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Feels Like Flying

By Helen Simard

With a resumé that boasts workshops and speaking engagements, battling and performing around the world with his crew ILLAbilities, Luca “Lazylegz” Patuelli’s rise could be seen as nothing short of meteoric. Helen Simard spoke with Patuelli about his career and what’s next on his roster.

The Montréal-based bboy has an infectious smile and an energy that fills the room. It’s easy to see how he’s made a name for himself as a dancer, choreographer and motivational speaker. 

Born with arthrogryposis, a neurological condition that affects his legs, his nickname, “Lazylegz,” plays on the fact that his upper body is much stronger than his lower. He’s able to master impressive spins, floats and freezes quickly and he uses his crutches as an extension of his body to create unique moves. He’s been seen on shows such as Ellen and America’s Got Talent.

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Le bboy Luca « Lazylegz » Patuelli a un sourire contagieux et une énergie qui remplit les salles. On saisit rapidement d’où vient sa réputation comme danseur, chorégraphe et conférencier motivateur. Son c.v. compte des ateliers, des conférences, des battles et des spectacles partout dans le monde avec son crew ILL-Abilities et des apparitions à la télévision sur des émissions comme Ellen et America’s Got Talent. Sa montée n’a été rien de moins que fulgurante. Né avec l’arthrogrypose, une condition neurologique qui touche ses jambes, son sobriquet « Lazylegs » joue sur la grande force de son torse et de ses bras comparés à celle de ses jambes. Il maitrise des spins, des floats et des freezes et il crée une gestuelle unique en utilisant ses béquilles comme extension de son corps. Helen Simard s’est assise avec Patuelli pour parler de sa carrière, de son travail de représentation et des prochaines étapes qui l’attendent.

Patuelli / Photo courtesy of Patuelli

 

multiform(s): animating, painting, drawing dance

As a love letter to perpetual motion and testament to body magic, Amanda Acorn built hypnotic cycles of movement repeated ad infinitum into her work multiform(s).

Acorn is a Toronto-based choreographer who, for this project, draws from the work and writing of painter Mark Rothko. The work premiered in 2015 at SummerWorks Festival in Toronto and was performed in 2016 at FTA (Festival TransAmériques). 

multiform(s) was sketched live by visual artist Connor Willumsen, whose work won him a fellowship at The Center for Cartoon Studies. His first widely published book, Anti-Gone, was a finalist for a LA Times Book Prize and Doug Wright Award and was recently adapted into a live mixed-reality performance by Theo Triantafyllidis. Willumsen’s newset book, Bradley of Him, was published in November 2019.

Sketch by Connor Willumsen 

 

Flash of the Spirit

By Michèle Moss

Devoted to jazz for decades, Michèle Moss, associate professor at the University of Calgary, offers a uniquely Canadian context to the form, sharing excerpts from her field notes during a year of sabbatical research – from Calgary to Winnipeg to Toubab Dialaw, Senegal.

Moss also digs into jazz music and dance in its many forms: “What we often don’t realize is that jazz is alive and open to change. Jazz is not only lindy hop or modern jazz technique; it can be archival and authentic, ultra-urban, theatrical or vernacular.” Throughout her writing, she offers glimpses into her life and career: watching Soul Train as a child, a night on the town Buster Brown in New York City, and co-founding Decidedly Jazz Danceworks.

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Dévouée à la danse jazz depuis des décennies, Michèle Moss, professeure agrégée à l’Université de Calgary, partage des extraits de son journal de bord pendant son année de recherche sabbatique – de Calgary à Winnipeg à Toubab Dialaw, Sénégal. Moss se plonge aussi dans la musique et la danse jazz sous ses nombreuses formes : « On oublie souvent que le jazz est vivant, ouvert au changement. Le jazz, ce n’est pas le lindy hop ou une technique de jazz moderne – il peut être archivistique et authentique, ultra urbain, théâtral ou vernaculaire ». Ses écrits offrent un aperçu de sa vie et sa carrière : enfant téléspectatrice de Soul Train, une soirée en ville à New York City avec Buster Brown, la mise sur pied de Decidely Jazz Danceworks, entre autres. Moss partage ici sa perspective particulière canadienne de cette forme américaine.

NAfro dance artists in Moss’s work for NAfro’s La Borona / Photo courtesy of NAfro 

 

Dance Interventions

By Tessa Perkins Deneault

Dance for Parkinson’s Disease (Dance for PD) emerged in New York City in 2001 as a program of the Mark Morris Dance Group and grew into a worldwide program. Tessa Perkins Denault spoke with two Dance for PD instructors, Megan Walker Straight and Trina Frometa, to talk about the work they’re doing in Vancouver to alleviate symptoms and inspire joy.

People with Parkinson’s disease tend to struggle with the movements of daily life. As the disease progresses, even the most mundane tasks can become overwhelming. But when given the opportunity to dance, those people find that their symptoms fade away. In Canada, the Dance for PD hub is at Canada’s National Ballet School in Toronto. Outside of Toronto, there are Dance for PD offerings in cities across the country, including in Vancouver where two Dance for PD instructors are making a difference.

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Pour les personnes atteintes du Parkinson, la gestuelle du quotidien devient éprouvante. Quand la maladie progresse, les tâches les plus anodines deviennent des obstacles insurmontables. Mais lorsque les malades ont l’occasion de danser, ils trouvent que leurs symptômes s’estompent. Dance for Parkinson’s Disease (Dance for PD) émerge à New York City en 2001, un programme monté et offert par le Mark Morris Dance Group. Depuis, Dance for PD est devenu un programme mondial. Au Canada, le coeur de l’activité se déroule à l’École nationale de ballet du Canada à Toronto. Autrement, il y a des offrandes en Dance for PD dans plusieurs villes, y compris Vancouver, où Megan Walker Straight et Trina Frometa cultivent la pratique. Tessa Perkins Denault a parlé aux enseignantes de leur travail avec les malades pour tempérer leurs symptômes, leur inspirer la joie et offrir de l’espoir. 

Frometa teaching / Photo courtesy of Frometa

Departments

Editorial

By Emma Doran

It’s hard to believe we’re approaching 2020, a year we once related to flying cars. We’re now twenty years past anyone gave a second though to Y2K. You may have noticed we’re ushering into the new decade with a new logo!

I’ve been thinking about what the future holds for dance in Canada. One of the “special” things about being alive right now is how, on a daily basis, we’re faced with the possibility of our own extinction. How are we finding ways to connect that don’t feed into our unhealthy relationship with the land we live on? Can making art with our bodies displace our overwhelming desire to consume? (As I write this, it’s Black Friday.) It’s bit cliché, but considering the body as site for regeneration, remix and growth seems radical at this moment.

Our In Conversation interview in this issue picks up on this idea, as two Dance for Parkinson’s instructors talk about their work and its potential for healing. In our feature, Michèle Moss shares her notes from a sabbatical year, reflecting on her life studying in the jazz idiom and the how the form is strengthened by it’s continual iteration and mutation. The issue’s feature artist, internationally-known Montréal-based bboy, Luca “Lazylegz” Patuelli, shares what’s next in his evolving career. Finally, our Report summarizes important research about the conditions that allow for the tolerance of abuse in dance education. Our accompanying online portion has info on how to stake steps for abuse prevention in your practice and studio.

Wishing you my best for the new decade!

Movers

Splintering History
By Anne Dion

Shale Wagman

One of the brightest Canadian-born ballet stars of our age, Wagman has had an incandescent career. A beloved contestant on Canada’s Got Talent at only twelve years old, Wagman later won the Youth America Grand Prix in 2014. He then spent four years studying at the Princess Grace Academy in Monaco before winning the 2018 Prix de Lausanne. Today, his proudest achievement is his guest performance at the Mariinsky Theatre, dancing James in the 2019 performance of La Sylphide.

Wagman / Photo by Karolina Kuras

Movers

Identity in flux
By Neilla Hawley

Zahra Shahab

As an interdisciplinary artist who uses sound, video, costuming and dance to create her artistic works, Zahra Shahab imagines her work first in fantastical, animated scenes in her head. “I reach for whatever discipline to communicate what I want to communicate,” says the Vancouver-based artist. 

Shahab in her work Thaw / Photo by Yvonne Chew

Inspire

Dancing Beasts
By Emily Pettet

Three artists moved by animals

An artist’s creation process can be as unique as their fingerprint. When working with animals as source material, how do dancers embody the heart, mind and body of a beast to create a compelling performance?

Nia Holloway in Disney’s The Lion King / Photo by Deen van Meer 

The List

Wen Wei Wang

What inspires Wen Wei Wang?

Wen Wei Wang began dancing at an early age in China, training and dancing with the Langzhou Song and Dance Company. In 1991, he came to Canada and joined the Judith Marcuse Dance Company, followed by seven years with Ballet BC. 

In 2000, he received the Clifford E. Lee Choreographic Award (his first of many awards in Canada) and since then has choreographed for the Alberta Ballet, Ballet BC, Ballet Jörgen, NorthWest Dance Project, the Vancouver and San Francisco Operas and Les Ballets Jazz de Montréal. 

In 2003, he founded Wen Wei Dance and has since choreographed eleven full-length works for the company. Wang is an associate dance artist of the National Arts Centre and the artistic director of Ballet Edmonton.

The Dance Current asked Wang to share what influences his work.

Wang / Photo by Shin Sugino 

Check It Out

Leather-Free Ballet Slippers
By Joelle Jobin

Rebelle slippers by Cynthia King

Traditionally, even canvas ballet slippers have included leather soles. Now a new line of ballet shoes gives vegan dancers the opportunity to stay true to their ethics, without sacrificing their ability to dance. Cynthia King’s line of Rebelle slippers have a vegan synthetic sole and feature lightweight stretch canvas and pre-sewn elastics. 

Practice

The Porous Body
By Louis Laberge Coté

Cultivating malleability in dance training

With the rise of a heterogeneous freelance system, it’s essential for contemporary dancers to develop and maintain high adaptive qualities. With this in mind, as a teacher, I ask myself: How can I help as many students as possible gain technical proficiency, rigour and discipline while cultivating versatility and malleability? 

Laberge-Côté instructing Ryerson School of Performance dance students, Fall for Dance North Festival 2018, Union Station, Toronto / Photo by Marlowe Porter

Provocation

Performing Art vs. Performing Identity
By Amy Hull

My experience as an Indigenous artist touring Europe

From Vaudeville and Buffalo Bill’s Wild West to the beginnings of the New York City Ballet to present day, Indigenous dancers from Turtle Island have made their presence known on European stages. These encounters, like much of what we consider “history,” have often been recorded by and for non-Indigenous peoples. Through their eyes, we have detailed accounts of the initial impressions of these Indigenous artists – who they were, what they wore, their demeanour and their performances. 

But what about the experiences of these Indigenous dancers? Where are the detailed accounts of our impressions of European society – our thoughts, our experiences and our stories? It’s time to shift the narrative. 

Hull / Photo by Brian Medina

Report

Big Little Secrets
By Jo-Anne La Flèche

Understanding abuse and trauma in dance (part one)

In 2018, Jo-Anne La Flèche was approached by Dr. Bonnie Robson, a retired psychiatrist who specialized in performing arts psychology, to write a paper on psychological trauma in dance for Dance USA/Task Force on Dancer Health. During her research she realized to what extent dancers’ experiences of emotional, physical and sexual abuse were common but rarely disclosed. 

Read part two online

Backstage

A New Realm
By Grace Wells-Smith

Unikkaaqtuat is a multimedia performance that follows the story of an Inuit boy who was medevacked to a southern hospital and displaced from his community. It was created by Taqqut Productions, an Inuit-owned film production company, Les 7 Doigts (The 7 Fingers), a Montréal-based contemporary circus company, and Artcirq, an Igloolik, Nunavut-based circus performance collective.

The idea was inspired from illustrations by the Inuk artist Germaine Arnaktauyok, and elements of circus and theatre arts were incorporated. The final product is something that all three companies are proud of, but it didn’t come without a heavy dose of compromise.

Neil Christopher (Taqqut Productions) is one of the co-directors. His team had the idea to base the story on Inuit creation myths and to use Arnaktauyok’s illustrations. Along with Arnaktauyok, the team is in charge of the story. “It’s been interesting because each storytelling style has its expectations,” he explains. “It took some time, but it’s getting easier and our conversations are getting more productive.”

Co-director Patrick Léonard (Les 7 Doigts) describes his role as an outside eye. He mentions the importance of keeping the common goal in mind and understanding how each artist would tell the story differently. “We were all meeting in a new realm, in something that didn’t exist before. So that was interesting and challenging at the same time.”

For Artcirq, Unikkaaqtuat is the collective’s most ambitious collaboration since it was founded in 1998. Guillaume Ittuksarjuat Saladin, another co-director of the show, agrees that the collaboration took time to sort out, but the result is a thoughtful story. “We are keeping alive old stories that are being forgotten,” he says. “One day, our kids will see this and be very proud.”

Levy Tapatsiak, Charlie Gordon, Gisle Lars Henriet, Damien Tulugajuk, Jacky Qrunngnut, Rita-Claire Mike Murphy and Guillaume Ittuksarjuat Saladin / Photo by Sebastien Lozé

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