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Radiant, Ashen, Burning, Blistered, Flushed

A Century of Naked Performance
By Lucy M. May

Nudity has never been more present in contemporary dance, but wait! – it’s nothing new. Writer/dancer Lucy M. May charts naked performance in the 20th and 21st centuries from Isadora Duncan to Kokoro Dance to Dave St-Pierre.

Nudity in performance is so commonplace in 2014. Search the words naked+dance on YouTube and long playlists of contemporary dance pieces appear in under half a second, making our somewhat overlooked art form seem practically pop! By comparison, dances of the past seem tinged in prudish hues. But don’t be fooled … Writer Lucy M. May explores nudity in dance performance tracing a line from Isadora Duncan and Nacktkultur to butoh to Keith Hennessy, Dave St-Pierre, Jérôme Bel and Doris Uhlich.  In the end, she finds, authentic connection is perhaps what all dancers hope to arrive at through their many states of undress. By returning to the basic element of the body again and again, stripped of the symbolism, enchantment and guardedness of clothing, free of the physical constraints of wardrobe and of moral codes, dancers and choreographers reach toward an understanding of what it is to be human. 

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La nudité en spectacle est rendue très ordinaire en 2014. Faites une recherche pour les mots nudité et danse sur YouTube et vous trouverez une longue liste de pièces de danse contemporaine en moins d’une demi-seconde. La discipline artistique quelque peu marginale paraît pratiquement populaire ! En comparaison, les danses du passé semblent teintées de pudeur. Ne soyez pas dupe … La rédactrice Lucy M. May explore la nudité en spectacle dans le milieu de la danse, retraçant la lignée depuis Isadora Duncan et Nacktkultur au butoh et à Keith Hennessy, Dave St-Pierre, Jérôme Bel et Doris Uhlich. 

En conclusion, elle trouve que peut-être les danseurs espèrent tous accéder à une relation authentique grâce à leurs différentes propositions dévêtues. En revenant encore et encore à la simple chaire, dérobée du symbolisme, de l’enchantement et de la protection du vêtement, libre des contraintes physiques vestimentaires et morales, les interprètes et les chorégraphes aspirent à une compréhension de ce qui est humain. 

Myths & Modernity

With Emily Cheung
By Paula Citron

On the eve of premiering a new full-length work with Little Pear Garden collective, choreographer and Artistic Director Emily Cheung talks about challenging – and respecting – tradition.

Little Pear Garden Collective is celebrating its twentieth anniversary in 2014 and overseeing the milestone is Artistic Director Emily Cheung, a choreographer and dancer who has been at the helm for the past seven years. Cheung had three very specific goals when she took over Little Pear from then-AD William Lau in 2007. “I wanted a company of professional dancers,” she says. “I wanted to create our own dance style and training technique, and I wanted to encourage diversified tastes among our more traditional audiences.”

Cheung’s unique choreographic style (in which she trains the company dancers) includes aspects of Chinese classical dance (a Russian ballet and Peking Opera fusion), Chinese contemporary dance (a modern dance, Peking Opera and original vocabulary fusion), Chinese folk dance, and elements of martial arts. “You could describe Little Pear’s hybrid nature as an all-you-can-eat buffet,” Cheung told writer Paula Citron in Toronto recently. Cheung’s newest work Venom of Love is the synthesis of these various threads.

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Little Pear Garden Collective célèbre son vingtième anniversaire en 2014 sous la direction artistique d’Emily Cheung. Chorégraphe et danseuse, Cheung est à la barre de la compagnie depuis sept ans. En 2007, lorsqu’elle assume le rôle que lui lègue le directeur artistique de l’époque, William Lau, elle a trois objectifs précis. « Je voulais une compagnie de danseurs professionnels », dit-elle, « je voulais créer notre propre style et notre propre technique de danse, et je voulais diversifier les goûts de nos publics plus conservateurs. » 

Cheung entraîne les danseurs de la compagnie pour sa signature unique. Sa chorégraphie compte des aspects de la danse classique chinoise (une fusion de ballet russe et d’opéra de Pékin), de la danse contemporaine chinoise (une fusion de danse moderne, d’opéra de Pékin et de gestuelle originale), de danse folklorique chinoise et des éléments des arts martiaux. « On pourrait décrire la nature hybride du Little Pear Garden Collective comme un buffet à volonté », explique Cheung à la rédactrice Paula Citron à Toronto. La dernière création de l’artiste, Venom of Love, est la synthèse d’une variété de parcours. 

Ozone Tear, Nuclear Thyroid

Photo Essay
By Andréa de Keijzer

How one artist came to terms with illness and injury, and what she made as a result.

Eleven months ago, I was told by my thyroid surgeon that it was most likely – eighty-nine percent chance – that the node on my throat found two months earlier by my family doctor in a general exam was thyroid cancer, the papillary thyroid carcinoma type. This news came during a period when I was already having my share of doctors’ appointments, therapies, medical research, two years of chronic pain and major life adjustments due to an anterior superior labral tear, which is a slit in the hip cartilage. This injury, in retrospect, nudged me to question my relationship and language around my disintegrating body in pain and the suffering of my mind’s life plans, and to seek help from others wiser than me. It laid the path for how I would welcome this new teacher, thyroid cancer.

Days after, I lay on my hammock, next to the garden that I had been growing – my summer-school teacher – and listened to Michael Stone speak in a podcast about bowing, and how everything bows to everything. And that bowing is like vomiting: vomiting our ideas of what things are, what they have been and what they will be.

So, as I rocked, my thyroid bowed to all the organs of my body that were healthy. And all my organs bowed to my cancerous thyroid. They were making a promise to look after each other, like a juicy sangha (community). And then, my left hip bowed to all the other healthy articulations of my body. And all the articulations bowed to my torn left hip, vowing to carry a little extra load while we waited for surgery to repair the tear. And I bowed to this current situation, vomiting my ideas of how beautiful or how terrible this situation could be, and wishing to meet it with as new eyes as I could manage each time.

I looked at the tear and the cancer and said “yes.” Yes to these as my teachers. Yes, this is what I get to work with. Yes to seeing how many teachings were inside this grape-sized node and this cracked half-moon. 

 

Robin Poitras In Conversation with Paul-André Fortier

By Kate Stashko

Robin Poitras, Paul-André Fortier with Ginelle Chagnon and Edward Poitras sit down mid-process to chat about the creation of Misfit Blues, which will premiere at the Festival TransAmériques in Montréal.

In early 2014, Robin Poitras and Paul-André Fortier were in Regina working at New Dance Horizons’ House of Dance studio on a new duet to be performed as part of the Festival TransAmériques in Montréal. Here, they sit down pre-run-through with rehearsal director Ginelle Chagnon and visual artist Edward Poitras to talk about the creative process, collaboration, coyotes and thinking ahead.

“One thing I know about the way I perform, “ says Fortier about the process of making Misfit Blues, “ and I know it’s the same with Robin – is we’re not doing a choreography that is set on music, for instance, where every night the same steps occur at the same time in the music. There is something that is totally alive in the kind of performance we are doing. It will never be exactly the same every performance, although, for a non-initiated person, it will look like it’s the same show. But it’s very alive, meaning that it’s not a form that is shaped forever in one shape”.

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En début d’année, à Regina, Robin Poitras et Paul-André Fortier travaillaient dans le studio House of Dance de New Dance Horizons sur un nouveau duo qui sera présenté au Festival TransAmériques à Montréal. Ici, avant un enchaînement avec l’assistante du chorégraphe et répétitrice Ginelle Chagnon et l’artiste visuel Edward Poitras, ils s’installent pour parler processus de création, collaboration, coyotes et planification. 

« Dans mon travail sur scène », dit Fortier sur la création de Misfit Blues, « et je sais que c’est la même chose pour Robin, nous n’exécutons pas une chorégraphie dansée précisément sur une musique, par exemple, où chaque soir, la même gestuelle se présente au même moment musical. Il y a quelque chose d’absolument vivant dans la sorte de spectacle que nous proposons. Il ne serait jamais exactement pareil même si, pour le spectateur non initié, cela aura l’air du même spectacle. C’est très vivant, c’est-à-dire que la partition n’est pas limitée à toujours prendre la même forme. » 

Departments

Editorial

See You
By Kathleen Smith

I love this issue of The Dance Current – it contains work from some of my favourite writers (Lucy M. May writing about nudity in her detailed feature essay “Radiant, Ashen, Burning, Blistered, Flushed,” veteran Paula Citron profiling Emily Cheung, Brittany Duggan writing about Justine Chambers, Dr. Blessyl Buan on the practicalities of performing naked) and some newbies who show a lot of promise (Armando Biasi writing about Olivia Shaffer for Emerging Views, Molly Johnson on Halifax Dance and Caroline Niklas-Gordon describing the making of her solo Tilting – Resettlement). Under the guidance of Art Director Brian Rushton-Phillips, the whole magazine (including Andréa de Keijzer’s moving photo essay “Ozone Tear, Nuclear Thyroid”) has never looked better. And, you’re unlikely to find typos, as Copy Editor Sondra McGregor has lavished her usual attention on every word. 

Good thing I’m happy with the issue – cause it’s my last! Yes, after three years at The Dance Current, I am moving on. Won’t be going far, so I hope to see you all soon at dance events and conferences across the country – and also in these pages and online as I shift back to freelance writing. My experience here has been epic and I’d like to thank my colleagues for their faith, creativity and incredible work. I will miss them and I will also miss you, our readers. Thank you for the warm words of encouragement, the wise commentary and – on occasion – the necessary and informed clarifications. All of it has been so very welcome. See you.

Making Waves

Justine A. Chambers
By Brittany Duggan

Staying power in dance has to do with a lot more than just talent; it requires perseverance, thick skin, continual curiosity and passion for the form. Vancouver-based Justine A. Chambers has all this, and more. After twenty years as a professional in the field, Chambers remains equally passionate about her work as a dancemaker, an interpreter, a rehearsal director and a teacher.

Inspired!

Trajal Harrell
By Kathleen Smith

Based in New York City, Trajal Harrell is much in demand internationally for his conceptually challenging dance propositions. Currently, his company is touring several iterations of the eight-part series Twenty Looks or Paris is Burning at the Judson Church. Harrell and four dancers will bring the Antigone Sr. (L) version to Usine C in Montréal for the Festival TransAmériques on May 30th and 31st and June 1st and 2nd.

Emerging Views

Olivia Shaffer
By Armando Biasi

Olivia Shaffer graduated from Simon Fraser University in Vancouver in 2009 with a BFA and went on to spend six years travelling extensively, focussing on improvisation. In Israel, she helped found Foreigners’ Collective, an international community of dance artists staging original work drawing on intercultural collaboration. She is now participating in Bloom, a six-week choreographic residency at Vancouver’s Mascall Dance. It is Shaffer’s first foray into the Vancouver dance scene as a choreographer.

Studio Now

Halifax Dance
By Molly Johnson

In 1972, a group of intrepid dance professionals came together to form the Halifax Dance Co-op. Four decades later, their little engine that could is still running strong. Halifax Dance is now in its fortieth year, and a nucleus for regional dance activity and education in Nova Scotia.

What's In Your Dancebag?

Jen Loane Briand, teacher and Inclusive Movement facilitator at Halifax Dance

“Giving dancers (especially those who don’t communicate with speech) the ability to make their own music is a special kind of magic,” says Briand of her dancebag bells. Read what else makes up Briand’s dancebag here

Healthy Dancer: Training & Conditioning

By Blessyl Buan

How to Perform Empowered … While Naked

Throughout history, dancing in the nude has been a natural, liberating and powerful experience. The experience can increase the level of primacy, ecstasy and strength in performance. Yet, it continues to be controversial and provocative because of the raw honesty and vulnerability that it imposes on the audience. How do performers prepare themselves to take part in this exposed exchange between the work and the audience?

Healthy Dancer: Nutrition

By Sarah Maughan

Sarah’s Easy-To-Digest Meal: Velvety Butternut Squash Purée. Plus, nutrition tips.

The Goods

Terpsichore's Deck

Confluences

On Tilting – Resettlement
By Caroline Niklas-Gordon

Choreographer Caroline Niklas-Gordon writes about the creation process and collaboration for her multi-disciplinary solo work.

Check It Out

UnderWORN

In WORN Journal’s eighteenth issue, the Toronto-based publication undresses for undergarment-inspired features.

Shortwaves

Guillaume Côté to Direct FASS; Charitable Training; MamaDances Expands.

May/June Performance Highlights

Canada’s National Ballet School in Toronto; Eat All You Want/The Top? by Jolene Bailie for Gearshifting in Winnipeg; QuébéAsia Dance Performance Series in Montréal; FLUX London Dance Festival in London, ON; Flashdance – The Musical presented by Mirvish Productions in Toronto; Kontakthof by Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Baush in Toronto for Luminato.

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