Toronto’s J-Rebel, a member of the Supernaturalz Crew, one of the city’s oldest dance crews, learned hip hop as a disadvantaged youth in Toronto in the 1990s. Now he devotes his time to bringing play, dance and hip hop culture to urban indigenous youth in the city, through programs such as Right to Play, hoping to bring health and belonging to young people.
J Rebel discovered breaking by gleaning moves and techniques from VHS tapes before being initiated to the style in high school and at youth centres. He was recruited into the third generation of the Supernaturalz crew, one of Toronto’s oldest breaking groups. With them, J Rebel toured throughout North America and around the world. He now uses his passion for dance to be a positive role model for other marginalized youth, particularly urban indigenous youths. He now dedicates a majority of his energy to creating positive change through his work with Right To Play, a global not-for-profit organization that uses the transformative power of play to empower children facing adversity.
J-Rebel a découvert le hip-hop alors qu’il est jeune; il vit alors à Toronto dans un milieu défavorisé. Il découvre des bribes de gestuelles et de techniques sur des cassettes VHS avant de plonger dans la danse à des centres de jeunesse. Il devient un danseur de troisième génération de Supernaturalz, une des plus vieilles équipes en ville. Avec Supernaturalz, J-Rebel tourne en Amérique du Nord et autour du monde. Il se consacre maintenant à partager les bienfaits de l’art et de l’activité physique avec des jeunes défavorisés. Il travaille notamment auprès de jeunes autochtones par l’entremise de programmes comme Right to Play, axés sur l’art, la danse et le partage de valeurs comme outils pour composer avex des pressions socioéconomiques complexes.
J Rebel / Photo by E. S. Cheah
In their newest work ACTION MOVIE, WIVES collective, composed of Emma-Kate Guimond, Aisha Sasha John and Julia Thomas, explores the appeal of action films from a feminist perspective. This photo essay follows their process, their residencies and the development of their multimedia creation.
ACTION MOVIE considers how mediated violence quells protest and how sensationalism kills sensitivity, from intersectional feminist perspectives.
In this photo essay, Montréal- and Toronto-based WIVES presentes images from their multimedia performance, which includes movements, film and sculpture, and expressions of their individual relationships to this pervasive film genre.
Julia Thomas, Aisha Sasha John and Emma-Kate Guimond at the WIVES showing at Vermont Performance Lab (October 2016) / Photo by Laurie Wharton
The relationship between audience engagement and attendance.
Most dance artists and presenters must negotiate the tension between creating work that meets their artistic goals, that is accessible to their community and that provides the fiscal support required to live as an artist and to run a company. Funding organizations frequently exacerbate the situation by prioritizing reach and audience attendance as markers of success. Emma Doran speaks with artists, organizations and presenters across the country to discuss who they envision their audience, how they are seeking to reach those individuals and what constitutes meaningful engagement with them. What emerges from this discussion, and from studies such as the Creative Trust’s 2010 audience survey, is that challenging and transformative artistic experiences, even on an individual scale, are considered by both creators and audiences to be more important than ever in a culture that tends to focus on quantifying engagement through passing “likes” and “shares.”
En création comme en production, la majorité des artistes et des diffuseurs de danse doivent considérer leurs objectifs artistiques, l’accessibilité de leur travail et les ressources financières nécessaires à la survie de l’artiste et au fonctionnement d’une compagnie. Souvent, les subventionnaires exacerbent la situation en soutenant que le nombre de spectateurs constitue le principal indicateur de réussite artistique. Emma Doran en parle avec des artistes, des organismes et des diffuseurs du pays pour comprendre leurs visions des publics, leurs stratégies pour interpeler les spectateurs et leur évaluation de la réussite artistique. Un constat émerge de ces discussions et des études telles que le sondage des spectateurs du Creative Trust de la Toronto Arts Foundation en 2010 : les créateurs et les spectateurs valorisent avant tout les expériences artistiques qui les mettent au défi et qui les transforment, même à l’échelle individuelle. Et ce malgré une culture qui veut quantifier l’engagement du public par le nombre de spectateurs, de « like » et de contenus virtuels partagés.
Noam Gagnon and Ziyian Kwan in The Mars Hotel by Kwan for dumb instrument Dance / Photo by David Cooper
They work under many titles, but rehearsal directors and dance dramaturges provide essential support to the creative, technical and administrative work of choreographers and dance artists. Four practitioners who have worked in this position discuss how they understand their role and what they bring to the creative process.
They might be referred to as rehearsal directors, dance dramaturges, outside eyes, artistic consultants, assistant choreographers or répétiteurs. They are dance specialists who provide vital creative, technical and administrative support to choreographers, performers and other collaborators at various stages of a creative process. With a list of responsibilities and competencies that can be as varied as the titles given to the job itself, and no formal training programs, their job is a flexible one that adapts itself to the needs of a given process. Theirs is a support role, one that takes place primarily in the backstages and shadows of creation; as such, rehearsal directors might not always receive the recognition they deserve for the their contributions to dance creation.
Helen Simard spoke with four practitioners who have filled this vital support role at some point in their careers, Martha Carter, Sophie Michaud, Jacob Zimmer and Annie Gagnon, to discuss how they envision the work, its boundaries and its possibilities.
Directeur de répétition, dramaturge, œil extérieur, conseillère artistique, assistant au chorégraphe ou répétitrice : le titre change selon le contexte. Spécialistes en danse, ces acteurs offrent un soutien créatif, technique et administratif vital aux chorégraphes, aux interprètes et aux autres collaborateurs à différentes étapes d’une création. La direction de répétition s’adapte aux besoins de chaque processus. Il n’y a pas de programme de formation particulier pour l’emploi, et les responsabilités et compétences exigées sont aussi variées que les titres qu’on lui désigne. La répétitrice travaille souvent dans l’ombre de la création et ainsi, sa contribution n’est pas toujours reconnue. Helen Simard interviewe quatre praticiens qui ont rempli la fonction à un moment dans leur carrière : Martha Carter, Sophie Michaud, Jacob Zimmer et Annie Gagnon. Ils décrivent leur vision du travail - ses limites et ses possibilités.
The Unconference, hosted by Jacob Zimmer of Small Wooden Shoe, held at Dancemakers, Toronto / Photo by Chris Willes
For many, 2016 was a rocky year. With that in mind, I wanted to start the new year with an issue that presented not glossy perfect lives, but instead dance artists who are participating in the gritty and messy business of creating art and sharing it with others. They are inspirations in their perseverance and in their commitment to making the world a better place, despite difficulties and setbacks.
In her profile of bboy J-Rebel, Francesca D’Amico presents an artist who is paying forward some of the health and community benefits he found through dance as a disadvantaged youth in Toronto in the 1990s. Formerly of a member of the Supernaturalz crew, one of Toronto’s oldest breaking groups, he now teaches breaking to urban indigenous youths in a way that moulds the meanings, roots and sentiment of hip hop to the students’ complex experiences and cultural traditions.
As most dancers know, dance is a highly collaborative process, and the work of those offstage is often insufficiently acknowledged. Helen Simard spoke with four artists who provide artistic support behind the scenes as dramaturges and rehearsal directors. They discuss how they understand their role and how they help dancers and choreographers to bring their vision to fruition.
Despite growing funding and cultural barriers for live performance in a digital age, Emma Doran explores how dance artists, organizations, presenters and audience members continue to emphasize not only the value of live performance but of art that is critical and challenging.
Some of the artists featured in this issue living up to that challenge include the WIVES dance collective, whose new work ACTION MOVIE is the subject of this month’s photo essay, examining how they use movement, sculpture and film to challenge the normalization of violence and to question the agency of the individual to oppose such trends. Amelia Griffin is another such artist. An independent dance artist in Ottawa, profiled by Ellie Sabourin, Griffin is using dance and live performance to encourage discussion of issues affecting the lives of women, like miscarriages and sexual assault.
And if these artists and their work still don’t make you feel entirely hopeful about the new year, maybe Ada and Caroline, the twin baby goats from the Dancing Goats Farm, owned by former dancers Paul Chambers and Craig Sanok, will help you get the rest of the way. Check them out on the Dancer’s Kitchen page.
Ottawa-based contemporary dance artist Amelia Griffin aims to create dance pieces that open up conversations about important, often unspoken issues.
Since returning to her hometown in 2011, Amelia Griffin has worked tirelessly to build up the Ottawa dance community. As an artist, Griffin’s intention is to create art that questions our society’s norms, engages audiences through movement and provides healing and thought-provoking moments. As an interpreter, Griffin has worked with Tara Luz Dance, Dorsale Dance, theatre company Platypus Theatre and Propeller Dance, an integrated dance company that includes dancers of mixed abilities. Her experience with Propeller has emphasized the importance of making dance accessible for people of all abilities, a cause she will pursue by studying with Stopgap Dance Company in England.
Amelia Griffin in Les billes (2012) by Anik Bouvrette for Tara Luz Danse / Photo by Jeremy Mimnagh
Nicole Ward, dancer, Ballet BC
This fall, Bolivian native Nicole Ward was presented with Ballet BC’s Outstanding Young Dancer Award, recognizing her work as an apprentice and aimed at helping her as she transitions to a full company member in the 2016/17 season.
Nicole Ward / Photo by Michael Slobodian
Dancers from across Canada share what makes some of their favourite local dance stores so memorable.
Dance shops do so much more than peddle spandex and tulle. From encouraging young ballerinas who are testing out their first pair of pointe shoes, to sourcing affordable jazz runners for inner-city school troupes, dancewear retailers can play a big role in the life and career of a dancer. A place where students and professionals alike purchase materials necessary for improving their craft and aiding their talent, dance stores offer an environment based more on passion than profits.
Stephanie Hutchison / Photo by Aleksandar Antonijevic
General and artistic director, Cie Manuel Roque
As he was developing his impressive performance career, including dancing for Sylvain Émard, Paul-André Fortier and as a company member at Compagnie Marie Chouinard, Manuel Roque was also testing and forming his own choreographic voice with short works including Brendon et Brenda (2002), Ô mon bateau (2004) and the award-winning solo RAW-me (2010), presented at Festival TransAmériques that year. In 2013, he founded his own company, Cie Manuel Roque. His physically virtuosic works investigate the weaving together of contemporary languages and the complicated ways in which ideas of self are created and expressed. In 2015, he was nominated for German dance magazine Tanz’s title of Hoffnungsträgerin (Bearer of Hope). His newest work, REDO / UNDO premieres this spring in Europe before coming to Montréal.
The Dance Current asked this exciting and unique artist about what inspires him and his work.
Roque in his own Data / Photo by Marilène Bastien
How much training is too much and what are the signs of overexertion?
For children and adolescents in pre-professional and competitive programs, their time commitments can range from a few hours to more than twenty hours per week. A student might also have rehearsals, private classes and dance conditioning. Unlike adults, in addition to the physical demands of an intense schedule, young dancers must also adapt to the physiological changes of adolescence. For instructors, special attention should be paid to detect and avoid overexertion to prevent lasting injury in young dancers.
Students of The School of Cadence Ballet’s Professional Training Program / Photo courtesy of Courtnae Bowman
Dance education with Mélanie Levenberg
A Vancouver-based dance educator, author and advocate, Mélanie Levenberg is the program director for PL3Y Inc., an international provider of physical literacy certifications for professionals working in recreation, fitness and education. Levenberg has also created a publication and teaching model, Teaching Dance for Understanding (TDfU), that seeks to make dance a more respected, practiced and meaningfully taught subject in the public school system. I connected with Levenberg recently to discuss her work and the Teaching Dance for Understanding (TDfU) model.
Mélanie Levenberg leading a dance workshop / Photo courtesy of Levenberg
Co-artistic director, Form Contemporary Dance Theatre
Founder of Form Contemporary Dance Theatre, which she now coartistically directs with Mateo Galindo Torres and Mayumi Lashbrook, Lisa Emmons has a dancebag that reflects how she draws inspiration from the people and the world around her.
Photo courtesy of Lisa Emmons
In “Dominique Dumais: Fair weather for a rising choreographer” from February 2002, Nova Bhattacharya profiled a young choreographer who was finding her artistic voice and seeking opportunities in which to create. In the intervening time, Dumais spent more than a decade as the artistic associate at Ballett Nationaltheater Mannheim in Germany where she created a full-length work each year. Dumais reflects on her own growth and development since that 2002 article.
Trained at Canada’s National Ballet School, Dumais was a second soloist with The National Ballet of Canada when she began choreographing for the company, including several pieces for Karen Kain, such as Tides of Mind (1996) and Une profonde légèreté (1998). She then “came out from the umbrella of the National,” as she told Bhattacharya, creating works for other companies. By 2002, after four years as an independent choreographer, Dumais was committed to her choreographic path but concerned about the volatile and unreliable nature of freelance work. She was hoping to find “a home,” a base from which to work and create.
In September 2002, shortly after the piece appeared, Dumais and her partner, choreographer Kevin O’Day, accepted positions at the Ballett Nationaltheater Mannheim, the dance company of the state theatre in Mannheim, Germany: he as artistic director of their dance program, and she as artistic associate. For the next fourteen years, Dumais created at least one full evening-length piece for the company every year. Over the course of her tenure, Dumais explored a wide range of artistic forms, from thematic works focused on individuals with strong personalities, as in Frida Kahlo (2010), to narrative ones such as The Little Prince (2013), to non-narrative pieces based in movement research.
Dominique Dumais / Photo courtesy of Dumais
Shot of Scotch Vancouver
In January 2014, Shot of Scotch Vancouver was invited to choreograph for a new composition, written by world-renowned fiddler Alasdair Fraser and cellist Natalie Haas, that addressed the referendum on independence that was to be held in Scotland that year. Shot of Scotch was founded in New York City by Susan Nase, Kathleen Hall and Kendra Monroe as a way to continue performing the Highland dancing they had trained in as young adults. When Nase and Hall both separately relocated to Vancouver in 2013, they began a sister group of the successful New York original, Shot of Scotch Vancouver.
“Alasdair’s composition,” says Nase, now the artistic director of the company, “did not seek to offer answers but posed questions. We tried to keep that in mind and created a work that incorporated some modern movements and costumes, such as those pictured, instead of kilts and also presented the theme of questions instead of answers. We tried to find a balance between traditions and modern twists.”
Looking back on this performance, Nase feels a sense of excitement. “We started with such a great group of dancers,” she says. “This performance was on such a tiny stage (even though the warm-up space, seen here, was immense). It was one of our first big collaborative projects. It is so exciting to see how far we have come since then, how much we have grown as a company.”
Shot of Scotch Vancouver performs at locations across the city for Robbie Burns Day, January 25th.
Sarah Grant and Emma Reid of Shot of Scotch Vancouver warming up for The Referendum by Kathleen Hall, Kate DeGood Cassidy and Trisha MacConnell Bacon / Photo by Laura Biffen