helen Simard’s feature asks us to consider how dance in domestic spaces engages the viewer, offering insights into why more dance artists across Canada are presenting dance in home spaces. The performances also present new opportunities for audience engagement. 

The issue also offers vibrant colour to contrast the monotone winter season. A splash of red across the pages is the signature of our feature (and cover) artist, Céline Cassone of Les Ballets Jazz de Montréal. Cassone sat down with long-time contributor Philip Szporer and offered him unexpectedly candid conversation about her career and advice for a younger generation. 

Our photo essay features the multicoloured patterns of Canadian-Ukrainian dance troupes and companies from across the country, exploring both the traditions and innovations of the diasporic practice. Although the piece does not delve into the recent and important debate surrounding cultural appropriation by settler communities, I do think it’s imperative to frame settler traditions as “cultural,” instead of neutral. 

In many ways, I consider The Dance Current’s role as offering a platform to delve deeper into conversations and issues that are already ongoing in Canadian dance communities. Amelia Ehrhardt’s In Conversation feature confronts one of those very issues – portraying gender-based violence onstage – with a candour and honesty that doesn’t gloss over the ambiguities inherent in this intersectional conversation. 

Finally, I hope you enjoy reading our Influences piece, in which Jillian Groening invited one artist from each province and territory to tell us about what’s in store for them in 2018. 

Stay warm.

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Emma Doran / Photo by John Carvalho

Ashbee / Photo by Patrice Mathieu

Movers

By Grace Wells-Smith

Daina Ashbee: in the deep end and on the edge

Daina Ashbee made the decision to stop teaching yoga and dance to make choreographic work full-time in 2015. She describes her work so far as “deliberately dark, vulnerable and often sensual.” However, she is starting to feel her inspiration and work evolving. “I feel like I’m on the edge,” she reflects, “of developing work that isn’t as deliberately dark.”

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Ashbee / Photo by Patrice Mathieu

Harjo / Photo courtesy of Jennifer Martin

Movers

Born a Dancer

Ascension Harjo

“I started dancing when I was two years old,” recalls Ascension Harjo. “My parents had taken me on tour with them to France and I naturally picked up the hoops.” Harjo’s dad is a hoop dancer in his own right and his mother a fancy shawl dancer.

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Harjo / Photo courtesy of Jennifer Martin

The List

María José Miranda and Jezreel Vázquez

The directors of Ballet Folklorico Puro Mexico

Since its inception in 2003, Ballet Folklorico Puro Mexico (BFPM) has grown exponentially, representing Mexican dance at key events within the city of Toronto. Under current director María José Miranda and Artistic Director Jezreel Vázquez, who have been working together since 2006, this not-for-profit organization takes immense pride in celebrating their fifteen year anniversary this year. The Dance Current asked them to take a look back at the things that have inspired them from their beginnings.

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Miranda and Vázquez (front) with dancers of Ballet Folklorico Puro Mexico / Photo by Brendan Albert

 

PAMANA Ng LuzViMinda Philippine Folkloric Dance Company's Stage Production 2016 / Photo courtesy of Mark Gonzalo and Jay-ar Lapid from Tri-M Photographix

Inspire

Cross-Canada Check In
By Jillian Groening

Dancers from across the country share their goals for 2018

The land we call Canada is expansive at the best of times, enormous and out of reach at others. From varying weather systems and time zones to population distribution and vernacular, the notion of a Canadian standard is far-fetched. While our country can feel disparate geographically, a pattern of common goals and achievements flow through Canada’s dance communities.

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PAMANA Ng LuzViMinda Philippine Folkloric Dance Company’s Stage Production 2016 / Photo courtesy of Mark Gonzalo and Jay-ar Lapid from Tri-M Photographix

Photo courtesy of Unsplash

Body

The Silence After the Applause
By Jo-Anne La Flèche

Dealing with post-performance depression

Dancers spend months preparing physically, mentally and emotionally for a production. In spite of the high costs on their energy, most artists consider the thrill of performing worth the blood, sweat and tears. But what happens after a show, when the applause dies down and the curtain falls?

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Photo courtesy of Unsplash

Dancer's Kitchen

Heather's Salad and Toastie

I make this salad for potlucks all the time. People love it because it’s simple, and each time someone says, “This the best salad I’ve had.”

Heather Lamoureux considers herself privileged to be a guest on the Coast Salish territory of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh nations. Here, she is a producer, artist, activist and facilitator. Her work stems from her relationship with Mother Earth. She moves with determination to walk with generosity in her feet and with honesty in her heart. 

Lamoureux is the artistic director/founder of Vines Art Festival, producer at Raven Spirit Dance and curatorial assistant at PuSh International Performing Arts Festival (PuSh). She works for other performing arts organizations including the Dancing on the Edge festival and the Firehall Arts Centre. She is trained in expressive movement therapy from Tamalpa Institute under the instruction of Anna and Daria Halprin and holds a BFA in dance with minor in business administration from Simon Fraser University. Lamoureux is a member of Pressed Paradise, a performance art collective. 

McCollum with NBS students / Photo by Johan Persson

Practice

Moving Past the Fear Factor
By Sarah Lochhead

Insights and observations from Ballet Bob

The crisp air of a new year is ripe with the resolve to try something new or to try anew something familiar – which can be full of excitement and fear. What are the ways dance teachers can mitigate these barriers both for their students and themselves? The Dance Current spoke to Bob McCollum, adult ballet program coordinator at Canada’s National Ballet School, on this matter and more.

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McCollum with NBS students / Photo by Johan Persson

Morin / Photo courtesy of Morin

What's in Your Dancebag?

Johnathan Morin

Co-artistic director and producer of Rhythm & Sound Productions

Hailing from Edmonton, twenty-six-year-old Johnathan Morin is a tap dancer and co-artistic director and producer of Rhythm & Sound Productions. Established in 2015, the company has been presented by Feats Festival of Dance and the Toronto International Tap Dance Festival. Other accolades include a leading role in Danny Nielsen’s tap dance production Love.Be.Best.Free, which toured British Columbia, and a position as a member of the Eastern Canadian Tap Conference. He is currently living in Toronto, where he teaches at the Millennium Dance Complex and Canada’s only tap dance focused studio – the Tap Dance Centre, in Mississauga.

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Morin / Photo courtesy of Morin

Valentia Dimitriou, Laura Barcelo and Brenna Heer in Meghann Michalsky's Daydream, Alberta Dance Festival 2017 / Photo by Tim Nguyen

From Our Archives

Calgary's Fertile Soil
By Emma Kerson

Dancers’ Studio West’s adaptive landscape

Fourteen years after they were first covered by The Dance Current, Dancers Studio West is now accurately self-described as “a recognized and focused centre for choreographic development and presentation and critical dialogue.”

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Valentia Dimitriou, Laura Barcelo and Brenna Heer in Meghann Michalsky’s Daydream, Alberta Dance Festival 2017 / Photo by Tim Nguyen

Allison Lang in rehearsal for Giaconda Barbuto's Eight and Sand / Photo by Michael Slobodian

Backstage

Her Perspective

A contemporary ballet program, by women

“Ballet Kelowna has a proud history of commissioning female choreographers,” says Artistic Director and CEO Simone Orlando. “In fact, I was the very first choreographer commissioned to create a new work for the company back in 2005.” 

The company presents Elles on February 2nd, featuring a mixed performance with works from four women choreographers – Folie à Cinq by Heather Myers, Glas by Gabrielle Lamb (two works already in their repertoire) plus world premieres by Alysa Pires and Gioconda Barbuto. The program promises to deliver contemporary ballet, a form dominated by male choreographers, from the perspective of women.

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Allison Lang in rehearsal for Gioconda Barbuto’s Eight and Sand / Photo by Michael Slobodian

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