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Honing Resiliency

By Lee Slinger

While the pandemic has put constraints on post-secondary training, dance programs are working to future-proof students’ careers.

So many instructors and dance artists across the country are contending with the ways both time and space have been reshaped by the COVID-19 crisis. Now mainly online – with only some programs able to continue in studio for part of the fall, and even those had to adopt strict social distancing and other safety measures – post-secondary dance training is a drastically different experience. Lee Slinger spoke with instructors and students in universities and professional programs about professional dance training during the pandemic. Despite the current constraints on training, which have been keenly felt by the students, the teachers are endeavouring to ensure that the situation allows students to hone different skill sets and to emerge nonetheless as resilient artists.

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Nombre d’enseignant.e.s et d’artistes de danse compose avec la reformulation du temps et de l’espace engendrée par la crise de la COVID-19. Bien que certains programmes offrent des classes présentielles depuis l’automne, et ce, avec des mesures sanitaires strictes, la majorité sont en ligne — et la formation postsecondaire en danse s’en trouve complètement transformée. Lee Slinger a parlé de formation en temps de pandémie à des enseignantes et à des étudiant.e.s de programme de formation professionnelle. Malgré certaines contraintes qui pèsent lourd sur les artistes, les instructeur.rice.s veulent s’assurer que le contexte permette aux élèves de perfectionner un nouvel ensemble de compétences et d’émerger comme des artistes résilient.e.s.

Students of The School of Contemporary Dancers / Photo by Kendra Hope Photography
 

The Chaos of Possibility

By Jillian Groening

Kevin Jesuino explores how Queerness, liveness and failure might provide insight into reinvention, approximately one year after the onset of COVID-19

For multidisciplinary artist Jesuino, the experience of creating a performance during a time of physical distance has brought notions of Queerness, liveness and failure into alignment. Jesuino’s latest work, Cruising at 30 Kilometers a Second and Attempting Not To Crash, premieres in February, approximately one year after the new coronavirus spread across Canada. The virtual performance, presented by Mile Zero Dance, asks how, by embracing failure and collapse, new modes of being might emerge. 

For Jesuino, the idea of a Queer utopia has grounded much of the creative process for Cruising at 30 Kilometers a Second and Attempting Not To Crash. “Much like how nature will eat up and swallow and give back, how dynamic accumulators return nutrients to the soil, and how we take in oxygen and release carbon, and it all does this dance, this is how I position the idea of Queer as an element of fluid nature,” Jesuino explains.

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Pour l’artiste multidisciplinaire Kevin Jesuino, créer un spectacle en période de distanciation physique aligne les notions du queer, de la présence et de l’échec. En février, environ un an après que la COVID-19 atteint le Canada, il présente en première sa nouvelle création, Cruising at 30 Kilometers a Second and Attempting Not To Crash,. Présenté par Mile Zero Dance, le spectacle virtuel demande si d’accueillir l’échec et l’effondrement serait générateur pour l’émergence de nouveaux modes d’existence. Jesuino base une grande part du processus de création sur l’idée d’une utopie queer. « Tout comme la nature consomme et avale et redonne, comme les accumulateurs dynamiques remettent des nutriments dans le sol, comme nous inspirons l’oxygène et rejetons le carbone, et que tout ça participe à une sorte de danse, c’est comme ça que je positionne la notion du queer comme élément de la nature fluide », développe l’artiste.

Jesuino / Photo by Bon Adriel Aceñero

 

Ballet in the Streets

By Karolina Kuras

A series of Toronto photoshoots from throughout a pandemic year.

Karolina Kuras is a ballet and portrait photographer in Toronto. In addition to her work for The National Ballet of Canada, Kuras is the creator of The Company Project, a set of interviews with dancers from the National Ballet by Anne Donafeld.

The following photos are from a series that Kuras shot when COVID-19 restrictions slightly lifted in Toronto, during Phase 2 last spring. “Living spaces in Toronto are tiny, and the dancers had been cooped up in their small homes for so long, trying to do ballet class in their kitchens and living rooms,” Kuras says. “It was exhilarating to take to the streets and have space to move and practise our respective art forms again.”

As uplifting as it was, Kuras also says that the pandemic wasn’t totally out of mind. “The shoots were actually very emotional: a mix of joy to be out again with other people and with the underlying sadness and heaviness of the time we’re living in right now. There were some tears, but mostly of joy.”

To see more from the series, check out World Apart | The National Ballet of Canada on YouTube.

Karolina Kuras est une photographe de ballet et portraitiste à Toronto. En plus de son travail pour le National Ballet of Canada, Kuras a mis sur pied The Company Project, un ensemble d’interviews avec des danseurs du National Ballet par Anne Donafeld. Les photos suivantes font partie d’une série prise lorsque les restrictions sanitaires initiales ont été assouplies à Toronto, lors de la phase 2. « Les espaces de vie à Toronto sont minuscules, et les artistes avaient été enfermé.e.s dans leurs petits domiciles pendant tellement longtemps, à essayer de faire des classes de ballet dans leur cuisine ou leur salon », décrit Kuras. « C’était enivrant de descendre dans la rue et d’avoir l’espace pour bouger et pratiquer nos disciplines respectives. » Malgré le plaisir, Kuras note que la pandémie n’était pas absente de l’expérience. « Il y avait beaucoup d’émotion : la joie de se retrouver, sous-tendue par la tristesse et la lourdeur de la période que nous traversons. Il y avait quelques larmes, mais surtout du bonheur », partage-t-elle.

Pour en savoir plus, consultez World Apart | The National Ballet of Canada sur YouTube.

Antonella Martinelli / Photo by Karolina Kuras

 

Clicking Refresh

By Kallee Lins

Can COVID-19 emergency granting measures make the funding game more equitable?

When COVID-19 boarded up theatres and studios across Canada, thousands of artists lost significant portions of their incomes. But it wasn’t just individuals; the pandemic also short-circuited earned revenue streams for several cultural organizations. Grant-makers then became a vital lifeline to support these organizations that could no longer rely on box-office sales or fundraising galas to balance their budgets.

Recognizing the need to act quickly, many organizations created new programs and funding streams to respond to financial pressures caused by the pandemic. Many grantors also provided support by adjusting their usual demands on grant recipients. By helping organizations respond to COVID-19, funders were shifting decades-long practices that tend to place huge administrative burdens on small organizations and have served to maintain the obvious unequal power dynamics between funders and fund recipients. So, can these emergency measures designed to just get organizations through the crisis actually change these long-standing issues? 

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Quand la COVID-19 a contraint les théâtres et les studios à fermer, des milliers d’artistes ont perdu une part importante de leurs revenus. Mais ce n’est pas seulement les particuliers ; la pandémie a aussi court-circuité les rentrées de nombreux organismes culturels. Les subventionnaires sont devenus une bouée de sauvetage pour ces organismes qui ne pouvaient plus compter sur les revenus de billetterie ou les galas de levée de fonds pour équilibrer leur budget. Constatant le besoin d’agir vite, plusieurs subventionnaires ont créé de nouveaux programmes et d’options de financement pour répondre aux pressions économiques de la pandémie. Plusieurs ont aussi soutenu la communauté en ajustant leurs exigences envers les récipiendaires de bourse. En aidant les organismes à répondre à la COVID-19, les subventionnaires étaient en rupture avec des pratiques vielles de quelques décennies qui tendent à placer un fardeau administratif considérable sur de petites compagnies et qui contribuent aux dynamiques de pouvoir visiblement inégales entre subventionnaires et récipiendaires. Alors, ces mesures d’urgence conçues pour soutenir les organismes en temps de crise peuvent-elles influencer ces sempiternelles questions au-delà de la pandémie?

Photo courtesy of Unsplash

Departments

Editorial

By Grace Wells-Smith

Just as I sat down to write this letter on Friday, Nov. 20th, Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced that Toronto (where The Dance Current is based and where I live) would be moving back into lockdown the following Monday. I can’t say I was entirely surprised, but it was hard not to feel like the city was being flung back into the first days of the pandemic. Two days later, on Sunday, Nov. 22nd, it snowed all day. Great.

I usually like when the seasons change, but this hefty snowfall felt foreboding. As of now, I have no idea when we’ll be able to go back to the office, or when I’ll be able to visit my family again. But all of that being said, I consider The Dance Current lucky. It’s hard not to; we’ve maintained operations and are even taking a big step forward.

This is the first of our newly designed issues. We’ve also moved to printing quarterly, which means bigger issues in your mailbox. This shift has been in the works for a long time, and while it certainly supports the sustainability of the magazine, it’s also responding to the demand for online journalism. So, now you can expect more on thedancecurrent.com. Subscribers can also expect exclusive digital content. Now, back to the issue in your hands.

On the cover is Siphesihle November, first soloist at The National Ballet of Canada. The photo was taken last spring by Karolina Kuras and is the first of our photo essay, “Ballet in the Streets.” The photos come from a series of COVID-19-style photo shoots by Kuras.

The feature “Honing Resiliency” is written by Lee Slinger, a former editor of this magazine. She writes about how although post-secondary dance education has been affected by the pandemic, teachers are working to keep students inspired and focused on important qualities, like resiliency.

Jillian Groening profiles Kevin Jesuino, a multidisciplinary artist in Calgary whose latest work, Cruising at 30 Kilometers a Second and Attempting Not To Crash, is scheduled to premiere in February. Part of Mile Zero Dance’s 35th season, the work, as Groening writes, “asks how, by embracing failure and collapse, new modes of being might emerge.” The virtual performance will be premiering approximately one year after COVID-19 cases started popping up in Canada.

Written by The Dance Current’s publisher, Kallee Lins, our “In Conversation” feature unpacks the funder-fundee relationship and whether emergency granting measures sparked by the pandemic (easier applications, money landing in pockets faster) can alter long-standing issues within granting systems.

All in all, this issue includes a lot of ideas for how we can evolve with the current times. As I think about that and as I finish writing this letter on the first day of another lockdown, I think I can do the same and deal with the snow.

Wells-Smith / Photo by Jonathan Elliott

Profile

Circling Back to Healing
By Joy Henderson

Deanne Hupfield

Since July, Hupfield has been teaching powwow dance online to reach a wider audience. Hupfield, who is Anishinaabe, is the creator of the “How To Powwow Dance” YouTube channel where she posts video tutorials like “OLD STYLE Jingle Dance Steps” and “How To Powwow Dance FOR KIDS.” Collectively, her videos have more than 50,000 views. She also hosts online workshops for making jingle dresses. 

Hupfield / Photo courtesy of Hupfield

Check It Out

BIPOC Dance Health Directory
By Anne Dion

A free online resource for performing artists

The BIPOC Dance Health Directory is an online resource with the aim of providing a support system that addresses and validates the specific needs of BIPOC artists and performers. 

BIPOC Dance Health Directory / Photo courtesy of Buan

Provocation

Adding Colour to Dance Health
By Dr. Blessyl Buan

Leadership in dance health lacks cultural diversity

Dr. Buan’s decision to create the BIPOC Dance Health Directory was based on her observations of an important issue that had bothered her for years: the lack of cultural diversity in decision-making and leadership in dance health. Buan outlines some necessary changes that must take place on our organizational, clinical and educational levels in order to bring about real change in dance health representation. 

Buan / Photo courtesy of Buan 

Creation

You've Got Mail
By Dylan Schoenmakers

Co-creators Naishi Wang and Jean Abreu have yet to meet in person.

Abreu and Wang are working collaboratively through the National Arts Centre’s Visiting Dance Artist program on their international work, Deciphers – but they’ve never actually met in person. The piece explores communication and translation through languages, cultures, experiences and bodies. The pair are set to meet in person in February for the residency’s next phase. 

Wang and Abreu / Photo courtesy of the National Arts Centre

Tips

Five Strategies for Hands-Off Teaching
By Scotty Mac

Tips for when physical adjustments aren’t possible.

Scotty Mac is a freelance movement professional based in Toronto. As a Pilates and yoga instructor, he has always had a passion for giving verbal feedback. Although he’s never been a dancer, he finds he is often compared to ballet teachers for having a particular eye for alignment.

Mac / Photo courtesy of Mac

First Person

Why I left Toronto
By Samyuktha Punthambekar

“The city boasts inclusivity and opportunity, but that’s not what I experienced”

Punthambekar speaks to the age-old systems and practices that need to change. Newcomer POC’s, she writes, would greatly benefit from a structured onboarding process, where room is made for mistakes and for learning from those mistakes. 

Photo courtesy of Unslpash

Body

Defining Posture and Alignment
By Donna Krasnow, Andrea Downie

What are the differences and how can we use imagery to improve?

If we explore the history and scientific basis of the terms “alignment” and “posture” more thoroughly, we can clarify how to approach these important concepts in more useful ways. While alignment has been a focus in dance classes for decades, it is more important now because we are spending additional time sitting at home working at our computers and phones, which can negatively impact alignment.

Natasha Poon Woo, photographed for Conditioning with Imagery for Dancers by Krasnow and Jordana Deveau / Photo by Gary Rush

Poetry

Jamaican
By Peter Chin

An excerpt from the poem by Peter Chin

Mama, my Black grandmother, makes chocolate tea

‘parching’ the cocoa seeds on zinc in the sun

grinding and shaping them into ebony orbs

grating these to dark dust into boiling water

mixing

measuring

into it

the sweetened condensed milk

that mellows bitterness

cinnamon leaves plucked from the tree in the yard

join with bracing pimento berries

into the hot brew

a glistening oiliness appears

floating on top

an expression of the cocoa seed’s life

this I pour into myself

nourished and scorched

 

porousness like rain on limestone hills

seeping down deep and leaving

the brush parched and exposed but alive

on Long Mountain on the way to Palisadoes

this exterior

the uppermost layer of many more

much much more

beneath

lets water flow through

surface lushness sacrificed

for subterranean substance

changes me

from the inside

nourishing and eroding

interior chambers and hollows

carved by the percolating tears

hold inner spaces filled with unknown

 

Photo courtesy of Unsplash

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