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.
On Sept. 23 and 24, over the weekend of Nuit Blanche, the Winnipeg-based collective Weather Parade Dance Theatre presented In the Dark as part of Culture Days. The event was an interactive, improvisational dance show that went above and beyond the organizers’ expectations, culminating in what can only be called, quite simply, a dance party.
People arriving at Gord Dong Park for the performance were given the option of sitting back and making s’mores around a fire or joining the group of dancers who experimented and moved through the park. The performance happened twice consecutively both nights, a format that allowed audience members to get comfortable and join the experience when they felt energized and inspired.
Mark Dela Cruz’s job as choreographer was primarily to ask questions, the main one being: “How do we actually get the audience dancing with us?” The answer, the performers discovered, lay in cultivating a groovy atmosphere, especially in the beats (by DJ and producer Josue Davi), which Dela Cruz said were downright infectious.
“There was an audience member who jumped on the mic and started rapping,” Dela Cruz noted, referring to the performance on the Friday night. “It was a night of very artistic people coming together.”
T’ai Pu, the audience member who jumped on the mic, is an experienced MC, percussionist and spoken word artist. He attended the performance with his partner, who was one of the performers. Pu said that when the audience was invited to join the performance, “The music was so fly that I just started spitting and rhyming, and Mark dragged me over to where the dude was making the music and threw me on the mic.”
Dela Cruz described the music as “spacey ambient that evolved into something more lo-fi groovy, and in the end, it’s intense party.” Coupled with Pu’s improvised vocals, the tunes really animated the audience to get up and participate.
After the Friday night performance, Dela Cruz asked Pu to join them again on Saturday – the night of Nuit Blanche – and he returned with his contagious energy and an LED staff that a group of kids ended up “rocking” throughout the installation.
“This was the brilliance of what Mark was doing,” said Pu, “creating the space and being open to the energies that arrived at the space.… I just showed up, and suddenly I was part of the presentation.”
“It became this self-propelling thing; eventually, basically everyone was up and moving.”
Many folks from across Winnipeg’s dance community were at the event in both creative and support capacities, but at the end of the night, the distinctions didn’t really seem to matter.
“It was a really good example of how a community can operate when people get beyond the classifications, beyond the cliques that they’re in, and just see the value of bringing dance to the general public,” Pu said.
The event’s success was apparent to everyone involved, Pu and Dela Cruz agreed. When the installation hit its official end time on Saturday, people were “just boiling inside with energy,” Pu said.
“They didn’t want to leave, so the DJ kept running tunes, and we just kept flowing out so everybody could continue the party.”
“It was really fun and celebratory,” Dela Cruz said. “People just wanted to boogie, and we boogied.”
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