dance Immersion’s 2023-2024 season celebrates 30 years with programming that stays true to its roots: founded by choreographer and instructor Vivine Scarlett, the company was created to produce and support the work of Black artists from Canada and around the world who practice both contemporary and traditional dance forms from Africa, the Caribbean, North America, South America and Europe.
Alongside their programming, which will include Kenyan artist Fernando Anuang’a performing for the first time in North America, the company will also be offering a series of workshops and a mentorship program in honour of their 30th anniversary.
“The 30th anniversary really is a ceremony, a ritual, a community event to really show that the organization is being continued and passed on to the next generation,” says Scarlett, founder and global engagement advisor.
This season will also see a leadership change as Scarlett leaves her position as executive director. Timea Wharton-Suri, a familiar face in the company as the former program director, will step into this role.
Scarlett notes that much has changed in the dance world since the company’s inception so there is a need for “Someone at the helm who can move it forward.”
“Timea Wharton-Suri is very excellent and having her on the ground, networking with the community, not only the arts community [but] the business community and beyond…” says Scarlett, “…I couldn’t ask for anything better to make sure that dance Immersion continues to serve the community and continues for the next 30 years.”
As part of her role as global engagement advisor, Scarlett will continue her outreach throughout the international community; she will connect with artists and dancers in the U.K., Jamaica, Senegal, Ghana, Burkina Faso and Uganda to further the enrichment of African diasporic dance forms and their histories through both discussion and collaboration.
“My dream and my objective from the beginning is that dance Immersion continues to grow and serve the community, because I don’t expect it to be exactly the same way I found it, but I continue to serve the community in the way that’s needed,” says Scarlett.
The importance of legacy and unrestricted self-expression is the focus for the season as the company reconnects with artists they have worked with over their 30 year history, including Rhodnie Désir, choreographer-documentarian and artistic director of RD Créations. Désir will present her work BOW’T TRAIL Retrospek in Toronto, a dance piece she describes as “A conversation between the present and the past,” which represents a culmination of her eight years of research into African diasporic communities in the Americas. She sees this piece as a tribute to a company that has become meaningful to her as an artist.
“Each of the pieces that we’re presenting this season have that deeply researched ancestral link, looking at how [dance] has impacted us, and where we go forward, how we go forward in the contemporary world we’re in today,” says Wharton-Suri, “…These artists will have a different idea of that and a different way of looking inside and sharing that so we can all be inspired together.”
dance Immersion’s legacy series, a combination of educational symposiums and presentations, will unpack the history of Krump, led by Marcus “O.G.” Ademi Paris and other artists. This immersive three-day program will look at the roots of Krump: its origins in South Central Los Angeles and how the dance form has solidified itself as what Paris calls an “Uplifting dance and tool for expression to Black and underserving communities.”
“It’s an honour to be a part of dance Immersion’s 30th year anniversary and I’m just looking forward to celebrating dance Immersion for even making this happen; for the work that they’ll continue to do and the work that they are doing,” says Paris.
When looking ahead to the future of dance Immersion, Wharton-Suri says her hope is that the new legacy for the company over the next 30 years is one of conscious growth: one of her goals is to operate a community space within a large studio so the company can better support artists, facilitating more discussions, workshops and works-in-progress.
“It’s a growth in the ability… to provide opportunities for African diasporic dance artists to create and develop and share the work in their work and the ways that they would like to. That includes dance Immersion having a space.”
dance Immersion’s 30th season kicks off on Oct. 19 and concludes in June, 2024.
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