With a style that pushes at boundaries, contemporary Indian dance artist Natasha Bakht draws on her expertise in diverse fields to explore the role of the everyday rituals of Muslim women in Canadian consciousness in her new work for Fall for Dance North.
While she trained in bharatanatyam with renowned Canadian dance artist Menaka Thakar, Natasha Bakht’s own dance performance has looked to extend out beyond the classical vocabulary of her youth. Over the course of her thirty-year career, she has performed and created works in Canada and abroad that look to create hybrid form that seek to investigate themes of identity. Her latest work, 786, a commission for the second edition of Fall for Dance North, the popular three-day festival in Toronto based on the similarly popular Fall for Dance in New York, looks at the role of the sacred in the everyday and the tension between Muslim faith and dominant Canadian culture. She is particularly well equipped to investigate these themes as she is, in addition to her dance career, a professor of law at the University of Ottawa, with a specialization in the role of Muslim culture in Canadian law and society. She hopes her new work will draw a spotlight on the creativity and performance of Canadian Muslim women.
Natasha Bakht étudie le bharatanatyam avec l’artiste de danse canadienne reconnue Menaka Thakar avant d’élargir ses horizons en danse au-delà du vocabulaire classique de sa jeunesse. Au fil de sa carrière de trente ans, elle interprète et crée des œuvres au Canada et à l’étranger, visant à offrir des formes hybrides qui explorent l’identité. Sa dernière création, 786, est une commande de la deuxième édition de Fall for Dance North, un festival populaire de trois jours à Toronto inspiré du tout aussi populaire Fall for Dance à New York. 786 considère la place du sacré au quotidien, et à la tension entre la religion musulmane et la culture canadienne dominante. L’artiste est particulièrement bien placée pour se pencher sur ces thèmes ; en plus de sa carrière en danse, elle est aussi professeure en droit à l’Université d’Ottawa, spécialisée dans le rôle de la culture musulmane dans la société et le droit canadiens. Elle espère que sa nouvelle création éclairera la créativité et la performance de femmes canadiennes musulmanes.
Natasha Bakht in her own work White Space / Photo by David Hou
In her exhibition The Indexical, Alphabetized, Mediated, Archival Dance-a-Thon!, Evann Siebens considers the act of capturing, saving and presenting an archive of dance.
Evann Sieben’s exhibition presents her personal manifesto on how to shoot dance, using film, collage, text and media.
Text for The Dance Current by Brynn McNab
Brynn McNab présente un abécédaire de danse qui décrit l’exposition multimédia d’Evann Siebens The Indexical Alphabetized Mediated Archival Dance-a-Thon!, un manifeste personnel sur comment prendre la danse en photo.
Details of “The Alphabet” from Evann Siebens’ The Indexical, Alphabetized, Mediated, Archival Dance-a-Thon!, on view at Wil Aballe Art Projects, February 25th through March 26th, 2016, in Vancouver / Photo by Michael Love
How can we improve the working and living conditions of independent dance artists in Canada? Thirty years ago, three dance artists founded the Canadian Alliance of Dance Artists to educate and advocate on behalf of dancers. How have working conditions of dancers changed since then? And what are the pressing issues that need to be addressed in the present?
In 1980, UNESCO put forth a Recommendation Concerning the Status of the Artist, which encouraged member states to acknowledge the important role played by artists in human society and to create legislation and programs designed to support and encourage artists, given the atypical manner in which they work. This recommendation has had important consequences for the current status of dance artists in Canada, though, in most jurisdictions, its goals and objectives have yet to have been met. Molly Johnson investigates how dance artists have organized for their rights as artistic workers in the past three decades, including the founding of the Canadian Alliance of Dance Artists, an organization, which has educated and advocated on the behalf of dance artists since 1986. More recently, there continues to be both a need for greater collective organization and a cultural resistance to dancers’ demanding that their needs be met. Low pay and employment power imbalances continue to hurt dancers, making it difficult for them to eke out a living. Johnson challenges dancers to recognize that change and respect must start with dancers themselves.
Click here for the full text: thedancecurrent.com/feature/rallying-change
En 1980, l’UNESCO émet une recommandation relative au statut de l’artiste qui encourage les états membres à reconnaître le rôle important des artistes dans la société, et à créer des lois et des programmes pour soutenir et encourager les artistes, étant donné leurs méthodes et processus de travail atypiques. La recommandation a des conséquences importantes pour le statut actuel des artistes de danse au Canada, même si, dans la majorité des juridictions, les objectifs de la recommandation n’ont pas été atteints. Molly Johnson enquête sur la mobilisation des danseurs quant à leurs droits comme travailleurs artistiques au cours des trois dernières décennies, y compris la fondation de la Canadian Alliance of Dance Artists, organisme qui représente les artistes de danse depuis 1986. Récemment, la nécessité d’une organisation collective accrue se manifeste, ainsi qu’une résistance aux danseurs qui exigent des conditions de pratiques adéquates. La faible rémunération et les déséquilibres hiérarchiques continuent à nuire aux danseurs, qui peinent à vivre de leur art. Johnson enjoint les danseurs à reconnaître que les changements et le respect doivent émerger, dans un premier temps, des danseurs mêmes.
Carolyn Woods, Julia Sasso, Scott Buffett, Philip Drube, Marie-Josée Chartier, Bruce Mitchell and Cathy Kyle Fenton in Bill James’s Atlas Moves Watching/ Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann, courtesy of Dance Collection Danse
For many dancers in Canada, there’s a disconnect between training and the professional world. Melanie Kloetzel and Amber Funk Barton discuss the next generation of creative independent dance artists.
Any professional training program, college or university can only do so much to prepare dancers to enter the workforce; in many cases the real challenges lie after graduation. Emerging dance professionals in Canada must consequently invest in their training while job prospects, at least in the performance realm, are few and far between. To consider the experiences of dancers trying to make the step from student to professional, The Dance Current spoke with Melanie Kloetzel, the artistic director of kloetzel&co. and associate professor in the University of Calgary’s Department of Dance, and Amber Funk Barton, independent dance artist and the artistic director of the response. in Vancouver. In the following conversation, both artists, who are in the middle stages of their careers, reflect on the inherent challenges of training dancers today, what they wish they knew when they were emerging and the importance of cross-disciplinary as well cross-generational influences.
Click here for the full text: thedancecurrent.com/feature/mind-gap
Pour plusieurs danseurs au Canada, il y a une rupture entre formation et carrière professionnelle. Les programmes professionnels, collégiaux et universitaires ne sont pas en mesure de parfaitement préparer leurs élèves à pénétrer le marché du travail. Les professionnels de danse émergents au Canada doivent conséquemment investir dans leur perfectionnement alors que les débouchées se font rares, du moins en interprétation. The Dance Current considère la transition entre études et carrière avec Melanie Kloetzel, directrice artistique de kloetzel&co. et professeure agréée dans le département de danse à l’Université de Calgary, et Amber Funk Barton, artiste de danse indépendante et directrice artistique de the response. à Vancouver. En discussion, les artistes, toutes deux en mi-carrière, parlent des défis inhérents à la formation en danse aujourd’hui, des réalités qu’elles auraient aimé connaître plus tôt dans leur parcours, et de l’importance des influences interdisciplinaires et intergénérationnelles.
Dancers from the response.’s 2009 Apprentice Program in WorkSpace by Amber Funk Barton / Photo by Philomena Sondergaard
As I have been a student or worked at a university for much of my adult life, the ebbs and flows of the academic year are deeply ingrained in my personal clock. I have worked in other fields, with other calendars, but each time a September comes around when I am not returning to the pattern of the school year, when my schedule does not shift dramatically, clearly demarking the beginning of something new, some part of me is left disoriented. This was never more true than the first September after my undergraduate degree, when, for the first time in my short life, school cotinued without me. It was a rupture in the flow of my time, one that indicated that I was embarking on something very different, with a whole new calendar. It was a moment of loneliness, leaving behind a system that had supported me for so long, and excitement, as I framed and traced my own path outside of those very structures.
This issue considers how dancers make the transition out of their student lives and into their careers as burgeoning professionals. Making that leap, and how well our training systems support it, was the topic of a conversation facilitated by The Dance Current’s Brittany Duggan with two mid-career dance artists, Melanie Kloetzel and Amber Funk Barton. They discussed the importance of preparing dance artists for the many and varied careers they will have, as well as the importance of supporting mid-career artists so that they might share their knowledge with younger dancers. This intra-community support is also the subject of our feature article. In “Rallying for Change,” Molly Johnson investigates the current status of the dance artist in Canada, both the structures of support, such as the Canadian Alliance of Dance Artists, and the challenges faced by the independent artists trying to earn a fair wage in an adequate work environment. She concludes that, since dance is a field in which we all work up from the bottom, we owe respect and care to those who are just beginning, by paying them (and all dancers) a decent wage and providing them with proper working conditions.
Natasha Bakht, a dancer and choreographer from Ottawa profiled by Marie France Forcier, and Evann Siebens, whose work is presented in the photo essay, are two dance artists who have had unique and inspiring careers. They have both married dance with success in other fields: Bakht as a successful professor of law and Siebens as a film and media artist. Three short profiles round out the issue: Winson Tam and Anastasia Novikova, one of Canada’s most successful current dancesport teams; Marie-Reine Kabasha, an up-and-coming waacker from Montréal; and Kiani del Valle, who shares her trajectory since she was first profiled ten years ago as a student about to begin her degree in dance at Concordia University.
This September, I will quietly participate in the return to school through my own yearly ritual: buying myself new notebooks and pens. But I will also think fondly of those for whom this is their first scary fall out of school and hope that they, eventually, find their paths and that they remember to support others along the way.
The hard work and collaboration of dancesport team Winson Tam and Anastasia Novikova
Winson Tam, a twenty-one-year-old from Toronto, and his Russian partner, nineteen-year-old Anastasia Novikova, are fresh off the plane from Portugal, where they ranked second in the World Open Latin Dancesport Competition. And though they are describing their gruelling weekend in competitive ballroom dance, the couple’s upbeat energy is infectious. Tam and Novikova, who represent Canada in competition, are ranked twenty-sixth in the world and recently ranked first in the adult Latin category at the International Open competition in France. But it is not the winning that drives them. What draws them to the sport is the rush of adrenaline when they are together on the competition floor with ten to twelve other couples.
Winson Tam and Anastasia Novikova / Photo by Renée Bérard
Touring is on the minds of many dance artists who hope to get their work into the proverbial “out there.” But the first steps to the wider world can prove daunting. Where does one start? How is it done? And with whom should one partner?
There are several Canadian arts and cultural agencies that provide assistance with booking and managing tours abroad. They facilitate the intimidating task of seeking, securing and booking an international tour. Kate Stashko examines the available resources and asks internationally touring artists and the agents and producers who help make it happen about their experiences.
Serenella Sol and Laura Henley of W&M Physical Theatre in Waiting Rooms in Heaven, performing in Poland / Photo by Katarzyna Machniewicz
Choreographer and co-founder of Les 7 doigts de la main shares what inspires her.
Shana Carroll is a trapeze artist and a director, choreographer and founding “finger” of Montréal-based circus group acrobatic choreographer for Cirque du Soleil, including Cirque’s recent Broadway production Paramour. In her award-winning choreography, Carroll invests emotion and artistry in circus performance. “I have a fascination and love for the human condition,” she says.
The Dance Current caught up with Carroll while she was promoting Les 7 doigts’ Cuisine & Confessions in Boston and asked about what inspires her and her work.
Shana Carroll / Photo by Olivier Tétreault
Embracing the benefits and challenges of dancing and aging
In a culture dominated by images of youth and in an art form that sees its practitioners retiring from performing at an average age of thirty-five, aging is often portrayed as a negative phenomenon. Although aging does involve inevitable physical declines, it also brings important cognitive and emotional advantages. Focusing on these benefits while wisely navigating the changes and challenges of getting older can help dancers to stay healthier and to continue dancing in their later years.
Louise Lecavalier and Robert Abubo in Mille Batailles/Battleground (2016) by Lecavalier / Photo by Katja Illner
A speedy snack and savoury hosting treat for potlucks and parties
Stephanie Ballard is a choreographer, educator and dance advocate. She is the director of the Winnipeg Dance Preservation Initiative, core faculty of Winnipeg’s School of Contemporary Dancers and artistic advisor to Q DANCE. This September, at the St. Boniface Cathedral in Winnipeg, Ballard presents Landscape Dancing, a spiritual movement expression honouring the beatification of Mother Theresa. In 1982, Ballard choreographed an interpretive work for Mother Theresa, when she was presented with the St. Boniface General Hospital Research Foundation International Award, for an audience of 21,000. The upcoming performance will include Robyn Thomson Kacki, whose mother Faye Thomson, C.M., co-director of the School of Contemporary Dancers, was in the 1982 work and meets with Ballard every Thursday to enjoy tea and snacks. These mini quiches always make an appearance.
Photo courtesy of Jillian Groening
Seasoned instructors discuss teaching dance to adult learners
The physical, intellectual and social benefits of dance draw in new recreational participants of all ages. The Dance Current asked three veteran instructors, Michelle Bastone who teaches ballet at Liberty Dance in Toronto, Esmeralda Enrique of the Esmeralda Enrique Spanish Dance Company who teaches flamenco in Toronto and Jennifer Bishop of The Rhythm Studio who teaches tap in Vancouver about their experiences and suggestions for teaching adult dance learners.
Tango lesson in a dance studio / Photo by Joselito Briones, courtesy of Stocksy
In addition to her role as community investment officer for Calgary Arts Development, Calgary-based dance artist Melissa Tuplin has an independent practice as a solo choreographer, as a teacher and as a member of the interdisciplinary collective Dancing Monkey Laboratories. Her dancebag reflects her keen eye for research, preparation and documentation.
Photo courtesy of Melissa Tuplin
In 2006, Seika Boye wrote an “In the Wings” profile of Kiani del Valle for The Dance Current as del Valle was set to begin her degree program at Concordia University. “I have been training a lot,” del Valle told Boye, “but have not had the opportunity to develop my creative individuality.” Today, del Valle’s work combines technical precision, originality and a defiant flouting of boundaries. Her creativity and drive bubble out of her as she describes her recent projects, which include performing on the terrace of the Getty Museum in Los Angeles, collaborating with and choreographing for electronic musician Sam Shepherd of Floating Points in Britain, founding her own dance ensemble in Berlin and writing a feature-length dance film with Colombian artist Paola Baldion and American Jaime Toll, variously in Cannes, New York and Los Angeles. As an established artist, she is focused on developing collaborative relationships that will fuel her creativity, particularly with artists from other fields: film, visual arts, music.
Kiani Del Valle / Photo by Dan Busta
It’s the elusive part of the process: the moment when things begin to both connect and unfold, when they start to become. It’s the part when certain elements are structured but the rest can’t be controlled. The research and rehearsal work enter new territory, and you catch glimpses of what happens in the felt moment. It’s my favourite time – being in the room with dancers who are in that finely tuned state of listening to the task, each other and themselves. It changes the way I see. Without adding anything extra, multiple meanings can be read from a single gesture. It is a delicate and powerful time in which the work becomes more alive because the dancers are free to live more inside of it.
Adelheid’s what it’s like by Heidi Strauss uses brotherhood to consider personal, situational and systemic engagement. Co-produced by The Theatre Centre and developed through their residency program, it runs September 22nd through 25th and September 28th through October 2nd.
Luke Garwood and Naishi Wang in rehearsal for what it’s like by Heidi Strauss / Photo by Jeremy Mimnagh
How can we improve the working and living conditions of independent dance artists in Canada? Thirty years ago three dance artists founded the Canadian Alliance of Dance Artists to educate and advocate on behalf of dancers. How have working conditions of dancers changed since then? And what are the pressing issues that need to be addressed in the present?