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Feature

Myth-Busting

  • Ezeuko / Photo by Ritchie Perez
  • Benitez / Photo by Yao K
  • Kramer in her work Licking bones and Eating bread / Photo by Stefan Petersen
  • Merasty in Robin and Edward Poitras’s TRACES / Photo by Daniel Paquet
  • Truong / Photo courtesy of Truong
  • Baffoe / Photo by Quan Luong
  • Tran / Photo courtesy of Tran
  • Luciana and Jenna / Photo courtesy of Edmonton Bellydancers
  • Sylvain Bouchard, Geoff Dollar, Jessie Huggett, Liz Winkelaar and Steve Wint in Weaver’s Deliverables / Photo by Alvin Sim

Theresa Ezeuko is a dance artist living and working in St. John’s, Newfoundland.

Egwu ebube, meaning dance of glory, is a traditional high-energy West African dance from the eastern part of Nigeria (Igbo). However, with this dance style, we use our body movement, facial expressions and agility to tell a story. It’s a mystifying dance for happy moments and circumstances. 

The biggest assumption people hold is assuming the dance is just an ordinary dance. It is a sacred dance awakening the “gods” of good tidings. It’s a dance of hope and thankfulness for the things that we have and anticipating for more to come.

I wish people knew that the dance is for everyone. Through it we can enjoy the richness of our culture, our beliefs and norms, all while creating a relaxed atmosphere of expression and the freedom of association while entertaining and enriching.

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Makeda Benitez is a professional dancer who apprenticed with the Esmeralda Enrique Spanish Dance Company in Toronto.

I would say a big myth about flamenco is that it’s the same as many Latin styles of dance, such as the Argentine tango. It’s a comment I get a lot. Or, upon hearing the word, they repeat it back to me in confusion: “flamingo?” I think many times people have preconceived ideas of what we look like as well. For example, during a performance at a restaurant, I once heard someone ask where my “clacky things” (castanets) were. Many times, I feel the audience is expecting voluminous, red ruffled costumes with fiery passion and perhaps even a rose in my teeth.

In reality, flamenco is a diverse dance form that has absorbed influences from across Asia, the Middle East and the Caribbean, grounded in but not limited to the trifecta of toque (guitar), cante (song) and dance. There are countless regional variations and palos (rhythms) that drive its pulsing heart.

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Lara Kramer is a Montréal-based choreographer and interdisciplinary artist.

I’m not sure what the biggest myths about my dance styles and genres are. I find it limiting to be labelled as a contemporary dance artist and choreographer because it depicts only a part of my truth. I also work with sound, connection to land, body, dream, objects, past, present and future, performance, installation and still and moving images. I create and manifest experiences in flux.

The thing I wish people knew about my practice is that I am a mother. The role I uphold for my children and our connection to multiple generations grounds me and connects me to the essence in nature. And the orality in my process is central to my practice and lifelines.

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Marcus Merasty is a jigger and square dancer from Pelican Narrows, Saskatchewan, currently studying at The School of Contemporary Dancers in Winnipeg.

People assume that only Métis people do jigging and square dancing because it stems from a cultural tradition. In reality, a lot of First Nations people from all over Canada do a version of jigging and/or square dancing. Part of the problem is the misconception about the Métis population. There are many more people who identify as Métis than the government acknowledges with this label. As a result, our dances are often thought of as existing within certain parameters. But actually there are Cree-Métis, Déne-Métis, Saulteaux and other groups that have an element of jigging with fiddle music. For example, I’m of Assin’skowitiniwak, or Rocky Cree, descent.

It’s also important to know that this form of dancing became popular after the Canadian government enacted legislation to ban the potlatch dance in 1885. In the eyes of the government, the Métis dance was okay because it has one foot in European/western culture. In a way, that was acceptable in the government’s eyes.

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Kimberley-Ann Truong is a musical theatre performer living and working in Toronto.

I’ve studied in many genres and, especially today, as the dance industry is pushing more boundaries, it has become more competitive than ever. We are expected to be trained and disciplined in all styles, especially in the commercial world. So, that being said, I guess a common misconception is that we choose one style or genre of dance and stay in that one lane. I’m often asked, “Oh, what kind of dance do you do?” which isn’t a simple question to answer. I think there are definitely roots planted in every dancer at the start of their training, but nowadays that’s just a gateway for other styles and base for technique. Even if a dancer chooses to specialize and focus on one genre, be it ballet, tap, West Coast swing etc., it’s all influenced and inspired by many other styles and genres.

I wish people appreciated dancers worldwide as elite athletes without us having to convince them. Artistry is of course the heart of what we do, but we can’t convey our art to its fullest without being the best athletes we can be. Dance training is no joke and is not easy on the body, mind or spirit.

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Eugene Baffoe is a Winnipeg-based hip hop artist.

When it comes to hip hop, the myths have been around since its inception in the early seventies – that it’s “gang-related,” “violent,” and on and on it goes with the negative connotations. In reality, hip hop culture (dance, DJing, graffiti and MCing) provided a means of escaping those realities that young adults were facing in the South Bronx of New York City. Across the elements of hip hop culture, that fact remains strong for us all almost half a century later. It is our outlet to describe what we feel and what we’re going through.

As a hip hop dancer myself, I always preach to my audiences to appreciate the art not only what for what you see but also for what it took to create it – the years spent on training for this singular moment and the resources needed for rehearsal space, promoting, coordinating, booking and executing the final product. I hope people take into consideration the difficulty level of each of those steps and that – with little to no corporate backing for artists like us – we are going through those steps alone.

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Tony Tran is voguer and waacker who divides his practice between Calgary and London, UK.

Many people think that voguing and waacking are the same. While there are some similarities, each genre hails from a specific lineage – voguing came out of Harlem, New York, in the seventies and eighties, and waacking is from California. I guess the main similarity is that they both hail from the queer communities that developed the aesthetics as means of expressing things they weren’t given the freedom to do in the dominant culture. 

Each practice has specific movement vocabularies and cultures that correspond to each aesthetic. For instance, visually, waacking is more 3D, while voguing is more 2D. Of course, now many dancers practise both. Mixing and fusing is inevitable these days. Another misconception about what I do is that it’s easy. Until an individual has tried to vogue, they can’t understand the physicality involved. There’s more to it than posing and looking good.

I wish people would come see balls in person. Especially with voguing, it’s one thing to see it on stage or screen and another entirely to see in the flesh. You need to see it live to understand the elements of the culture and performance – the music, judging, audience interaction, etc.

~

Luciana and Jenna perform and teach belly dance in Edmonton.

One of the biggest myths about belly dance is that it’s an exotic/erotic type of dance. Even though the costumes can be revealing, what people overlook is its long cultural lineage. Belly dancers are sometimes seen performing in clubs, but in most cases in Canada they also perform at family restaurants and events such as weddings and cultural festivals. Most people think it is only a dance for attractive young women, but it is suitable for every age, body type and gender. Men do it too! there are famous male belly dancers such as Tito Seif, Mohamed Shahin and David Abraham.

We wish people knew how much work and practice it takes to become professional belly dancers. We often see girls and women shaking their hips and learning moves from YouTube. In reality it takes a lot of practice because our bodies don’t naturally move this way. It is also very important to understand the history and culture of the dance as the styles vary depending on countries, and we always want to be respectful toward these cultures that are not necessarily our own.

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Shara Weaver is a co-director, choreographer, teacher and company dancer with Propeller Dance.

The first myth about integrated dance is that the learning flows one way – that dancers without disabilities are teaching or “working with” dancers with disabilities. Nope! There’s an equal exchange between dancers with and without disabilities as we create professional art together. Dance artists with disabilities offer the process new possibilities for art making – new movement vocabulary, timing, balancing, lifting, utilizing mobility devices that we all can learn from. Our aesthetics come from this exchange. For example, a dancer who uses a manual chair may tilt his chair against the body of another dancer – wheels in the air; dancers may share a lived experience of seeing mental imagery in their right periphery with other dancers and create choreography that follows and interacts with this imagery.

Another myth is that integrated dance includes dancers with one “type” of disability. Some companies do this, as it suits their aesthetic. Propeller Dance’s aesthetic is created by involving dance artists with physical, intellectual and developmental disabilities, mental health lived experience and low vision as well as those without.

Third myth: integrated dance is recreational or therapeutic. This myth is old, is ableist and speaks to assumptions in the dance community about what body and mind are best for professional dance. Propeller Dance is a professional company of dancers with a diversity of bodies who are paid for their work, rehearse three to four days a week, attend company classes, are presented on professional stages, tour and teach.

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This article was originally published in the March/April 2019 issue.

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