Canada is a Dance Nation!

International Dance Day and National Dance Week By Nathalie Fave
  • Yvon Soglo (Crazy Smooth) / Photo by Jonathan Maher

Every year, the International Dance Committee of the UNESCO International Theatre Institute circulates a message around the world as part of International Dance Day celebrations.

This year, Flemish Moroccan choreographer, Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, authored the message for UNESCO’s 30th International Dance Day. Read here: http://www.international-dance-day.org/en/index.html

Since 2005, the Canadian Dance Assembly (CDA) has issued a Canadian message that celebrates dance in our community.

This year Yvon Soglo, Crazy Smooth, authored a message to all Canadians. Founder of Bboyizm dance company, Crazy Smooth takes his never-ending mission to elevate and carry on the tradition of street dance culture to the world of performing arts. He was the first b-boy to receive a grant from the Canada Council for the Arts to study b-boying and other forms of street dance in New York and Philadelphia and is currently on a cross-Canada tour with his critically acclaimed showIZM.

Yvon Soglo (Crazy Smooth) / Photo by Jonathan Maher
“Dance has the rare and precious power to unite people of all ages, cultures and religions and has an intrinsic value to Canadian society.

Consider the enthusiasm of children as they express themselves through movement; the joy adults exude after a ballroom dance class; the profound emotional response of audiences and their reflections after a powerful dance performance; the incredible energy generated in a room when everybody starts to boogie; and the passion and history reflected in traditional and cultural dances.

Imagine how desolate a world without dance would be.

Dance speaks to the mind, body and soul in a way that goes beyond the power of words and its social impact and capacity to engage should be celebrated. As an art form, dance can be impressive, but expression is its fundamental nature.”
Crazy Smooth, artistic director of Bboyizm
Dance to express, not impress.

« La danse possède le rare et précieux pouvoir d’unir les personnes de tous les âges, de toutes les cultures et de toutes les religions, sans compter sa valeur intrinsèque pour la société canadienne.

À preuve, l’enthousiasme que démontrent les enfants dans l’expression de leurs mouvements, la joie rayonnante des adultes après un cours de danse de salon, la profondeur des émotions et des réflexions du public après un spectacle de danse, l’incroyable énergie que dégage une salle quand tout le monde se met à danser, la passion et l’histoire qui émanent des danses traditionnelles et culturelles.

Imaginez la désolation d’un monde où il n’y aurait pas de danse.

La danse interagit avec l’esprit, le corps et l’âme au-delà du pouvoir des mots, et on se doit de célébrer son incidence sociale et sa capacité de mobilisation. En tant qu’art, la danse peut impressionner, mais elle doit fondamentalement exprimer. »
Crazy Smooth, Directeur de Bboyizm
Dansez pour vous exprimer, pas pour impressionner

NATIONAL DANCE WEEK: April 22 - 29, 2012

The Canadian Dance Assembly proudly presents the first ever National Dance Week leading up to International Dance Day as part of the I love dance/J’aime la danse National Campaign. During this week, one theme will be celebrated each day to embrace the rich and varied landscape of Canadian dance. In the following pages, individuals across Canada express how dance has touched their lives, or how they have observed its effect/influence on others. Their testimonials invite you to participate in the National dance week.


Margie Gillies in her own work THREAD / Photo by Michael Slobodian
Dance and Community/Intimate and Global: A message from Margie Gillis

Imagine life without a body to wrap around your soul. Without a body we are not here, we are not alive. And yet, human beings, being what they are, our living dance is a mysterious, intricate and complicated matter.

Dance is who and what we are and can become. To dance is to express life. To explore, imagine, to create and recreate. The body is each living person’s piece of nature. We are each of us, born with this body nature and it connects us to this living earth we all share and need to nurture. Dance creatively explores and discovers health paradigms. Dance offers us a clearer expression of intelligence as it oxygenates and brings fresh blood to circulate through the body and mind. Experiential wisdom will become hugely important within the next century as we are challenged to understand, expand and deal with the problems that face humanity in a more integrated manner. Not everything has been discovered yet and moving into the abstract world allows for new metaphors and understanding to surface.

We still have much to discover about how the body truly does house who we are and how that body wisdom supports intellect, simulating creative problem solving in a safe environment.

Dance allows us to deeply and wordlessly understand diverse cultures and points of view.

Dance is intimate and yet facilitates and gives us the instant empathy of collaboration.

Dance is a deep source or renewal for the integral human, the integral world.

Take Life by the Hand and Dance

Avril and Austin Hayward / Photo by Nelson Simard
Before becoming so involved with dance we really had no idea how far reaching the effects would be on our lives and our community. An atmosphere of friendship, camaraderie and support thrives in the square and round dance movement.

As in all types of dance our fitness is a key element and reward for taking part. Square and round dancing improves self-esteem, improves balance and co-ordination, improves endurance, improves memory and concentration, improves social skills and, probably most importantly in our busy world today, decreases stress.

There is always joy and love on the floor of a square or round dance. It is the form of dance that families can participate in together, couples can share as a great activity and singles can feel welcome, all in the same club. Unique to square and round dancing is the fact it is called and cued in English all over the world. Travelling and feel like dancing? Just search out a square dance club. You will be instantly welcomed and made to feel as if you were always part of the community.

In our own club we have three generations of one family dancing together and having a great time, sharing and building wonderful memories together. In another club, a gentleman who recently experienced the loss of his long time partner now experiences joy because his grandchildren have begun to dance with him and share his love for dance. Every club and all dancers have wonderful stories to share.

Communities benefit in numerous ways from square and round dance clubs. Annually, many clubs sponsor dances for charitable organizations as well as managing food drives and toy drives. They also entertain at retirement and nursing homes to bring a little joy to those who can be very challenged in daily life. Many clubs and callers donate their time to go into the public schools and teach the children to dance. The joy, the laughter, the noise in a room full of children on the dance floor is indescribable in so many ways. There is hardly a fair or expo that doesn’t showcase square and round dancing.

So the next time you see that group of colourfully outfitted people, showcasing their talents and having fun, think of how vital they are to the well being of your community. More importantly, think how you can become involved and improve your social, physical and mental wellbeing and Take Life by the Hand and Dance.

Austin & Avril Hayward, Presidents South Western Ontario Square and Round Dance Association (SWOSDA), Woodstock, ON


Sasha Ivanochko, blackandblue dance projects in her own work The future memory heartbreak junction (2008) / Photo by Kristy Kennedy

“As a dance artist and educator, I am a fortunate witness to the remarkable, consistent life benefits directly stemming from participation in dance training, dance as professional artistic expression and dance/movement as therapy. In a world that is becoming increasingly virtual, dance plays a role in anchoring us back in our bodies, integrating body and mind, enabling us to fulfill our ideas and our potential as human beings. By purposefully inhabiting our body’s resources, we give our intellect context, our actions meaning, and our beings grace. There is a reason why dancers appear tall, strong and proud.”

Sasha Ivanochko, blackandblue dance projects, Montreal, QC

« Je suis toujours surpris et fasciné de constater à quel point la danse a le pouvoir de changer le monde; la danse, au-delà de l’activité physique et de l’immersion sociale qu’elle encourage, renforce la force mentale de l’humain. En stimulant les centres de nos émotions et de notre imagination, la danse se positionne comme outil thérapeutique sans précédent. On ne parlera jamais assez des bienfait de la danse! »
Alain Dancyger - Directeur général, Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal, Montréal, QC


Pia Lo / Photo by Kathy Lo
“I’m captivated by dances of foreign cultures. They tell stories that connect our diverse communities and help us understand ourselves as Canadians.”

Pia Lo, Dance Journalist, www.globedancer.com Vancouver, BC

“Dance in Canada has the gift of expressing itself through a rich cultural palette of pride in where we came from when we decided to make this our home and pride in how our diverse communities have grown to express ourselves in the here and now. Our roots give us a social cohesion that binds us to make “Canadian dance”. Through our 52-year history the Shumka Dancers evolved to an inclusive company of artists from a broad spectrum of cultural heritages. We are united through a passion to create original work with a Shumka voice that is alive, innovative, and reflective of a changing world. Today our dance is made with an interdisciplinary blend of: genres from folk dance to ballet, techniques from Asian theatre to mixed media, and music from symphonic orchestration to digital manipulation. In this century we believe that Canada’s plurality of cultures and communities welcomes this evolving phenomenon of dance style that offers insight into our lives, our emotional and physical relationships, and the fascination of our present linked to our past. We celebrate and express our differences with new juxtapositions and with an elegance for creation expressed through the language of the body. Dance truly has the power of bringing our diversity together to celebrate a life worth living.”
Gordon Gordey, Stage Director/CEO, Ukrainian Shumka Dancers, Edmonton, AB

“It is amazing to share art and culture through the language of creative movement also known as dance. Be it, through the infectious West African rhythms or the vibrant Caribbean beats students are always moving from soul to sole.”
Masani St. Rose, Instructor, Choreographer, Performer, Edmonton, AB


As more and more of the population are living longer, healthier lives, dance has become an integral part of the senior ecology. Classes in everything from line dancing to ballroom of every variety are being offered in an unprecedented number of ways. Group classes, private lessons and competitions especially geared to that age group are extremely popular. The joy of movement, the social interaction and, for some, the challenge to learn and master a new interest, all contribute to this. As one woman who has been deeply involved in ballroom competitions since she was 65 (she is now 74) puts it: “It makes me feel alive, vital and young again!”
Joysanne Sidimus, Canadian Senior Artists’ Resource Network, Toronto, ON

“In 1994 the opportunity arose to attend an English/American week at Pinewoods Dance Camp in Plymouth, Massachusetts. My enjoyment of the English dances, and the potential for extending my dancing years, gave rise to the formation of an English Dance Group here which is now in its 14th year. We have many seniors in the group to whom the benefits of this type of dance are very beneficial. In fact, one of our regular attendees is 81 years old and dances every dance.

The movements are basic walking steps to delightful music and we are very fortunate to have several musicians who play for our classes every week. In fact most of them are seniors also. They enjoy playing as much as we enjoy dancing. All dances are different, and generally in fall and winter terms we do as many as sixty different dances composed of combinations of a variety of figures - involves a lot of memory. One dances with a partner and during the progression of the dance, meets and interacts with other dancers where visual contact happens as well as physical. Partners can be two women, which is often the case as some are widowed or have non-dancing spouses. In conclusion, as a dancer, I am thrilled to continue dancing and as a teacher find it gratifying to share this joy with others and see the fun and enjoyment exhibited by the dancers.”
Noreen Maclennan (78), St. John’s, Newfoundland


Debbie Kapp / Photo by Blair Robertson
“Dancing makes me feel happy. My favorite styles are break dance, hip hop and ballet and my favorite move is the backwards frog. Dance is a fun activity and is cool. I dance every day at school during lunch. I take my ipod wherever I go and whenever I listen to music I dance.”

Michael Fages (age 8) Rosedale Heights Public School, Toronto, ON

“The joy of Dance is that it provides an avenue for learning that is not available in traditional academic arenas. Dance stimulates and inspires creative and expressive abilities because it involves the intellect, emotions and physicality. This body, mind, spirit connection provides a channel for youth to express themselves be t suited to the way they experience the world. Youth have a voice through dance. They communicate their thoughts, feelings and hopes in the risk free environment of the language of Dance.”
Debra Kapp, Dance Educator, London, ON

“Dance and youth together- what a powerful combination. Dance empowers youth to construct and articulate authentic connections with the world around them. Dance expression and performance can be used as a vehicle for public service, to accelerate personal growth and drive social change. The study of dance enables self-directed learning and collaboration, and provides the developing artist with an opportunity to be honest, to re-invent self, and to evolve.”
Lisa Weiler, Dance Educator at Father John Redmond C.S.S & Regional Arts Centre, Chair of the TCDSB Dance Professional Learning Network, Toronto, ON


David Angus / Photo by Janzen Photography
“Dance is a celebration of mind, body and soul. It is also a key contributor to the new creative economy. It is when creative people come together in a community that new innovative ideas are born. Today, we celebrate the growing power of ideas and the creation of an environment that builds success in our businesses, our community and our people.”

David Angus, CEO of the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce, Winnipeg, MB

“Dance organizations contribute energy and vitality to a community. In economic terms, they are small dynamic businesses that employ artists, managers and other crafts people, while also producing tremendous indirect financial benefits to the surrounding restaurants and retail outlets. In addition, dance schools train our next generation of leaders to embody creativity.”
Jeff Melanson, President, The Banff Centre, Banff, AB


“Avant mon arrivée au Canada, j’étais danseur professionnel de Breakdance en France, à Paris. C’est grâce à mon appartenance à la communauté de la danse et des réseaux sociaux que j’ai pu entrer en contact avec les bboys de Toronto. J’ai ainsi pu rencontrer les principaux acteurs de la scène Hip- Hop et faire mes premiers pas en tant que professeur de breakdance à la Street Dance Academy, et ai eu le plaisir d’être nommé juge dans différents événements hip-hop. Grâce à mon master de marketing- communication et mon intérêt pour les médias sociaux, j’accompagne aujourd’hui l’Assemblée canadienne de la danse dans le développement de la campagne “I love dance/ j’aime la danse”. Dans le domaine de la danse au Canada, je suis accueilli en tant que breakdancer avant d’être identifié comme français et c’est la même chose en Europe ou dans le reste du monde : on appartient à la même famille. La danse parle un langage universel et je dois dire que la communauté de la danse au Canada et les réseaux sociaux ont très largement facilité mon intégration dans ce pays.”
Gael Mouello, Breakdancer, I love dance social media expert.

It’s not too late to join the campaign and National Dance Week, contact the Canadian Dance Assembly for details and information about how you can become actively involved. There are many existing events taking place surrounding International Dance Day, so let’s build community, cohesion and strength and come together under one banner uniting in our creativity and uniting in our love of dance!


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