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Roots and Wings

By Holly Harris

Now celebrating his twelfth year as artistic director of Winnipeg’s Contemporary Dancers (WCD), Brent Lott has brought his wealth of experience working with other significant Canadian artists to the Prairies. At WCD, Lott celebrates Winnipeg’s dance roots while lifting up a new generation of dancers.

Holly Harris met with Lott to discuss his tenure at WCD, the importance of Winnipeg’s dance roots and his desire to support and lift up a new generation of dancers. This December he premieres a new full-length work, As Though I had Wings, inspired by the poetry of Jaik Josephson, who is also his partner. This work initially grew out of Lott’s deepening concern over increasing public and political censorship and how certain communities are effectively silenced by crushing political forces – drawing a comparison, for example, to the tragic dismissal and denial of members of the LGBTQ community during the early, panic-fuelled days of the AIDS crisis. In addition to his own work and ensuring the continued vitality of WCD, Lott hopes his legacy will be the new generation of dance artists he has shepherded into the profession through projects such as Verge, a developmental company for students emerging from the School of Contemporary Dancers. 
 
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Les Prairies sont un terreau fertile pour les danseurs au Canada, et Brent Lott figure parmi le talent de la région. Il célèbre actuellement sa douzième année comme directeur artistique de Winnipeg’s Contemporary Dancers (WCD). Holly Harris rencontre Lott pour discuter son travail à WCD, l’importance de l’histoire de la danse à Winnipeg et son soutien d’une nouvelle génération de danseurs. En décembre, il présente sa dernière création intégrale As Though I Had Wings, inspirée par la poésie de son conjoint Jaik Josephson. Le processus est nourri de ses craintes en regard de la censure publique et politique et du silence imposé à certaines communautés par des forces politiques oppressantes. Il trace un parallèle au désaveu tragique des membres de la communauté LGBTQ pendant les débuts paniqués de la crise du VIH/SIDA. En plus de son travail chorégraphique et son dévouement à la vitalité des WCD, Lott espère léguer à l’art une nouvelle génération d’artistes de danse qu’il aura guidée dans le métier par des projets comme Verge, une compagnie de transition pour les élèves diplômés de la School of Contemporary Dancers.
 
Brent Lott and Winnipeg choreographer Ming Hon / Photo by Leif Norman 
 

Learning from Experience

By Aimee Lorefice Mains, Alvin Collantes

This summer, a decade after the last performance of her remarkable thirty-year career, Evelyn Hart shared her knowledge and wisdom with the students of her intensive program, held at Dancemakers in Toronto.

At sixty, and back in the city where she was born, Hart teaches the students, aged between fourteen and nineteen, with the same energy and dedication she honed as a celebrated principal dancer with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet. As a teacher, she is demanding but also lighthearted, funny and warm. She seeks to find creative and positive ways to encourage students to find their own love of movement.
 
Part of her summer program is devoted to privately coaching professional dancers including freelance guest artist Bridgett Zehr, who has become something of a protégé of Hart’s. Zehr describes her mentor’s class as a workshop and a time to experiment. “They’re not conventional exercises. They’re very strange and cool, and she’s made up all these really crazy things so that you can feel exactly what she’s asking.”
“I think,” says Zehr, “that people will appreciate her in years to come because I don’t think she gets enough credit right now for what she’s doing. She is effervescent. She is a genius. Since beginning to work with her, I’ve felt it was a revelation; I felt like I finally knew the secret. I think I’ve danced better now than during the rest of my career.”
 
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Une décennie après la dernière performance d’une remarquable carrière de trente-trois ans, Evelyn Hart passe l’été à partager son savoir et sa sagesse avec les élèves d’un stage qu’elle tient à Dancemakers, Toronto. De retour dans sa ville natale, l’artiste sexagénaire enseigne aux danseurs âgés de quatorze à dix-neuf ans avec la verve et le dévouement qu’elle déployait avant comme première danseuse acclamée au Royal Winnipeg Ballet. Enseignante, elle est à la fois exigeante, joyeuse, comique et bienveillante. Elle cherche des pistes créatives et positives pour encourager les jeunes danseurs dans leur amour de la danse.
            Une partie du stage constitue l’entraînement privé de danseurs professionnels, y compris l’artiste pigiste Bridgett Zehr, devenue en quelque sorte la protégée de Hart. Zehr décrit la classe de sa mentore comme un atelier consacré à l’expérimentation. « Elle ne propose pas des enchaînements traditionnels. Les exercices sont étranges et cool. Elle invente toutes sortes de choses étranges pour que l’on sente exactement ce qu’elle souhaite. »
« Je pense, explique Zehr, qu’elle sera reconnue dans les années à venir. On ne reconnaît pas son travail actuel à sa juste valeur. Elle est effervescente. C’est un génie. Depuis que je travaille auprès d’elle, je me sens transformée – comme si j’accédais à une révélation, un secret. Je pense que je danse mieux maintenant qu’à tout autre moment de ma carrière. »
 
Evelyn Hart and students of the intensive / Photo by Alvin Collantes
 

Movement Memory

By Carolyn Hebert

How do we learn, retain and remember dance? What happens when a dancer forgets well-known choreography? How can we improve our recall for movement sequences? Carolyn Hebert spoke with diverse dance professionals about memory and the verbal cues, mental imagery and bodily experiences that shape their memory.

Almost every dancer has experienced “blanking” at some point in their careers, forgetting a known section of choreography during performance. Despite hours of practice and rehearsal that deeply integrate intricate movement sequences into the dancer’s memory, sometimes she “just blanks” and is forced to improvise until she can recall the next sequence. What happens when a dancer forgets her choreography? How is it that dancers are able to remember intricate sequences in the first place? And, what is the science behind memory? To explore the relationship between memory and movement, Hebert spoke with nine dance professionals working in a variety of genres at various levels in Canada. While they agree that repetition is essential to retaining choreography, their diverse and layered learning processes, including verbal cues, mental imagery and kinesthetic experiences, demonstrate the importance of a well-rounded teaching approach. Learning and remembering are closely connected, and dancers seeking to enhance their movement recall should focus not only on techniques for retrieving movement, but also on techniques for encoding it into their memories. 
 
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Presque chaque artiste, à un moment donné dans sa carrière, a un « blanc » – l’oubli d’une partie d’un spectacle en spectacle. Malgré les heures de pratiques et les répétitions pour intégrer des enchaînements complexes, il arrive qu’une danseuse oublie, simplement, et qu’elle doive improviser jusqu’à ce que la chorégraphie lui revienne. Que se passe-t-il quand l’artiste oublie sa partition ? Et dans un premier temps, comment réussit-elle à apprendre la chorégraphie par cœur ? Qu’est-ce que la science nous apprend quant à la mémoire ? Pour explorer la relation entre mémoire et mouvement, Carolyn Hebert s’adresse à neuf danseurs professionnels qui œuvrent dans une variété de styles à différents niveaux au Canada. Ils affirment tous que la répétition est essentielle pour apprendre une chorégraphie. Cependant, la diversité des processus d’apprentissage, y compris la parole, l’imagerie mentale et l’expérience kinesthésique, indique la nécessité d’une approche globale à l’enseignement. Apprentissage et mémorisation sont connexes. La danseuse qui souhaite améliorer sa capacité de mémorisation devrait travailler non seulement des techniques pour se rappeler le mouvement, mais aussi pour encoder le mouvement dans la mémoire.
 
Faye Rauw / Photo courtesy of Rauw
 

Laughing in the Dark

By Colleen Snell

Three dance artists discuss using humour in dance and what experiences and artistic avenues are opened up by delving into the realm of the funny.

What makes something funny? Why do we laugh at some things but take others seriously? What avenues does humour open up in dance? Humour is a nuanced, complex process, a science experiment combining many mysterious and potentially volatile reagents. Colleen Snell spoke with three artists for whom playing with this chimerical quality is an important part of their work. Kristen Carcone attended New World School for the Arts and co-founded the Toronto-based TOES for Dance. Carcone is an emerging choreographer whose energetic movement vocabulary often incorporates character work. Linnea Swan has performed with many of Canada’s leading dance companies and theatre artists, including the often hilarious movement-theatre group CORPUS. Susie Burpee is known for creating “fully human characters, struggling for connection” (The Toronto Star). Her work in contemporary dance has received Dora Mavor Moore Awards for Outstanding Choreography and Performance. She studied character and bouffon with master teacher Philippe Gaulier, a major influence on her journey of creating memorable characters for the stage. Both Swan and Burpee are recipients of the K.M. Hunter Artist Award for Dance. In this lively and engaging conversation, the three artists discussed theirs experiences with humour and the critical experiences it could reveal in dance.  
 
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Qu’est-ce qui rend une chose comique ? Pourquoi certaines choses nous font-elles rire ? Et pourquoi prenons-nous d’autres choses au sérieux ? Quelles ouvertures sont provoquées par l’humour en danse ? L’humour est un processus nuancé et complexe, une expérience scientifique qui conjugue plusieurs réactifs mystérieux et potentiellement volatils. Colleen Snell rencontre trois artistes qui tiennent à cette qualité chimérique dans leur pratique. Kristen Carcone a étudié à la New World School for the Arts et cofondé la compagnie torontoise TOES for Dance. Chorégraphe émergente, elle intègre souvent un travail de personnage dans sa gestuelle. Linnea Swan a dansé auprès de plusieurs grandes compagnies de danse et des artistes de théâtre, y compris la souvent hilarante troupe de danse-théâtre CORPUS. Susie Burpee est reconnue pour ses « personnages entièrement humains, qui peinent à se rapprocher des autres » (The Toronto Star). Elle est lauréate de prix Dora Mavor Moore pour meilleure chorégraphie et meilleure interprétation. Elle a étudié le bouffon avec le maître Philippe Gaulier, une influence importante dans sa pratique de création de personnages mémorables pour la scène. Swan et Burpee ont toutes deux mérité le prix K.M. Hunter en danse. Dans cette discussion vive et engageante, les artistes parlent de leur expérience avec l’humour en danse et des expériences importantes qui en découlent.
 
Susie Burpee as Allegra Charleston / Photo by Joseph-Michael Photography

Departments

Editorial

By Lee Slinger

The holiday season, with its repetition, its traditions, provides a signpost by which to acknowledge changes over time and to remember our pasts. In this moment of remembrance, our feature article examines the processes by which we record, encode and access memories of past movements, experiences and emotions. Memory is both frustratingly fragile and astonishingly strong. I can remember with absolute clarity doing a “pas de chat” in ballet class as a four-year-old – which involved walking around a circle like a cat. But now, I often fumble on a series of movements explained to me not one minute earlier. Some sequences seem permanently ingrained; others never set properly. To investigate this issue, Carolyn Hebert spoke with nine dance professionals to discuss how they remember movements, their experiences forgetting and their methods for improving recall. 
 
Several of the other feature articles – the profile of Brent Lott (artistic director of Winnipeg’s Contemporary Dancers), the photo essay of former principal dancer and Canadian dance icon Evelyn Hart’s summer intensive and a conversation about humour including Susie Burpee – highlight the lush talent to have emerged from the Prairie region in the past decades. In their own ways, they are all striving to ensure that the next Prairie generation has the opportunity to develop and explore. In the profile by Holly Harris, Lott speaks of his desire not only to create new, innovative works presented in Winnipeg but also to balance remembering and honouring dancers from the Prairies and to foster new dancers through young, emerging artist initiatives. 
In the season of lights, the young artists profiled in the issue, Kim Henry from Montréal and Thoenn Glover in Vancouver, both have found light to be a foundational aspect of their art and how they present and conceptualize the moving body. Glover does so through immersive, lit environments, and Henry through her collaborations with artist Eric Paré and what they call “light-painting.” 
 
Finally, in my family, at the holidays, being funny is a highly valued social skill. Comedy is a part of our traditions, including a vaudevillian post-Christmas performance. I was excited, therefore, by the conversation mediated by Colleen Snell with three artists for whom humour informs and permeates their work. For the participants in the conversation, Burpee, Kristen Carcone and Linnea Swan, bringing people together and making them laugh is a fundamental statement about the importance of live performance. It is, therefore, not just that my family laughs at my uncle’s jokes, but that we are together and share the immediacy of our being together when so much of our everyday entertainment is mediated. 
 
So, may the holiday season, like this issue, bring you new happy memories, light and joy. 

Movers

The Curious Type
By Jessica Rae

Contemporary dancer Kim Henry seeks out projects that explore the limits and the beauty of the human experience.

Montréal-based contemporary dancer Kim Henry is driven by curiosity. She has been carving out a career of diverse collaborations since graduating from the École de danse contemporaine de Montréal in 2011. Originally trained in competitive gymnastics, Henry didn’t begin dancing seriously until she was nineteen. Her athletic background has made her a dancer who revels in physical challenges, pairing impeccable precision with endurance. Combining her interests in minimalism and intellectual research, she is forging a career that rewards her versatility. 

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Kim Henry / Photo by Eric Paré

Movers

Dancing Lights
By Rachel Maddock

Thoenn Glover uses light and sound to create cinematic, otherworldly environments for dance

Thoenn Glover is passionate about the theatrical possibilities of dance performance. As sunlight filters through the windows of a Gastown café, the emerging Vancouver-based choreographer describes trying to weave sound and lighting so tightly together with dance movement that they become a singular experience. 
 
“My goal is to create dance that is exciting, that anyone on the street could see and be drawn into,” she explains. “Art is too separate from the public – our art form especially.”

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Thoenn Glover / Photo by Tim Nguyen, Citrus Photography

Screenshot from Roses by Akira Uchida / Photo courtesy of YouTube

Influences

So You Think YouTube Can Dance?
By Megan Kimmerer

In this age of digital technology, experiences of performance are changing and increasingly moving online. For these three Canadian dance artists, Alexander Chung of Edmonton, Akira Uchida of Toronto and Tate McRae of Calgary, social media has become a positive tool, allowing them to reach a broader audience.

In this age of digital technology, experiences of performance are changing and increasingly moving online. For these three Canadian dance artists, Alexander Chung of Edmonton, Akira Uchida of Toronto and Tate McRae of Calgary, social media has become a positive tool, allowing them to reach a broader audience. 

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Screenshot from Roses Akira Uchida / Photo courtesy of YouTub. 

Inspire

Taking the Next Step
By Valeria Nunziato

For recent graduates and those looking for a career change, finding a job can seem like stepping into an abyss. A number of dance professionals across Canada, however, are working to eliminate this gap, making dance jobs in Canada more accessible to those seeking a position. Nunziato provides a list of some their suggestions. 
 
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The List

Artemis Gordon

Artistic Director of the Arts Umbrella Dance Program

For more than two decades, Artemis Gordon has been artistic director of the Arts Umbrella Dance Program in Vancouver. Under her leadership, the program has produced graduates who have danced in companies around the world, and last year she secured an affiliation for the school with Ballet BC, ensuring that students would have access to exciting choreographic talent and new performing opportunities. This year, Gordon was awarded the 2016 YWCA Women of Distinction Award for Arts, Culture and Design. 
 
The Dance Current caught up with Gordon to discuss what inspires her, particularly around the holidays. 

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Artemis Gordon / Photo by Michael Slobodian

Healthy Dancer

Showtime
By Mary Ellen Baldner

Avoiding repetitive strain injuries around performances

Performing involves rehearsals, techs and shows crammed into a short period of time. If you have lived through a week of performances, chances are you have experienced the pain that stems from overusing the body, also known as a repetitive strain injury. These types of injuries are not limited to periods of performance; however, they tend to be more common when dance time is increased, as is often the case around a performance. There may be no warning signs leading up to the injury, or it may be a nagging issue that suddenly flares up with the increase in activity. 
 
In a repetitive strain injury, the tissue in question (either a muscle or tendon) is overloaded, and if not given the proper time to recover, it can begin to break down. Typically the load on the tissue is relatively small, but with lots of repetition and little recovery time, microtraumas turn into larger, pain-producing injuries. With repetitive strains, often there is a combination of the following: the injured tissue is too weak; it is trying to do the work of other tissues; it is being asked to do much more than it normally does; or it is not being given the proper recovery time.
 
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Dancers of Atlantic Ballet Theatre in Iceman by Igor Dobrovolskiy / Photo by Michael Hawkins

Dancer's Kitchen

Fuel for Performance
By Atlantic Ballet Theatre of Canada, Stéphanie Audet, Peter Lancksweerdt, Olga Petiteau

Three dancers from the Atlantic Ballet Theatre of Canada, Stéphanie Audet, Peter Lancksweerdt, and Olga Petiteau, share what they eat before stepping onstage.
 
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Dancers of Atlantic Ballet Theatre in Iceman by Igor Dobrovolskiy / Photo by Michael Hawkins

Practice

Making Connections
By Christina Strynatka

Nicole Hamilton helps connect minds and bodies through dance

Nicole Hamilton works tirelessly to help others explore the diverse ways in which dance interacts with minds and bodies. Artistic director of Inica Dance Industries and a George Brown alumna, Hamilton is also a member of Dance Masters of Canada and of America, a producer on Turn Out, CIUT 89.5 FM’s dance program, and a reporter for Dance Channel Television in Los Angeles. In these positions and as a member of the board of directors of Healthy Dancer Canada, she seeks to help build programs that keep dancers in their professions longer and at healthier levels. I spoke with her about teaching, health and finding yourself. 
 
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Nicole Hamilton / Photo by Aleia Robinson-Ada of AR4Photography

What's In Your Dancebag?

Atri Nundy

Principal dancer, Sampradaya Dance Creations

The relationship dancers have with their dancebag is precious. Mine is affectionately known as the Pit of Doom or the It-Has-To-Be-In-Here bag. It contains items that provide a snapshot of my daily life. Whether my bag is overstuffed or filled with only the essentials, I would not be able to get through the day without it. 
 
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Atri Nundy / Photo by Onward & Upward Photography

From Our Archives

Sharing Perspectives from Around the World, Then and Now
By Emma Kerson

Canada’s contribution to conferences concerning the African diaspora

Ten years ago, in “Widening the Sphere: dance Immersion hosts the world,” Aimée Dawn Robinson spoke with dance Immersion Founder and Curator Vivine Scarlett as the organization prepared to host the International Association of Blacks in Dance (IABD) Conference, the first time it had been held outside of the United States. Scarlett, a multifaceted artist committed to dance as a vehicle for change, founded the Toronto-based, not-for-profit dance Immersion in 1994 to support dancers of the African diaspora through diverse channels, including workshops, performances and education. In hosting the IABD Conference in 2007, which they would do again in 2012, they sought to further their mandate of connecting Canadian artists of African descent to like-minded artists from around the globe. “I want black dance in Canada to be part of the international exchange of ideas and to show us as a part of Canadian dance,” Scarlett told Robinson in 2006. “Not to segregate it. I want people to know that black dance exists here. We have to tell Canadian black dance stories.” 
 
Now, ten years later, dance Immersion is participating in the United Kingdom–based biennial Re:generations International Conference. With support from the Canada Council for the Arts, they will be sending an impressive contingent of twenty-two Canadian dance artists to the conference in Birmingham, England, this November. Hosted by One Dance UK (formerly the Association of Dance of the African Diaspora), Re:generations is dedicated to sharing practices, research and international perspectives in the study of dance of the African diaspora. For Scarlett, the conference allows the Canadian artists to participate in the opening and discovery of areas in need of further research and documentation and to explore pedagogical approaches. 
 
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This year’s Regenerations conference, hosted by One Dance UK, addresses the theme of Diasporic Dance: Legacies of Imagination / Design by Diane Bodel

Backstage

Transformation

Yvonne Chartrand explores change and art in Eagle Spirit

In her new work, Eagle Spirit, Yvonne Chartrand, artistic director of V’ni Dansi, a Vancouver-based traditional Métis and contemporary dance company, explores the transformations inherent in the processes of death and grief. Performed with eagle feathers she found while helping and caring for her mother, who had pancreatic cancer, the work began as an examination of the rituals and beliefs that structured the subsequent loss of her mother. “During her journey on from this life, I had several significant dreams,” says Chartrand. “When I spoke with elders, with teachers, they told me I should dance my dreams.” 
 
While the work was in creation at the Dance Centre, Chartrand worked with dance artist Lee Su-Feh as a dramaturge. She encouraged Chartrand to draw from the movements she had developed as expressions of her personal grief to create a work of art that spoke to those themes more universally. The piece expanded beyond its original emotional impetus and became informed by the rhythms, timing and space of the movements. For Chartrand, letting go of the personal within the work became another stage in dealing with her mother’s passing. 
 
“This picture was taken at a showing at the end of the first creation phase in 2015,” explains Chartrand. “Presenting the work in that space, on the seventh floor of the Dance Centre, with the sunlight and wood floors, in a smaller space that encouraged a focus on the minutiae of the piece, felt great. Looking at this image now, I see that transformation: letting go of the grief and the beginning of a process of rebirth.” 
 
V’ni Dansi performs Eagle Spirit and other Métis dances at the Louis Riel Day celebration on November 12th at the Scotiabank Dance Centre in Vancouver, presented withThe Dance Centre through its Artist-in-Residence program.
 
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Yvonne Chartrand in a studio showing of her own work Eagle Spirit / Photo by Yvonne Chew
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