Reflections on the Season gone by

At the close of the 2011-12 Season, it is time to reflect on a busy year of dance. This year, DanceWorks added three extra shows – based on demand.  The season included four successful student matinees, notably the sold-out very exciting Bboyizm show in April.  We began a new Education program that included workshops, bilingual study guides and bilingual talk-backs.  Sylvain Emard, Sylvie Bouchard, Crazy Smooth and Melly Mel taught 17 movement workshops in 10 schools in English and French.  It was a privilege to watch these talented artists and dedicated teachers share their craft with captivated students across the GTA.

Photo by John Lauener

We look forward to next season.

DW196 SUSIE BURPEE & LINNEA SWAN (Toronto)
Oct 18-20, 2012 @ the Enwave Theatre
DW197 RUBBERBANDance (Montreal)
Nov 16-17, 2012 @ the Fleck Dance Theatre
DW198 LA OTRA OTRILLA (Montreal)
Feb 15-16, 2013 @ the Enwave Theatre
DW199 WEN WEI DANCE (Vancouver)
Mar 1-2, 2013 @ the Fleck Dance Theatre
DW200 NOVA BHATTACHARYA & LOUIS LABERGE-CÔTĖ (Toronto)
Apr 11-13, 2013 @ the Enwave Theatre
DW201 CIE FLAK (Montreal)
Apr 19-20, 2013 @ the Fleck Dance Theatre

The Dancing Beast – Interview with Jen Robichaud

Larchaud Dance Project presents

A DanceWorks CoWorks Series Event

Elegant Beast

May 30, 31 June 1 & 2, 2012, 8pm

Theatre Passe Muraille, 16 Ryerson Ave

 

Interview by Lucy Rupert

Lucy Rupert: What is Elegant Beast all about?

Jen Robichaud: On the surface, Elegant Beast is about an accident victim in intensive care, and a relentless, passionate patient of the psych ward with a calling to sculpt protective monsters.   If you dig deeper, the production is an exploration of the fine line between memory, desire, sanity, and the idea that “the world moves for love.”

LR: What do you hope audiences will experience/take away from seeing the show?  

JR: The desire to believe in the infinite depth of one’s soul.

LR: I know that you started with Andrew Davidson’s novel “The Gargoyle” as inspiration; how has this point of departure evolved over the creative process?  

JR: I definitely wouldn’t call Elegant Beast an adaptation. I was planning to investigate if memory of an emotion can ignite unprecedented change and if a soul can hold onto memories through different lifetimes [inspired by the novel’s themes].  Although some of this still resonates in the final work, I think “The Gargoyle” has more so influenced the characters of the show, bringing a new energy to the choreography and execution of movement.

LR: How do you approach the elements of fusion in your work?

JR: I think that the word fusion is a term that is now very popular for describing contemporary dance or for choreographers to use to describe their work, when in essence A LOT of dance has always been fusion.

I choose collaborators that I find inspiring, interesting, and who have something that I am in awe of or that challenges me. This naturally leads to Larchaud Dance Project being comprised of artists who are incredibly different, and both my co-choreographer and myself play off of everyone’s individual talents.  For Elegant Beast we decided to experiment with the aesthetics and energy of krumping because it so easily lends itself to the varying degrees of reality and sanity, and to the idea of “beast” which are all explored in the piece.

LR: Do you consider your work narrative or character-based?

JR: Like many artists, I feel that my work, any work, should communicate something to its audience.   I also think that most work, whether abstract or narrative, asks of both the audience and the performers the temporary acceptance of events or characters that would ordinarily be seen as incredible. We work with dramaturge Brandy Leary to evolve characters and narrative all to support the suspension of this disbelief.

This interview was edited for content and length.

A Key Fascination: an interview with Gail Lotenberg of LINK Dance Foundation

LINK Dance Foundation presents

Experiments – where logic and emotion collide

A DanceWorks CoWorks Series Event

Winchester Street Theatre, 80 Winchester Street

May 25-26, 2012, 8pm

Interview by a very fascinated Lucy Rupert

Lucy Rupert: What is “Experiments – where logic and emotion collide” all about? And how have you integrated the spirit of experiment in the work?

Gail Lotenberg: “Experiments” is about outcomes from a series of experiments. A long time ago I asked myself, what happens when you put scientists who study the non-verbal communication of animals (Behavioural Ecologists), into relationship with artists who study the communicative intricacies of the human body (dancers)? I pulled together a group of collaborators and asked: how could we explore the interactions between our disciplines? “Experiments” presents a number of perspectives on that query, entwined into a single piece.

Each section in the dance revolves around a key fascination or area of achievement of the scientists collaborating on this project. In one section, Dr. Larry Dill views, live, a physical interpretation that hinges on a key discovery from his research career. Then Dr. Dill is given the chance to comment, live, on that artistic construct. Another section reflects the collective perspective of dancers, who have worked with LINK Dance over many years, as we have collaborated with scientists.

A unifying theme of the work is the abstraction that is used commonly by scientists and artists to express our deepest insights. In science, graphs and charts resemble choreographic language. In any graph, what you are looking at is lines in space that are influenced by scale, direction, magnitude and other key factors that impact a phenomenon. These graphs are abstractions of real observations, which are more powerfully communicated through abstraction then words alone. They represent the creative thinking of the scientist who created them.

Compare this to the language of dance, where we create shapes, lines, and images in space, and then manipulate them by scale (i.e. relative size, level, placement in space), and magnitude (i.e. speed, sudden or gradual movement), and force (i.e. smooth, sharp, heavy, or light).

Another key fascination for me in creating “Experiments” is how absolutely breathtaking it is to listen to scientists speak about their work. Their verbal and intellectual articulateness is matched by the physical agility of dancers. To capture the elegance in both disciplines and to find the perfect pairing between text and movement is one of the central modalities of this piece.

LR: What do you hope audiences experience at the show?

GL: What I hope audiences experience in this piece is the passion of scientists and the level of creativity that underlies science. But at the same time, I hope they can pick up a more subtle message about the rigour of dance that captures the essence or truth of phenomena.

LR: How did you find/select/secure the participation of the scientists involved?

GL: How I found the participants in this project is perhaps a bit of a love story. I am married to a scientist. I find his life’s work very inspiring, but I also find the barricades on his free-association to be infuriating to the same degree. By selecting a lineage of his colleagues to work with, I was able to draw on what inspires me about him and distance myself from the details of him. I chose to work with my favorite dancers, ranging from those who are most quixotic and intuitive, to the most rational and theatrical. They wrap me up on all sides of my potential and imperfections. And every time I watch this piece, it is like a ritual marriage reenacted that expresses my love story with Alejandro (Frid). He appears briefly in an early video from this collaboration.

The final member of the group is Dr. Mark Winston, a world-renowned bee ecologist, who is now the Academic Director of the Centre for Dialogue at Simon Fraser University. He is deeply associated with the other scientists through their work as Behavioural Ecologists, but he stood out for me because of his current fascination with dialogue. He observed that what LINK Dance was doing was completely in line with the mandate of the Centre for Dialogue. His support has contributed on many levels to this current project from inception to tour.

LR: What motivates you to connect science and art in making a performance work?

GL: I am motivated to create art from science largely because I live in a world that is deeply wounded and in need of advocacy. In very subtle ways, I try to advocate for better stewardship of the Earth. I want people to see the humanity and passion behind science so they know that it is not practiced in a void of emotion. It is not the stereotype that people sometimes attribute to science: cold, dry disconnected. Actually, it is filled with people who feel wonder and delight at the natural world. Their science is usually driven by a passion to save the earth and other voiceless critters from ridiculously bad management practices by our governments. I want better stewardship of the Earth and if governments heed the perspectives of science, we may have a chance at a healthy future.

This interview has been edited for content and length.

Experiments – where logic and emotion collide excerpt


L’amour, toujours l’amour: An interview with Sylvie Bouchard of BoucharDanse

BoucharDanse 

Histoire d’Amour

DanceWorks Mainstage Event

Enwave Theatre

Thursday May 3 through Saturday May 5, 8pm

Interview by Lucy Rupert

Lucy Rupert: What is Histoire d’Amour all about?

Sylvie Bouchard: Histoire d’amour is the story of two people who relentlessly come together, throughout centuries, to experience love in all its beauty, innocence, darkness and elusiveness.  They are accompanied by an ethereal figure who leads the way, also reflecting on his own journey of love, loving and lovers. But of course, the interpretation is open, and so whatever someone sees in the work will never be wrong!

LR: What do you hope audiences will experience at the show?

SB: My hope is for the audience to be transported, and taken on a journey that makes them feel, think, react and be surprised. I hope to take them on a ride where they feel guided without knowing what’s ahead.

LR: How did you choose your collaborators?

SB: I instinctively chose my collaborators one by one, as the process unfolded…people who would be a good fit with other collaborators already part of the project. Marie-Josée Chartier, director of the production, also brought some of the collaborators on board. Everyone involved is so incredibly generous; it is a gift to bring a team like this together.

LR: What is it about love – amour — that compelled you to make this project happen?

SB: Thinking about how elusive love can be, and the idea that it takes a very long time to learn how to truly love… perhaps even centuries… Also, the thought of courage, and how relentless we are at continuously trying to find love, define love, and re-define love.

LR: What, to you, is  ‘dance theatre’?

SB: Dance-theatre is of course a term that implies that some elements of dance and some elements of theatre are utilized in the work, but the end-product can vary greatly. I have used dance and theatre together in different ways, but mostly, in ways that allow me to use the poetry of dance, and to infiltrate it with a “more or less abstract” narrative aspect. I love the idea of telling stories, and I love the challenge of creating a narrative for a piece, so that the journey of the performers / characters makes sense.

Performed by: Brendan Wyatt, Sylvie Bouchard and Christian Laurin, Histoire d’Amour features choreography by: Susie Burpee, Denise Fujiwara, Louis-Martin Charest, and Sylvie Bouchard/Louis Laberge-Côté.

This interview has been edited for length and content.

Express not impress: An interview with Crazy Smooth (Yvon Soglo) of BBoyizm

Bboyizm (Ottawa)

IZM

A DanceWorks Mainstage Event

Enwave Theatre

Fri. Apr 13 through  Sat. Apr. 14, 8pm

Interview by Lucy Rupert

Lucy Rupert:  What is IZM all about?

Crazy Smooth: IZM is about artists — dancers — expressing themselves in a culture. The pureness of the expression, that thing that we call “izm”, subsumes the moment of expression itself, transcending dance and creating dialogue within the culture as a whole.

IZM transcends age, race and gender – reaching below the surface where emotions live.

LR: What do you hope audiences experience at IZM?

CS: I hope audiences experience a rollercoaster of emotions and that the piece tampers with their perceptions of street dance in a performing arts setting.

One thing is for sure, whether the audiences are intimately connected to dance or are simply looking to enjoy something new, IZM will leave them wanting more.

LR: I am intrigued by the part of your company profile online where it speaks of “honest poetry”. How do you work in the rehearsal/creative process to bring the honest poetry out?

CS: Bboyizm’s key artistic principle is: when dancing, your goal is not to impress the audience, but rather to purely express yourself by way of the art, hence honest poetry. With this approach, your final product will be impressive due to it being genuine.

The creative process is approached from the same angle. After the idea and music for a scene is chosen, I must first dance to that music with the theme in mind to bring out the most natural movement before I can organize choreography. The choreography must come from natural movements that I feel to that music. So when I look at it, when I teach it to the dancers, the movements don’t feel forced to them but rather fluid and natural.

LR: How do you approach staging street dance in a theatrical setting?

CS: The theatrical setting enables me to address themes and messages that can’t always be exposed in the traditional street dance context.

One thing that helped a lot [for IZM] is an outside eye. I wanted to have someone who didn’t come from the street dance world; I found the perfect fit in Tedd Robinson. He looked at my work, gave feedback and asked questions that made me re-think certain things and adjust some of my choreography.

I have seen a lot of contemporary dance shows over the past 3 years: Hofesh Shefter, Eastman, and Akram Khan. One thing I always try to observe and analyze is how some of these big companies/choreographers use the space on the stage to convey their themes and messages. By doing so I get inspiration and ideas on how to stage my dance form in a theatrical setting.

LR: I love your International Dance Day message — was there anything else you would have liked to have said in that message?

CS: Yes, I would have liked to add a message derived from hip-hop culture, which says: Peace, Unity, Love and Having Fun. Although this message comes from hip-hop, I think it applies to all dances.

LR: What is your dream for BBoyizm in the future?

CS: Within the next 5 years, I want Bboyizm to be an established dance company in both the performing arts and street dance world.  I want to create a good repertoire of works (productions, collaborations) and continue to be involved in my community.

As things are growing for Bboyizm, I am constantly faced with the financial difficulties of the arts world. One of my dreams for the future is to have the right formula in order for the company to be self-sustaining, financially.

This interview has been edited for content and length.

International Dance Day Message from Crazy Smooth of Bboyizm

“Dance has the rare and precious power to unite people of all ages, cultures and religions and has an intrinsic value to Canadian society.

Consider the enthusiasm of children as they express themselves through movement; the joy adults exude after a ballroom dance class; the profound emotional response of audiences and their reflections after a powerful dance performance; the incredible energy generated in a room when everybody starts to boogie; and the passion and history reflected in traditional and cultural dances.

Imagine how desolate a world without dance would be.

Dance speaks to the mind, body and soul in a way that goes beyond the power of words.  Its social impact and capacity to engage should be celebrated. As an art form dance can be impressive but expression is its fundamental nature.”

Crazy Smooth, artistic director of Bboyizm

Dance to express, not impress.

****

« La danse possède le rare et précieux pouvoir d’unir les personnes de tous les âges, de toutes les cultures et de toutes les religions, sans compter sa valeur intrinsèque pour la société canadienne.

À preuve, l’enthousiasme que démontrent les enfants dans l’expression de leurs mouvements, la joie rayonnante des adultes après un cours de danse de salon, la profondeur des émotions et des réflexions du public après un spectacle de danse, l’incroyable énergie que dégage une salle quand tout le monde se met à danser, la passion et l’histoire qui émanent des danses traditionnelles et culturelles.

Imaginez la désolation d’un monde où il n’y aurait pas de danse.

La danse interagit avec l’esprit, le corps et l’âme au-delà du pouvoir des mots, et on se doit de célébrer son incidence sociale et sa capacité de mobilisation. En tant qu’art, la danse peut impressionner, mais elle est fondamentalement expressive. »

Crazy Smooth, Directeur de Bboyizm

Dansez pour vous exprimer, pas pour impressionner

Interlock – A Conversation with Jasmyn Fyffe

Jasmyn Fyffe Dance presents

Interlock

a DanceWorks CoWorks Series Event

Winchester St Theatre, 80 Winchester Street

Mar. 14-17, 2012, 8pm

With Choreographers: Jasmyn Fyffe, Karen Kaeja, Kyra Jean Green

and Patrizia Gianforcaro

 

Interview by Lucy Rupert

 

Lucy Rupert: What is Interlock all about?

JF: Interlock is a mixed program of six works including three world premieres. There are four choreographers on the program including me. I feel the varied choreography will make the evening dynamic and a great night out.

LR: What do you hope audiences will experience at the show?

JF: I hope audiences will experience a range of human emotions (and a desire to come and see us again). We want to take the audience on a journey that will leave them wanting more.

LR: How did you select the choreographers included in this program?

JF: Karen Kaeja has been mentoring me for the past two years and I really wanted to commission her as a senior artist in this city. I felt like I could learn a lot from her during this experience. I commissioned Patrizia Gianforcaro because I love her movement style, but I also wanted to commission an emerging choreographer to have a full scope and range of artists in my show.

LR: Since you dance, or have danced in many of your own choreographies, how do you balance your choreographer and your dancer selves in the creative process?

JF: I don’t think about the balance too much. I “just do it” like NIKE. I will say that of late I have tried to step out of my work while I am choreographing. When I step out, I feel my head is a bit less foggy and I am able to create in a much clearer and concise way. But the balancing act is inevitable and I have gotten use to it.

LR: Your company used to be called As the Spirit Moves dance and is now Jasmyn Fyffe Dance — can you speak a little bit about the name change and what it signifies?

JF: I felt the need to associate my name with my company, mostly for marketing purposes. Having a generic name is fine, but I felt that using my name as my company name would increase my visibility. So far, so good.

This interview has been edited for content and length.

Urgency: A Conversation with Sylvain Émard

Sylvain Émard Danse (Montreal)

Fragments – Volume I

A DanceWorks Mainstage Event

Enwave Theatre

Sat. March 3, 2012, 8pm

ONE NIGHT ONLY!


Interview by Lucy Rupert

Lucy Rupert: What is Fragments – Volume I all about?

Sylvain Émard: Fragments – Volume I ­­­­ is about urgency. I wanted to work with this idea by asking each dancer what was urgent for them at that time. They came up with different answers. I like that the subject really became part of them.

LR: What do you hope audiences experience at the performance?

SÉ: I hope people are going to be touched by each individual in every piece. The pieces are very different from each other. Audience members will probably relate more strongly with one specific piece, and that one will be different depending on each person.

LR: How did you decide to work with a mix of dancers and an actor?

SÉ: I wanted to go back and work on smaller forms, shorter pieces, as I used to do when I started many years ago. For that, I needed to work with performers [of dance or theatre disciplines] who could handle a solo performance. But most importantly, they had to inspire me.

LR: What qualities do you most desire and/or admire in the performers you choose to work with?

SÉ: Physical skills of course: good dance technique or significant stage experience. Generosity and confidence are also very, very important. It is crucial in terms of a real commitment to the work.

LR: What keeps you inspired?

SÉ: The need to explore new ways within dance to express our human nature. And the need to do that with great artists.

This interview has been edited for content and length.

Playing with Pop Art: An Interview with Pamela Rasbach

Tomato Soup

Typecast Dance Company 

A DanceWorks CoWorks presentation

Winchester St Theatre

80 Winchester St

Thurs. Jan 26 – Sat. Jan 28, 2012, 8pm

Interview by Lucy Rupert

Lucy Rupert: What is Tomato Soup all about?

Pamela Rasbach: Tomato Soup is a fictional story of a lover, an actress, a robot, and a ringmaster. Throughout their journey we witness each character’s relationship to consumerism and each other. Tomato Soup is inspired by the visual aesthetics of Andy Warhol. 

LR: What do you hope audiences experience at the performances?

PR: I have experimented with comedy, so I am hoping the audiences will enjoy this cheeky and playful work, which contrasts with my last piece [Missed Connections, 2010]. We are also excited to share a new work of Missy Morris, as part of our new initiative to promote other emerging choreographers.

LR: How did you decide to team up with choreographer Missy Morris?  

PR: Missy has danced with Typecast since its beginning. When she expressed interest in choreographing, she was an obvious choice as our first guest choreographer. We wanted the company to collaborate with someone we knew well and trusted. We hope to include other emerging choreographers in future productions.

LR: How have you translated Pop Art into contemporary dance? What was your creative process (internal or with dancers) to explore this theme?

PR: Pop Art was used as visual inspiration to convey the theme of consumerism. Pop Art’s obsession with the object is explored as the dancers interact with each object on stage. There is also an element of chance in this piece, as the artists never dance with the same product twice!

LR: What do you dream next for Typecast Dance Company?

PR: We hope to continue to produce works that showcase the power and passion of young artists, and would love to give second life to our works by touring.  Mostly importantly, we would like to continue having fun and sharing our love of dance with new audiences.

www.typecastdance.com

This interview has been edited for length and content.

Manga meets Dance: An Interview with Maxine Heppner

My Heart is a Spoon

Maxine Heppner/Across Oceans

A DanceWorks CoWorks presentation

Theatre Centre, 1087 Queen Street West
Friday Jan 20 – Sat. Jan 21, 2012, 7:30 pm
Sun. Jan 22, 2012, 2pm Tickets: 416-538-0988

Interview with Lucy Rupert

Lucy Rupert: What is My Heart is a Spoon all About?
Maxine Heppner: This is the first incarnation of the piece, the first development from a complicated idea – to explore how a young person and an older person each comes to terms with the power of their contained energy, their rage. It’s about dualities. A girl. A man. Black-and-white. Complex colour. Power, and its lack. Explosion. Creation. We’ve been inspired by the graphics of manga novels and that they are the outgrowth of traditional drawing of Japan’s 1600’s.

LR: What do you hope audiences will experience at the performances?

MH: We hope they will become immersed in the worlds we are creating, that they will experience some of what we are working with in rehearsal: the magnetism of bold energy that so easily sucks us in, but then spits us out without any reason. And also the grounded focus that keeps the dancers and images from evaporating. We also hope that because we are presenting a production that is still in creation, that they will share their experience with us about the concepts and challenges of the topics on twitter during the coming weeks, and at the talkbacks afterwards.
LR: How did you assemble your creative team?
MH: Because of the dualities of themes I looked for dualities in the collaborators themselves and between us. Takako Segawa can be so boyish and so womanly but is always pure impulse and feeling. Gerry Trentham transforms amazingly from intellectual to instinctual man. Fujimoto Takayuki, our light and media director who works in high tech theatre design accepted the challenge to explore virtual and actual in performance. Alex Yue designs handmade origami. Sarah Shugarman is creating a sound score that is both acoustic and electronic.

LR: What keeps you inspired and creating after over 30 years creating and performing?

MH: In creation I most enjoy the direct human exchange. Today En Lai Mah (choreo-assistant) and I were trying to sort out imagery with several props.We spent most of four hours wordless, moving objects, marking the dance for the other to see, nodding, shaking heads, laughing, changing things around.These are the golden moments. Inspiration is not controllable. It comes from anywhere unexpectedly; from an intellectual concept, a rush of sound, watching cranes lift parts of a building into place, the way a waiter turns on his feet in a crowded restaurant, birds…

LR: From where does the imagery in My Heart is a Spoon derive?
MH: The powerful drawings of graphic manga novels. The freedom of imagination in old legends. Modern history. Pure energy, pure colour.

This interview has been edited for content and length.