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All That We Are

By Ravyn Ariah Wngz

Artists respond to the statement “I don’t see colour”

In this moment, Black people are seeing the descendants of colonization wake up to the terror their ancestors created. We are witnessing the dehumanization of Black people and hearing the rallying cry “All Black Lives Matter.” Black Lives Matter protests have forced publications and institutions to craft Black solidarity statements and hire and support Black artists for the first time. But do Black stories, Black creators and Black curators actually matter to these institutions?  
 
To add to this conversation, Ravyn Ariah Wngz asked several dance artists: What does the statement “I don’t see colour; we are all the same” make you feel like? 
 

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Actuellement, les Noirs voient les descendants de la colonisation s’éveiller à la terreur que leurs ancêtres ont créée. On est témoin de la déshumanisation des Noirs. On entend l’appel « All Black Lives Matter ». Les manifestations BLM ont forcé les publications et les institutions à rédiger des déclarations solidaires des Noirs et d’engager et de soutenir des artistes noir.e.s pour une première fois. Mais est-ce que les récits, les créateur.rice.s et les commissaires noir.e.s sont véritablement important.e.s pour ces institutions ? Pour nourrir la discussion, Ravyn Ariah Wngz a demandé à plusieurs artistes de danse : « Quelles émotions vous inspirent l’énoncé suivant : “Je ne vois pas la couleur ; on est tous pareils” ? »

Wngz / Photo by Sly Feiticeira

Vaze / Photo courtesy of Vaze
 

(Literally) Dancing to Her Own Tune

By Brannavy Jeyasundaram

This year, Pratibha Arts, under the artistic direction of Bageshree Vaze, was nominated for three Dora Mavor Moore Awards for A Hidden Princess: Outstanding Production, Outstanding Performance by an Individual and Outstanding Original Sound Composition.

One may mistakenly refer to Vaze as a “contemporary” kathak artist; however, she insists otherwise: “Kathak, as a form, is completely twentieth century. Whatever is created is actually probably younger than western contemporary dance. [Canadian dance institutions] qualify it as ancient or traditional because they can’t conceive it as contemporary art.” When asked how she’s managed to plant her feet within Toronto’s dance scene, Vaze immediately laughs and replies: “I’m not sure I have! I’ve always felt like I was on this periphery, on the outside looking in.” 

On a trip to New Delhi in her early twenties, Vaze became absorbed in the holistic lifestyle of Indian classical artists who are not only skilled dancers but also practiced musicians. To date, she has released four full-length albums and one EP; her debut album is called Bageshree.

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On pourrait faire l’erreur de parler de Bageshree Vaze comme une artiste de kathak « contemporain ». Pourtant, elle insiste autrement : « la forme du kathak est entièrement du vingtième siècle. Tout ce que l’on crée dans cette forme est sans doute plus jeune que la danse contemporaine occidentale. Les institutions canadiennes de danse la qualifient d’ancienne ou de traditionnelle parce qu’elles ne réussissent pas à la concevoir comme forme d’art actuel. » Quand je lui demande comment elle a réussi à s’implanter dans le milieu de la danse à Toronto, elle rit. « Je ne suis pas certaine de l’avoir fait ! Je me suis toujours sentie en périphérie ; j’observe depuis les coulisses. » Néanmoins, cette année A Hidden Princess de Pratibha Arts a été en lice pour trois prix Dora Mavor Moore : production exceptionnelle, performance exceptionnelle d’un.e interprète et composition sonore originale exceptionnelle. Lors d’un voyage au New Delhi en début de vingtaine, Vaze a été frappée par le mode de vie holistique des artistes indien.nes classiques qui étaient non seulement des interprètes doué.e.s, mais aussi des musicien.ne.s d’expérience. À ce jour, elle a publié quatre albums et un EP. Son premier disque est intitulé Bageshree.

Vaze / Photo courtesy of Vaze

Leveck / Photo by Jonathan Elliott
 

Masks, Beads and Ribbons

By Jonathan Elliott

A photo shoot on Toronto’s waterfront with fancy shawl dancer Nichole Leveck and her daughter, Nazarene Pope.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Leveck and Pope organized a mask-making operation. Funded by donations (supplies and funds), they have provided more than 1050 masks across Turtle Island since July.

Leveck is a Wyandot artist from Toronto, Ontario. She has been a fancy shawl and jingle dress dancer for more than thirteen years and has been teaching for more than eleven years at various organizations throughout the Greater Toronto Area. She was featured in Amanie Illfated’s music video The Hills and Snotty Nose Rez Kids’ music video I Can’t Remember My Name, and she performed at the 2019 Polaris Music Prize Gala (for Snotty Nose Rez Kids) with Pope. Levek strives to be a positive role model within the Indigenous community of Toronto.

Pope is an Afro-Indigenous artist of Wendat and Trinidadian descent, born and raised in Toronto. Pope has been a fancy shawl and jingle dress dancer for more than eleven years, and her performances include the 2019 Polaris Music Prize Gala and the 2019 Fort York Indigenous Arts Festival.

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Quand la pandémie de la COVID-19 s’est annoncée, Nichole Levack et sa fille Nazarene Pope ont organisé une opération de fabrication de masques. Depuis juillet, elles ont fourni plus de 1050 masques d’une part et d’autres de Turtle Island, le tout financé par des dons de matériaux et de fonds. Leveck est une artiste wyandotte de Toronto, Ontario. Elle est danseuse fancy shawl et jingle dress depuis plus de treize ans et enseigne depuis plus de onze ans dans différents organismes de la région du Grand Toronto. Elle figure dans les vidéoclips The Hills d’Amanie Illfated et I Can’t Remember My Name des Snotty Nose Rez Kids. Elle a performé au gala du prix Polaris en 2019 avec les Snotty Nose Rez Kids et sa fille, Pope. Leveck vise à être un modèle positif au sein de la communauté autochtone à Toronto. Pope est une artiste afroautochtone de descendance wendat et trinidadienne, originaire de Toronto. Elle est danseuse fancy shawl et jingle dress depuis plus de onze ans. Ses spectacles comptent le gala du prix Polaris en 2019 ainsi que le Fort York Indigenous Arts Festival la même année.

Leveck / Photo by Jonathan Elliott

 

Where Do We Go From Here?

By Patricia Allison

When COVID-19 sent dancers home, communities quickly adapted. Can that flexibility be applied to disability arts post-pandemic?

Back in April when the realities of the pandemic were setting in, Patricia Allison was supposed to participate in an artistic residency and create a new piece that would act as her return to performing after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2017. She was going to tackle the question “How do I create a performance that is as invariable as my disease?” or “How do I create a piece that I don’t have to show up for?” But that residency got cancelled.

“I find it serendipitous that when the pandemic hit, it catapulted a macro version of these questions onto the entire live art community. … We quickly saw national opportunities for funding from institutions like the National Arts Centre and the CBC for creation at home. While this was wonderful and well needed, I found myself wondering why these initiatives weren’t offered before or how slow change would have been if it had been made at the advocacy of the disability community before the pandemic,” Allison writes.

Allison speaks with Alberta-based Justin Mii-Sum-In-Iskum Many Fingers, an Indigenous, Queer, multidisciplinary artist who identifies as disabled; Jordan Sangalang, a mime, theatre and dance artist who is Deaf, based in Manitoba; and Kelsie Acton, a choreographer and access consultant who is neurodivergent, originally from Edmonton and currently living in London, England.

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En avril, lorsque les réalités de la pandémie commençaient à s’installer, Patricia Allison devait participer à une résidence d’artiste et créer une nouvelle pièce pour son retour à la scène après son diagnostic de sclérose en plaques en 2017. Parmi ses questions de recherche : « Comment créer un spectacle aussi invariable que ma maladie ? » et « Comment créer une pièce qui n’exige pas ma présence ? ». La résidence a été annulée. « J’ai trouvé fortuit que quand la pandémie nous a frappés, la communauté artistique ait été confrontée à mes questions à une échelle beaucoup plus grande… On a rapidement vu des occasions nationales de financement du Centre national des arts et de la CBC pour la création à domicile. Pendant que cela était bien et bienvenu, je me suis demandé pourquoi ces occasions n’existaient pas avant la pandémie », écrit Allison. « Si elles avaient été revendiquées par la communauté des artistes handicapé.e.s, ces occasions se seraient fait attendre longtemps. » Elle a parlé avec Justin Mii-Sum-In-Iskum Many Fingers, artiste multidisciplinaire autochtone queer établi en Alberta qui s’identifie comme handicapé ; Jordan Sangalang, un artiste de mime, de théâtre et de danse malentendant établi au Manitoba ; et Kelsie Acton, chorégraphe et consultante en accès neurodivergente, originaire d’Edmonton et vivant à Londres, Angleterre.

Allison teaching online / Photo by Tamara Protic

Departments

Editorial

By Grace Wells-Smith

There is always one major question when putting together a magazine: Is this going to be relevant in two months?

The production cycle starts months before the issue goes out for delivery. Stories get assigned; writers get to work; then Cindy Brett, our copy editor (who hates false titles, so I made sure not to do that here) and Lois Kim, our art director, jump in. 

When the world is going as planned, the “relevancy” question is easier to answer. But with everything so uncertain, it’s much harder. I am certain, however, that our feature story by Ravyn Ariah Wngz will never be irrelevant. Wngz asked several dance artists to respond to the phrase “I don’t see colour; we are all the same.” The answers point to how “not seeing colour” is profoundly harmful.

Written by Brannavy Jeyasundaram, our feature profile showcases Bageshree Vaze, a kathak dance artist and artistic director of Pratibha Arts in Toronto. This year, the company’s production A Hidden Princess was nominated for three Dora Mavor Moore Awards: Outstanding Production, Outstanding Performance by an Individual and Outstanding Original Sound Composition.

Our “In Conversation” feature is an extension of Patricia Allison’s online column “Welcome to Our World: Can digital innovation during COVID-19 be leveraged in a post-pandemic world to make dance careers more accessible?” Allison spoke with Justin Mii-Sum-In-Iskum Many Fingers, Jordan Sangalang and Kelsie Acton about whether the flexibility and speed at which dance communities adapted during the pandemic can be applied to disability arts.

Finally, our photo essay features Nichole Leveck (on the cover) and her daughter, Nazarene Pope. The duo are fancy shawl and jingle dress dancers who began a mask-making operation, providing more than 1000 face masks across Turtle Island since July. In the interest of transparency, the photographer is my partner, Jonathan Elliott.  

My instinct now is to sign off by hoping that everything goes back to “normal” (even though there are things that we may want to let go of). But even if The Dance Current newsroom remains spread across our team’s homes, you can be sure that you will still get your issue.

Movers

Navigating the connections between hip hop and powwow
By Jillian Groening

Matthew “Creeasian” Wood

Wood is bboy, DJ, beatmaker and grassdancer, living and working on amiskwaciy-wâskahikan land. He has toured extensively with A Tribe Called Red, the award-winning DJ crewand is the founder and curator of Edmonton’s longest-running block partyCypherWildHe is also a founding member of Sampler Cafe Collective, a group that focuses on enabling entry points to the art of beatmaking

Wood grew up with an artist mothersurrounded by ceremonypowwows and round dances. After a rebellious youth where Wood found himself struggling against his Cree heritage, dancbrought him back.

Creeasian / Photo by Laura Polischuik

Maboungou

From Our Archives

Since 2003, Zab Maboungou has been racking up awards and accomplishments
By Collette Murray

In our November 2003 issue, we featured Maboungou in a profile written by Bridget Cauthery.

At the timethe Montréal-based dance artist’s companyCompagnie Danse Nyata Nyatawas seventeen years old (founded in 1986) and Maboungou was the first Canadian artist of African descent to receive funding from both the Canada Council for the Arts and the Conseil des Arts et des Lettres du Québec. Now, seventeen years later, the company is in its thirdecade and Maboungou has been awarded the 2020 Governor General’s Lifetime Artistic Achievement Award in Dance. But that’s not all.

Maboungou in her work Wamunzo / Photo by Pierre Manning and Audrée Desnoyers of Shoot Studio

Check It Out

Essays From Made In BC's Creative Residency
By Anne Dion

Made in BC: Dance on Tour’s Creative Residency was born in 2019 of the need to explicitly support Canadian BIPOC dance artists. Running from April through November, the residency provided free rehearsal space, mentorship and paid performance opportunities for three local emerging dance artists of colour.

In May 2020, Made in BC published a booklet of essays written by Natalie Tin Yin Gan, Emily Dundas Oke and Simran Sachar in response to the work created by the 2019 residency participants, Eric Cheung, Kristy Janvier and Zahra Shahab. The writers spent nearly a year working with the dance artists. “The texts are a record of this passing of time, and of the care and respect that emerged through the collaboration,” writes Sadira Rodrigues in her editor’s note at the top of the booklet, which is now available online for free.

Cassady / Photo by Mack Walker

Movers

Taking an empathetic approach to dancemaking
By Dylan Schoenmakers

Katie Cassady

Like other residency programs, Made in BC’s Re-Centering/Margins Creative Residency supports dance artists through vital development opportunities. It provides a stipend, free rehearsal space, a mentor of the artist’s choosing and professional development workshops and culminates in a spring 2021 showcase. But as its title suggests, the residency has another purposeful mandate: to specifically support and elevate emerging BIPOC dance artists. Three participants are selected annually, and this past June, Katie Cassady learned she was one of them.

Cassady / Photo by Mack Walker

Lam / Photo by Neil Nofuente

Practice

When Culture is Costume
By Ming-Bo Lam

Avoiding cultural appropriation in competitive dance

Competitive dance has a long history of appropriating and fetishizing marginalized cultures. Colleagues of mine have shared stories of witnessing everything from blackface and yellowface, to lyrical dances about lynching, to the massive appropriation and caricature of hip hop culture. We must hold ourselves, as educators, to the same standards of excellence we demand from our dancers.

How can we do this?

Lam / Photo by Neil Nofuente

Rosario Flamenco

Inspire

The List

What inspires Rosario Ancer?

Rosario Ancer, Vancouver-based flamenco dancer and choreographer, has been a major pillar of Western Canada’s flamenco scene for more than thirty years. Since moving from Spain in 1989, she and her husband, guitarist Victor Kolstee, co-founded the Vancouver International Flamenco Festival, The Flamenco Rosario Arts Society and its professional training program, as well as their school, Centro Flamenco. Ancer’s work aims to highlight the multidisciplinary potential of flamenco dance through experimentation, innovation and deconstruction.

Earlier this year, Ancer was inducted into the 2020 Hall of Fame by Dance Collection Danse, although the ceremony was postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2016, she received a Lola Award in recognition of her dedication to artistic innovation. In 2012, she received a Mayor’s Arts Award in Dance from the city of Vancouver, and her 2009 work Mis Hermanas received an Isadora Award for Excellence in Choreography.

This year, the thirtieth annual Vancouver International Flamenco Festival will be moved online and will run September 19th through 20th and September 26th through 27th. Details can be found at vancouverflamencofestival.org. 

Ancer shared with The Dance Current what inspires her.

Photo courtesy of Flamenco Rosario

Photo courtesy of Unsplash

Body

Stifled Expression
By Onika Green

Physical distancing and mitigation strategies have been at the forefront of discussion since March. The cancellations, closures and isolation have not gone without repercussions. As such, it is crucial to address the mental and emotional aspects of these measures. The ability to process how you are feeling is only truly available once you understand the root of the problem, not just how to cope with the symptoms.

Most dancers are conditioned to strive for perfection in the studio; however, during this unprecedented time, perfection – or something remotely close to it – is far from practical. Let’s look at the top three reasons to be at peace with a less-than-perfect response to the pandemic.
 
Photo courtesy of Unsplash 
Photo courtesy of Unsplash

Poetry

Dancing the Contours of Protest
By Suzanne Zelazo

For Louise Lecavalier

A hole in the sky where she fell

the cosmic gift of her plunge

infrared and burning

chance fusing constellation

 

Mother of a thousand moving metaphors

floodmouthed and winding

a wound that flowers

en tournant

but the bruise is a dance that castigates

phosphorous fingers carve the detour

 

Self-whirl syncopated to the

stars in her mouth

she posits the realm

and catches the light

calves of topaz

toe turning

an octave of humming

staccato insistence into language

 

Her body, a voice that swallows

hips cradling a hurricane

an allegro uprising

barrel jump unfolding

in protest of the walls and the floor and the holding

fluid and trailing the rupture

unswerving

 

Hair blazing

through the century

planetary blur of her sweep

stillness unthinkable

unmeasured in steps that collide and ignite

 

Her knees

the valiant seduction of arrival

 

her water-green stirring declares itself

unfurling she floats the cities cheek to cheek

rising to hollow the fill

the hole in the sky where she fell

This oracle of liftoff

she is winging and ready and boundless.

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