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Jayarajan / Photo courtesy of Jayarajan

The Deliberate Footing of Neena Jayarajan

By Brannavy Jeyasundaram

Neena Jayarajan outlines her next steps as an independent artist, after her departure from the Menaka Thakkar Dance Company.

Like most bharatanatyam dancers in Toronto, Neena Jayarajan’s practice began in basements. She began dancing when she was four, in the basement of a family friend’s home in Toronto. It was her fervent enthusiasm for the form that led her to her esteemed guru, Menaka Thakkar. After several years of training, and completion of her junior arangetram (graduation) in 1998, Jayarajan quickly evolved into a lead dancer at the Menaka Thakkar Dance Company. Brannavy Jeyasundaram sat down with Jayarajan to talk about her next steps an independent artist.



Comme la plupart des danseurs de bharatanatyam de Toronto, Neena Jayarajan a commencé à pratiquer dans des sous-sols. Elle commence en effet à danser à l’âge de quatre ans, dans le sous-sol de la maison d’un ami de la famille. C’est son fervent enthousiasme pour cette forme de danse qui la conduit à Menaka Thakkar (MTDC), qui devient son estimée gourou. Après plusieurs années d’entraînement et l’obtention de son arangetram junior (diplôme) en 1998, Neena Jayarajan devient rapidement danseuse principale de la Menaka Thakkar Dance Company. Brannavy Jeyasundaram s’est entretenue avec elle de la prochaine étape de sa carrière d’artiste indépendante, après qu’elle aura quitté son rôle d’adjointe à la direction artistique de la MTDC.

Jayarajan / Photo courtesy of Jayarajan

Tereka Tyler-Davis, Hollywood Jade, Raoul Wilke and Miha Matevic in Natasha Powell’s FLOOR’D / Photo by Tamara Romanchuk

In Review

By Valeria Nunziato, James Oscar, Rachel Silver Maddock, Aparita Bhandari, Philip Szporer, Fawnda Mithrush, Molly Johnson, Mark Mann, Grace Wells-Smith

The Dance Current reflects on a year of dance criticism, by placing image and text together

Tereka Tyler-Davis, Hollywood Jade, Raoul Wilke and Miha Matevzic in Natasha Powell’s FLOOR’D / Photo by Tamara Romanchu

Photo by Nation Cheong

Caribana is Our Stage

By Kevin A. Ormsby

Kevin Ormsby outlines his relationship to the Peeks Toronto Caribbean Carnival and its communal collective history.

Read the full article here.

Carnival is a nuanced performance art practice rooted in the cultural memory of the lives of Caribbean peoples throughout Canada and the Diaspora. Central to Carnival narratives of place, time and history are omnipresent. But whose story is told (or not told) and in what context? The telling or omission of stories can be traced to a lack of understanding of the complexity of the Caribbean and its carnival – a performance tradition that is more than the mass commodification, sexuality and “loud music” we often associate it with. Kevin Ormsby talks about his own connections to Toronto’s Caribana and brings together key voices from the Carnival to discuss its communal collective history in Toronto and across Canada.


Le carnaval est une pratique artistique et une forme de spectacle nuancée, ancrée dans la mémoire culturelle des peuples caribéens du Canada et de la diaspora. Les récits relatifs aux lieux, au temps et à l’histoire y sont omniprésents. Mais de qui raconte-t-on (ou ne raconte-t-on pas) l’histoire et dans quel contexte ? La narration ou l’omission de certaines histoires peut s’expliquer par un manque de compréhension de la complexité des Caraïbes et de son carnaval : une tradition de spectacle qui est bien plus que la consommation de masse, la sexualité et la musique à plein volume auxquelles on la réduit souvent. Kevin Ormsby nous parle de son propre rapport au Festival Caribana de Toronto et nous fait entendre des voix essentielles du carnaval afin de discuter de son histoire collective communautaire à Toronto et dans tout le Canada.

Photo by Nation Cheong

Patrick O’Brien, Giovanna Gamna and Jane Cracovaner of Pigeonwing Dance in Gabrielle Lamb’s Bewilderness / Photo by Charles Roussel

Give Me A Break

By Deirdre Kelly

Why are there so few women commissioned to make work in ballet companies? Deirdre Kelly talks to Kathleen Rea, Debbie Wilson, Gabrielle Lamb, Emily Molnar and Sarah Doucet about their reactions to recent events in the Canadian ballet community and what they wish to see moving forward.

The fallout from the Les Grands Ballets Canadiens debacle surrounding the proposed Femmes program, has left many artists and creators questioning the role of ballet and its depictions of gender. In this conversation Deirdre Kelly speaks with five of Canada’s leading dance artists about the matter: Kathleen Rea, former National Ballet of Canada dancer and choreographer and director of Toronto’s REAson d’etre dance productions; Debbie Wilson, former dancer and rehearsal director with Les Ballets Jazz de Montréal, among other contemporary dance companies; Gabrielle Lamb, former Les Grands soloist working in New York as an independent choreographer; Emily Molnar, director of Ballet BC; and Sarah Doucet, a Toronto-based dance artist and costume designer.


Les répercussions du fiasco de la proposition de programme des Grands Ballets Canadiens intitulée Femmes ont provoqué une remise en question, de la part de nombreux artistes et créateurs, du rôle du ballet et de ses représentations de genre. Deirdre Kelly s’entretient de cet enjeu avec cinq artistes de la danse de premier plan au Canada : Kathleen Rea, ancienne danseuse du Ballet national du Canada ainsi que danseuse et chorégraphe actuelle de la compagnie torontoise REAson d’etre dance productions; Debbie Wilson, ancienne danseuse, directrice actuelle des répétitions aux Ballets Jazz de Montréal et pour bien d’autres compagnies; Gabrielle Lamb, ancienne soliste des Grands Ballets, œuvrant comme chorégraphe indépendante à New York; Emily Molnar, directrice du Ballet BC; ainsi que Sarah Doucet, artiste de la danse et conceptrice de costumes de Toronto.

Patrick O’Brien, Giovanna Gamna and Jane Cracovaner of Pigeonwing Dance in Gabrielle Lamb’s Bewilderness / Photo by Charles Roussel


Doran / Photo by Yuli Scheidt


By Emma Doran

Dance is political because bodies are political. And moving bodies harness even more potential for statement making. To pretend otherwise is to ignore the history of bodies within political “movements” and moving politically. I leave this somewhat ambiguous word – political – that way on purpose. The summer issue will explore what it means in various ways.

In our feature, Kevin Ormsby portrays Caribana as, yes, a festival that offers space to celebrate sun, warmth and Caribbean-Canadian culture, but he also traces its origins from Carnival traditions and from Malvern, an area of Toronto that has been a cultural hot spot for Caribbean immigrants for decades. As Ormsby outlines, the festival is not immune from economic politics: despite its integral benefit to Toronto’s economy – Caribana attracts an estimated two million people – it’s underresourced for its size and needs. 

Bharatanatyam dancer Neena Jayarajan, our profile artist, also speaks to the challenges inherent in gathering funding for her practice. At their best, feature profiles make you feel as though you’ve been having a conversation with their subject and Brannavy Jeyasundaram has brought this piece to life by bringing in Jayarajan’s voice and describing her visit to her home and studio.

“In Conversation” continues the discussion of women’s perspectives in ballet. I’d like to recognize that in the future I hope there is space for a nuanced conversation about gender binaries and representation in ballet. However, the voices included in the piece were selected by myself and Deidre Kelly because of their relationship to Canadian ballet communities and their outspokenness on the topic. The limitations of this conversation further speak to the need for deep change within the industry – an industry that many of us hold love for. I hope this piece is less about pointing fingers than creating dialogue.

Finally, The Dance Current has been publishing reviews exclusively online – a decision made because of the rhythm of online publishing. In this migration, though, the magic of seeing text and images together was partially lost. The photo essay in this issue revisits some moments from a past year of our reviews.

Wishing all our readers a lovely summer!

Doran / Photo by Yuli Scheidt

Pellerin / Photo by Teppei Tanabe


Walking the walk
By Emma Kerson

An active member of the Vancouver street dance scene, Rina Pellerin is all about growing the waacking and hustle community.

For Pellerin, there are always more avenues to explore. Her constantly evolving style is always about finding that beginner mentality, taking a leap and investigating new forms.

Pellerin / Photo by Teppei Tanabe

Hart / Photo by Martine Martell


Finding her voice
By Anaïs Loewen-Young

Kylee Hart’s fourth season with the former Citie Ballet, newly renamed Ballet Edmonton.

Now a senior member in the nine-person company, Hart is still eager to learn. She relishes the “family-oriented” environment the company provides her, both in and out of the studio.

Hart / Photo by Martine Martell

Sally Hawkins, Doug Jones and Campanella on set / Photo courtesy of Campanella


From Stage to Screen
By Jillian Groening

Roberto Campanella, choreographer for the award-winning The Shape of Water, discusses movie magic, collaboration and choreographing for film.

Campanella, artistic director of ProArteDanza, reflects on his experience choreographing for The Shape of Water, a highly acclaimed film directed by Guillermo del Toro with a building list of accolades – four Oscars (including Best Achievement in Directing and Best Motion Picture), two Golden Globes and the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival.

Sally Hawkins, Doug Jones and Campanella on set / Photo courtesy of Campanella

Mascall / Photo by Erik Zennstrom

The List

Jennifer Mascall

What inspires Jennifer Mascall?

Based in Vancouver, Mascall has been the artistic director and founder of Mascall Dance since 1982. A choreographer, teacher and advocate, Mascall is the recipient of the Clifford E. Lee Prize, the Jacqueline Lemieux Prize, a Dora Mavor Moore Award, a Jessie Richardson Award, the Isadora Award, among many others.

Mascall / Photo by Erik Zennstrom

Photo by Tiko Giorgadze, courtesy of Unsplash


Rest to Keep Perspective
By Netta Kornberg

Everyone knows rest is necessary – not least for dancers, whose artistic practice makes physical demands akin to athletes.

Yet for many dancers, rest is a stressor. The highly competitive nature of professional dance and the quest for excellence make rest difficult to justify, much less pursue. Rest is usually addressed in relation to injury prevention, for which health professionals encourage dancers to take a physical break from dance one day per week, or in relation to treatment.

Photo by Tiko Giorgadze, courtesy of Unsplash

Photo by Mahdiar Mahmoodi, courtesy of Unsplash

Dancer's Kitchen

At the Checkout
By Cristina Bucci

Grocery shopping tips for dancers on a budget

A healthy diet is essential for dancers because of the extreme stress and demands that we put on our bodies every day. With the right food choices, we can decrease or prevent injury, improve strength and stamina, decrease inflammation and muscle soreness and increase our focus and concentration by keeping our energy level stable throughout the day. Food is one of the most important tools that a dancer’s body needs!

Photo by Mahdiar Mahmoodi, courtesy of Unsplash

Photo by Joy real, courtesy of Unsplash


Diving In
By Jennifer Bolt

A manifesto for a feminist pedagogy in dance

Jennifer Bolt’s feminist pedagogy situates ballet as a journey of self-authorship, identity formation and community building. Her studio has become a sacred and shared learning space that seeks to help shift the teaching culture from being a source of contradictory messages about the body, the voice and gender to an informed space that honours the body and the voice.

Photo by Joy Real, courtesy of Unsplash

Bailie / Photo by Gary Sewell

What's in Your Dancebag?

Jolene Bailie

Founding artistic director of Gearshifting Performance Works

Jolene Bailie packs for the Fringe. A well-packed dancebag can be your lifeline at the Fringe. For most, the Fringe is very DIY, including postering, publicity, performing, unpacking, packing, washing costumes and more – pretty much all at the drop of a dime, and at all hours of the day and night. If you cannot swim at the beginning of the Fringe, you’ll likely learn how to by the end.

Read Bailie’s Fringe Tips here.

Bailie / Photo by Gary Sewell

Jolyane Langois, Sadé Alleyne, Alexa Mardon, Michaela Cruz, Irma Villafuerte, Nicole Faull / Photo by Erato Tzavara


Radical Physicality

Since 2009 the artist-led TO Love-In Summer Intensive offers Toronto dance artists outside-the-box opportunities for training, development and presentation. Taking place from July 2nd through 6th and July 9th through 13th at Dovercourt House, the intensive is led by the grassroots, self-titled Toronto Dance Community collective. The group “promotes democratic pedagogy, anti-competition and wild creative abandon through programming and presence,” and they welcome all bodies with an artistic and physical practice to join them. 

Leading workshops during the Love-In are Kiani Del Valle (Puerto Rico/Berlin/London), Liz Kinoshita (Brussels), Allison Cummings (Toronto), Sahara Morimoto (Toronto), Valerie Calam (Toronto) and Jeanine Durning (New York). The intensive will also include talks, a community dinner and will run concurrently with their P.S. We Are All Here performance series.

Learn more >> tolovein.com

Jolyane Langois, Sadé Alleyne, Alexa Mardon, Michaela Cruz, Irma Villafuerte, Nicole Faull / Photo by Erato Tzavara

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