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Emerging with Resilience

Eking Out a Life in Dance
By Kate Morris

Emerging dancers, like their peers in other arts sectors, require determination, ingenuity and discipline. Graduates today seem better equipped to deal with the realities of a career in dance, but they require a strong professional network and community in order to persist. Easing the transition has become a goal for a number of service organizations, while grassroots initiatives and collectives provide spaces of creation and exploration, as well as mentorship opportunities, that keep them dancing.

Dancers in the transition from university and professional training programs to a professional career in dance are often faced with competing pressures to excel at their craft and to make a living at it. While trying to become financially independent and sustainable, emerging dancers need to establish their community and foster relationships with more established artists. The question is how to do so? Various infrastructures have emerged to help with the transitions – from programs offered by dance service organizations, to collectives and alternative models of mentorship and training. The dance community, with the entrepreneurial spirit of a lot of tenacious young movers, has found innovative ways of mentoring young dancers, stepping in where formal training and funding may be found lacking. 

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Le danseur qui amorce le passage de l’université ou d’un programme de formation professionnelle vers une carrière fait souvent face à des impératifs difficiles à réconcilier : maîtriser son art et gagner sa vie. Tout en travaillant pour établir une autonomie financière durable, le danseur émergent doit former sa communauté et bâtir des relations avec des artistes plus établis. Comment faire ? Différentes infrastructures ont été créées pour faciliter la transition, de programmes d’organismes de service en danse, à des collectifs et des modes alternatifs de mentorat et de formation. Nourri par l’esprit entreprenant de nombreux jeunes artistes tenaces, le milieu de la danse trouve des moyens novateurs d’accompagner le danseur émergent et prend pied pour combler les possibles lacunes dans la formation et le subventionnement traditionnels. 

Charlotte Bydwell / Photo courtesy of Bydwell

 

Can You Swing It?

Images of Swing From Across the Nation
By Brittany Duggan, Kate Morris

Since the mid-1980s, swing dance has witnessed an important revival, becoming a popular social dance for amateurs from coast to coast. In this photo essay we pay tribute to the history as well as the many and varied perspectives on swing from contemporary companies and groups across the nation.

Xavier Tellier, Jonathan Mong, Hoi Bing Mo and Adrien Piérard, Vancouver Swing Society / Photo by Kaitlin Russell 

 

Grant Strate

Dance's Spirited Statesman
By Carol Anderson

Feisty, avid and daring, Grant Strate’s professional dance career began in 1951 at the National Ballet of Canada and he has been a positive juggernaut in the field ever since. One of the country’s foremost dance educators, Strate also developed some of the most important and lasting institutions for choreography in Canada. Strate’s former student and colleague Carol Anderson writes about the man and his legacy.

Daring, brilliant, savvy, provocative, determined. These are just a few of the ways that Carol Anderson describes her former teacher and mentor, Grant Strate in this issue’s profile. Strate’s enduring impact on dance in Canada – from founding the department of dance at York University to the National Choreographic Seminars and beyond – is immeasurable yet ever-present. As Anderson contends, the dance scene in Canada has been advanced, enriched and irrevocably changed for the better by his imprint and energy. 

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Audacieux, brillant, perceptif, provocateur, déterminé. Voilà quelques-unes des nombreuses façons que Carol Anderson décrit son ancien professeur et mentor Grant Strate dans le profil d’artiste de cette édition. L’oeuvre de Strate se fait encore sentir dans le milieu de la danse au Canada – de la mise sur pied du département de danse à l’Université York aux séminaires chorégraphiques nationaux et autres. Même si l’on ne peut quantifier l’ampleur de sa contribution, elle demeure omniprésente. Selon Anderson, Strate a, par son empreinte et son énergie, développé, enrichi et irrévocablement amélioré la danse au pays. 

Grant Strate (1949) / Photo courtesy of Dance Collection Danse

 

Mark Godden & Christos Hatzis

In Conversation
By Kate Stashko

Working together on a new ballet commissioned by Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet as part of the company’s seventy-fifth anniversary season, Godden and Hatzis talk about Going Home Star – Truth and Reconciliation. Based on the novels of Joseph Boyden, who writes on historical and contemporary issues faced by Aboriginal Peoples, the work poses special challenges for interdisciplinary collaboration.

Choreographer Mark Godden and composer Christos Hatzis are working together on a new ballet commissioned by the Royal Winniper Ballet, premiering as part of their seventy-fifth anniversary season. Titled Going Home Star - A Story of Truth and Reconciliation, the ballet is based on a story by author, Joseph Boyden, who writes on historical and contemporary issues of Aboriginal people, and inspired by stories and emotions from the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which took place across Canada over the last four years, documenting the experiences of survivors of the residential school system. The ballet also involves Aboriginal singers Tanya Tagaq and Steve Wood from the Northern Cree Singers, as well as the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra. Here, Godden and Hatzis sit down to talk about the challenges of interdisciplinary collaboration.

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Le chorégraphe Mark Godden et le compositeur Christos Hatzis travaillent ensemble sur un nouveau ballet qui sera présenté dans la saison du soixante-quinzième anniversaire du Royal Winnipeg Ballet. Intitulé Going Home Star − Truth and Reconciliation, le ballet s’inspire des romans de Joseph Boyden, qui écrit sur des questions autochtones historiques et contemporaines, et du Comité de vérité et réconciliation du Canada. Ce comité travaille depuis les quatre dernières années à documenter les expériences des survivants des écoles résidentielles. Le ballet met aussi à contribution les chanteurs autochtones Tanya Tagaq et Steve Wood, ainsi que le Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra. Ici, chorégraphe et compositeur discutent des défis de la collaboration interdisciplinaire. 

MarkGodden / Photo by David Cooper

 

Academia Embodied

A Report from the Canadian Society for Dance Studies Biennial Conference
By Kallee Lins

Kallee Lins reports from the biennial Canadian Society for Dance Studies conference in Vancouver. Writing about a range of presentations, Lins describes how “Embodied Artful Practice” considered the intersection of body and cognition, as well as movement-based approaches to language, gesture, constraint, improvisation and phenomenology.

The Canadian Society for Dance Studies Biennial Conference was held in Vancouver at the beginning of July. The conference, this year title “Embodied Artful Practices,” celebrated innovative body-based practices and paid homage to Canadian dance pioneers. Kallee Lins reports on some of the approaches to body, movement, language and cognition that were explored during the conference.

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Le colloque bisannuel de la Société canadienne d’études en danse s’est déroulé à Vancouver en juillet. Intitulé « Pratiques corporelles artistiques », l’événement célébrait les pratiques novatrices du corps et rendait hommage à des pionniers de la danse canadienne. Kallee Lins rapporte quelques approches au corps, au mouvement, à la langue et à la cognition explorées dans les conférences du colloque. 

The Canadian Society for Dance Studies Biennial Conference / Photo by Kathryn Ricketts

Departments

Editorial

Vibrant Generations
By Kate Morris

While working on this issue, my hunch that dancers are among the hardest-working professionals in any sector was confirmed. I have learned that, from one generation to the next, Canadian dance relies on the determination and drive of exceptional individuals. 

First, Carol Anderson profiles Grant Strate, a man who some have called “the grandfather of dance in Canada,” because he has positively impacted multiple generations of dancers and choreographers with his “make-it-happen” approach. The enthusiasm and tenacity of Strate can also be seen in the young dancers I spoke to for the feature article, “Emerging with Resilience.” This article examines the transition from student dancer to professional, exploring how various infrastructures and collectives (some of which were initiated or inspired by Strate himself) support young dancers as they step into their careers. 

This issue also includes a photo essay on swing dance in Canada compiled by our Managing Editor, Brittany Duggan. As she researched, it became clear that the social dance form is complex and dynamic and deserving of more attention as well as further investigation. We hope you enjoy this initial offering of beautiful images, supplied by many of the swing clubs and communities across this nation. 

We also inaugurate a new column, “Body Language,” which appears on the last page of the magazine. Each issue, guest contributors from outside the dance community (writers, musicians, actors, visual artists) are invited to weigh in on some aspect of the body – body parts, bodily experience or just body language. We are pleased to have Toronto’s poet laureate and winner of the Governor General’s Award for Poetry, George Elliott Clarke, set the tone for the column. Thanks George! 

 

dc.editor@thedancecurrent.com | Follow me on Twitter at @TDC_editor

Emerging Views

Bridget Lappin
By Megan Kimmerer

Halifax-born Bridget Lappin returns to the London Contemporary Dance School to pursue a master’s degree.

Making Waves

Fiona Malena
By Marie France Forcier

Calgary-born and internationally recognized Malena chose flamenco as her artistic medium at the age of eighteen. She manages the Calgary International Flamenco Festival, which runs in September, where her company Fiona Malena Flamenco Ensemble premieres .

Inspired!

Paul Caskey
By Jane Doucet

Live Art Dance Productions’ executive producer Paul Caskey has been bringing dynamic contemporary dance to Halifax audiences since joining the not-for-profit organization in 2005. A former dancer and choreographer, Caskey came to Nova Scotia after eleven years as co-artistic director of Montréal’s Studio 303. Caskey’s wife, Elise Vanderborght, is a contemporary dancer, and their daughters – Clara, nine, and Camille, three – have inherited their parents’ love of creative movement.

Studio Now

PushPULL Dance
By Molly Johnson

Kelly Slate and Rebecca Ho founded the not-for-profit company and training program for non-professional adult dancers in Toronto out of a desire to keep dance part of their lives outside of their professional careers.

What's In Your Dancebag?

Molly Johnson, independent dance artist

Born and raised on Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, Johnson is a Dora Award-winning freelance dance artist who listed balls and potions as some of her dancebag essentials.

Healthy Dancer: Training & Conditioning

The Neuroscience of Dance
By Blessyl Buan

Studies show that dance training in older age can slow the effects of aging and help with degenerative neurological diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Learning choreography stimulates the brain to integrate information from music and movement and improves spatial awareness, motor control and memory. Dance has even been shown to stimulate new nerve and brain-cell growth. These findings have positive implications for aging adults, but what does it mean for those of us who dance throughout our lives? As dancers, we tend to be preoccupied with our bodies, but what if dance provides hidden benefits for our minds, relating movement to thought processes that ensure cognitive longevity?

The Goods

Ra Energy

Confluences

Neo-burlesque lives in Canada
By Sabrina Bellisimo

A look at the Spring 2014 issue of the Canadian Theatre Review on burlesque.

Check It Out

The Life of an Idea

American choreographer, director and dancer Bill T. Jones releases a book in three parts about the making of his new stage work, Story/Time.

Body Language

The Leaps of Thought

Toronto’s Poet Laureate George Elliott Clarke on thinking as dancing.

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