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That "Shiver Quality"

By Grace Smith, Yasmina Ramzy

Nath Keo is a Victoria-based belly dancer who primarily practises Raqs Sharqi, the classical Egyptian style of belly dance. Having grown up in the Cambodian Khao-I-Dang refugee camp, Keo describes how his passion for dance was ignited by watching performances there and later developed by his practice as a monk.

Dance and pop artist Nath Keo primarily practises Raqs Sharqi, the classical Egyptian style of belly dance. Born in the Cambodian Kav Lan refugee camp in 1980, Keo’s family moved through several camps before they landed in Khao-I-Dang in 1982. For the seven years he lived there, he watched these shows and wondered how performers became performers.

Twenty-nine years later, Keo is living in Victoria, British Columbia and is the artistic director and founder of Sacred Centre Dance, a belly dance company that produces a show biennially and offers workshops in between. Grace Smith offers us a glimpse into his life, in a out of dance – his late start into dance at age seventeen, his ordination as a Buddhist monk at twenty-six and his travels to Southeast Asia every Winter to teach and perform.

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Le danseur et artiste pop Nath Keo se spécialise dans le raqs sharqi, style égyptien classique de danse du ventre. Né dans le camp de réfugiés cambodgiens Kav Lan en 1980, il suit sa famille dans différents camps avant qu’elle ne s’installe à Khao-I-Dang en 1982, où durant sept ans, il assiste à des spectacles et se demande comment on devient artiste.

Vingt-neuf ans plus tard, Nath Keo vit à Victoria, en Colombie- Britannique, fondateur et directeur artistique de Sacred Centre Dance, compagnie de danse du ventre qui produit un spectacle bisannuel et offre des ateliers. Grace Smith nous donne un aperçu de sa vie, en danse et au-delà : de ses débuts tardifs comme danseur à dix-sept ans, à son ordination comme moine bouddhiste à vingt-six, en passant par ses voyages en Asie du Sud-Est, où il danse et enseigne chaque hiver.

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Keo / Photo by Timothy Langley

 

 

Provocations

By Kate Stashko, Seika Boye, Lee Su-Feh, Angie Cheng, Ravyn Ariah Wngz, Jenn Goodwin, Olivia C. Davies, Vivek Patel, Robyn Breen, Aimee Dawn Robinson, Gerry Morita

To celebrate our twentieth anniversary, The Dance Current asked dance artists to write about an issue of their choice and offer a call to action. The contributing artists covered everything from consent in contact improvisation, to creativity within a capitalist framework, to dance and motherhood and everything in between.

It’s not a new approach for us; since day one the magazine has been about giving voice to dance artists. But this time there was little to no direction. The ensuing writing is thrilling and humbling to read and covers everything from consent in contact improvisation, to creativity within a capitalist framework, to dance and motherhood and everything in between. The writers in this feature have been incredibly generous with their words and trusting with their stories.

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Afin de célébrer son vingtième anniversaire, Le Dance Current a invité des artistes de la danse – certains connus pour leur franc-parler, mais aussi des travailleurs de l’ombre – à écrire sur le sujet de leur choix. L’approche n’est pas nouvelle : depuis les débuts de ce magazine, donner une voix aux artistes de la danse est ce qui nous tient le plus à cœur. Mais cette fois-ci, nous leur avons donné carte blanche.

La lecture des textes qui en a découlé, captivante, est aussi une véritable leçon d’humilité. Les thèmes vont du consentement en contact improvisation, à la créativité dans un cadre capitaliste, en passant par la danse et la maternité, pour n’en citer que quelques-uns. Les auteurs ayant contribué à cet article ont fait preuve d’une générosité sans bornes de par leurs mots et se révèlent avec une rare franchise à travers leurs récits.

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Angie Cheng / Photo by Cheng

 
 

Creative Critique

By Brittany Duggan

Does it matter if there is no dance criticism in Canada? Dance criticism is inherently niche and, as such, a difficult form of arts reporting to maintain. How does critique function in today’s media environment?

The Canadian dance community likely won’t remember a time when the media was ever supporting a particularly robust critical conversation, especially when compared to the other performing arts across the country. Dance criticism is inherently niche and speaks to small, geographically specific, audiences. For this reason, it’s a difficult form of arts reporting to maintain. In the digital realities of today’s media, where eyeballs on articles equates to advertising revenue, dance criticism and even reviews – shorter pieces that tend to function as more of a cultural-product review – put simply, don’t earn their keep.

In this article Brittany Duggan surveys the current media environment where there are so few instances of dance criticism and reviewing, looking for ways the digital landscape could benefit instead of kill criticism. She also looks forward to future of dance criticism in Canada, concluding that our challenge today is how we define criticism, how we decide who can do it and how to fund this critical work.

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La communauté de la danse canadienne ne se souvient certainement pas que les médias aient jamais favorisé une discussion critique particulièrement rigoureuse dans le domaine, surtout en comparaison avec les autres arts de la scène du pays. Intrinsèquement, la critique en matière de danse constitue un créneau très spécifique et s’adresse à un auditoire réduit et circonscrit sur le plan géographique. C’est par conséquent une forme de journalisme culturel difficile à maintenir. Dans la réalité numérique des médias actuels, où poser les yeux sur un article est synonyme de revenu publicitaire, la critique en matière de danse et même les comptes rendus – des textes plus courts qui tendent à fonctionner davantage comme des descriptions de produits culturels – semblent tout simplement ne pas en valoir la peine.

Dans cet article, Brittany Duggan examine le paysage médiatique actuel, si pauvre en critique sur la danse, et se demande comment l’environnement numérique pourrait bénéficier de la critique, plutôt que d’en être le fossoyeur. Elle envisage en outre l’avenir de la critique de danse au Canada, en concluant que l’enjeu actuel consiste à définir la critique, à décider qui peut s’en réclamer ainsi qu’à savoir comment financer cette activité.

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Illustration designed by Macrovector / Freepik

 

Departments

Editorial

By Emma Doran

“It’s always production week at The Dance Current and things always come together for opening night.” This observation, snatched from Megan Andrews’ editor’s note in our tenth anniversary issue, has been an earworm for me while putting together this issue, ten years later. 

Anniversaries, with their anthemic Auld Lang Syne vibe, offer opportunity for reflection and for re/considering how to move forward. In planning this issue, it was important to us to celebrate how far we’ve come, but not to dwell in nostalgia. Instead, we wanted to focus on the future of the publication by continuing to include the voices of artists. Our special feature includes provocations from eleven dance artists who weigh in on an issue of their choice and propose a call to action. In this vein, Megan’s note is also a call to action for organizations – asking us to question the structures in which we operate, by challenging why and how we do our work. 

Despite this forward-looking approach, I also want to mention the conversations happening more generally in magazine publishing around “the archive” and its continual creation. Notably, National Geographic recently came forward to apologize for the inherent racism in the publication’s history. In this country, Canadian Art has hosted some fascinating conversations about how print collections can themselves reveal and conceal white privilege (see Valérie Frappier’s “The Politics of the Archive”). What this dialogue drives home, for me, is being open to the ways we reinforce the status quo and admit to and learn from mistakes when they’re made. 

This issue brings back the voice of Brittany Duggan, former managing and online editor of TDC, who offers us a view into the future of dance criticism in Canada, amidst the shifting publishing economy. Reading the feature profile about belly dancer Nath Keo will make you want to meet him and – hot tip – search for his videos on YouTube. 

I also want to thank the other amazing folks I work with. TDC’s director Sarah Lochhead is the foundation of the magazine and my unofficial editorial advisor. Grace Smith (circulation coordinator) and Jillian Groening (editorial and production coordinator) are talented up-and-coming dance writers whom I rely on heavily for copy. Our designer Lois Kim and copy editor Cindy Brett make the magazine better looking and easier to read, as does as our long-time translator Marie Claire Forté. An additional shoutout to our board, chaired by Marilyn Biderman, who dedicate their expertise and energy, is a given. Needless to say, there are a lot of minds that keep the magazine afloat. 

Thank you for your support over the years!

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Emma Doran / Photo by John Carvalho

Movers

Tracing Blackness
By Elise Tigges

Mpoe Mogale on the weight of representation

Erasure is the removal or all traces of something. Inspired by a lecture series in the political science department at the University of Alberta, dance artist Mpoe Mogale discovered that this term, erasure, resonated deeply with the feeling of being a Black artist in Canada and the baggage that comes with that. For Mogale, this realization also brings with it incredible joy and empowerment.

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Mogale / Photo by Liam Mackenzie

 

Movers

Every Dance Tells a Story
By Emma Kerson

Justin Many Fingers’ contribution to Blackfoot culture

MII-SUM-IN-ISKUM (Long Time Buffalo Rock) is an Indigenous artist from the Kanawa Blackfoot Reserve in Alberta. His Canadian name is Justin Many Fingers, and his creations explore dance, theatre, music, voice and land. Having studied both Indigenous and western performing art forms, he notes that while growing up, he was not raised in the Blackfoot culture because he comes from generations of family members who attended residential schools. The effect was a deliberate disconnect between culture and people.

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Many Fingers / Photo by Chantelle Arbic

The List

Usha Gupta

What inspires cultural ambassador Usha Gupta

Usha Gupta has been singing and dancing from the age of four in her native India. Today, she’s the ambassador of cultural diversity in Edmonton and Canada. With her company, Dance Entourage, she has toured her traditional and contemporary Indian classical dance creations across Canada and to seven major cities in India. In 2016, she hosted and performed in the critically acclaimed Romeo and Juliet created by the legendary Pandit Birju Maharaj. Gupta was recently inducted into Edmonton’s Hall of Fame.

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Gupta / Photo courtesy of Gupta

Inspire

Musical Chairs
By Emma Doran

Sitting in on a Wheel Dance class

Wheel Dance provides subsidized ballroom and Latin dance classes to people with ambulatory disabilities, pairing them with their able-bodied friends, family and community members. Founded in 2013, by Executive Director Dr. Iris Kulbatski, the organization is now an incorporated non-profit that also serves as the organizing body for Para DanceSport in Canada.

 

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Randy McNeil and Rehana Meru of Wheel Dance / Photo courtesy of Iris Kulbatski

Practice

Full Out
By Lucy M. May

Krump pioneer Valerie “Taminator” Chartier builds strength and strength of character

Valerie Chartier, aka Taminator, aka Lady Maddripp of Montréal, is a dancer of surgical precision and impossible stability. Her furious dedication to her work as a leader of Canadian Krump is both unusual and remarkable. Krump – a dialogical and intensely physical style of street dance – is a non-violent practice, despite its aggressive facade, and is dominated by men, both in numbers and in competition.

Taminator is one of the most experienced female Krumpers in the world. Through her efforts, Krump was kept alive in Montréal after the dissolution of Canada’s first Krump crew, Bzerk Squad, of which she was an original member. Her path has taken her from Los Angeles to Russia, where this year she will be a guest teacher at the major gathering Krumpire. In 2017, she was named Female Krumper of the Year by the (all-male) juried FCD Krump World Awards. Her current project LeadHers encourages both beginners and more experienced women to push their dance and level up, through classes for “ladies,” workshops and international creative projects.

 

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Chartier / Photos by Melika Dez

Celebrating Twenty

Bending the Structure
By Megan Andrews

Founding editor Megan Andrews on possibilities for change

As we celebrate twenty years at The Dance Current, I find myself thinking about structures. I’m compelled by the way ideas become structures as they take form in the world and as people create processes and policies to support, sustain and work within them.

The Dance Current was a just an idea, over twenty years ago, and as the early team started to give the idea shape, we made choices and developed ways of doing things (in a DIY mode) that started to generate a structure. Our choices were as deliberate and thoughtful as we could make them, informed by a motivation to make change and also by necessity, efficiency and survival.

 

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Andrews / Photo courtesy of Andrews

Dancer's Kitchen

Allison's Celebration Cake

A recipe to celebrate twenty years

Many dancers, choreographers and arts sector workers have a side hustle. For Allison Cummings, this has meant being the go-to cake maker for the Toronto dance community. Cummings recently made this cake, including chocolate and vanilla layers, buttercream, shortbread and a chocolate drip, for dance artist Andrew Hartley.

 

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Cummings / Photo courtesy of Cummings

Backstage

Between the Lines
By Sarah Lochhead

The backwards tilde (~) in The Dance Current’s logo was designed by Georgie Donais. When above a letter, the tilde indicates the pronunciation of a word; inside a word, it stands for an abbreviation or shorthand. In computing it’s a character for spacing and in mathematics it indicates approximation or similarity. As we use it, the tilde is a typographical way to express one of dual meanings of “current” in The Dance Current – moving water, a through line, inherent to its form.

The other metaphoric meaning of “current” is, of course, related to our focus on the present context of dance. When I look at the mass of covers over our twenty years, themes emerge, out of chronological order, lifting off the pages and reaching forward and back, sideways, underneath, over and through each other – a network or web of information amassed through collaboration.

As with the covers, what excites me about the contents of each edition are the spaces between. The liminal space indicated by the tilde after each article invites new possibilities rather than a punctuated finality.

 

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Image compiled by Sarah Lochhead

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