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Nhussi / Photo by Leif Norman
 

A Driving Force

By Jillian Groening

Dancer and choreographer Casimiro Nhussi is a pioneer of contemporary African dance in Canada. Writer Jillian Groening details his journey from his Makonde community, to New York City, to Winnipeg – where he established NAfro Dance Productions in 2002.

Nhussi’s life changed when the president of Mozambique visited his grade school. Struck by Nhussi’s energy, the president suggested he look into the National Song and Dance Company. With the Company, Nhussi toured internationally and eventually began to get his own contracts to work abroad performing and teaching master classes at the University of Hamburg. Upon returning home, he was granted the role of artistic director. Struggling against the idea that the company should be presenting a ballet- influenced aesthetic, Nhussi eventually left to study at Ailey company, where he absorbed elements of Horton and Dunham. 
 
Writer Jillian Groening talks with Nhussi about how relocating to the prairies was tough on him. As a choreographer “The difficult thing was to start again,” he recalls. Eventually, he landed his first job with the School of Contemporary Dancers teaching African movement and technique and, after he established himself there, he established his own company, Nafro Dance Productions, in 2002, becoming the first artist to build up a contemporary African company west of Toronto. “I wanted to do more,” Nhussi said. “I’m a dancer. I just needed to be onstage.” NAfro will host the Moving Inspirations Dance Festival this November in Winnipeg.
 

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Le danseur et chorégraphe établi à Winnipeg Casimiro Nhussi vient de la communauté Makonde au Mozambique, où le chant et la danse font partie intégrante du tissu quotidien. Sa vie bascule lorsqu’il est au primaire. Le président du Mozambique à l’époque se rend à son école et est frappé par l’énergie du jeune Nhussi. Il lui suggère de se joindre à la National Song and Dance Company. Au sein de cette compagnie, l’artiste tourne internationalement et commence éventuellement à signer des contrats pour travailler à l’étranger et enseigner des classes de maitre à l’université de Hambourg. À son retour à la maison, il devient directeur artistique de la troupe nationale. Tiraillé par l’idée que celle-ci devrait adopter une esthétique qui découle du ballet, il quitte son pays pour étudier avec la compagnie d’Alvin Ailey, où il apprend des éléments des techniques Horton et Dunham.

La rédactrice Jillian Groening discute avec Nhussi des défis de sa relocalisation aux prairies. À titre de chorégraphe, « la difficulté était de recommencer à la case départ », se rappelle-t-il. La School of Contemporary Dancers l’engage pour enseigner la danse africaine. Après qu’il s’installe à Winnipeg, il devient le premier artiste à fonder une compagnie africaine contemporaine à l’ouest de Toronto. « Je voulais en faire plus », explique Nhussi, « Je suis un danseur. J’ai besoin d’être sur scène. » En novembre, sa compagnie NAfro tiendra le Moving Inspirations Dance Festival à Winnipeg.

Nhussi / Photo by Leif Norman

Ramos and Ricardo / Photo by Peter Desouza
 

Bachata Across Canada

By Kimberly Ramos and Geovanny Ricardo

Dance partners and teachers Kimberly Ramos and Geovanny Ricardo share the work of Canadian bachata artists, detailing how the Dominican form became popular.

Bachata is a popular guitar tradition that originated in the Dominican Republic in the first half of the twentieth century. With the death of Rafael Trujillo, Dominicans saw an end to musical censorship, heralding the beginning of the transformation of the bachata sound and the form spread internationally.
 
In the early 2000s, salsa had been the dominant force within Canada’s Latin dance scene. Yet bachata maintained a formidable presence at events as a casual social dance, used more as a break from the higher-octane styles of salsa and merengue that were danced at the time. It wasn’t until about six years ago that Latin dance instructors across Canada began to shift their attention towards bachata, as its impact on the global dance community began to increase with the help of social media platforms like Youtube. 
 

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La bachata née d’une tradition en guitare populaire qui retrace ses origines à la République dominicaine au tournant du vingtième siècle. Avec la mort du dictateur Rafael Trujillo en 1961, les Dominicains ont vu la fin de la censure musicale, qui a laissé place à la transformation et la transmission internationale de la bachata.
 
Au début des années 2000, la salsa est la forme dominante dans le milieu canadien de danse latine. Néanmoins, la bachata continue à tenir une place aux évènements comme danse sociale plus décontractée, qui offre un répit des styles très énergiques de salsa et de merengue favorisés à l’époque. C’est seulement depuis les quelques dernières années que les instructeurs de danse latine ont commencé à porter plus d’attention à la bachata. La présence du style dans la communauté mondiale de la danse prend de l’ampleur grâce aux médias sociaux, notamment YouTube.
 
Les praticiens et partenaires de bachata Geovanny Ricardo et Kim Ramos ont compilé cet essai, qui met en vedette des artistes de bachata partout au Canada, et qui explique comment cette forme est devenue une des plus populaires en danse latine.
 
Ramos and Ricardo / Photo by Peter Desouza
Tamara Karsavina, Nijinsky and Ludmilla Schollar in Jeux (1913) / Drawing by Valentine Hugo
 

Embodying Nijinksy

By Patty Argyrides

In 2000, choreographer John Neumeier created the full-length ballet Nijinsky based on the life and works of the famed dancer. Guillaume Côté, of The National Ballet of Canada, considers what it means to create from words, testimony and history.

Vaslav Nijinsky is celebrated as one of the most famous male dancers of the twentieth- century. From 1909-1913, he was a member of the Ballets Russes, a modern ballet company from Russia, under the direction of Sergei Diaghilev. Audiences were captivated by the company’s artistic innovations and brilliance on stage, but also by the drama that unfolded behind the scenes. In 2000, choreographer John Neumeier first created the full-length ballet, Nijinsky, based on the life and works of the dancer. Nijinsky premiered with the Canada’s National Ballet Company (NBC) in 2014 and has been brought back for the 2017/18 season. 
 
When creating a ballet based on biography, the question of history, authenticity and legitimacy are not only valid, but essential. Contributor Patty Argyrides spoke to NBC principal Guillaume Côté about what it means to create from words, testimony and history. When it comes to Nijinsky, there are many competing narratives about who he was – as a person and as a dancer. His long-term struggle with mental illness further complicates issues of identity. Côté addresses what it was like to collaborate with Neumeier on Nijinsky, and, more specifically, how they approached the myth and history of Nijinsky together.
 

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Valsav Nijinski est un des danseurs mâles les plus célébrés du vingtième siècle. De 1909 à 1913, il dansait avec la compagnie de ballet moderne les Ballets Russes sous la direction de Sergei Diaghilev. Les publics étaient captivés par l’innovation artistique de la compagnie et la brillance des artistes sur scène, mais aussi par les drames en coulisses. En 2000, John Neumeier a chorégraphié le premier ballet intégral Nijinsky, basé sur la vie et l’œuvre du danseur. Présenté en première avec le National Ballet of Canada en 2014, la création est reprise pour la saison 2017-2018.
 
Si l’on construit un ballet à partir d’une biographie, les questions d’histoire, d’authenticité et de légitimité sont non seulement valides, mais essentielles. La rédactrice Patty Argyrides s’est assise avec Guillaume Côté, premier danseur de la compagnie, pour parler des enjeux lorsque l’on puise les textes, les témoignages et l’histoire pour donner vie à une danse. Au sujet de Nijinski, plusieurs récits sur son caractère et son travail d’artiste se contredisent et ses problèmes soutenus de santé mentale complexifie la question identitaire. Côté décrit de son expérience en collaboration avec Neumeier, et en particulier, de leur façon d’aborder le mythe et l’histoire de Nijinski ensemble.
 
Tamara Karsavina, Nijinsky and Ludmilla Schollar in Jeux (1913) / Drawing by Valentine Hugo
Sarah Elola in her own work La Pileuse / Photo by Stacyann Lee
 

Decolonizing Dance Curation

By Rhodnie Désir

Five presenters, curators and jury members discuss their strategies for inclusive representation and what they imagine for an ideal future in a pluralist dance milieu.

This year in Canada the conversation about diversity, inclusion and representation has been omnipresent in the dance milieu. But what does it really refer to? By asking “what does the word diversity really mean?” the answers are often incomplete, reflecting a lack of comprehension of the issues at stake. 
 
While some presenters are having these necessary conversations, each day there are numbers of projects from artists presenting a so-called “non-western contemporary aesthetic” that are being refused because of systemic criteria of exclusion. These artists face resistance and many of them must transform their art by making it into a weapon just to be heard or by acting as a token within a community. 
 
Rhodnie Désir invited Michael Toppings, Vivine Scarlett, Andrew Tay, Karla Étienne and Keith Baker to dicuss these issues. All have the same thing in common: they are already engaged in the conversation and are willing to share their thoughts so that the dance milieu continues to grow and evolve.
 

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Cette année, les discussions autour de la diversité, de l’inclusion et de la représentation ont été omniprésentes dans le milieu de danse au Canada. Mais de quoi parle-t- on, précisément ? En posant la question « qu’est-ce que la diversité ? », on arrive souvent à des réponses incomplètes, qui font preuve d’une compréhension inadéquate des véritables enjeux.
 
Si certains diffuseurs s’y penchent sincèrement, il reste que tous les jours, nombre d’artistes qui mettent de l’avant des projets « d’esthétique contemporaine non occidentale » se voient refuser des occasions de travail et de diffusion en raison de l’exclusion systémique. Ils se heurtent à une résistance et doivent transformer leur art en arme pour être moindrement entendus, ou injustement, devenir représentants pour toute une communauté.
 
Rhodnie Désir a invité cinq acteurs autour d’une table pour en parler : Michael Toppings, Vivine Scarlett, Andrew Tay, Karla Étienne et Keith Baker. Tous sont déjà bien engagés dans la conversation sur la diversité et sont heureux de partager leurs perspectives afin que le milieu de la danse puisse grandir et continuer son évolution.
 
Sarah Elola in her own work La Pileuse / Photo by Stacyann Lee
Choreolab Site Specific led by Sarah Joy Stoker / Photo by Linda Caldwell
 

Dancing from the Grassroots

By Evadne Kelly, Tanya Evidente, Kristin Harris Walsh

This July, World Dance Alliance Americas held their Global Summit at Memorial University in St. John’s, Newfoundland. Three of the organizers report about the reach and impact of the event.

World Dance Alliance (WDA) was founded in 1990 and has now evolved into three regions: Americas, Asia Pacific and Europe. Its mission is to serve as a voice for dance and dancers throughout the world and to encourage the exchange of ideas and awareness of dance in all its forms. The Global Summit is an international activity of the WDA, which facilitates sharing and networking in a culturally diverse and global context by undertaking scholarly, choreographic and performance projects.

Choreolab Site Specific led by Sarah Joy Stoker / Photo by Linda Caldwell

Departments

Editorial

By Emma Doran

Lately I’ve been thinking about how the process of learning dance can be transcendent. By passing on movement, it becomes permeable; two or more bodies come together to pass on bodily patterns and intentions, which change depending on who we are, where we are and how we are. In this vein, learning and teaching dance is not just about steps; it’s also an invention that exists between two bodies – it’s about how we teach and create as much as the result. 

Winnipeg-based dancer an choreographer Casimiro Nhussi, a former teacher of mine, embodies the “how” of teaching in his generosity. In our feature profile on Nhussi, Jillian Groening details his journey from his Makonde community in Mozambique, to New York City, to Winnipeg, where he established NAfro Dance Productions in 2002. This company brought more visibility to Nhussi’s blend of contemporary and African dance in Western Canada. 

Pluralism and representation on Canadian stages is an omnipresent topic at the moment. Rhodnie Désir speaks to five presenters and curators about challenging the norms of who they’re presenting. By pluralizing stages, these presenters are aiming to engage with artists in meaningful ways that evolve beyond tokenism and the implication that artists should be ambassadors of their form. 

Within these pages are several complementary and contradictory topics that epitomize the multiplicity of dance practices in the country. Sze-Yang Ade-Lam details their personal journey through institutions and methods that have a long way to go in acknowledging gender as a fluid concept. Demonstrative of positive change in this direction, Molly Johnson details how swing dance teachers are making their form accessible, by changing their language and practices, to offer inclusive spaces for learners. On the other hand, the issue features a photo essay on bachata partner dancing, which illustrates a reality of how the majority of partner dancing plays gender, while often depicting other varieties of resistance. For instance, bachata’s origins in the Dominican Republic stemmed from a political reaction against censorship. Dance partners Geovanny Ricardo and Kim Ramos collated the essay, detailing how the form became wildly successful across Canada.

In this issue the From Our Archives column asks questions about which forms of dance value (and have access to) traditional or Euro-western forms of documentation. When considered in context with Patty Argyrides’ feature on portraying Vaslav Nijinsky onstage – a role inspired by the dancer’s diaries – it’s fascinating to consider whose stories are told posthumously. The question is even more pertinent when considering that the Bolshoi Theatre recently rescheduled their premiere of a ballet based on dancer Rudolf Nuryev. The initial cancellation was announced amid rumours that the ballet’s depiction of homosexuality would be “too controversial” for the main stage. 

As we enter the holiday season, I hope the issue fuels productive dialogue around a feast or fire with colleagues, friends and family.

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Emma Doran / Photo by John Carvalho

Ade-Lam / Photo by Rob Rogers

Movers

Breaking the Mould
By Valeria Nunziato

Sze-Yang Ade-Lame talks advocacy and self-love

As a proud advocate for change in the dance industry, Toronto dancer and choreographer Sze-Yang Ade-Lam of ILL NANA/DiverseCity Dance Company (DCDC) is breaking the mould as a non gender-conforming performer. Pioneering a company that supports multiculturalism and encourages members of the LGBTTIQQ2S community to challenge gender norms in dance, Ade-Lam is dedicated to being a game changer in an industry that is still living in a world of firsts.

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Ade-Lam / Photo by Rob Rogers

Caballero / Photo by Jack Sommers

Movers

Using What You Carry
By Olivia C. Davies

Alejandra Miranda Caballero

Emerging Bolivian-Canadian dance artist Alejandra Miranda Caballero moved to Canada to join Lamondance in 2014. Now based in Vancouver, Caballero believes that her passion for dance is reflective of her motivation to be resourceful.

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Caballero / Photo by Jack Sommers

Check It Out

From the Scottish Highlands to Cape Breton Island
By Emma Kerson

A new book on Gaelic step dancing in Canada

Over time, forms of dance evolve – growing or shrinking geographically and speaking to and for the cultures they are tied to. As it happens, Nova Scotia holds the last keystone in tracing a historical tradition in Scottish ethnology.

Jason Martin in Falling by Martin and Janelle Hacault / Photo by Leif Norman

Inspire

Precious Pixels
By Grace Smith

The why and how of photography for dancers

Capturing and collecting images of work is crucial for dance artists. Photos are essential for promotional purposes, applications and reports. The Dance Current spoke with Leif Norman, a photographer based in Winnipeg, who often works with dancers. As part of this work, he finds himself discussing with dancers how to best digitally document their work.

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Jason Martin in Falling by Martin and Janelle Hacault / Photo by Leif Norman

Furey / Photo by Mathieu Verreault

The List

Clara Furey

A maverick creator

Montréal-based Clara Furey is a transdisciplinary artist who approaches choreographic creation as a crossroads between dance, music and performance. The Dance Current asked her what inspires her.

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Furey / Photo by Mathieu Verreault

Alayna Kellett / Photo courtesy of Kellett

Body

Put Your Best Foot Forward
By Blessyl Buan

How dancers can prevent common foot maladies

Each foot is composed of twenty-six bones and thirty-three joints. The foot propels you forward, gives you balance and, for dancers, extends the lines created by the shapes that you make. The foot also gestures, gives you flight, articulates soft landings and grounds you. It’s not surprising, however, that this foundation is often taken for granted. This oversight leads to overcompensation, poor technique and injury.

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Alayna Kellett / Photo courtesy of Kellett

Karen's Holiday Goose Pie / Photo courtesy of Millyard

Dancer's Kitchen

Karen's Holiday Goose Pie

An era-specific recipe

Karen Millyard is a socio-historical researcher with a background in performing arts, history and English literature. A dance teacher since the 1980s, she has been calling English country dances for many years and is known for her clear teaching, concise calling and lively sense of fun. She works with beginner and experienced dancers at historic sites, museums and schools. 

With Dr. Dorothy de Val, Millyard co-organized the conference English Country Dancing: Rooted in the Past, Dancing into the Future in 2010. Her related organization, the York Regency Society, offers lectures and events exploring non-dance aspects of Georgian culture, including food, fashion, social mores and influential figures of the time. Her balls, dance classes, lectures and historical meals take place throughout the year, and she also hosts two full-weekend events annually, A Weekend with Jane Austen, every spring and Master and Commander: A Weekend in Nelson’s Navy, every autumn. 

On December 16th Millyard will host the Jane Austen Birthday Ball at the historic Heliconian Club in Toronto. Her group, the Toronto English Country Dancers, holds public Friday night dances with live music every week.

Karen’s Holiday Goose Pie is a favorite at her historical dances, which include era-specific recipes.

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Photo courtesy of Millyard

Dancers of Swingin' OUT / Photo by Brittany Boudreau

Practice

Swing Dance
By Molly Johnson

Moving beyond the gender binary

For many, gender roles are implicit in partner dance. But as society begins to recognize the full spectrum of gender identity and make room for roles beyond the binary, swing dance is doing its part to keep in step. Molly Johnson spoke with three teachers, asking each for tips and insights on how to encourage inclusion and build new understanding within this storied form.

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Dancers of Swingin’ OUT / Photo by Brittany Boudreau

What's in Your Dancebag?

Jo-Ann Sundermeier

Principal dancer of Royal Winnipeg Ballet and founding member of Q Dance

Originally from Pompano Beach, Florida, Jo-Ann Sundermeier trained at Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet School’s Professional Division, becoming an apprentice with the company in 2003. In 2012 she was promoted to principal dancer. Sundermeier is also a founding member of Q Dance with founder and choreographer Peter Quanz.

Participants of the New Chapter grant project / Photo by Justin Hall

From Our Archives

Iteration as Adaptation
By Emma Doran

Thoughts on the vanishing point and archiving dance

In the December 2002/January 2003 issue of The Dance Current, Jenny-Anne McCowan wrote about the origins and developments of Labanotation and Laban Movement Analysis (LMA) and their role in the preservation and reconstruction of dance (“Graphing the Vanishing Dance”). Emma Doran spoke with Toronto-based dancer and scholar Jennifer Dick, who reflected on some of the differences between Labanotation and LMA.

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Participants of the New Chapter grant project / Photo by Justin Hall

DJD company members in rehearsal for Velocity / Photo by Noel Bégin

Backstage

The Company Choreographs

From November 16th through 26th, Decidedly Jazz Danceworks (DJD) presents Velocity – a program of works choreographed by the company members.

The program began in the 1992/93 season and has been a regular season offering since 2000. The artistic director of this year’s show, company member Catherine Hayward, is in her tenth year with DJD and she’ll be working to not only curate the performance but also assist with the production elements. Kimberley Cooper, artistic director of the company, explains that the Greek root of the word choreography means “to write.” Although she feels that “not all dancers are choreographers,” Cooper also notes the value in being offered the opportunity to “write” one’s own movement as fundamental in developing skills and new ways of seeing. The chance to choreograph, she asserts, “makes you a better dancer.” The dancers of DJD will have twelve weeks to create and rehearse for the performances.

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DJD company members in rehearsal for Velocity / Photo by Noel Bégin

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