Memorable Moments, Methods and Mediums

Celebrating Canadian Dance in 2016 By Emma Kerson
  • Amy Nostbakken and Norah Sadava in their own work Mouthpiece / Photo by Brooke Wedlock
  • what we are saying by Ame Henderson with Public Recordings / Photo by Liam Maloney
  • Marc Boivin and Heidi Strauss in douce tourmente by Sylvie Desrosiers / Photo by Lisa Hebert
  • Paige Culley in Pour by Daina Ashbee / Photo by Ashbee
  • Dana Michel in her own work Mercurial George / Photo by Sammy Rawal
Is there a work or a collection of Canadian dance works that stand out as highlights to you from 2016? Are there any themes or ways of working that stand out to you as interesting or unique? We asked these questions to dancers and dance enthusiasts from around the country. This year in dance saw performances that took people’s breath away, touched hearts and fired up inner activists. Dance is seeing a growing amount of consideration for socially and ethically progressive art-making methods. There is a broadening and questioning not only of dance’s possibilities but also of the space where the art form can best live and grow. Add your voice to the mix by sharing your thoughts on this year’s memorable moments in the comments section below.
Ainsley Hillyard, Edmonton
“The piece that affected me most was performed at Chinook Series. Mouthpiece was brought to Edmonton from Toronto and featured two superbly talented women: Amy Nostbakken and Norah Sadava. I loved this piece for its integration of movement, text and song as well as the feminist perspective and powerful imagery it used. It was by far the most powerful thing I witnessed in 2016.”
Yvonne Coutts, Ottawa
“There is a duet by Crystal Pite in the second half of Betroffenheit (danced by Cindy Salgado and Bryan Arias) that was just remarkable. It was the most exquisite and seamless ‘run-on sentence’ of movement that I have ever witnessed, lasting maybe three minutes. It blew me away and I went back the second night just to be with that one moment again. The three other works that stayed with me this year are what we are saying by Ame Hendersondouce tourmente by Sylvie Desrosiers (danced by Marc Boivin and Heidi Strauss) and 786 by Natasha Bakht. All of these women are insightful and intelligent choreographers. They bring compassion into their work through completely different channels and each one leaves an imprint. In terms of ways of working, I sense that our relationship to listening is being explored on many fronts, through collaboration, sound and audience proximity. It seems timely and vital.”
Philip Szporer, Montréal 
“Two homegrown, spellbinding solo creations from Daina Ashbee and Dana Michel, respectively Pour and Mercurial George, are standouts, and both contain intimate, expressive, essential and prescient performances. In Ashbee’s unsettling and wholly original choreography, Paige Culley is powerful and indelible, while Michel electrifies the stage in her clever, unflinching and haunting portrayal.”
Rosanna Terracciano, Calgary
“My 2016 was highlighted by small glimpses into early steps taken toward more inclusivity and representation for alternative approaches to flamenco in Canadian dance. From participating in the open studio showing of a flamenco improvisation and creation workshop with Juan Carlos Lérida at Studio Pleamar in Montréal to the Cabaret of Flamenco Experiments at Fluid Festival in Calgary, I looked out into a range of audiences with a new hope for my art form – a hope rooted in the strength and diversity that each unique artist from each unique region of this vast country can uniquely contribute to the form.” 
Michael Caldwell, Toronto
“It seems that more artists are working across traditional disciplinary lines and blurring the definition of ‘dance.’ There is a greater influx of international dance artists, both performing and teaching, in Toronto. An attention to ‘space’ and ‘place’ resonates with me – the emergence of The Citadel and The Theatre Centre in recent years, and how the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts has opened its doors to the community with a festival like Fall for Dance North and with the Dance Collection series – these are places to experience dance, as well as increased site-responsive dance work offerings at various festivals and events. I really believe that we are on the verge of a massive global artistic revolution – an impending movement of artistic work and practice that directly responds to current social, cultural and geopolitical realities.” 
Alexis Cormier, Halifax
“2016 has continued to shine the light on contemporary dance that infuses classical and urban vocabulary. As a cross-genre artist myself, it’s inspiring to see professionals exploring expression in this blended space, and especially dancers who are pushing themselves to truly cross-train. We are starting to share infinite possibilities in range, and it’s thrilling that Canada is on the forefront of this movement. RUBBERBANDance and Out Innerspace are a couple of distinct leaders that everyone should be watching. I know that they have moved me.”
Marie-France Jacques, Montréal
“In 2016 I want to give a huge high-five to all the groups of people that have a vision of creating and sharing art and that go forward with it. I think particularly about the young Dark Horse Dance Projects in Ottawa and the not so young Dance Matters in Toronto that are both giving emerging choreographers a beautiful platform. I also love seeing initiatives in Montréal and elsewhere for making space for dance outside of the usual walls, like what Festival Quartiers Danses, OFFTA and Marché des Possibles are doing.”
Sasha Ivanochko, Vancouver
“The neo-liberal capitalist context in which we find ourselves historically is making the individual in our society more fragile in unprecedented ways. While dealing with questions of aesthetics, certain artists, pedagogues and young curators of my generation are looking carefully – with a critical eye – at modes of art practice and communication as a means to actively revitalize an ethics of the body for our time. One platform here in Vancouver that supports discourse of this kind is battery opera’s The Talking, Thinking, Dancing Body.”
Lesandra Dodson, Fredericton
“A Canadian performance work that stands out for me is Target of God by Jacques Poulin-Denis – such remarkable and surprising choreographic crafting. My young daughter, hands clasped over her mouth, giggled nervously and felt every moment. So many emotions, some all at once.” 
Linnea Swan, Calgary
“Having moved to Calgary in the fall of 2015 from Toronto, I spent 2016 discovering just how truly dynamic and diverse the dance community is here in Alberta. The highlight for me was witnessing a fierce commitment to exploration, growth and inclusion – both within the work, but perhaps more significantly within the greater community itself. I am humbled to have been so graciously welcomed into this vibrant community.” 
Vanessa Goodman, Vancouver
“As an audience member, works that were interesting for me in 2016 are Betroffenheit by Kidd Pivot and Electric Company Theatre, The Secret Life of Trees by EDAM, a piece at the time of Dancing on the Edge called “new work” by Ame Henderson and Joshua Beamish, Vital Few by Company 605 and Major Motion Picture by Out Innerspace Dance Theatre. One theme that I am finding so compelling in work right now is how we can change or redirect where sound comes from inside the performative environment.”
Brett Owen, Winnipeg
“The six diverse women of Winnipeg’s Nova Dance Collective were showcased to perfection in Riley Sims’ Judy and the Reckless. Interactive theatrics, punishing physicality, intricate partnering and iconic movie monologues came together to form my favourite piece of 2016. It is an explosive display of our obsession with fame and the destructive effect it can have. The final moments had me in tears – a single fading spotlight on Rachelle Bourget’s face as she recited lines from Judy Garland’s final film, I Could Go On Singing: ‘They say when the light hits you, you don’t feel anything.’ ” 
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