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Danielle Baskerville tells us about her first meeting with frequent collaborator DA Hoskins, her new role as Artistic Producer, and how Jackie Burrroughs is Dead and what are you going to do about it? is ultimately, not really about loss.

DanceWorks: How and when did you first meet DA Hoskins?

Danielle: I was fifteen, a student in Victoria, B.C., at a remarkable and now-defunct studio called Victoria Arts Collaborative. Darryl Hoskins, David Earle, and a group of amazing Toronto dance artists including Sasha Ivanochko and David Pressault, spent several summers in residence on the west coast influencing a generation of B.C. dancers. Darryl was a young choreographer, and still performing himself. He was in the midst of creating a trilogy of works set to the music of Henryk Gorecki’s Symphony No. 3 sung by Dawn Upshaw. Entitled The Mortality Songs, it later premiered in its entirety as a fundraiser for the Toronto People with AIDS Foundation. I was struck by the beauty and painful, patient ascent of the score in tandem with the dancer’s movement.

DanceWorks: In Jackie Burroughs is Dead and what are you going to do about it? you take on the role of Artistic Producer. What has been rewarding and challenging?

Danielle: I am all for the dance artist taking on more responsibility within our art form (not limited to more pro-bono work!). Roles such as producer, artistic director, and curator are so often filled by choreographers and I think this is a remnant of a more hierarchical time in dance, when a dancer’s role was often considered secondary to the creative act. I would love for dance artists to be able to grow old within the idiom that most have been committed to from a very young age. How amazing would that be, for us as individuals and for the art form? To do this we need to expand our roles.

For years, I have worked with Darryl and watched him struggle with the constraints of simultaneously creating and producing, and the many ways in which these roles are often arbitrarily joined. Therefore, I wanted my first shot at producing to be for one of his works.

I was thrilled when DanceWorks came on board with such strong support for this collaboration. The history that Darryl and I share, and the fact that I am one of the dancers in the piece, has made the role of Artistic Producer both more and less challenging. For example, reaching out to members of Jackie’s family to let them know of the project and to receive their blessings was a very personal and meaningful act for me – I imagine that someone on the ‘outside’ would have found this quite challenging. On the other hand, my mistakes along the way (of which there have been many!) have all struck a little closer to home.

DanceWorks: Can you describe some of the movement in the piece? How would you characterize it? How does it feel to dance?

Danielle: The piece is fundamentally about the energy that exists between people. This energy is what we have, lose, and gain, at every moment of existence. The title is about loss, but we are not trying to convey the sadness that is part of a death, but rather the vitality that we have in life, in the act of moving forward, and in the memory of a life gone by. This is ever-present, undeniable, and need not be pushed forth in order to be recognized.

We try to steer clear of any sense of drama or of a ‘performative’ quality, in an attempt to bring the audience inside what we are doing, instead of telling them how to feel about what they are seeing. There is no narrative. It feels alive, present, and very real. All of it is choreographed and there are, unusually, no true moments of improvisation. To dance choreographed movement in a way that is trying to be neither bigger nor smaller than what it is, is an unusual and beautiful challenge. Physicality is the foundation of the work, which may sound like a given in a dance piece, but not so in the wide range of approaches possible in contemporary dance.

 Jackie Burroughs is Dead and what are you going to do about it? opens on April 7 at the Harbourfront Centre Theatre. Tickets are available at the Harbourfront Centre Theatre Box Office.

Photo Credit: Javier Castellanos