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The Enchanted Spaces of Isabelle Van Grimde

By Philip Szporer

Over her thirty-year practice, Isabelle Van Grimde has remixed dance and technology, exchanging insights and ideas and working across disciplines. Szporer sat down with the Belgian-born, Montréal-based choreographer to discuss her introduction to movement, the beginnings of Studio 303, her company Van Grimde Corps Secrets and her newest work, Eve 2050, which utilizes technology as “a form of magic.”

The remix she proposes is risky, but exchanging insights and ideas, and working across disciplines sparked new creative impulses. As curator, artistic director and choreographer of her company, Van Grimde Corps Secrets (VGCS), she’s fostered a crucible of ideas and welcomed intersections and collaborations.
 

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Au fil de ses trente ans de pratique, Isabelle Van Grimde s’est ingéniée à brouiller les frontières entre technologie et danse. Bien que le mélange qu’elle propose ne soit pas dénué de risque, l’échange d’idées et de perspectives, ainsi que la pluridisciplinarité ont suscité un nouvel élan créatif. Van Grimde Corps Secrets (VGCS), dont elle est à la fois commissaire, directrice artistique et chorégraphe est un véritable creuset d’idées, favorisant l’intersection et la collaboration. Philip Szporer s’est entretenu avec la chorégraphe montréalaise née en Belgique, au sujet de ses débuts dans le domaine du mouvement, de la fondation du Studio 303 et de VGCS, ainsi que de sa nouvelle création, Eve 2050, qui se sert de la technologie comme d’une « forme de magie » afin de créer des espaces enchantés.
 
Angélique Wilkes in film still of Eve 2050, developed by Van Grimde and DAVAI, with direction by Robert Desroches

 

 

Hiley performing Preludes at Cathédrale de Saint-Boniface, Winnipeg / Photos by Mark Dela Cruz
 

Resurrections

Two new Canadian dance projects reimagine the works of founding modern dance artists.

Since 2012, Winnipeg-based dance artist Kathleen Hiley has been studying the movement of modern dance pioneer Isadora Duncan with Jeanne Bresciani, a foremost interpreter of Duncan’s movement and artistic director of the Isadora Duncan International Institute. Hiley acquired a selection of Duncan’s choreography to 24 Preludes (#15-21), which accompany Chopin’s Opus 28, and Marche Slav, a Duncan work of social protest that provoked intense emotions after its first performance in 1917. 
 
Slipstream is an installation by Jenn E. Norton. Performed by Katie Ewald, with garment design by Juliann Wilding, the work is an installation that reimagines fin-de siècle dancer and inventor Loïe Fuller. Starting with video and post-production techniques, a visitor to the installation sees the work in two realms: first, the viewer is surrounded by Fuller’s reconstructed dance, shown on six life-size monitors, and then they see her via augmented reality – a hand-held device reveals metallic, art nouveau-style coils twisting across the illuminated floor – all while a soundscape of billowing fabric envelopes the viewer. There’s one catch: the dancer is absent.
 

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Hiley performing Preludes at Cathédrale de Saint-Boniface, Winnipeg / Photo by Mark Dela Cruz

Denise Solleza / Photo by Marlowe Porter
 

Collective Copyright

By Lee Slinger

Dance has a long and tenuous relationship with ideas of intellectual ownership that is becoming even more complex as digital media is incorporated into artistic practice. How are contemporary dance artists navigating their understandings of ownership, authorship and the role of intellectual property in their art-making processes?

As dance artists navigate projects and performances, they encounter differing ideas of authorship. The evolving relationship between artists and digital media sharing have also shaped how these concepts are understood. Slinger spoke with several contemporary dance artists about their understandings of ownership, authorship and the role of intellectual property in their art-making processes. She also weighs in with Carys Craig, a scholar of intellectual property, who argues that the legal system imposes binaries, such as choreographer/performer or work/performance, on creative work that do not speak to how dance is created, performed and shared.
 

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La danse entretient avec l’idée de propriété intellectuelle une relation à la fois longue et ténue. Au fur et à mesure de leurs différents projets et spectacles, les artistes de la danse sont aux prises avec des conceptions divergentes du statut d’auteur. L’évolution du rapport des artistes avec le partage de contenu sur les médias numériques façonne par ailleurs la compréhension de ces concepts. Lee Slinger a demandé à plusieurs artistes de la danse contemporaine quelle était leur conception de la notion de propriété et de statut d’auteur, et quel rôle la propriété intellectuelle jouait dans leur processus de création. Elle s’entretient en outre avec Carys Craig, spécialiste du domaine, selon qui les oppositions binaires que le cadre juridique impose au travail créatif – comme chorégraphe/interprète ou œuvre/interprétation – ne reflètent pas la manière dont la danse se crée, se danse et se partage.
 

Denise Solleza / Photo by Marlowe Porter

Orville Hall / Photo courtesy of Hall
 

Dancehall Diplomacy

By Ola Mirzoeva

A music and dance genre, dancehall has long been a catalyst for intercultural learning and social change in Jamaica and abroad. Canada boasts thriving dancehall scenes, but, despite its ubiquity in popular culture, dancehall’s founding narrative as a resistance and peacekeeping movement in postcolonial Jamaica is little-known to the millions who consume the culture.

Canada is home to one of the largest Jamaican diaspora groups worldwide and boasts a thriving following of dancehall lovers, especially in urban hubs like Toronto, Montréal and Vancouver. Mirzoeva talks to founding dancehall artists while on a pilgrimage to study from them, taking a deep-dive with Orville Hall, who shines a light on the political beginnings of dancehall as a “peacekeeping tool” in inner city Jamaica and with the Original Dancehall Queen, Carlene Smith, who sheds light on what it means to be a woman at the forefront of the form.
 

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Le dancehall est un genre de musique et de danse à la notoriété mondiale grandissante. Comme c’est au Canada que se trouve l’une des plus grandes diasporas jamaïcaines au monde, le pays peut s’enorgueillir d’adeptes de plus en plus nombreux de dancehall, tout particulièrement dans les pôles urbains que sont Toronto, Montréal et Vancouver. Malgré son omniprésence dans la culture populaire, le récit fondateur du dancehall comme mouvement de résistance et de pacification dans la Jamaïque postcoloniale demeure peu connu des centaines de millions de consommateurs actuels de cette culture, au Canada et dans le monde entier. Ola Mirzoeva, en pèlerinage d’études, s’est entretenue avec des artistes fondateurs du dancehall, plongeant en compagnie d’Orville Hall dans les fondements politiques du dancehall en tant qu’« instrument de maintien de la paix » dans les centres-villes de la Jamaïque, ainsi qu’avec Carlene Smith, reine du dancehall des origines, qui nous éclaire sur son rôle de femme de premier plan dans le domaine.
 

Orville Hall / Photo courtesy of Hall

Departments

Doran / Photo by Yuli Scheidt

Editorial

By Emma Doran

Who owns movement? The issue is vastly complex because movement originates from bodies, and bodies – like thoughts – are “things” that we can say, assuredly, no one owns; they’re not property. But choreography and style can be. Dance is created, practised and shared in varied contexts, each of which come with a prescribed or loose set of expectations surrounding authorship. The features in this issue engage with these ideas. 

In our main feature, former TDC editor Lee Slinger explores contemporary dance’s tenuous relationship with intellectual ownership and how the evolving relationship between artists and digital media sharing have shaped how these concepts are understood. Slinger also weighs in with Carys Craig, a scholar of intellectual property, who argues that the legal system imposes binaries, such as choreographer/ performer or work/performance, on creative work that no longer speak to how dance is created and performed. 

These complications are by no means limited to contemporary dance. Ola Mirzoeva took a deep dive with two founding dancehall artists, Orville Hall and Carlene Smith, and discussed dancehall’s co-option throughout popular culture. Advising against learning and repeating the steps via YouTube, Hall expresses the importance of studying the form from a knowledgeable source, explaining, “[Dancers] don’t look at the cultural aspects. Our history is lost in translation.” The piece also features several dance artists who have studied dancehall abroad and are practising in Canada. 

This issue’s photo essay features two dance projects that reimagine the works of founding modern dance artists. First, we peek into Winnipeg-based artist Kathleen Hiley’s work on the movement of Isadora Duncan. Hiley worked closely with Jeanne Bresciani, artistic director of the Isadora Duncan International Institute, and eventually acquired a selection of Duncan’s choreography to 24 Preludes and Marche Slav, a work of social protest. The second project, Slipstream, is an installation by Jenn E. Norton, performed by Katie Ewald, with garment design by Juliann Wilding. The work is an installation that reimagines fin-de-siècle dancer and inventor Loïe Fuller through video and post-production techniques. There’s one catch: the dancer is absent. 

Isabelle Van Grimde is our feature profile artist. Philip Szporer provides insight into her thirty-year practice, through which she has been blurring the boundaries between technology and dance. Szporer sat down with the Montréal-based choreographer to discuss her introduction to movement, the beginnings of Studio 303, her company Van Grimde Corps Secrets, as well as her newest work, Eve 2050, which utilizes technology as “a form of magic” to create enchanted spaces. 

For those of you jumping back into the studio in September, check out our Healthy Dancer column on “the ethics of risk” by Jon Drops Reid, dance outreach consultant at Canadian Actors’ Equity. Have a safe and creative fall!

Doran / Photo by Yuli Scheidt

Julie Pham, Lonii Garnons-Williams, Lindsay Harpham, Wolfe and Phillipe Larouche in Red Sky Performance’s Backbone, conception/direction by Sandra Laronde, choreography by Wolfe with Sandra Laronde and Ageer / Photo by David Hou

Movers

Coming full circle
By Vanessa Zeoli

Jera Wolfe, in his third season with Red Sky Performance, talk about the opportunity to inform Canada’s next generation of ballet dancers and what he has upcoming.

For Wolfe, dance has proven to be an exercise in connection – to the artists he has met through mentorship and collaboration, to the music that shapes his practice and to the Indigenous heritage at the core of his personal and national identities.

Julie Pham, Lonii Garnons-Williams, Lindsay Harpham, Wolfe and Phillipe Larouche in Red Sky Performance’s Backbone, conception/direction by Sandra Laronde, choreography by Wolfe with Sandra Laronde and Ageer / Photo by David Hou

Felicia Lau, Patterson-O’Brien and Erika Mitsuhashi / Photo by Chris Randle

Movers

Curiosity in creation
By Spenser McRae

Mahaila Patterson-O’Brien

Patteron-O’Brien is a Vancouver-based emerging dance artist whose artistic practice is driven by curiosity. Since she graduated from the dance program at Simon Fraser University in 2015, her focus has been drawn toward building a career as an independent choreographer, producing works that she describes as gestural, abstract, devoid of emotion and structured by complex patterns and rhythms.

Felicia Lau, Patterson-O’Brien and Erika Mitsuhashi / Photo by Chris Randle

Moraes / Photo by Fehrnando Dos

The List

Newton Moraes

What inspires Newton Moraes?

Originally from Porto Alegre, Brazil, Moraes is an alumnus of the School of Toronto Dance Theatre and the founder, artistic director, choreographer and researcher of Newton Moraes Dance Theatre. His dance company has toured the world, including Brazil, Germany and throughout Canada and is now celebrating its twentieth anniversary.

Moraes / Photo by Fehrnando Dos

Photo by Jake Ingle, courtesy of Unsplash

Body

Fear and Moving
By Jon Drops Reid

The ethics of risk in choreography

What are the ethics at stake for choreographers when asking dancers to execute risky choreography? In weighing the ethics of risk, the power inherent in the choreographer’s role is entirely different from an autonomous choice of a dancer in motion.

Photo by Jake Ingle, courtesy of Unsplash

Photo by Whitney Wright, courtesy of Unsplash

Dancer's Kitchen

Chan Hon Goh's Banana Bread

This recipe is, according to Goh, one that balances “nutritional value paired with delicious taste.” She explains: “Carbs are difficult as most are also heavy in the amount of fat and simple sugars. I found with my routine that I did not want to be weighed down by a heavy breakfast, but I still need protein. This banana bread recipe, which I tweaked, enabled me to get a good start to my day. Hope you like it.”

With an illustrious, twenty-year career as principal dancer with The National Ballet of Canada, Chan Hon Goh now directs both the Goh Ballet Academy and Youth Company Canada, as well as serving as artistic director for the Global Dance Challenge. Extending her reach and always advocating for the arts, Goh also serves as a jury member for several international competitions. 

Goh is a founding member of Vancouver’s Arts and Culture Policy Council, which assists in giving the creative community a voice. Her accomplishments, with irrepressible devotion to the enhancement of the cultural life of Canada, have garnered several prestigious awards including the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal, the YWCA Women of Distinction Award, the New Pioneers Arts Award and the Best Teacher Award at the World Ballet Competition.

Photo by Whitney Wright, courtesy of Unsplash

Terracciano / Photo by Reynard Li

Practice

Fans
By Grace Wells-Smith

Simple props and precious partners

Like any versatile dance partner, fans take the stage in multiple dance forms.

“You have to be one with the fan,” says Patrick Alcedo, a Philippine folk dance artist with a PhD in dance history and theory. “You become a part of it,” says Veronica Choi, a Chinese folk dance performer and teacher. “They become an extension of my body,” says Rosanna Terracciano, an independent artist who works amongst the intersection of flamenco, dance, contemporary performance and film.

Wells-Smith spoke with Alcedo, Choi and Terracciano about the relevance of fans in their respective dance forms. In many different dance forms, fans are used to create images, enhance choreography and (sometimes) honour tradition.

Terracciano / Photo by Reynard Li

Ellis in Cavetano Soto’s Eight Years of Silence / Photo by Andi McLeish

What's In Your Dancebag?

Livona Ellis

Ballet BC apprentice turned full-time company member

Vancouver-born Livona Ellis started dancing at the age of eleven at Arts Umbrella under the direction of Artemis Gordon. After completing the graduate program in 2010, Ellis was offered an apprenticeship with Ballet BC and joined as a full-time member after one season. She has been part of Springboard Danse Montréal, Movement Invention Project NYC, the Banff Professional Dance Program and the San Francisco Conservatory of Dance Summer Program. She has created work for Live at the Bolt: Small Stage and at Dance Deck Trois. In 2017, she received the Mayor’s Arts Award for Emerging Artist. Ellis is currently on faculty at Arts Umbrella.

Ellis in Cavetano Soto’s Eight Years of Silence / Photo by Andi McLeish

Arik Pipestem, Malgorzata Nowacka and Montana Summers in rehearsal for Omen / Photo by Maia Joseph

Backstage

Where do we go from here?

The Chimera Project’s artistic director and choreographer Malgorzata Nowacka is currently working on Omen, a piece that began in 2016 as an exploration of the First Nations’ teachings of the Seven Grandfathers.

The concept for this work came from Donna Hilsinger, executive director of the Algoma Fall Festival. Soon after, the piece was joined by Shirley Horn who served for six years as Missanabie Cree First Nation Chief and is the first-ever chancellor of Algoma University. An artist, speaker and extraordinary leader, Horn brings with her insight, strength and hope. What brought all three women together was a desire to share and connect – to connect old wisdom with new challenges. 

The full-evening program has two parts: Bears Stars and Trees and the new thirty-minute creation, Omen. It asks us to consider “Where do we go from here?” and “What can we learn from old teachings that is applicable to the present?” The dance artists involved include Arik Pipestem (former Cirque du Soleil hoop dancer from Tsuut’ina First Nation), Montana Summers (Oneida of the Thames First Nation), Brendan Wyatt (contemporary dance artist) and two emerging dance artists: Eleanor van Veen, former member of The Chimera Project’s Company B mentorship program, and Maia Joseph, part of the summer apprentice program through Company B. Inner impulses and reaction are the movement fuel for the piece, which is metamorphosing into a vocabulary that channels the cast’s experience in powwow, First Nations hoop dance, ballet, western contemporary dance and hip hop.

Arik Pipestem, Malgorzata Nowacka and Montana Summers in rehearsal for Omen / Photo by Maia Joseph

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