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The Dakhká Khwáan Dancers / Photo by Alistair Maitland
 

Electrifying dance and music in Yukon and internationally

By Aimee Dawn Robinson

Led by Marilyn Yadultin Jensen of Carcross/Tagish First Nation, The Dakhká Khwáan Dancers are an Inland Tlingit, Whitehorse-based group.

From their beginnings in 2007 on the territory of Carcross/Tagish First Nation in Yukon, The Dakhká Khwáan Dancers have grown from six to thirty members. They lovingly show the utmost respect to cultural protocol and they’re reclaiming their languages and values through singing, drumming, dancing and storytelling. Aimée Dawn Robison spoke with Jensen about her prolific career in and outside of dance and her advice to younger artists: “Your message is important, and how you make people feel will be your legacy.”

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Sous la direction de Marilyn Yadultin Jensen de la Première Nation Carcross/Tagish, les Dakhká Khwáan Dancers sont un groupe de danse Inland Tlingit de Whitehorse. Depuis ses débuts en 2007 sur le territoire de la Première Nation Carcross/Tagish au Yukon, le groupe est passé de six à trente membres. Ils témoignent d’un grand respect du protocole culturel et se réapproprient leurs langues et leurs valeurs par le chant, le tambour, la danse et le conte. 

Aimée Dawn Robison discute avec Jensen de sa carrière prolifique en danse, mais aussi dans d’autres domaines, et du conseil qu’elle donne aux jeunes artistes : « votre message est important et l’effet que vous avez sur ce que les gens éprouvent sera votre héritage. »

The Dakhká Khwáan Dancers / Photo by Alistair Maitland

Chin, Lau, Krishnan and Tolentino / Photo by David Wong
 

Images from Undivided Colours

A reaction against the tumult of right wing fundamentalist governments and their polarizing rhetoric, Undivided Colours is a reaffirmation of the ways humanity, kindness, compassion, generosity and intelligence have the potential to move us into new ways of being.

The performance features four master Canadian dance artists who, steeped in decades of making work, came together for the first time onstage. Audiences saw William Lau in the Chinese Peking opera tradition; Hari Krishnan in Indian bharatanatyam; Peter Chin in his reflection of Cambodian culture; and Alvin Erasga Tolentino in his interpretation of Filipino heritage dances.

Chin, Lau, Krishnan and Tolentino / Photo by David Wong

Opera Atelier's The Angel Speaks / Photo by Bruce Zinger
 

Cross-Pollination

By Michael Zarathus-Cook

Making space for movement in Canadian opera

It’s easy to forget that dance and opera have always been partners. But what is evident from the last couple of years in Canadian opera productions is that the cross-pollination of the two art forms is gaining popularity amongst mainstage opera companies and smaller ensembles. To better understand the connection, historically and currently, in productions in Canada, Michael Zarathus-Cook sought out the opinions and perspectives of artistic directors, dancers and choreographers across both industries and across the country. What became obvious was that the cultivation of audiences with diverse interests in the arts is crucial for opera companies that want to see more interaction between audiences across the performing arts.

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Il est facile d’oublier que la danse et l’opéra ont toujours été des partenaires. Mais les productions opératiques canadiennes des dernières années démontrent que les échanges – la pollinisation croisée – entre les deux formes d’art gagnent en popularité chez les principales compagnies d’opéra et les petits ensembles. Afin de mieux comprendre le lien, historique et actuel, entre les deux formes d’art dans les productions canadiennes, Michael Zarathus-Cook a sondé les opinions et points de vue de directeurs artistiques, danseurs et chorégraphes oeuvrant dans les deux milieux et toutes les régions du pays. Une conclusion s’en dégage : il est essentiel, pour les compagnies d’opéra qui souhaitent accroître l’interaction entre les publics des divers arts de la scène, de développer des publics qui s’intéressent aux diverses formes d’art.

Opera Atelier’s The Angel Speaks / Photo by Bruce Zinger 

CanDance Presenters at the 2017 Coastal First Nations Dance Festival / Photo courtesy of The CanDance Network
 

A View From the Middle

By Ann-Marie Williams

How can we embrace the new curatorial generation’s no-nonsense activism while honouring the milestones reached by the previous generation of presenters? Two generations weigh in on the current state of dance curation, and how they feel about each other.

Presenters Dena Davida and Jay Hirabayashi, as well as Kate Nankervis and Marco Provonost respond to questions and ask questions of each other. 
 
For the younger generation, inequality is no longer tolerated: they insist on committee-based programming models. But dissonance arises between the generations on the subject of infrastructure. Senior presenters worked tirelessly to establish contemporary dance as a professional art form in the eyes of Canada’s funding bodies and the public at large.

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Inspirée de l’activisme pragmatique des nouveaux commissaires, tout en soulignant les jalons posés par ses mentors, Ann-Marie Williams a invité des représentants de chaque génération à s’exprimer sur l’état actuel de la danse et sur la perception que les générations ont les unes des autres. Les diffuseurs Dena Davida et Jay Hirabayashi, ainsi que Kate Nankervis et Marco Pronovost offrent leurs réponses et posent leurs propres questions. 

Pour la jeune génération, l’inégalité ne peut plus être tolérée : ils insistent pour l’adoption de modèles de programmation par comités. Mais les points de vue divergent entre les générations sur la question des infrastructures. Les diffuseurs plus âgés ont travaillé sans relâche à faire reconnaître la danse contemporaine comme pratique artistique professionnelle auprès des organismes de financement canadiens et du public en général.

CanDance Presenters at the 2017 Coastal First Nations Dance Festival / Photo courtesy of The CanDance Network

Departments

Editorial

By Emma Doran

For me, watching dance is a tactile experience: it changes the rhythm of my breath, and I feel similar muscular connections as the performer. There’s neuroscientific research to support that this response is common, relating to movement of all types. It’s an experience that dance scholar Susan Foster calls “kinesthetic empathy,” and, before her, dance critic John Martin dubbed it “inner mimicry.” Whatever we call it, spectatorship is more active than we might think.

Tactility is what artist and performer Marites Carino had in mind when creating her installation HANDSHACK – a black box in which two people anonymously and blindly get to know each other by touching hands. This intimate exchange – a dance of sorts – is then projected on a screen for other gallerygoers to see. You can read more about this work within the issue.

Themes of audiences and empathy run through these pages. In our “Practice” section, educator Miggy Esteban writes about how he builds empathy by teaching students about dance while introducing difficult histories into the classroom. Deaf and Disability artist Lawrence Shapiro offers a provocation about how audiences and artists can be active in other ways – by advocating for accessibility in selecting performance venues.

Our “In Conversation” feature also engages with ideas of spectatorship, but from a curatorial perspective. Ann-Marie Williams spoke with two generations of presenters, asking them “How can we embrace the new curatorial generation’s no-nonsense activism, while honouring the milestones reached by the previous generation of presenters?”

I hope you enjoy reading these articles and the other offerings in this issue. Keep an eye out for our accompanying online articles.

Wishing you a terrific fall season!

Felder / Photo by Sasha Onyshchenko

Movers

A balancing act
By Spenser McRae

Kiara DeNae Felder

A career as a professional ballet dancer is not for the faint of heart. The craft demands not only physicality but also mental resiliency. For Felder, a corps de ballet dancer with Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal (LGBC), the key to sustaining herself is nurturing healthy outlets for self-care.

Felder / Photo by Sasha Onyshchenko

Mikhaylyuk for Wen Wei Dance / Photo by Emily Cooper

Movers

Chasing imagination
By Anne Dion

Daria Mikhaylyuk

Born into a family of academics and raised in Vladivostok, Russia, Mikhaylyuk sensed that her dance practice felt external from the rest of her life. “That was one of the reasons why, for the longest time, I approached dance solely from a technical perspective,” she explains. “I saw value primarily in the execution, clarity and the body as a tool to impress but not to express.” After a year working in commercial dance in China, Mikhaylyuk decided to change her surroundings in search of something more fulfilling. Moving to Canada, she pressed pause on her dance career to focus instead on an art history degree at the University of British Columbia. It wasn’t long, however, before she fell back into her love of movement.

Mikhaylyuk for Wen Wei Dance / Photo by Emily Cooper

Jerome Jean-Gilles and Nicol / Photo courtesy of Nicol

The List

What inspires Estelle Nicol?

Co-founder and executive director of City Dance Corps

Born and raised in Toronto, Estelle Nicol is a versatile dancer with an extensive background in dance and performance, specializing in salsa and Argentine tango. She is the co-founder and executive director of City Dance Corps, one of downtown Toronto’s leading centres for dance and artistic movement, offering dance classes for both adults and youth. Located in the heart of Queen West, City Dance Corps is celebrating seventeen years in business.

We asked Nicol to share what inspires her in this work.

Jerome Jean-Gilles and Nicol / Photo courtesy of Nicol

Marie-Reine Kabasha andTarheen Fatima / Photo by Donald Robitaille

Inspire

Reaching Out
By Anne Dion

The interactive installation that’s shaking up the handshake

“Do you touch more people or more technology in a day?” It’s a question Marites Carino asks of those who participate in her interactive installation. The answer is often disheartening. HANDSHACK is Carino’s provocative brainchild, and it’s designed to play with our expectations of social touch in startling and profound ways.

Marie-Reine Kabasha and Tarheen Fatima / Photo by Donald Robitaille

Photo courtesy of Unsplash

Body

Healing From the Ground Up
By Kate Holden

Experiencing reflexology from the other side of the table

Foot reflexology is a gentle, non-invasive therapy that involves stimulating the nerve endings on the foot. A reflexologist uses gentle pressure and touch to work on the nervous system, addressing areas of difficulty, stagnation and congestion in the body.

Kate Holden, a dance artist and a holistic health practitioner, talks about the benefits of including reflexology in a post-performance recovery plan. 

Photo courtesy of Unsplash

Practice

Building Empathy
By Miggy Esteban

Introducing social justice to students through dance

“The truth about stories is that that’s all we are,” wrote author and scholar Thomas King. In that vein, the forms through which we tell our stories are also revealing, offering information about our identities as individuals, societies and cultures. As dancers, the choices we make in creating, performing and sharing our stories through the body can have impact.

In my own practice, working in a school system, dance has been the key for unlocking conversations about social justice in the classroom. I work with students to develop critical thinking skills to analyze dance and social issues all through a focus on building empathy. This approach has allowed my students, and myself, to better understand the experiences of others and to further question how our society operates. 

Photo by Alvin Collantes

Provocation

Holding Ourselves Accountable
By Lawrence Shapiro

Accessibility in the Toronto dance sector

I recently attended a performance in downtown Toronto and, as I left, I couldn’t help but feel that aspects of the evening were a disgrace – strong words for a show that I thoroughly enjoyed. Recently I had seen another show by the same company in downtown Toronto. The performances were superb – a memorable hybrid of spoken word, music and movement, through which the ensemble created a rich fabric of expression. The first venue was accessible; the second was not. Accessibility has a huge impact on my enjoyment of the performances.

Zacharie Dun in Grand-Maître’s Frankenstein / Photo by Paul McGrath

Backstage

A legend reborn
By Anne Dion

Some say that, with Frankenstein, Mary Shelley created the first myth since the ancient Greeks. The legendary tale has been reproduced ad infinitum, but the Alberta Ballet’s upcoming production will be something we’ve never seen before: a Frankenstein set in modern day.

“In our version,” explains choreographer Jean Grand-Maître, “Victor’s very rich family lives in Mar-a-Lago, Florida, and Victor studies at Harvard Medical School.” Their version is meant to reflect the power imbalances in our society – the way only a few hold most of the political and technological power across our globe.

The era shift is interesting from a movement and costuming perspective. Speaking about the monster, Grand-Maître remarks: “He’s much more agile than we’d think from all the representations – more spastic, animalistic, with a skeletal face and yellow eyes.” Costume designer Anne-Séguin Poirier has spent the summer prototyping the monster’s costume, perfecting the grotesque, partially prosthetic look. She explains that with a story like Frankenstein, the challenge has been to convey the scale of that world.

The production process, stretched across the country, has been stimulating from a cultural perspective: “I work a lot from a distance because I live in Montréal,” Poirier explains. “There’s this sense of a relationship across a great distance. We’re a team but we’re from different cultures, and it’s been interesting to see that exchange.”

The embodiment of ego, Dr. Frankenstein and his experiments have been objects of attention for a century. “There’s a phrase I’ve heard: that he steals the reproductive power of women,” explains Grand-Maître. “And then another one is that we live in a world without God.” Grand-Maître was inspired by Guillermo del Toro’s love of Frankenstein’s monster, a monster who didn’t ask to be born. “The most important thing is to convey the human in the monster’s body,” says Grand-Maître, “and not the other way around.”

Zacharie Dun in Grand-Maître’s Frankenstein / Photo by Paul McGrath

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