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Developing and Showcasing Dance in Ontario

By Vanessa Zeoli, Miya Shaffer, Grace Smith
  • Battle, presented by TUDS, at DanceWeekend'17 / Photo courtesy of Dance Ontario
  • Vivine Scarlett after winning the Lifetime Achievement Award at Dance Weekend'17 / Photo courtesy of Dance Ontario
  • Tess Vosper / Photo courtesy of Dance Ontario
  • Ruth Leggett and Keith Davidson of Canadian Actors' Equity Association doing registration at on the MOVE Toronto / Photo by Isabella Cairess Favaro
  • Lilia Leon delivering her keynote speech at on the MOVE Toronto / Photo by Isabella Cairess Favaro
  • Kevin Ormsby at on the MOVE Toronto / Photo by Isabella Cairess Favaro
  • Esie Mensah, Amanda Acorn and Robert Kingsbury at on the MOVE Toronto / Photo by Isabella Cairess Favaro

Two recent events in Toronto allowed the Ontario dance community to come together to support and mentor the next generation of dancers while also showcasing the diversity of the current dance scene in the province. 

on the MOVE Toronto

By Vanessa Zeoli

On January 20, 2017, more than 100 post-secondary students gathered at the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts for on the MOVE, an annual professional development event for emerging dance artists of all genres. Presented by the Dancer Transition Resource Centre (DTRC) in collaboration with numerous nationwide arts service organizations, on the MOVE offered a series of panels, workshops and networking activities aimed at helping participants navigate the transition into a professional career in the dance industry.

To open the conference, Mexican-Canadian performing artist Lilia Leon’s keynote addressed her own experiences as a participant at on the MOVE in 2007. Leon spoke of the lasting connections she made at the conference, as well as the tools she acquired, that she has carried with her throughout her dance career. This year’s participants were afforded similar access to professional guidance and resources through a community fair and networking lunch. Practical sessions in self-production and stress management rounded out the day’s events.

With most of the participants hailing from York University, Ryerson University, George Brown College and School of Toronto Dance Theatre, on the MOVE was above all a chance for Canada’s future dancers to meet their peers and potential mentors. Leon stated, “The opportunity to gain insight from artists who are part of the community and exchange experiences and insecurities with people from other programs is really valuable. It is a beautiful thing that doesn’t happen too often.”

On the MOVE conferences, presented by DTRC, will be held in Montréal on February 3 at the École de danse contemporaine de Montréal, in Vancouver on February 24 at the Scotiabank Dance Centre and in Winnipeg on March 20 at the School of Contemporary Dancers

 

Dance Ontario Dance Weekend’17

By Miya Shaffer and Grace Smith

Dance Weekend is an annual three-day event presented by Dance Ontario, an association representing a cross-section of the dance industry to promote and support its needs and concerns. Dance Weekend’17 brought twenty-six companies from across the province to Fleck Dance Theatre in Toronto, reflecting the event’s aim to represent the diversity in Ontario’s dance community.

Dance Weekend’17 featured new, commissioned works by Toronto-based choreographers Ryan Lee and Alyssa Martin. Lee’s Less interrogated the limitations of masculine ideals. The three male dancers supported each other through several lifts before settling into moments of stillness which, accompanied by total silence, expressed a sense of vulnerability.

Martin’s Dolphin combined physical athleticism with showy props and scripted speeches to create an absurdist world of pop culture and camp. The dancers recited lines from the Gossip Girl television series in falsetto voices while falling flat to the floor or throwing water bottles – prompting the audience to raucous laughter.

Saturday’s offerings included Tziporah Productions’ duet, my HIGHER self, choreographed and performed by Aviva Fleising with Allara Gooliaff, about the everyday struggle of finding balance in a busy life, with Gooliaff dancing on stilts. Congruous, performed by The Garage, was conceived and directed by Hanna Kiel in collaboration with a stage-filling twenty-nine dancers. The mass of dancers, a rare sight in contemporary works, created spiralling patterns and fluid, wave-like transitions.

Several awards were given out during the event. Two community service awards went to Colin Anthony (posthumously) for coexisDance, an event he presented for ten years, which paired dancers and musicians to create work, and Kenny Pearl, for his work with GMD (Great Moving Dancers). Pearl received the award the same week that GMD held its final classes, closing due to lack of funding. Founded by Pearl, GMD had been a place in Toronto for professional dancers to train and network for numerous years, offering challenging and diverse contemporary classes at affordable prices.

Vivine Scarlett was awarded the Dance Ontario Lifetime Achievement Award. Scarlett has been active in the dance community for over thirty-four years and is the founder of dance Immersion, which has been supporting dancers of African descent since 1994. With dance Immersion, Scarlett has addressed the need of additional support needed for African dancers and dances. The Jacque Foesier Youth Dance Award went to Tess Vosper of Milton, Ontario.

According to Alyssa Martin, the diversity of styles and genre presented at Dance Weekend was a driving force behind her participation in the event. “The community here is a little bit of everything,” Martin noted. “We come to Dance Weekend to reach out to new people and show our work to a different audience.” 

“What’s unique about dance in Ontario,” says Martin, “is that it’s still growing. There’s so much more future than there is past.”

 

 

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