Considered one of the most exciting voices in Montréal’s dance community, Frédérick Gravel seeks to maintain the signature electrified atmosphere of his live performances while pushing in other directions.
Frédérick Gravel is considered by many to be one of the most exciting voices in Montréal’s dance community. His shows, which are usually long and include live music, don’t really feel like typical dance performances; rather, they exude the warm freewheeling energy of a rock concert. His works reach across disciplines and in so doing he’s managed to create his own unique language of dance that is as emotional as it is entertaining, and as philosophical as it is seductive. Further, Gravel’s collective approach to the creative process has allowed him to make ambitious work early in his career by enabling him to draw in and inspire lots of creative partners, even when resources were limited. As his audience has grown over the years and his opportunities have increased, the new challenge is to keep creating the electrified atmosphere of a live event while at the same time pushing in other directions and trying different formats. Mark Mann explores how this artist seeks to retain his relevance.
Nombreux sont ceux qui comptent Frédérick Gravel parmi les voix les plus excitantes du milieu de la danse à Montréal. Souvent longues et avec une part importante de musique live, ses productions proposent une énergie plus près de la chaleur décontractée d’un concert rock que de l’expérience typique d’un spectacle de danse. En embrassant plusieurs disciplines, Gravel réussit à créer un langage unique en danse aussi sensible que divertissant, aussi philosophique que séduisant. Son approche collaborative au processus de création lui a permis de réaliser des projets ambitieux en début de parcours, et d’inspirer de nombreux partenaires en création, même lorsque les ressources étaient limitées. Au fil des ans, le public et les occasions prennent de l’envergure, et de nouveaux défis se présentent : continuer à créer l’ambiance électrisante d’un événement live tout en explorant d’autres pistes et formats. Mark Mann explore comment cet artiste cherche à demeurer pertinent.
Éric Robidoux in Ainsi parlait by Frédérick Gravel / Photo by Nadine Gomez
Photographer Craig Chambers explores the contrast between the solitude of abandoned urban spaces and the vitality and movement of dancing bodies.
After years of watching dance, I feel very connected to that world and, with Vākənt, I wanted to combine that with my more recent interest in urban exploration. I became fascinated by abandoned buildings, compelled by the relationships we all have with our ever-changing surroundings and the idea of capturing the moving body in these vacated spaces. Dancers epitomize vitality and these spaces offer such contrast to this. They may have once been busy workplaces but are now overgrown and vandalized, yet with such vivid beauty of their own and traces of memory.
- Craig Chambers
The Dance Current asked the featured dance artists to consider what they discover about themselves when they dance alone outside of the studio.
Je me sens proche du monde de la danse, que j’observe depuis des années. Avec « Vākənt », je voulais conjuguer ma sensibilité en danse et un intérêt plus récent – l’exploration urbaine. Les édifices abandonnés et notre relation à l’environnement en perpétuelle transformation me fascinent. Je désire capter le corps en mouvement dans des espaces vacants, car le danseur incarne une vitalité tout en contraste avec ces sites. Même si les lieux de travail autrefois actifs se trouvent maintenant envahis et vandalisés, ils recèlent des traces du passé et proposent une beauté qui leur est propre.
- Craig Chambers
The Dance Current a demandé aux artistes ce qu’ils découvrent d’eux-mêmes lorsqu’ils dansent seuls, à l’extérieur du studio.
Lucie Vigneault / Photo by Craig Chambers
Interdisciplinarity in universities and funding organizations
Research institutions and funding bodies across the country are embracing the importance of interdisciplinary practice, introducing new funding streams and renaming existing departments and faculties to reflect an artistic reality that has long seeped between the barriers and categories created to support it. In the development of university art departments and funding programs at various levels of government, an expanded definition of art-making is only one facet of interdisciplinarity.
Photography from a collaborative research project by Shannon Cuykendall (pictured) and SFU Professor Steve DiPaola, part of the “MovingStories” interdisciplinary partnership / Photo by Reese Muntean
How does the centrality of bodily experience affect interdisciplinarity in dance?
If we, as dance artists, embrace the idea of creating scenic performances that cannot neatly be categorized and draw tools from other disciplines to create our work, could dance be in danger of disappearing from our artistic landscape? Or, as modes of artistic creation become increasingly overlapping, and disciplinary boundaries seem to fade away, is there indeed anything that remains singular to dance, or that distinguishes it from other artforms? And if so, is there any reason for us as a community to try to maintain some sort of notion of what dance is or is not?
In this second part of a three-part feature, Helen Simard speaks with artists about what is inherent to dance performance and what boundaries are worth maintaining or not.
Click here for the full feature online: thedancecurrent.com/feature/moving-bodies
Lauren Semeschuk, Nathan Yaffe and Melina Stinson in Memory Palace by Dorian Nuskind-Oder, presented at SummerWorks 2016 / Photo by Simon Grenier-Poirier
Thoughts on dismantling disciplines and other open questions
Imagine if dance were not dance as we know it. Imagine if dance were a crowd of people, a plastic bag caught by the wind, a song. Dancing in the steps of artists past can feel empowering. Dancing to their steps can also feel oppressive. Imagine that we could start over. What would dance look and feel like?
Live Mapping (marking where I go), concept/performance by Cara Spooner (2013) / Photo courtesy of Spooner
What dance artists and instructors need to know about SOCAN and Re:Sound license fees.
When you purchase music, you pay for the right to use that music in private. Once you enter the public sphere, as a performer, creator or instructor, you are liable for the fees associated with the public use of music, as awarded by the Copyright Board of Canada, the independent government body charged with administering copyright claims and tariffs.
Click here for the full text: thedancecurrent.com/feature/dancing-music
Photo from iStock
Summer seems to encourage a more contemplative pace. We decided to take advantage of this slower rhythm to examine one issue in more depth: interdisciplinarity. This issue contains a three-part feature on issues affecting disciplines in the current Canadian dance landscape. As Kallee Lins explores, interdisciplinarity is a concept that has become more significant, not only to artists but also to the research institutions and funding agencies that allow artists to create and present their work to others. As my parents will tell you, I have long had a desire to push back against attempts to make me think in a particular way – often regardless of whether the ideas in question were correct or useful to me. Thus, while acknowledging that these moves are often overdue changes that reflect trends long present in the artistic processes and works of artists, I can’t help but question the seemingly recent cachet given to works interpreted as challenging perceived disciplinary boundaries.
In addition to these institutional concerns, we present two different perspectives on this topic. Helen Simard, herself a dance artist whose work is often hard to categorize within a single discipline, examines what experiences or explorations remain unique to dance. For many, dance is the language through which we see, understand and express our realities. As explained by several artists in this issue, including Frédérick Gravel, Ame Henderson and Cara Spooner, the notion of dance as a discipline can continue to be productive and helpful. Emma Doran, on the other hand, considers the work of two artists who are, in different ways, challenging the relevance of disciplines to the works they create. As our lived experiences are themselves multi- (or possibly extra-) disciplinary, it seems appropriate that our artistic explorations grapple with that messiness.
Returning to my own contrariness, I can’t help but want to see works that both explode ideas of distinct disciplines and ones that claim that embodied movement is a particular form of knowledge worthy of serious exploration. I also like art that makes no claims to any economic usefulness. The academic in me wants to poke at the assumptions hidden in facts and conclusions. Ultimately, I hope our systems find ways to continue to support the widest variety of cultural producers and provide them with the space to make their own choices and set their own priorities. And the summer is the perfect time to get out, see performances (be they within, between or outside of disciplines) and ponder these issues.
With three large projects on the go – NEW RAW, Cut Away and Dance Hole – Vancouver-based dance artist Deanna Peters is equally at ease discussing new approaches that might encourage dialogue about dance as she is in talking about her upcoming presentations. Peters has been performing and choreographing professionally for thirteen years and has built a reputation for blending styles and developing grassroots performance events in venues that are far from the norm.
Alex Mardon and Deanna Peters in NEW RAW by Peters / Photo by Yvonne Chew
Alexandra Clancy is tapping her way into the heart of the Vancouver dance community. Clancy trained in various dance styles at Danzmode and, at her teacher’s urging, joined the Vancouver Tap Dance Society’s youth company, TapCo, where she developed an appreciation for the history and culture of tap. With colleagues Matisse Quaglia and Tosh Sutherland, she formed Third Party, a tap dance company that is producing its first full-length work in August. They aim to show that tap can be versatile and current while still incorporating and respecting its history and music.
Alexandra Clancy / Photo courtesy of Clancy
Summer can be a time of rest for dancers. Breaks in dance programs, infrequent or suspended classes and vacation plans can all get in the way of regular training schedules. Dance intensives abound but they are often of short duration. Training, however, does not have to stop. The summer’s warm weather, allowing for a wider variety of activities, makes it a perfect time to focus on some extra conditioning to help keep your body in shape for when you return to your dance routine in the fall. Targeted conditioning can improve how your dancing body trains and recovers.
Santee Smith leading a Powwow Boot Camp in Yonge-Dundas Square, Toronto / Photo by Leslie McCue
Dancers need meals that are clean, easy to digest and provide enough calories to keep them energized. This maple quinoa, from Alex Tam of Aeriosa Dance Society, an aerial dance company based in Vancouver, is a power meal with the flavour of maple and bitter chocolate. Vegan, highly alkaline and magnesium rich, it can be enjoyed before or after a highintensity workout, even one eighty feet in the air.
Photo courtesy of Tam
Shana Troy, a Montréal-based dancer, is a coach for the Canadian Olympic Synchronized Swimming Team. She began her dancing career as a selfproclaimed “bunhead,” graduating from L’École supérieure de ballet du Québec and dancing with Le Jeune Ballet du Québec, Les Grands Ballets Canadiens and the Atlantic Ballet Theatre of Canada before eventually moving into the commercial dance circuit, including the Société Radio-Canada’s Le match des étoiles (a multigenre French-Canadian version of Dancing with the Stars). Alongside her performance career, Troy has taught fitness and, more recently, in the sports world.
In 2011 she began working with Canada’s synchronized swimming team who, according to Troy, “were looking to switch up their routine, to bring in fresh ideas that would help take their training to the next level, giving them the competitive edge.” I connected with Troy to discuss her teaching experiences and how her dance training influences and aids her work with elite athletes.
Karine Thomas and Jacqueline Simoneau of the Canadian Synchronized Swimming Team at the Toronto 2015 Pan Am Games / Photo by Vaughn Ridley / Canada Synchro
His prolific career has made Toronto-based Michael Caldwell an expert on packing a touring dancebag.
Michael Caldwell / Photo by Lisa Hebert
In “Character Study: Human frailty, despair, courage, resilience,” a review featured in The Dance Current’s 2009 Summer Annual, Michael Crabb noted that Sasha Ivanochko’s December 2008 solo performance, The future memory heartbreak junction, marked “a significant shift” for the artist. The changes Ivanochko experimented with in that work – incorporating more of her multidisciplinary background, using texts and examining the relationship between the psychic, the emotional and the moving body – have since become important threads in her artistic practice.
Ivanochko teaching students of the University of Calgary / Photo by Wojciech Mochniej
Is there a work or a collection of Canadian dance works that stand out as highlights to you from 2016? Are there any themes or ways of working that stand out to you as interesting or unique? We asked this question to dancers and dance enthusiasts from around the country and this was their reply.