This article is published through our Regional Reporter Program. We acknowledge the support of the Canada Council for the Arts through the Digital Now initiative.
This article has been updated from the original which stated that Christopher House succeeded Emily Molner as director. House was the lead faculty of a program that developed the Centre’s first online dance programs.
In January, Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity hired Alejandro Ronceria as its new director of dance training programming. Ronceria’s artistic vision for the dance program focuses on deeper dramaturgical support, greater creative collaborations and an expanded Equity and Inclusion effort.
Ronceria is no stranger to Banff Centre. In 1996 he co-founded The Aboriginal Dance Program at the centre, creating the first international Indigenous dance program in North America. Ronceria is recognized as a trailblazer for Indigenous dance worldwide and has a career that spans 30 years in Canada and internationally as an artistic director, choreographer, producer and educator. Ronceria takes on the director’s role after Emily Molner.
“I want to take advantage of this wonderful, beautiful place that is Banff Centre, to bring people in with different perspectives, in how they see even themselves and how they work,” Ronceria said.
Nestled in the Rocky Mountains in Alberta, the centre already attracts artists with rich cultural backgrounds, but Ronceria wants to amplify this further. He sees artists who are invested in the heritage of their work and he wants to bring these voices to Banff Centre. These artists often bring thousands of years of knowledge and dance culture with them from all parts of the world. He also hopes to experiment with the creative process through collaborations, exchange of ideas and the blending of other disciplines like film, opera and virtual reality.
“It’s like using different strings [of a tapestry] that artists are bringing to Banff Centre, and I think this is a great opportunity to create incredible dance movement that really represents Canada with the diversity that we have in this country,” he said.
A key ambition of Ronceria’s is to connect with dramaturges to provide artists at the centre with more tools to accelerate the creation process so that they can get the most out of a two-week residency. He sees providing training and creating tools for dancers and choreographers as the keys to moving forward.
“I want to provide the tools for Banff Centre to be the catalyst of creativity,” he said.
Many dance artists are emerging from the pandemic having diversified their work. More art than ever is no longer confined to four walls, thanks to digital creativity and the need to perform in unconventional spaces. Ronceria hopes to build on this momentum fostered during the pandemic and intends to cultivate the centre’s national and international partnerships to create opportunities for collaboration and platforms for Canadian work to be presented internationally.
Janice Price, Banff Centre’s president and chief executive officer, is excited about the appointment of Ronceria and wants the program to continue to embrace its core mission of training dance artists.
Price feels that Ronceria’s leadership as the new director of dance will continue to attract world-renowned companies and dance artists to Banff Centre. The centre’s history includes a long list of dance companies that developed their work in a residency at the centre before performing worldwide, including Compagnie Marie Chouinard, Kidd Pivot, Alberta Ballet and Wen Wei Dance.
“Our vision is to stay true to our roots and continue to build the amazing legacy that we have enjoyed through the creation, the training, the presentation and then the future dissemination [of dance work] around the world,” Price said.
Banff Centre leadership learned a great deal during the pandemic and even implemented a dance residency online. Like Ronceria, Price is eager to see the program build on the momentum of pandemic-bred digital work.
Dance artist Crazy Smooth and his company, Bboyizm, recently completed a residency at the centre, working on In My Body,which premiered in Edmonton on March 4 before touring select cities in Canada.
Crazy Smooth is grateful for the opportunity to create and rehearse at the centre, given all the roadblocks the sector experienced as a result of the pandemic. He loves the state-of-the-art facilities and the production support provided by the centre and enjoys the fact that the centre is a little isolated within nature.
“This is a great place for collaboration to happen. I think [the centre] could foster a lot of amazing collaborations from artists from all over [the world],” said Crazy Smooth.