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All Hail the Queen

By Jillian Groening

Fly Lady Di recounts her reign from dancing the Macarena to becoming a solo artist.

Diana Reyes, aka Fly Lady Di, is a Toronto-base dance artist who combines Filipina aesthetics with street dance styles such as waacking and house. She also has a long list of prestigious gigs in the commercial dance sector. After high school, Reyes moved to downtown Toronto where she mopped dance floors in exchange for classes and it wasn’t long before her career took off after nailing an audition for Blaze dance crew, landing her a contract with the teen-dream dance movie Honey. Soon Reyes decided to pursue the industry and packed her bags for New York City. “I was super-hardworking and super-focused, and that was my life: work, dance, club,” Reyes recalls. Jillian Groening sat down with Reyes to listen to her experiences in New York’s underground dance scene, her journey back to Toronto, and how she integrates her Filipina roots into her practice and latest work, Third World.

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Diana Reyes, ou Fly Lady Di, est une artiste de danse basée à Toronto qui conjugue les esthétiques philippines et les danses de rue comme le waacking et le house. Elle compte aussi une longue liste de contrats prestigieux en danse commerciale. Après le secondaire, Reyes a déménagé au centre-ville de Toronto, où elle nettoyait les studios en échange de classes de danse. Sa carrière éclot rapidement lorsqu’elle réussit une audition pour Blaze dance crew, et se trouve à danser dans le film Honey, un film adolescent de danse. Bientôt, Reyes décide de continuer sur sa lancée et déménage à New York. « J’ai travaillé très fort et j’étais très déterminée. C’était ma vie : travail, danse, discothèque », se rappelle l’artiste. Jillian Groening rencontre Reyes pour l’entendre parler de ses expériences dans la scène de danse underground à New York, son retour à Toronto, et l’intégration de son héritage philippin dans sa pratique et sa dernière création, THIRD WORLD.
 
Diana Reyes / Photo courtesy of Reyes
 

In Between Moments with Francesca Chudnoff

“From the moment I could hold a crayon, I was drawing,” explains Francesca Chudnoff when asked about herself. A Toronto-based multidisciplinary artist, Chudnoff says her first love was visual art. “I was probably around twelve when I started shooting movies on my dad’s camcorder and editing them on his computer.”

After moving through training at Canadian Children’s Dance Theatre and Ryerson University, Chudnoff spent five years working with Alias Dance Project as a director, choreographer, dancer and teacher. Now working as a freelance artist, she works across dance/performance, photography, videography, collage, makeup, fashion and memes. “I’m curious about the instantaneous energy of communications technology and its inevitable intersection with performance,” she explains. Bringing this approach to her work as an emerging artist-in-residence at Dancemakers Centre for Creation, Chudnoff is working in collaboration with Omar David Rivero (Driftnote) to create a new show for spring 2020.

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« Dès que je pouvais tenir un crayon, je dessinais », explique Francesca Chudnoff. Artiste multidisciplinaire torontoise, Chudnoff raconte que son premier amour est l’art visuel. Après avoir cheminé au sein du Canadian Children’s Dance Theatre et à l’Université Ryerson, elle passe cinq ans à travailler avec Alias Dance Project à titre de directrice, chorégraphe, danseuse et enseignante. Maintenant pigiste, elle oeuvre aux croisements de la danse, la performance, la photographie, la vidéo, le collage, le maquillage, la mode et les mèmes. « Je suis curieuse de l’énergie instantanée des technologies de communication, et de leur inévitable intersection avec la performance », décrit-elle. Adoptant cette approche dans son travail comme artiste émergente en résidence au Dancemakers Centre for Creation, Chudnoff collabore avec Omar David Rivero (Driftnote) à la création d’un nouveau spectacle pour le printemps 2020.
 
Danah Rosales / Photo by Chudnoff

 

 

 

The Shoestring Renaissance

By George Turnbull

A survey of current screendance events and artists in Canada.

In these days of rapidly evolving technology, artistic energy and openness to pushing boundaries, screendance is an art form launched on an upward trajectory. But just what is screendance? Screendance – or, if you prefer, “media dance,” “dance on film” or “dance for camera” – is a hybrid discipline at the intersection of dance (or a body in motion) and the moving image with a broad definition that includes, as scholar Claudia Kappenberg writes, a wide body of works including “that which occurs in the everyday through interactions with cameras and screens, digital media and the Internet.” The broadness of screendance includes anything from Hollywood and Bollywood musicals to experimental or avant-garde films – any intersection of dance and movement made with the frame of the screen in mind.
 

A performance at the 2017 Lights Dance Festival / Photo courtesy of Sarah Choi

 

All That Glitters...

By Grace Wells-Smith

How do studios decide to compete?

Dance competitions in Canada are becoming more and more popular, but what values are associated with this world? There seems to be three choices for studio owners – go all in, dabble in or forgo them altogether. Grace Wells-Smith talks to studio practitioners Jennalee Desjardins and Sean Boutilier, who initially appear to be on opposing sides of this debate but soon find themselves on common ground. Both interviewees are candid about the pros and cons, challenges and benefits of a competitive atmosphere for young dancers.

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Les compétitions de danse au Canada deviennent de plus en plus populaires. Quelles valeurs épousent ce monde? Les propriétaires de studio semblent avoir trois options: s’engager pleinement en compétition, la tâter ou l’omettre du programme. Grace Wells-Smith parle aux directeurs de studio Jennalee Desjardins et Sean Boutilier. De prime abord, ils tiendraient des positions opposées sur la danse et la compétition, mais trouvent rapidement un terrain commun.
 
Desjardins with City Dance Corps’ Senior Hip Hop class / Photo courtesy of Desjardins

 

Departments

Editorial

By Emma Doran

Is dance really the ephemeral art form that it’s romantically made out to be? Yes. But also, no.
 
It’s an intricate discussion that I won’t begin to unpack here. But I think it’s significant to consider both perspectives as truths. Yes, watching a performance is magical in that it starts and ends and there’s often no tangible artifact left behind. Liveness is unicorn-like. But it’s also just as relevant (and maybe more interesting) to question what remains after a performance – what feelings, what knowledge, what ways of being and seeing? How does dance reside in the body?
 
For some artists working with screendance techniques and technologies, ideas of permanence and accessibility have cracked open. Touring a work can be prohibitively expensive, but submitting a video file to an international festival is often
free and reaches new audiences. Screendance also offers new expressive possibilities: a dancer can duplicate themselves, play with glitch aesthetics and manipulate time. Performers can be livestreamed into a festival, and screen connectivity can open new possibilities for audience interaction. The boundaries between the live and the static are increasingly slippery.
 
Our feature, written by screendance intern George Turnbull, gives an overview of how artists in Canada are presenting work for screen. The photo essay, featuring the work of Francesca Chudnoff, also ties in nicely with how artists can create images that disobey conventional photography.
 
I also hope you enjoy our feature profile about the prolific Diana Reyes, Fly Lady Di, whose aesthetic incorporates house, hip hop and Filipina folk dance, among others. Finally, staff writer Grace Wells-Smith offers an interview with two studio teachers, who discuss the merits and pitfalls of competition culture.
 
As always, I hope this issue sparks curiosity and conversation in your community.

Movers

Building on determination
By Emilie Durville

Stéphanie Audet

“When people told me I couldn’t make it, I felt challenged,” explains ballet dancer Stéphanie Audet. “I knew I would succeed to become a professional dancer.”

Audet / Photos by Denis Duquette

Movers

Talking through tap
By Joelle Jobin

Ella Steele

Generating sound and movement at the same time – “the way the music, movement and rhythm all fit together” – has fascinated Winnipeg-based tapper Ella Steele since childhood. For her, continuing to learn and finding new elements of the art form has always been a driving force of her passion.
 

Steele / Photo by Barbara Bottle

The List

What inspires Alexandre Hamel?

Co-founder of Le Patin Libre

Le Patin Libre is a contemporary ice-skating company from Montréal founded by Alexandre Hamel, Pascale Jodoin, Samory Ba, Taylor Dilley and Jasmin Boivin. With the intention of transforming their athleticism into a means of free expression, this group of former high-level figure skaters is venturing away from “sparkles, stereotypes and champions’ demos” to explore the theatrical and choreographic potential of glide.

Samory Ba, Hamel and Pascale Jodoin / Photo by Olivier Brajon

Practice

Hiding and Revealing
By Dreda Blow

What learning to work with masks can teach dancers

Last June, I ventured to the redwood forests of northern California to participate in Dell’Arte International School of Physical Theatre’s summer intensive. Performing narrative ballet for over a decade had ignited my passion for storytelling, and I was curious to delve deeper into the body’s expressive power. Until then, masks had meant very little to me. They were merely attractive but uncomfortable costume accessories I’d worn in productions like Casanova. I had no idea this experience would completely transform my appreciation of mask work and what it can teach us.

Blow / Photo by Guy Farrow

Body

Dancers and Doctors
By Andrea Downie, Amber Downie-Back

Communicating with health-care professionals

Communicating with health-care professionals and dealing with health concerns can be challenging for anyone. This interaction can pose specific challenges for many dancers, who may hesitate to seek help for their health concerns, fearing the counsel they receive will lack an understanding of their lives and practice. Familiar advice, such as “Don’t do that movement” or “You’ll have to take time off” and “A few visits to the massage therapist will help,” can seem frustrating to a dancer who lacks the necessary time and funds to comply.

Photo courtesy of Unsplash

From Our Archives

Tara Williamson Campbell’s Tenacity
By Nicole Decsey

Co-founder and director of contemporary dance at the Hattori/Williamson School of Ballet

As co-founder and director of contemporary dance at the Hattori/Williamson School of Ballet in Calgary, Tara Williamson Campbell pivoted her performance career toward teaching and directing.

Campbell / Photo by Michael Slobodian

Backstage

Heightened

The Vancouver International Vertical Dance Summit (VIVDS) takes place from June 10th through 15th offering free performances, roundtables, artist talks and dance films. The summit is open to dancers, circus aerialists, riggers and technicians and enthusiasts: the programming offers opportunities for movers of all skill levels in various locations – in a public atrium, a studio theatre, a short outdoor wall, a tall office tower and amid old-growth trees.

VIVDS is hosted by aerial dance company Aeriosa and organized by founder and Artistic Director Julia Taffe, who spoke about the community spirit involved in organizing the events. “Vertical dance is about building partnerships with the community,” Taffe explains. “To dance on a tall tower requires permission from building owners, management, engineers, security firms, the city … The list is long. Site checks and safety plans need to be drawn up. Relationships need to be built and trust developed.”
 
“Preparation for a performance is not that different than any other dance performance except that we have to do rigging checks and a safety plan. When working on site at height on a building, we check that every anchor is secure and adjusted. Our work is generally in an outdoor, sitespecific location. Because of this, we must find adequate time to create the work and rehearse the performance on location. Each location has intricacies that require time to discover and explore.” The week’s events will culminate in The Gathering Flock, a public performance on a 100-metre skyscraper.

Performers of Aeriosa in Second Nature / Photo by Tim Matheson

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