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Inverse Cartography

Sandra Laronde of Red Sky Performance
By Emma Doran

Drawing inspiration from the physical world, Sandra Laronde of Red Sky Performance creates works that reflect indigenous priorities in their conception, creation and presentation. The results are powerful performances that appeal to their many audiences.

Before writing this article I curled up on my sofa to watch Red Sky Performance’s latest full-length work, Backbone. Immediately hypnotized by the eight dancers onscreen, I watched them collectively form a spinal column – each acting as a single vertebrae – moving sequentially as part of a greater creature. As the dancers moved into unfamiliar shapes and through curious textures, they appeared possessed by flawless articulation. Throughout the forty-fiveminute work it became unusual to see the performers standing upright. I stopped seeing them as individual humans. Instead they had become a continually shifting landscape. The precision of the dancers’ movement intricately mingled with the soundtrack of cracks, creaks and pops, making it unimaginable that one could exist without the other – at least in this video. Within this organic cohesion, sound and movement seemed to transcend their distinct categories. 
According to Red Sky’s artistic director and founder Sandra Laronde, the impetus for Backbone arose out of the cartography of North America and from the indigenous knowledge of mountains as the spine of the continent. She explains, “I wanted to show the ‘backbone’ of this continent in dance and music, and that this rocky mountainous spine has life, circuitry, electricity and impulses that are active and dynamic – much like the human spine. For indigenous peoples, there is not much difference between the earth’s backbone and a human one. We are inseparable.”
 
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Puisant son inspiration à même le monde physique, Sandra Laronde de Red Sky Performance crée une œuvre dont les priorités autochtones se manifestent dans la conception, la création et la présentation. Selon l’artiste, directrice artistique et fondatrice de Red Sky et directrice du volet des arts autochtones au Banff Centre, le moteur de sa dernière création Backbone émerge d’une cartographie de l’Amérique du Nord et de la connaissance indigène des montagnes comme colonne vertébrale du continent. «Pour les Autochtones», explique-t-elle, «il n’y a pas grande différence entre la colonne de la terre et celle de l’humain. Nous sommes inséparables». Grâce à ses choix de matière, à sa recherche rigoureuse, aux processus de création collaboratifs et aux productions qui interpellent une vaste gamme de spectateurs, Laronde et sa compagnie Red Sky se positionnent comme voix importante en danse contemporaine autochtone.
 
Jera Wolfe in Backbone by Red Sky Performance / Photo by Rita Taylor
 
 
 

Dressing the Moving Body

Canadian costume designers discuss the inspiration behind the work and the elusive synergy behind creative collaboration
By Jillian Groening

The work and creative processes of six acclaimed Canadian costume designers.

Whether entering costume design from the conceptual realm of fine arts or from the constructs and characters of black box theatre, these artists all share one thing in common: an inherent talent for transforming the skin we’re in towards something grander, more powerful and more interesting. Combining the best of theatre, dance, sculpture and fashion, Canada’s acclaimed costume designers take on the tough task of creative collaboration and produce work that is innovative and otherworldly. From fragments of designs gathered in conversation to the tangible final product, we take a look at six designers’ creative journeys from ideas in the ether to wearable works of art.
 
 
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Des dessins esquissés au fil d’une conversation au produit final, nous nous penchons sur le parcours en création de six designers de costumes en danse. Qu’ils abordent le costume d’un travail conceptuel en arts visuels ou à partir des contraintes et des personnages de la boîte noire, ces artistes ont chacun un talent à transformer la peau en quelque chose de plus grand, de plus puissant ou de plus intéressant. En conjuguant le meilleur du théâtre, de la danse, de la sculpture et de la mode, les grands costumiers du Canada se lancent dans le défi de la collaboration pour créer un travail novateur et hors du commun.

Nancy Wijohn of Kaha:wi Dance Theatre, costume design by Adriana Fulop / Photo by Tony Nyberg

 

Space, Time and a Body

Making where we dance more accessible
By Naomi Brand

If dance performance and practice is increasingly understood to be produced by a variety of bodies and abilities, are we creating spaces that allow for those practices? Naomi Brand considers the physical structures and social ideas that allow dance spaces to be accessible.

As dancers, we work within an art form that has only three requirements: a body, time and space. It is impossible for us to move, to dance or to create without a space in which to do it. From our living rooms, to gymnasiums, to dance studios, to theatres, the environments in which we move go a long way in determining how we practice. But if you can’t even get into the room, then you can’t be a part of the work. Naomi Brand explores how the spaces we use inadvertently limit who can and cannot participate in the art form and consequently whose artistic voices get heard. Access is an issue that will impact every body at some point in their lives - and will go a long way to determine possibilities for new innovations and contributions to the field of dance. If we want to work in an art form that values and promotes diversity, then we need to consider who can access the spaces where dance communities form. 

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L’art de la danse exige seulement trois éléments : le corps, le temps et l’espace. Il est impossible de bouger, de danser ou de créer sans lieu. Du salon au gymnase, au studio et au théâtre, l’environnement prescrit largement la nature de la pratique. Et si l’on ne peut même pas accéder à une salle, on ne peut pas participer au travail. Naomi Brand explore comment nos sites de pratiques limitent involontairement la diversité des personnes qui pourraient se consacrer à la danse, et par extension, les voix qui pourraient se faire entendre. Nous serons tous concernés par la question de l’accès à différents espaces et ressources au cours de nos vies, et cela constitue une piste déterminante pour l’innovation et les nouvelles contributions en danse. Si nous souhaitons œuvrer dans une forme d’art qui valorise et promeut la diversité, nous devons nous pencher sur l’accessibilité des sites structurants de la communauté.

All Bodies Dance Project at the Roundhouse Community Art Centre / Photo by Chris Randle

 

Moving Beyond the Pas-de-Deux

Four Montréal-based dance artists discuss gender in contemporary dance

Helen Simard discusses the issues of gender in contemporary dance with four Montréal-based dance artists.

As an artistic medium that uses the human body as its primary tool of creation, dance has the potential to disrupt dominant gender stereotypes. Dancers’ bodies are formed and transformed through intense daily training, and can challenge our thinking about what bodies are capable of (and what those bodies are permitted to do). Yet, at the same time, dance may also re-enforce gender stereotypes by employing movement, costumes or choreographic formats that continue to frame men and women not only in relation to each other, but also as polar opposites. Helen Simard met with four Montréal-based contemporary dance artists, Sasha Kleinplatz, Dana Michel, George Stamos and Sarah Williams to discuss how questions around gender factor into their work, and how they think that current dance practices in Canada might be challenging (or cementing) our ideas surrounding gender identity and expression. 

Click here for the full text: thedancecurrent.com/feature/moving-beyond-pas-de-deux

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Avec le corps comme principal outil de création, la danse serait un terreau potentiellement propice pour bousculer les stéréotypes dominants sur les sexes. L’entraînement quotidien et intense de l’interprète forme et transforme l’apparence du corps et peut mettre au défi notre conception des possibilités physiques (et des comportements permis). Néanmoins et simultanément, la danse peut renforcer des stéréotypes de genre avec une gestuelle, des costumes ou des formats chorégraphiques qui persistent à représenter des hommes et des femmes non seulement en relation, mais aussi comme deux pôles qui s’opposent. Helen Simard rencontre Sasha Kleinplatz, Dana Michel, George Stamos et Sarah Williams, quatre artistes en danse contemporaine établis à Montréal, pour discuter de la question du genre dans leur travail, et évaluer si les pratiques actuelles en danse au Canada troublent (ou imposent) les idées reçues sur l’identité de genre et son expression.

Simon Portugal and Lael Stellick in Chorus II by Sasha Kleinplatz / Photo by Veronique Mackenzie

Departments

Editorial

By Lee Slinger

Perhaps it is the lightness and joy of the spring, perhaps it was a desire to find some positivity in the world, but collating this issue, I was particularly taken with the idea of beauty. The idea of physical beauty in dance has, of course, had a long and tortured relationship. The tension between displays of bodies and the purposes of those displays has meant that certain bodies tend to be seen as acceptable and consequently more beautiful. Many of the pieces in this issue look to highlight the problematic connections between beauty and dance and offer alternatives. 

Beauty can be a concept that represents not just the outer physical bodies we inhabit but also our inner person. Beauty then becomes linked to ideas of kindess and compassion, a gentleness of soul. That said, the answer is certainly not to ignore our physical trappings but to widen our understandings of beauty and to find where it lies in all its forms: in the effort and commitment of dancers in the integrated dance companies to find a space in which to express themselves through dance, in the passion and politics of Sarah Laronde of Red Sky Performance and in the desire of Montréal-based artists, in conversation about gender in contemporary dance, for a more inclusive world. Finally, it is beautiful that we have the privilege to live in a place where the imaginative work of the costume designers featured in the photo essay can be created, nurtured and brought to life. 

Surrouded by sprouting plants and the buzzing whir of insects, as you open the windows of your studio to let in the warm spring air, may all the beauty around us be celebrated. 

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

Movers

Sharing Bhangra: Gurpreet Sian of South Asian Arts
By Lee Slinger

Gurpreet Sian is the co-founder of Vancouver-based South Asian Arts (SAA), a studio and company that primarily teaches Bhangra dance and dhol drumming. In addition to their competitive studio and performances around Vancouver, SAA has been developing its educational programs, with accredited courses now in high school and university programs, and growing into its role as a presenter of multidisciplinary South Asian artistic productions. Like the dance form he performs and promotes, Sian is irrepressibly full of joy, energy and good humour.

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Gurpreet Sian / Photo by Jesse Winter Heading

Movers

Jump-Start: Shakeil Rollock
By Emma Kerson

Emerging professional and self-proclaimed “jumping bean,” Shakeil Rollock is spreading his infectious energy throughout the Toronto dance community. A recent graduate of the School of Toronto Dance Theatre, Rollock only found his way into dance at age seventeen, when a friend told him to audition for the high school boy’s hip hop team instead of wasting forty-five minutes waiting for the bus to arrive. Rollock trained mostly in urban styles before finding contemporary, modern and ballet, and his career reflects his love for an eclectic range of dance genres. He is a current company member with both Newton Moraes Dance Theatre and KasheDance and continues to tour extensively within and beyond Canadian borders.

http://www.thedancecurrent.com/column/jump-start-q-shakeil-rollock

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 Shakeil Rollock / Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann

Influences

Ballet, Meet Business: The challenges and rewards of starting a dancewear business
By Megan Kimmerer

Ask a professional dancer which qualities are important to success in dance, and passion, hard work and determination likely fall high on the list. To be a successful dancer, one must be passionate enough to work tirelessly while still making each performance appear effortless. The same may be said of entrepreneurs – the success of their business relies on their determination and passion. For two dancers, Tina Pereira and Krista Dowson, their love of ballet has become a love of dancewear design, but moving from established ballerinas to emerging entrepreneurs means they face a new set of obstacles.

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Jenna Savella in Pretty, Fancy Dancewear / Photo by Dylan Tedaldi

Inspired List

Choreographer Robert Desrosiers

For the Canada Dance Festival 2016, iconic choreographer Robert Desrosiers has been charged with the immense task of creating and orchestrating a piece for fifty young dancers from four different training programs. 50 Dancer Project: Timeframe gives each of the participating schools the music of a past historical moment. “Music is another way to give us information about a different century,” says Desrosiers. “My main focus is to connect to those centuries and to take the audience on an emotional journey through the centuries, capturing the emotional content in a choreographic frame.”

The Dance Current caught up with him as he was poised to begin work with the School of Toronto Dance Theatre on the 50 Dancer Project and asked him about his musical inspirations for the work and about working with student dancers.

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Robert Desrosiers and students of L’École de danse de Québec / Photo by Geneviève Robitaille

Body

Overstretching: The importance of strength to flexibility
By Blessyl Buan

Social media has made available endless pictures of hypermobile dancers in contortionist-like positions, proudly using hashtags such as #bendy and #oversplit to announce their flexibility. These images, however, can provide dangerous misinformation about how to improve mobility. It may seem counterintuitive, but focusing on strengthening the muscles involved in the movement will lead to increased flexibility and mobility. It is the deep hip flexors that power the height of kicks; the muscles for foot articulation and knee extension improve jump height; and the spinal muscles control the degree of back extension. Without understanding the different stretching styles or developing muscular strength and length, injury and chronic joint instability are inevitable.

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Students of the Rhythm and Grace Dance Academy / Photo courtesy of Marina Kolotova 

Dancer's Kitchen

Paul's Grilled Vegetable Focaccia Sandwich
By Paul Pinarello, Guelph Dances

This delicious sandwich, enough to feed a group, is the perfect picnic fare for outdoor summer events like Guelph Dance’s In the Park performances at Exhibition Park, Guelph. 

http://www.thedancecurrent.com/column/pauls-grilled-vegetable-focaccia-s…

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Photo courtesy of Pinarello

Practice

Building a Jazz Community: Catherine Hayward of Decidedly Jazz Danceworks
By Amanda Bereska

For nine years Catherine Hayward has been a member of Calgary’s Decidedly Jazz Danceworks (DJD). She teaches and mentors teen dancers as part of their school programming and is a part of Alberta Dance Theatre, where she has worked with young dancers for five seasons. Through her teaching and her membership in the Dancers’ Studio West Dance Action Group, she is focused on community development. Hayward fell in love with dance as a child in Winnipeg, trained as a dancer in Toronto and found a career in Calgary. Many dance communities contributed to make Hayward the performer she is today, and she is giving back as a teacher and mentor to young jazz dancers.

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Catherine Hayward and students of DJD / Photo courtesy of DJD

What's in Your Dancebag?

Kiera Hill

As a dancer with Les Ballets Jazz de Montréal, Kiera Hill is always on the road. The company performs multiple times per week, often in different cities. The contents of her dancebag reflect the touring lifestyle of this internationally focused company. 

http://www.thedancecurrent.com/column/kiera-hill

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Hill and dancers from Les Ballets Jazz de Montréal / Photo courtesy of BJM

From Our Archives

May 2009: Chan Hon Goh continues to thrive and inspire

In May 2009, Kathleen M. Smith profiled Chan Hon Goh as the dancer prepared to retire from The National Ballet of Canada. Seven years later, Emma Kerson spoke with Goh about how, in the intervening time, she has changed her focus from within to without, as she teaches and mentors a new generation of dancers.  

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Chan Hon Goh and students of the Goh Academy / Photo by Kharen Hill

The Goods

Spritz It Up: Freshify Foot Spray
By Valeria Nunziato

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Clockwise from top right Isla Gosbee, Jade Connor, Olivia Jaymes Runquist, Rachel Wolfson, Zoe Honsinger and Andrea Soumbasis of The Edge School, Calgary / Photo by TDFoto.ca

Backstage

Focus: TransFormation Danse

The pleasure of a workshop is the chance to completely immerse oneself in a process – the euphoric feeling of­­ having been changed through dance. TransFormation is a contemporary dance intensive in Montréal that is hosting its tenth edition this spring. The Dance Current asked Artistic Director Lisa Davies to reflect on the moment captured at last year’s final presentation between herself and Andrej Petrovic, rehearsal director for the Akram Khan Company.

 

“It was an intense moment. The final transformation of TransFormation was about to happen. The febrility of the dancers was palpable and we could sense the anticipation on the other side of the doors, as the audience waited to come in. Typically the final presentation is an intimate affair with forty or so artists and partners coming together to share the results of the creation laboratories. That day there were at least a hundred people. It was cathartic and intense, yet serene and calm.” 

 

Learn more >> transformationdanse.com

 

Presented by Danse à la Carte, TransFormation runs May 30th through June 17th in Montréal.

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Lisa Davies and Andrej Petrovic at TransFormation Danse 2015 / Photo by Michael Slobodian

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