Guelph Dance Festival Programs Intimacy and Community

From June 2 to June 5, this year’s festival will take place online and in person

The Space Within Us was crafted so that audiences could look the performers in the eye. Choreographed by Pulga Muchochoma, Yuichiro Inoue and Naishi Wang, it was inspired by their experiences as international dancers new to Canada. 

“Coming into a new world, country and culture, it was rare to have a space where we felt comfortable,” said Muchochoma.

The process of creating the piece as a collective was an antidote to their feelings of isolation and Otherness as international dancers, said Muchochoma. While all of the creators come from different countries (Muchochoma from Mozambique, Inoue from Japan and Wang from China), the similarities in their experiences allowed them to bond quickly and carve out a safe space for creation. The Space Within Us is their first project as a group and will be performed at the Guelph Dance Festival later this week. 

Coming from vastly different movement vocabularies, the team decided to create a “library of movement” that they could return to and choose from when making choreographic decisions. The result is a rich and layered work informed by African dance, ballet, kung fu and western contemporary dance, originally presented at Dusk Dances in 2019. 

Muchochoma is now eager to perform the piece for a live audience, something he says helps keep it alive, changing it day by day with each new audience. While the details of this year’s presentation are still being confirmed, The Space Within Us was choreographed to have the audience positioned on all sides of the performers, promoting an intimacy that Muchochoma says comes from their collective question, “How do you share discomfort with people and find joy within that?”

Also programmed this week, choreographer and performer Janet Johnson’s piece The Returned, while much larger in scale and with a multi-generational cast of more than 40 people, relies on the energy provided by an in-person audience to mould it as well. Johnson’s work often includes community members as performers and The Returned is no exception. 

The Returned / Photo by Drew Berry

In The Returned, presented outdoors as a promenade piece in the Two Rivers neighbourhood, performers will make their way along Speed River as they head towards a large warehouse space. Johnson is passionate about unconventional theatre spaces. She believes that engaging these spaces makes dance more accessible to communities and can “ignite an imagination about our world.”

With The Returned, Johnson investigates our collective nature as humans, looking at “where we might have been and where we could be going.” While the idea for the piece sparked before the pandemic, the creation process has evolved because of it. Johnson found the impetus behind joining the project has, for many community members, stemmed from the desire to connect with others, a sentiment that she’s seen increase since the onset of the pandemic and now informs how she approaches her work. 

“[I] want to keep the standard high but need to make sure everyone is heard and cared for,” she says, “because of the challenging times we are in,” something that has led her to “care less about the product and care more about what’s happening in the process.”

Both Muchochoma and Johnson are buoyed by the promise of renewed and fresh connections with the land, people and art that the Guelph Dance Festival offers. 

The 2022 Guelph Dance Festival will be taking place in person and online at from June 2 to June 5. Programming this year includes an exciting range of performances, discussions and workshops featuring both local and international artists. View the festival your own way with their flexible ticketing structure ranging from single event tickets to festival passes and all-access online passes. Online access will remain available for the entire month of June after the festival. Get your tickets now at

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