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Interviews, essays and commentary published by The Dance Current.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Train of Thought: Candid Reflections from Publisher/Founding Editor Megan Andrews

Interview by “The Dance Current” Team

Megan Andrews / Photo by Ken Cunningham

Reflecting on the experience of the past thirteen years creating and running “The Dance Current” is honestly overwhelming. It was for a while like pushing a freight train up a hill; now it’s like running madly in front of that train laying tracks as fast as possible. As I conclude my tenure as editor, I asked the current team to send me questions to prompt some reflection on this journey. Thanks to everyone who has accompanied me along the way.
– Megan Andrews, Publisher/Founding Editor

“The Dance Current” has evolved in many ways, from finding its place on the Internet to adopting colour covers. Which change do you consider the most significant thus far, and which change would you like to see for the magazine next? – Samantha Mehra, news writer

It’s funny, we’ve had a presence online for so long that it doesn’t seem like a change per se though of course our presence has evolved, particularly in the last several years. I think the introduction of colour covers and the change in our overall production values at that time (Sept. 2009) was pretty significant. When I send all the text files to our art director and then get a designed magazine back by pdf, it’s like Christmas every time with all that editorial content wrapped up in a colourful package. I’d certainly like to see the magazine consolidate and streamline its online presence. We have a plan sketched out and are waiting on funding results. Since pretty much the beginning, the vision has always included a complementary print-online relationship and as the new media environment evolves, the balance between print and online has been changing. I expect this shift to continue.

How do you decide on editorial content for the magazine? – Natasha Frid, board chair

That’s a huge question. In as small a nutshell as I can, here goes: we use our performance listings calendar in conjunction with all other information we have from our own knowledge of the scene and from our networks to consider what’s happening in a given issue-month. From there, we select artists and events from that month that are significant or deserving of coverage for some reason and we look for fits between these selections and the many different print and online columns or departments we have to work with (from all the mini items in the warm-up section of the print magazine to the features, news, reviews, web features and video blog). We make choices also based on who and what we’ve covered in the past and how recently, and we try to spread the coverage around, doing our best not to simply repeat the same small set of artists over and over and always trying to include new voices and perspectives.

I hold the image of a relief map of Canada in my head populated by many coloured stickpins with tiny flags for all the dance people and organizations I know. As I learn more and more about the Canadian dance scene, I add pins to my map. Lately, this map is more like a Google map with zoom and pan options and, instead of pins, I imagine embedded YouTube videos of dancing and other goings-on. I envision a studio I’ve been in, say EDAM in Vancouver, and who is likely rehearsing at a given moment, or a theatre I know, like the National Arts Centre Studio and what is slated to premiere there this week. For a long time, I’ve also kept a kind of editorial matrix in my head that has a number of different axes. In each issue, if possible and definitely over the course of a year, I try to ensure that we address 1) different sectors (creation, production, education, research, advocacy, management/administration, etc.), 2) different regions of the country, 3) different dance forms and practices, and 4) different generations. Gender is also a consideration simply because dance is proportionally female and yet we want to ensure due consideration of men in dance as well.

This happens rather intuitively now, for everyone involved in the planning; however, we make these parameters explicit on a regular basis in order to challenge our own assumptions and ideally move beyond them. I have always felt a great responsibility to present an up-to-date and evolving reflection of the Canadian dance scene in our pages. Of course, I’ve had to set boundaries around what we will cover because it’s not possible to include everyone in every form, everywhere in the country. As such, I’ve focussed on “theatrical dance” and more so on the “art” side of things rather than the commercial or “entertainment” side of things, though I write those words with “scare” quotes because, of course, there’s a huge debate embedded therein.

In terms of the feature articles, I would say there’s probably a balance between the articles that have developed out of proposals from writers/community members and articles that have come from a question, topic or issue that I’ve perceived and wanted to pursue. In the latter case, I approach a writer who I feel would be a good fit with the topic and the piece develops from an initial conversation between us. It’s quite interesting to go back now and notice that certain topics and themes have tended to recur in cycles.

What prompted you to start “The Dance Current” in the first place? – Kathleen Smith, writer/reviewer; How has writing for this magazine influenced your own creative path? – Aviva Fleising, Programs & Services Manager, Canadian Dance Assembly (partner); In what ways has running “The Dance Current” had an impact on your own career as a dance artist? – Julie Anne Ryan, second translator; What made you decide to start the magazine instead of working primarily as a practitioner (dancer, choreographer, etc.)? – Chiaki Nemoto, bookkeeper

When I lived in Vancouver as an emerging dance artist, I relied on The Dance Centre’s “dance central” to keep me informed about the classes, workshops, shows and people in the community. When I moved to Toronto, I was looking for something similar and though I found many different resources offered by many different organizations, I felt the need for a consolidated communication tool. I asked a few colleagues what they thought of the idea and so we began. (I would like to emphasize the “we”. This has definitely not been a solo gig.) The point was to create a centralized source for information about the Toronto dance community. The magazine really grew slowly from there, with input and support from a whole host of engaged artists, dance professionals and organizations. As I personally learned more about the history of dance publishing and dance writing in Canada and came to understand the real need for informed writing about dance in this country, the magazine took shape and, I think, began to meet this need, as other dance magazines have in the past.

I would say the magazine very much developed in parallel with my own ongoing learning about and reflection on dance in Canada and writing about dance. I definitely learn by doing; I can certainly trace an aspect of my own creative path, as a writer and thinker, in the pages of the magazine. I’ve also come to know myself as an editor as a result of the magazine. I really do consider the issues, and write and edit all from my knowledge, experience and bodily understanding of dancing.

My path as a dancer is much less obvious and public now; however, I continue to have a life in studio and sometimes on stage and, really, this has always grounded my magazine work. Though I certainly juggled a significant amount of performing alongside the magazine for a while, I sometimes wonder what my dance performing career might have become had I not started the magazine. I don’t feel like I chose the magazine over performing, rather that the magazine grew to the point where it chose for me. Though that’s not really true of course; I did choose it. I think because I saw by then that I could make a contribution to the field in this way it seemed like the right fit for me.

As artists, we put so many volunteer hours into our projects yet rarely recognize this or quantify it. Could you give us an idea of how many volunteer hours you think you’ve put into this incredible initiative and organization over the last 13 years? Any thoughts or advice? – Andréa de Keijzer, department photographer

Regarding the volunteer time, I think I have to say, “no comment” and leave it at that. In terms of thoughts or advice about this, in general I will say that I think it’s a troubling issue that warrants some serious and candid discussion in the sector. Certainly anyone driven by a passion for his or her work will always invest more time and effort than is documented on paper or remunerated by cash – this is not exclusive to the arts. For me, the issue in dance, particularly, is in the potent and problematic combination of the following: 1) a tendency to undervalue one’s expertise/training/contribution because it is inherently undervalued by our society as a whole; 2) an insidious sense that “others before us have not been properly remunerated so why should we be?” 3) specifically, in dance, the cultural history of the body and body-based art practice that has burdened dance with frivolous, extravagant or nefarious connotations, sometimes also connected with its disproportionately female practitioner population; and 4) the ultimate mis-fit of creative expression/artistic practice with a commercial/market imperative. Tackling this from the personal, since the larger issues will flatten a single individual, I believe dance professionals need to be empowered to speak up and stand up for themselves. This requires solid, concrete comparative information about expectations and rates of pay (within and beyond the dance sector), as well as shared stories and strategies for building a sense of self-worth and articulating it effectively (to oneself and then to others).

What has it been like working with so many writers, of different backgrounds and levels of experience, from across the country? – Kaija Pepper, assistant and reviews editor, writer/reviewer

A challenge and a delight. I have learned so much from both emerging and established writers and this has been one of the most rewarding aspects of my job. One of my “secret” pleasures of editing has been the back and forth of notes and emails with writers about their ideas, the dancers, dances and topics they’re writing about and the use of language itself to express and effectively communicate. Perhaps this is what a behind-the-scenes DVD would reveal about this particular production – “The Dance Current”. There would definitely be a bloopers reel as well. The first issue almost went out with Health Beat spelled Helth Beat! Since then, my spidey senses have always been heightened as I proof (and proof and proof) each issue. (Thank god for copy editor Amy Bowring!)

I have to say that I absolutely love working with writers to first understand what they want or mean to say and then to delve with them into figuring out how to fully and clearly express this. I feel like I play the role of dramaturge to the writers I work with. There have been some really messy processes, in which there have been between fifteen and twenty drafts of an article from its submission by a writer to print publication. And we persevere. I have been pretty committed to working with even very emerging writers and artists who have something to express but who may not have the experience to get it into words easily. Usually though, there are between five and eight drafts of a piece before publication. Then there are those times when something comes in supremely clean and eloquent and I just marvel at a writer’s organization of ideas, framing, turn of phrase, choice of words, structure, rhythm and pacing. I didn’t have experience as an editor when I started the magazine. Working with all the contributors over the years has been my training – so I should just like to say here, “Thank you to all who have been my teachers”, including you, Kaija.

What articles/columns of the magazine have stayed the same over the years? Which ones have evolved or changed? – Kate Stashko, listings editor, staff writer

I think almost everything has at least evolved over the years. Probably the artist profile is the one standard piece that has always appeared in some form. The mini profile, Making Waves, (which you now write!) has been around for a long time too. I guess these elements speak to one of the founding intentions of the magazine: to introduce us to each other and thus to the public as thinking, speaking human beings, not just silent dancing bodies. I remember thinking (after I moved to Toronto from Vancouver) that it seemed like people in the dance community didn’t know about each other – even in Toronto itself, let alone across the country. I felt that it was important to make these acquaintances via the magazine so we would know who others in our field were, what they were inspired by and what they were making. My dad said to me once something like: “Everyone has an interesting story. You just have to ask a few good questions.” In my experience, this has proven to be true and I think it’s the second part that is key: good questions. Regarding the magazine itself, we’ve always published features of various kinds. A big change occurred – at least in my thinking – at ten years. I feel like up until then, I had been looking in on the dance community and curating content based on that viewpoint. At ten years, I intentionally “turned around 180 degrees” and began consciously looking out at society as a whole and asking feature writers to consider dance in that broader context. I’ve been quite inspired by some of the features we’ve published since then that connect dance to larger issues in society: technology, the environment, public space, social justice, ethics, politics.

What work are you most proud of? And why? If you had to do it all over again, what would you do differently? – Ronn Battaglia, board member

Most proud of: I think the fact that the quality of the writing in the magazine has been very strong. It has always mattered deeply to me that if we’re going to represent dance in writing, it had better be done with deep care, respect, accuracy and as much eloquence as possible. Because dance and dancers have had a hard time, historically speaking, being taken seriously, I felt that the writing had a big job to do to buck that perception and represent the artists and the art form in a thoughtful and articulate manner.

What I’d do differently if I did it all again: Don’t start with eleven issues a year or even try to maintain nine plus a web presence (which we currently do) on a small, arts and culture magazine budget. It’s crazy-making!

What have you found most challenging to articulate about the art form and how has “The Dance Current” tackled the issue over the years? ¬– Julye Huggins, video blogger

Writing about movement is really difficult and even established dance writers struggle sometimes. I often still push back on established writers, asking for more description, more specific adjectives, more detailing of the movement itself. I think some writers express themselves through a visual engagement with the dancing; others express themselves through a more kinaesthetic engagement. In the former mode, the dance becomes a kind of object that we “see” through the writer’s words, whereas in the latter mode, the dance persists in some manner as a subjective experience that we “feel” through the language. I enjoy pondering this relationship and have written a little about these approaches and modes of writing. But I’m getting off track. Yes, I think writing about the dancing itself is really challenging and maybe “The Dance Current” has tackled this in two ways: first, by providing opportunities for writers to practice and hone their craft over time, and second, by providing a committed, engaged editing process that has hopefully allowed the writers to explore, deepen and refine their expressions.

In terms of the influence of dance writing on dance practice, which avenues are the most exciting to you? – Marie Claire Forté, translator, editorial advisor, writer

I feel like there are two ways to answer this question. One relates to my own research interests with respect to the relationship between movement and language, and the body as “interface”, to use a temporary term. I’ve been working for quite some time now with a writing practice alongside my movement practice. This immediate, almost stream-of-consciousness, reflection reveals so much about what’s happening in the movement, in my body, in my psyche. That writing/learning resonates with me as I begin to move again, be it the same day or several days, even months later. I feel this kind of writing deepens my understanding about what we might call “the meaning in the movement” and I am infinitely curious about and engaged by this process.

The other way to answer this question relates to the impact I believe dance writing has on the art form, in practice and performance. I fervently believe we need more quality writing about dance in this country – and I perhaps even more fervently wish that more practitioners would engage with and even contribute to this writing. It still surprises me when I read about an artist working with a particular set of questions or “innovating” with specific styles, modes or collaborative elements and I know I’ve read about other artists doing similar things – sometimes way in the past and sometimes now but on the other side of the country. Of course every artist’s expression is ultimately unique but I think creative practice and performance of dance would deepen significantly as a result of more, and more engaged, discourse that is shared by way of publication. When I say quality writing, I don’t just mean long form reviews that really tackle a work in depth; I also mean critical essays about pieces, performances, practices and perspectives in dance – specifically highlighting Canadian dance artists and work. I certainly think “The Dance Current” is a place for this kind of writing and we have certainly published some; however, there is so much more potential.

But let me say here and now, just as dancing and choreographing are practices that require training, effort and persistence, so is writing and there are not many avenues or opportunities for dance writers to really dig in, to practice, receive feedback and develop chops in long form reviews and essay writing. A few undergraduate- or even graduate-level essays are certainly not sufficient, nor is simply writing a personal blog, though that can be an important part of one’s practice.

Further, in considering the influence of dance writing on dance practice, I think reviews that engage critically with a work and offer evaluation are important catalysts. However, in dance, when there is often only one major review of a work ever, this piece of writing carries great weight. As such, I think the scope and scale of the evaluation must be aligned with the scope and scale of the writer’s experience, dance knowledge and viewing history. Otherwise it can do a great disservice to the artist, the art form and the reader as well – whether through undue positive or negative appraisal. This is why, as an editor, I look for descriptive and contextual evidence to support any judgments.

In looking back, can you speak to an event, or specific issue, that has changed or altered your original vision for “The Dance Current”? – Brittany Duggan, assistant to the editor, news writer

Yeah, right at the beginning. I really imagined a newsletter for Toronto. Someone suggested including an artist profile and someone else asked if we were going to sell advertising. The Canada Dance Festival (I think) bought the very first ad. That was a change right at the start. All along though, it has been an evolution. I often can’t say where different ideas come from – they arise through many, many conversations, interactions, reading, thinking, talking and doing the work.

The development of the Internet also facilitated a big change in enabling us to publish reviews online. We didn’t want to publish them in print because at the time the magazine was really a community-building initiative and we felt that if we started to publish critical opinions, it would potentially alienate the very people we wanted to connect. The potential to publish reviews online was a great solution because it kept that content separate from the print magazine and also allowed a more fluid publishing schedule so we could post reviews when they were ready. We didn’t have to put them through the long print production process.

Another change arose with the idea to create the Summer Annual as a compilation of reviews from the website. I think at that point I really began to understand the significance of the document we were creating of dance in Canada. In writing my feature article for the May 2011 issue, I went back to reference a bunch of old issues. It’s overwhelming to me to see how much is recorded in the magazine’s pages, how much has happened in just thirteen years.

What is the importance of the magazine continuing to develop an online presence? What founding aspect of the magazine do you hope will always exist? What aspect of the magazine do you hope will evolve and how? What is your favourite part of the process? – Alexandra Howells, e-bulletin coordinator and sales and marketing intern

In this day and age, the magazine’s evolving online presence is essential. It’s a reality of the new media environment. As I noted earlier, we have a plan sketched out and if all goes accordingly, we’ll be consolidating, streamlining and updating our web presence over the next year or two.

I hope the magazine will always serve in some way as a community-building tool: bringing Canadian dance people together via the page or the screen, introducing them to one another, sharing experiences and perspectives, and documenting the growth and development of the field. How it does so will change as times and technology and editors change I imagine. I certainly hope the understanding of “community” continues to evolve. It has already changed significantly since the magazine started in 1998.

My favourite parts of the process: talking about ideas and writing with writers; talking about ideas and dancing with dancers – and seeing the whole thing come together in the design process.

What has “The Dance Current” accomplished that you didn’t realize it would? In other words, how has it surprised you? – Cynthia Brett, assistant copy editor, news writer and editorial intern

Good question. I think, in fact, the way it has taken on a life of its own. The magazine manifests in a tangible way the efforts of so many people: those who work on the inside of the process at “The Dance Current” and those who work in the dance community – which is our subject matter. Each issue in itself is this interesting little object or package of effort, action and experience – representing choices made, which reveal something of the people behind those choices, from the work made by an artist to the words spoken in an interview to the quote chosen by the writer to the headline written by the editor to the image printed on the page to the colour selected on the cover … Certainly, the magazine manifests lots of choices that I make, but these are only in combination with so many others made by people inside and outside the organization. When I see the final version of a given issue, it always expresses the “more” of a gestalt, with so many elements and details coming together to create its identity. In some way, I find myself surprised every time.

How has the position of the independent dancer changed since you started “The Dance Current”? – Susan Kendal Urbach, managing editor

I think quite significantly. Along with “The Dance Current”, which I hope has contributed in some way to stronger communication among – and about – independent dancers, there have been a number of other developments in the sector. CADA–Ontario and CADA/BC have published the Professional Standards for Dance and the Basic Dance Agreement respectively, which articulate dance artists’ rights, responsibilities and fees. Dance artists are using this document and being empowered by it. Various training subsidy programs provincially help defray dancers’ ongoing training costs, and now the Canadian Dance Assembly is helping develop a National Training Subsidy Program. Besides these formal advances, I think dance artists, and the community as a whole, understands that being a freelance/independent dance artist or working independently but under a personal company name, is arguably more common now than being an employed company dancer. This is a reality in the sector and the concepts of parallel and portfolio careers are part of our vernacular. I also think training is catching up with the independent reality, with even established training institutions preparing their graduates for a multi-faceted career, with exposure to and experience in many different forms and styles. It seems to me that there has been a concerted focus on physical training over the past decade; I think – or hope – that perhaps we’re starting to focus more on choreographic development now.

Of all the images you’ve included in the magazine or online, what is the first one that comes to mind? – Andreah Barker, board secretary

Of course I read this and cover images start flashing before my eyes. And many are recent because of the shift to colour. I can’t just name one. Oct. 2010: Tap Dance in Canada (Travis Knights / Photo by Jared Wielfaert); Summer 2004 and Summer 2010 (with the wraparound cover): both featuring Compagnie Marie Chouinard; Nov. 2010: Reconsidering Public Space (Katya Montaignac’s “Corps anonymes”); Apr. 2010: Ethics in the Dance Studio (Shay Kuebler and Sasha Kozak in “new animal” by Dana Gingras for The 605 Collective); March 2009: Flamenco Feature (Carmen Romero / Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann); and certainly Pat Miner on the cover of the first issue May 1998! (View all our covers: www.thedancecurrent.com/back.cfm)

When and how did “The Dance Current” make the transition from focusing solely on contemporary dance to covering all forms of dance? How do you think covering all genres of dance has influenced and impacted the sense of a dance community in Canada? – Naomi Brand, news writer

In fact from day one our mandate has been to be inclusive of all forms and practices … however, we say we “strive” for this because it’s not something that can be a “fait accompli”. Dance practices are always evolving, morphing, developing and the community is always growing and there are definitely boundaries we’ve either explicitly set or implicitly used to make choices about what we cover. We’ve focussed primarily on concert/theatrical dance at the “professional” level – so not social dance, not amateur/recreational dance and not so much commercial/industry dance. And we’ve embraced Canadian artists in a Canadian context because to cover the international scene is just too immense a picture to try to “see” and also because other publications cover these landscapes. (I have always been dedicated to the Canadian picture because if we don’t write about it, who will?) … Therefore, we have inherently excluded forms and practices as well. I find this an everlasting catch-twenty-two – that we can never cover everything – it’s why the art form in this country needs a magazine – an ongoing vehicle to track an ongoing art/practice in order to represent the breadth and diversity of the scene over time.

Second question: I can’t say that I know what the impact has been on the dance community. I’d like to think that in part as a result of the work we’ve done at the magazine we, as a Canadian dance community, have a broader and deeper understanding of our colleagues and their work. I definitely can say what the impact has been on my own understanding of the dance community, which has expanded incredibly.

And there’s so much more work to be done to discover and build relationships with individuals and organizations across this country whose passion, pastime or profession involves dance in some form or capacity. So to quote Miriam Adams, co-founder and director of Dance Collection Danse and one of my colleagues and mentors, I say: “Onward!”

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The Contours of Character
Interview by/de Megan Andrews

Susie Burpee in her own work The Spinster’s Almanac / Photo by Deborah Hickey

Susie Burpee creates “fully human characters, struggling for connection” (The Toronto Star). Her work has received Dora Mavor Moore Awards for Outstanding Choreography and Performance, and she is a recipient of the K.M. Hunter Artist Award for Dance.

Burpee’s multi-faceted professional career includes performance, creation, teaching and mentorship. She completed her professional training at the School of Contemporary Dancers (Winnipeg), augmented her studies at the Limón and Cunningham schools (New York), and trained in character and bouffon at L’Ecole Philippe Gaulier (Paris). She was a company dancer for Ruth Cansfield Dance, Le Groupe Dance Lab and Dancemakers, and she continues to collaborate with Serge Bennathan, Lesandra Dodson, Tedd Robinson, Linnea Swan and Dan Wild. Currently, Burpee is resident guest artist at Canadian Children’s Dance Theatre. She is also guest teacher in the professional programs of the School of Contemporary Dancers and The School of Dance (Ottawa). Her latest work, Road Trip (je ne regrette rien), is a collaborative duet with Linnea Swan that interweaves bouffon and contemporary dance.

You worked as an interpreter for a long time before you began creating work for yourself, first at Ruth Cansfield Dance (1993-96), then Le Groupe Dance Lab (1996-2000) and then with Dancemakers under Serge Bennathan’s direction (2000-2006). What did you acquire, creatively, through these experiences that set the stage for you to embark on an independent career? What are you seeking now, as an independent, to nurture your craft?

During those company years, through the practice of performing, I came to understand myself as an interpreter of contemporary dance. I became aware of my ability (and responsibility) as an interpreter to offer a point of view on the work I was dancing. For me, one of the most interesting things about being an interpreter in someone else’s work is the relationship between the vision of the creator and the vision of the interpreter. Of course, the interpreter’s vision only exists within the context of true understanding of the intent of the creator and their work. It is this place of understanding – the symbiotic relationship of creator and performer – that I find most compelling and most beautiful. Because in the end, it is really about understanding each other in the context of something that isn’t about ourselves at all.

I’m fortunate that my company experiences gave me an arena in which to put these ideas into practice. As I began to put forth a point of view on the work I was performing, I began to understand the creator within the interpreter. Creating work became a natural extension of my work in performance, and the desire to look at this more closely led me to choose the independent artist life.

Under the umbrella of dance companies, “time and practice” was what allowed me to develop as an interpreter. To nurture my craft as an independent, I seek, simply, the same: time and practice.

Susie Burpee in her own work A Mass Becomes You / Photo by Omer Ömer K. Yükseker

Since you struck out on your own as a choreographer, are you still actively seeking work as an interpreter for others? How do these different roles complement or conflict with one another for you?

I continue to perform the work of Tedd Robinson, Serge Bennathan, Lesandra Dodson and a few other Canadian choreographers. This work is sparing, but meaningful. I love falling back into “dancing for other people” for the reason I have previously mentioned (the meshing of two visions), but for other reasons as well. For me, there is always this amazing moment in the creative process where things turn over, or “drop-in”. It is the moment when you understand yourself and your purpose within the work, and it feels to me like this strange and beautiful higher knowingness of self. It is a mostly uncharted place I visit inside myself, to which, without dance, I would otherwise have no access. It’s amazing to me that this very personal enlightenment occurs during the act of serving a higher purpose: the work – a larger vision that needs you for its very existence, but isn’t about you at all.

Linnea Swan and Susie Burpee in their work Road Trip (je ne regrette rien) / Photo by David Tilston

The commissioning relationship is an interesting beast, in which certain creative constraints (for example length of work, number of dancers, performance venue) are set up through a contract, initiated by individuals who will be or organizations that will provide the interpreters. As choreographer, you then usually have a short period of time to make a work with a group of relative strangers. How do you approach this challenge?

I find the commissioning relationship curious and delicate, and I consider each situation for its individual qualities. Sometimes there is opportunity in unfamiliarity. Relative strangers can do remarkable things together.

Human nature and the human condition are my greatest curiosity. I ask the questions, “What exactly determines human nature, and to what extent is human nature malleable?” Through observation of people’s behaviour and deportment, I seek to capture the fleeting moments of our complexity and vulnerability that make us individual, while maintaining the philosophy that the personal is inherently universal.

In order to examine these questions, my history has been to make self-solo work or work with artists who have been long-time colleagues. I felt that the depth of “knowingness” of the self, or of another close peer would give rise to a deeper examination of human nature. Truth or not, it was certainly true of my own creative process for a time. In the last couple of years, I have begun to approach commission work, and have new-found inspiration in meeting new artists through choreographic work.

I generally employ a pre-process in order to answer some of my own questions around commission work. The artist(s) and I work in the studio for a week or so, getting to know each other and seeking a better understanding of the possibilities of the kind of work we could make together. At the end of this period, we can then decide if working together is the right fit, or what the scope, scale and shape of the project might be. It is only then that the resource gathering begins.

Susie Burpee in her own work A Mass Becomes You / Photo by Omer Ömer K. Yükseker

Your self-solo pieces The Countess of Main Events (2004), The Spinster’s Almanac (2007) and A Mass Becomes You (2009) all reveal quirky, slightly off-kilter female characters. The tone of these works is perhaps a bit neurotic, with layers of physical comedy and sometimes a lurking sexual undercurrent. I get a sense of the power of these female characters but it is contained, held back. In critic Michael Crabb’s review of A Mass Becomes You (in The Dance Current: online), he says: “There is a constant undercurrent of desperation and Beckettish hopelessness.” Do these descriptions ring accurately to you?

The words “quirky” and “off-kilter” (although not out of the realm of the world of my solo work) I often feel don’t do justice to the characters I create. The characters in my works open themselves to the audience and reveal the darkness, absurdity and deviance that sit within us all. They are courageous in the way they reveal a raw vulnerability, and therein lies their power. I’m not interested in looking at power as a state of faster/higher/stronger. Power, to me, is about choice. I choose that my characters exhibit fully human qualities, and in turn, in performance, I empower them with behavioural choices. Gloria Steinem once said: “Any woman who chooses to behave like a full human being should be warned that the armies of the status quo will treat her as something of a dirty joke. That’s their natural and first weapon.” I intend that my solo works challenge and provoke thought around what we consider “acceptable” behaviour.

Re: “neurotic”
One of the characteristics of the disorder of neurosis is obsessive thought and/or compulsive behaviour. The characters in my solo works often exhibit certain obsessive behaviours, in an attempt to look at how we, as individuals, relate to the world. I am interested in our need to connect with and, at times, control our environment.

Susie Burpee in Broken Spoke by Lesandra Dodson / Photo by Maria Cardoso

Reflecting on these solos within your repertoire and in context of your duets with Dan Wild, Mischance and Fair Fortune (2005) and Fidelity’s Edge (2010), do the characters have relationships to one another?

No. My self-solo characters incorporate bouffon, and my duet works with Dan Wild don’t. This immediately situates them in different performance contexts.

How have you come to know these characters through performance?

Philippe Gaulier, a master teacher in character/bouffon (and with whom I studied) says, “to know your character is death”. What he means is, if we already know everything about a character, then we leave no possibility of being genuinely surprised in performance. Dealing with a moment of surprise on stage is about truth. If we, as a performer, experience truth of a moment, there’s a good chance this truth will reach the audience.

My characters continually surprise me on stage. The works that I make that incorporate bouffon are largely unfinished by the time they premiere. They can’t be finished, because the work of the character only begins when it meets an audience. Inherent in this work is the proposal that likely nothing will go as planned, and that each performance is a live, in-the-moment reaction to a turn of events. Through performance, the character is revealed through what they choose to do in reaction to ever-changing conditions. As an interpreter, this work is sometimes terrifying, and always illuminating. My favourite moments in performance are those moments when there is a surprising and unexpected turn of events, when it seems as if the whole work might suddenly crash and burn and the character is forced to make a brave behavioural choice while the audience sits in witness. These moments are one-of-a-kind and significant in their ephemeral nature. They reveal so much about the character, and always, something illuminating emerges out of the beautiful wreckage of the moment.

If I thought I knew everything about a character before performance, I would eliminate all opportunities to empower the character with choice, to give the audience something to dream around, to provide dramatic tension and to offer moments of truth.

I never name the characters. That assumes a level of knowingness that I don’t desire to achieve. Somehow naming them is too … simple … and it would, effectively, stunt their development.

Susie Burpee in her own work A Mass Becomes You / Photo by Omer Ömer K. Yükseker

You are a very accomplished technical dancer and you also have training in physical theatre/bouffon. How do these “tools” come together in your creation of a character? How do you begin, and how does the movement signature evolve?

I begin with movement, and instinct. Of particular interest to me at the moment is the development of a movement language in a manner that is quick, arbitrary and instinctive. Rather than seeking to develop, from the outset, movement with intended meaning, I look to understand meaning at a later stage, when it sits in context of the work. In order to facilitate this, I employ a method of creating an arbitrary order of events. I am interested to see where the “chips fall”, and what meaning arises out of the collision or landing of events.

Working in this way supports my belief that nothing that happens in life is truly arbitrary. In terms of personal action, I believe that, if only on a subconscious level, our mind is always at work to influence our behaviour. So working in the way I describe really just gives me a framework within which to follow my instincts. It is liberating.

As in life when we seek to make sense of events after they have happened, following my creative instincts is quickly followed by my desire to understand the work on an intellectual, conscious level. What is the work examining? What questions does it propose? What is the container for the work? I trust that my subconscious already knows what it is curious about, and I follow that curiosity initially. When my conscious mind needs to understand it, I follow up with an intellectual examination of what I am making. The questions and answers that arise I keep at the forefront of my mind as I continue to create, and they guide the process to its end, like a “conscience” for the work.

I feel your works reveal the contours of identities. I’m thinking of the way one can reveal the figure on a coin by placing a paper over it and shading the surface with the edge of a pencil. Obscured by the paper, the coin remains hidden but shapes and edges appear on the paper’s surface depending on the amount of pressure applied. To me, your works are like the shaded paper: the actual specific characters remain hidden and what we see are certain edges and contours of their identities. I wonder where you are in these works. How would you reflect on your experience of these identities in performance?

I’ve always referred to the works I create in the third person. For instance, in A Mass Becomes You, “she” runs across the stage with multiple boom boxes in tow, “she” seeks find complicity with a skipping CD … etc. There is something about the work that feels “once removed”, and it has everything to do with the fact that the work is not about me. I intend that it speak to something larger than me. The personal is inherently universal. So … “I” don’t do those things on stage, “she” does.

Even with the duets, I often refer to them as “the Danny/Susie duet” or “the Linnea/Susie duet”, as opposed to using the possessive “our duet”. I can’t pinpoint it quite yet exactly, but there is something “once removed” about it that I think speaks to an understanding of the purpose of the work.

Susie Burpee in her work Fidelity's Edge (duet with Dan Wild) / Photo by Ömer K. Yükseker

Your latest work Road Trip (Je ne regrette rien) is a co-creation with Linnea Swan. You trained together at Winnipeg’s Contemporary Dancers, you also danced with Dancemakers together for a time, and you’ve both studied bouffon. You’ve mentioned that you have a mutual interest in the potential for bouffon to be used in a sophisticated manner in contemporary dance. What do you mean by this and how have you approached this exploration?

There are many elements that define bouffon work; however, the predominant aspect of interest for myself and Linnea (and our work together) is how the performer relates to the audience. In bouffon work, the performer is both conscious of, and acknowledges, the audience. Therefore, how the audience responds to the unfolding events directly feeds back into the work, thus altering the action. Consequently, bouffon work, like clown, does not exist without an audience.

The way we use this form in our work is a sophisticated distillation of these concepts. Existing within a highly structured physical vocabulary and taking care to not entirely break down the fourth wall, we complexly weave the degrees to which we “play” with this audience awareness. As performers, we measure audience response in the moment, and react and play to it through subtle timing and in-the-moment decision-making. We alternate between this state of being and a state of performance where the fourth wall is firmly in place. What is unique about this coexistence of interpretive states is the shift from one to another quickly and unpredictably, changing the state of play and altering the way the audience perceives the moment. Our complicity as interpreters (we can read each other quickly at the same time we are reading the audience reaction) makes this quick shift of performance states possible.

This form of work carries with it unique properties in performance. The audience understands themselves to be a part of the action of the piece. This results in a unique relation between the work, the performers and the viewer. Because the fourth wall is still employed at times, the audience has the opportunity to maintain suspension of disbelief, while experiencing being a part of the action. It is this subtle interplay between these two states of viewing that makes the work distinctive.

In this piece, you’re working with the danced quote. With explicit permission from the choreographers, you’ve pulled movement phrases from works in their repertoire that you’ve performed. What motivated this creative choice?

The characters and content in Road Trip (je ne regrette rien) arose from an extensive investigation into our fifteen-year shared artistic history. We trained together, danced for the same choreographers and companies, and have performed the same works over this period. It seemed a natural point of departure for working together, and one that we felt would give rise to some important questions. The piece is, in fact, composed of quotations of material that we have danced in our past together, used with permission of the choreographers.

This exploration elicited many questions, including issues of ownership – which organically arose out of the investigation into our shared experiences working for other artists. In an idiom where the work is developed collaboratively and is also highly specific to the performer, who owns the material? It begs the question, “How do WE, the performer, define the work?” – and subsequently, “How much does the work define us?” Further to that, if we ARE the work, and the work is ephemeral, it provokes a different level of consciousness surrounding larger issues such as mortality. Our mortality, of course, as human beings, but more significantly, our artistic mortality due to the nature of our relatively short careers and the ephemeral nature of dance.

When creating Road Trip, it was of the utmost importance to us that we were re-purposing and using the choreographic quotations in order to examine these questions in a subversive manner. This is where the sophisticated use of bouffon is at work. It allows us to create a heightened reality where we can look at these thoughts and questions through a different lens. Examining these questions in this way resonates with the audience on an intuitive level. In Road Trip, what began as a highly personal exploration ultimately transformed into a set of fictional characters in an alternate reality, negotiating universal issues.

Linnea Swan and Susie Burpee in their work Road Trip (je ne regrette rien) / Photo by David Tilston

As co-creators, you have a way of working together that I’m curious to learn more about. You’ve described it as a methodology, which suggests to me that it is a somewhat formalized process. Could you offer an overview of how you work in the studio or a specific example that would shed light on your working process?

Road Trip is our inaugural work together and this summer (2011), we will begin creation on a “part 2”. Linnea and I are still developing how we work together, and what follows is an excerpt of some recent writing we’ve done about our process:

“Traditional narrative is driven by character desire and its influence on events as they unfold. Contrary to that approach, we begin with an arbitrary order of events and then ask a series of questions designed to manifest desire in the characters that compels them onward to the next situation. It develops enigmatic, non-linear narratives that reveal the intimacy and complexity of female/female relationship and our fleeting existence (both on the stage, and in life).

“In Road Trip, overall cohesion is implicit as all the material is derived from the same source: our shared memories – remembered cognitively and through our bodies. It is a narrative constructed with an arbitrary beginning and end, suitably appropriate to the story of Relationship, which is only recognized after it has begun and is ongoing thereafter.”

You have a longstanding collaborative relationship with Winnipeg singer/songwriter/composer Christine Fellows. You danced at Le Groupe under artistic director Peter Boneham and he has continued to be a figure in your creative life, as has Serge Bennathan. You’ve created two duets with performer Dan Wild and now you’re working with Linnea Swan, with whom you’ve shared a long artistic path. How have these artists informed your work or what do you draw from them? Are there other significant figures who influence your creative palette and if so, who and how?

I feel so blessed to have worked with extraordinary artists consistently over many years. Serge and Peter were instrumental in my creative development, both as an interpreter and as a creator. I maintain a close relationship with both of them in and outside the studio. I still hear their voices in my head sometimes when I work: “Vas y, Susie!” (Serge), or (Peter) “Do that again, but this time do it while you’re running backwards and singing that song you sang earlier … oh, and put that big hat on …”. The support of my artistic development from these senior artists has meant a great deal to me. In recent years, Tedd Robinson has also been a great mentor for my work, and working at La B.A.R.N. the last few summers has allowed me to develop new ideas and working methods.

It is hard to put into words the importance of my artistic relationships with Dan Wild, Linnea Swan, and I must add, Bonnie Kim (creative facilitator/rehearsal director for the work). These relationships are about history, knowing, understanding, companionship and witness. We share a similar regard and respect for the work of working. We value what has come before, and seek to find its importance in the “now”. We care deeply about the dance milieu, and work to continue to be positive forces in its development. Our artistic outlook, in conjunction with our lengthy histories, makes possible deep and complicit work. Oh, the places we go … I am grateful.

Susie Burpee in her own work The Spinster’s Almanac / Photo by Deborah Hickey

Why do you dance/make dance?

Through my artistic work, I want to make a positive contribution to the world. My performance works showcase human nature and the human condition in a way that encourages audiences to consider themselves and those around them in a different light. It is this moment of consideration that creates an opening – a break in our thought pattern. Thinking differently, if only for a moment, can set in motion a series of events that lead to greater understanding – of the self, and of others. It can act as a catalyst for positive change in the world. I understand that the art I create is a part of this equation.

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Feature: Weight Shifts & Balancing Acts

Reflections on Dance in Canada

Summary | Sommaire

In her last regular issue of The Dance Current, Founding Editor Megan Andrews reflects on the evolution of the magazine and on the shifting landscape of the Canadian dance sector.

Dans sa dernière édition régulière du Dance Current, la directrice de rédaction fondatrice Megan Andrews se penche sur l’évolution du magazine et le paysage mouvant du milieu de la danse canadienne.

In her last regular issue of The Dance Current, Founding Editor Megan Andrews reflects on the evolution of the magazine and on the shifting landscape of the Canadian dance sector. From the influence of technology on the development of the magazine itself to the many developments in the milieu, the Canadian dance sector has changed in significant ways over thirteen years. Intercultural creation, international cross-pollination, festival culture, touring, the pop dance phenomenon, dance scholarship, action and advocacy, archiving and preservation – these are now established features of our community’s landscape, as is the magazine itself, which has been dancing alongside, capturing and reflecting these developments. From “pure” theatrical dance to the blur of dance/theatre/performance art/multi-media integration/participatory event, the dancing being made by Canadians reveals incredible diversity: in form, style, theme, structure, vocabulary and execution. Articulating the aesthetic shifts over this thirteen-year period would require a much deeper analysis than this article allows but they have been documented in the print magazine and online reviews over the years, which stand as a contribution to the public record of this art form in Canada. “I can’t believe thirteen years have gone by since The Dance Current began,” writes Andrews. “It has been a remarkable experience to witness the developments in Canadian dance that have occurred over this time and to document so many of them. I look forward to keeping up with the community and being a part of the future of this art form in Canada. The many conversations I’ve had with artists and dance professionals have been highlights of my tenure as editor. It has been a privilege and an honour.”

Dans sa dernière édition régulière du Dance Current, la directrice de rédaction fondatrice Megan Andrews se penche sur l’évolution du magazine et le paysage mouvant du milieu de la danse canadienne. De l’influence de la technologie sur le développement du magazine en soi aux nombreux développements du milieu, la danse canadienne a changé de façon considérable au cours des treize dernières années. La création interculturelle, la pollinisation croisée internationale, la culture festivalière, la tournée, le phénomène de la danse pop, les études supérieures en danse, la représentation et le lobby, l’archivage et la préservation – voilà des chapitres établis de notre communauté, tout comme l’est le magazine, partenaire de danse qui accompagne, capte et renvoie ces cheminements. De la danse théâtrale « pure » au flou danse/théâtre/performance/intégration multimédia/événement participatif, la danse que créent les Canadiens propose une diversité incroyable de formes, de styles, de thèmes, de structures, de gestuelles et d’exécutions. L’articulation des parcours esthétiques au cours de cette période de treize ans exigerait une analyse plus poussée que le permet la portée de l’article ci-dessus. Ces parcours ont néanmoins été documentés dans les éditions imprimées et en ligne du magazine au fil des ans, constituant une contribution aux annales publiques de la forme d’art au Canada. « Je n’arrive pas à croire que cela fait treize ans depuis les débuts du Dance Current, » écrit Andrews, « Au fil du temps, j’ai vécu une expérience remarquable à être témoin des développements en danse canadienne et à les documenter autant. C’est avec plaisir que je continuerais à suivre la communauté et à faire partie de l’avenir de cet art au Canada. Mes nombreuses conversations avec des artistes et des professionnels de danse ont été les points saillants de mon mandat comme directrice de rédaction. Cela a été un privilège et un honneur. »

Read the full article by Megan Andrews in the May 2011 issue of The Dance Current print magazine. | Lisez l'article intégral de Megan Andrews dans l’édition imprimée de mai 2011 du Dance Current.

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Profile: Tara Birtwhistle: Exits the Stage

Summary | Sommaire

Tara Birtwhistle, Principal Dancer with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet / Photo by David Cooper

For Tara Birtwhistle, Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet (RWB) is not just the company where she has performed for twenty years; it’s also home.

Pour Tara Birtwhistle, le Royal Winnipeg Ballet du Canada (RWB), c’est non seulement la compagnie avec laquelle elle a dansé pendant vingt ans ; c’est aussi sa maison.

For Tara Birtwhistle, Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet (RWB) is not just the company where she has performed for twenty years; it’s also home. “It’s my family,” the longtime principal dancer says during an interview at the RWB’s downtown studios. The RWB is indeed also where she met her husband, soloist Dmitri Dovgoselets, with whom she had a daughter, Isabella Helena, in 2009. The beloved dance artist, thirty-nine, retires this month after an enviable career that has spanned two decades. Hailed in 2007 as “one of the greatest acting dancers in the country” by The Globe and Mail’s Paula Citron, Birtwhistle has been critically acclaimed for her powerfully dramatic gifts, chameleonic versatility and ability to get to the very heart of the characters she portrays. Her impressive career, forged entirely at the venerable company, culminates this season with the role Queen of Hearts in Shawn Hounsell’s Wonderland. Birtwhistle has chosen to dance the principal role in Norbert Vesak’s The Ecstasy of Rita Joe for her farewell performance on the company’s Bright Lights, Big City program in May. Next fall, Birtwhistle will be assuming her newest role. She joins the company’s artistic staff as ballet mistress, and is eager to share her wisdom and expertise with a new generation of dancers.

Pour Tara Birtwhistle, le Royal Winnipeg Ballet du Canada (RWB), c’est non seulement la compagnie avec laquelle elle a dansé pendant vingt ans ; c’est aussi sa maison. « C’est ma famille, » explique la première danseuse en interview aux studios du RWB au centre-ville. C’est en effet dans la compagnie qu’elle rencontre son mari, le soliste Dmitri Dovgoselets, avec qui elle a une fille, Isabella Helena, en 2009. À trente-neuf ans, la danseuse bien-aimée prend sa retraite après une carrière enviable de deux décennies. Célébrée en 2007 comme « une des meilleures danseuses comédiennes du pays » par Paula Citron du Globe and Mail, Birtwhistle est acclamée pour ses talents dramatiques, sa polyvalence caméléonesque et sa capacité de trouver le cœur des personnages qu’elle interprète. Son parcours professionnel impressionnant, forgé entièrement dans la vénérable compagnie, culmine cette saison avec le rôle de la dame de cœur dans Wonderland de Shawn Hounsell. Birtwhistle a choisi de danser le premier rôle dans The Ecstasy of Rita Joe de Norbert Vesak pour son spectacle d’adieux dans le programme Bright Lights, Big City en mai. À l’automne, elle entreprend un nouveau rôle : elle se joint au personnel artistique de la compagnie comme maîtresse de ballet. Elle a hâte de partager ses connaissances avec une nouvelle génération de danseurs.

Read the full article by Holly Harris in the May 2011 issue of The Dance Current print magazine. Lisez l'article intégral de Holly Harri dans l’édition imprimée de mai 2011 du Dance Current.

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La relation entre enseignant et musicien
De Katharine Harris, l’École nationale de ballet du Canada
Traduction de Marie Claire Forté

Une classe de danse est-elle meilleure qu’une autre parce qu’un musicien joue live ?
Pas forcément. Toute classe de danse peut être une bonne occasion d’apprentissage et de croissance pour l’élève ; il n’y a pas de « meilleure » dans ce cas-là. Toutefois, travailler avec un musicien en studio peut fournir des avantages additionnels à vos élèves. Alors que des contraintes financières peuvent empêcher les petits studios d’engager des musiciens sur une base régulière, même une exposition ponctuelle à la musique live en classe peut être bénéfique. Voici quelques conseils pour musiciens et enseignants sur les bonnes relations de travail afin que vous puissiez fournir la meilleure expérience possible à votre classe.

• Communiquez de façon claire avec le musicien. Si vous n’avez pas encore travaillé ensemble ou si le musicien commence à jouer pour la danse, prenez un moment pour vous assurer que vos instructions sont comprises et que le musicien saisit le style et le tempo que vous cherchez.
• Écoutez attentivement les questions du musicien et répondez-y clairement. Votre interaction avec le musicien sera d’intérêt pour les élèves quant aux choix musicaux et servira d’exemple pour les élèves qui s’intéressent à une carrière en enseignement.
• Développez une série de gestes de la main avec le musicien afin que vous puissiez communiquer de loin votre intention sur le tempo, le volume ou un arrêt sans avoir à projeter votre voix par-dessus la musique. Par exemple, souvent, le professeur de ballet applaudira s’il veut interrompre un exercice avant la fin.
• Rappelez à vos élèves que le musicien contribue à la classe autant qu’eux le font. Vous vous nourrissez tous de votre énergie et vous réagissez à la participation de l’autre. Assurez-vous que les élèves considèrent l’emplacement du musicien dans le studio et qu’ils évitent de se mettre entre celui-ci et vous ou les autres élèves qui dansent. Le lien visuel entre le musicien et la classe est important.
• Considérez l’importance de votre choix de mots. Bien qu’employé communément, le terme « accompagnateur » suggère une relation à la classe différente que le terme « musicien ».

• Communiquez de façon claire avec l’enseignant. Assurez-vous de saisir ce qu’il demande des élèves et de comprendre votre apport aux différents exercices.
• Apprenez par cœur beaucoup de musiques de styles variés. Pour un pianiste, il peut être amusant de surprendre vos élèves à l’occasion avec une chanson qu’ils reconnaissent comme un succès de radio.
• Familiarisez-vous avec la gestuelle du style de danse pour laquelle vous jouez afin de comprendre quels styles de musique s’y prêtent le mieux.
• Écoutez et observez l’enseignant ainsi que les élèves. L’enseignant ne sera pas toujours capable d’expliquer clairement la sorte de musique dont il a besoin pour un certain exercice. L’écoute et l’observation vous permettront de répondre à sa demande, peu importe.
• Rappelez-vous : ce n’est pas ce que vous jouez, c’est votre façon de jouer. Soyez souple et créatif, donnez vie à la musique.
• Pensez à demander à l’enseignant si vous pouvez donner une courte conférence pendant la classe. S’il veut, profitez-en pour parler de musique, aider les élèves à comprendre les choses auxquelles ils peuvent porter attention dans la musique, taper des rythmes à la main et expliquer les mesures afin qu’ils puissent commencer à comprendre la structure musicale.

The Teacher-Musician Relationship
By Katharine Harris of Canada’s National Ballet School

Is one dance class better than another because it has a live musician? Not necessarily. Any dance class can be a great opportunity for a student to learn and grow; there is no “better” in this case. However, working with live musicians can provide additional advantages for your students. While financial constraints can prevent smaller studios from regularly employing live musicians, even occasional exposure to live music in class can be beneficial. Here are some tips for both musicians and teachers on how to work well together and create the best possible experience for your class.

• Communicate well with your musician. If you haven’t worked together before, or your musician is new to playing for dance, take a moment to be sure your instructions are clear and that your musician knows what style and tempo of music you want.
• Really listen to your musician’s questions, and answer clearly. Your interaction with the musician will engage students in the importance of musical choices and will also serve as a model for those students working toward a teaching career.
• Develop a series of hand signals that you and your musician mutually agree upon so that you can communicate about tempo or volume, or request a stop from afar without having to project above the sound. For example, ballet teachers generally clap when they want to stop an exercise part way through.
• Remind your students that the musician is contributing to the class as much as they are. You all feed off each other’s energy and respond to each other’s participation. Ensure students stay aware of the location of the musician in the studio and don’t block his or her view of the teacher or the group currently dancing. This visual connection is important.
• Consider your language and what that conveys. Although commonly used, “accompanist” suggests a different relationship to the class than that conveyed by “musician”.

• Communicate well with your teacher. Be sure you know what they’ve asked of their students and that you understand what a specific exercise requires from you.
• Learn lots of music, in many different styles, by memory. For pianists, it can be fun to surprise your students with the occasional song they recognize as a current pop hit.
• Familiarize yourself with the movements of the dance form you’ll be playing for, so you understand what style or styles of music are the most appropriate fit.
• Listen to and watch the teacher and also the students. Teachers may not always be able to articulate exactly what they mean when they describe the music they require for a certain exercise. By listening and watching you’ll be able to meet their request regardless.
• Remember: it’s not what you play; it’s how you play it. Be flexible and creative in your approach and make the music come alive.
• Consider asking the teacher if you can present a small lecture within their class. If they agree, take the time allotted to talk about music, help students hear what they should be listening for, clap out rhythms and explain time signatures so they can begin to understand musical structure.

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HEALTHY DANCER: Beginning with Raw Food

By Nathan Payne
Photo by Valerie Wilcox

Raw food diets are predominantly or exclusively made up of uncooked and unprocessed raw food. Fruits, nuts, seeds and sprouted grains and beans make up the bulk of the diet, which may also include raw meat and fish.

Raw food diets typically have higher levels of non-digestible ingredients that act as prebiotics, promoting a healthy colon by feeding the bacteria that live there. Enzymes found in raw food support digestive processes, including the breakdown of macronutrients (e.g., carbohydrates, protein and lipids). An active individual could adopt a variety of raw food habits and heat food when necessary or desired. Consuming both raw and cooked food improves our enjoyment of our meals and maximizes the ingredients’ healthfulness.

American Red Snapper Ceviche with Pink Grapefruit and Mint
Recipe by Chef Matthew Kennedy

Serves 2 as an appetizer

1 filet fresh American red snapper (6-8 ounces)
1 English cucumber
1 red bell pepper
1 shallot
3 sprigs mint
3 sprigs cilantro
1 small pink grapefruit
1 navel orange
1 lemon
1 lime
1-3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Salt and black pepper to taste

• Using a really fine grater remove 1/2 tsp of zest from the lemon and lime, reserve. Juice the whole lime, half of the lemon, half of the orange and half of the grapefruit, remove seeds and pith. Add zest to strained juice and refrigerate until chilled (20 minutes). Following the natural curve of the citrus, remove the peel from the remainder of the grapefruit and orange and reserve the segments. Discard the peel.
• Dice the cucumber, red pepper and shallot into 1/4 inch cubes; 2 tablespoons of each. Wash and pick cilantro and mint, reserving in a damp cloth or recycled paper towel until ready to serve.
• Slice the fish as thinly as possible (make sure you have a sharp knife for this!). If you can only slice the fish moderately thinly, just let it marinate a little longer. Place sliced red snapper in a medium stainless steel mixing bowl with the cucumber, red pepper, shallots and citrus segments.
• Add citrus juice and zest mixture and gently toss using a wooden spoon or clean hands. Cover and refrigerate for 20-45 minutes.
• Remove from the fridge and gently incorporate 1-3 tbsp olive oil and seasoning to taste. You may want to add more olive oil, as everyone has a different palate when it comes to citrus. Divide into two bowls or martini glasses and garnish with fresh picked cilantro and mint.


Alternative seafood variations:
Nova Scotia diver scallops cut in coins or quarters, BC spot prawns sliced in half lengthwise. You can add fresh granny smith apples, heirloom tomatoes, arugula and lots more. Pick what is the best of the season as it will be better for you, your wallet and the environment.
Please do not substitute frozen fish as the texture will steer you far from repeating this recipe.

Alternative Vegan variation:
Substitute 6-8 medium fresh king oyster mushrooms and 1 package enoki mushrooms in place of the American red snapper. Slice the king oyster mushrooms lengthwise and about 1/4 inch thick, marinate for 20-45 minutes. Follow the same directions as above and garnish with a few enoki mushrooms.

>Matthew KennedyAfter graduating with honours from the New England Culinary Institute, Matt Kennedy moved to France to work in the some of the finest restaurants in Paris, Chambery and Val D’Isere. There he learned and cultivated a true appreciation for local, seasonal cuisine in a sustainable environment, best explained by the French term “Terroir”. Upon his return to Toronto, Matt joined the team at North 44 restaurant and participated in the hit reality Food Network show, Heat with Mark McEwan. Matt is currently the Chef/Owner of a boutique catering company called Kennedy Catering.

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Friday, April 8, 2011

Job Posting: Editor

Job Posting: Editor (Publishing/Not-for-Profit)
Position Type: Contract, Part-time
Job Region: ON – Metro Toronto; Location: The Distillery District


The Dance Current is a not-for-profit dance media organization publishing a flagship print magazine and a variety of online content extensions through our web presence at www.thedancecurrent.com. More than a magazine, the organization positions itself as a media and community development organization. Entering our 14th year in May 2011, we are in a growth and development phase and are looking to expand our team.

The Dance Current is looking for an Editor to oversee, direct and edit both print and online content. The organization publishes eight regular and one special issue per year, and produces content extensions including news, reviews, videos and web features online. Responsible for the overall vision of the publications, the Editor leads the editorial team and manages editorial and operational objectives by setting policies and procedures to make sure that the editorial goals are met with the financial resources available. The editor also undertakes substantive, style and copy editing, and proofing responsibilities in a variety of print and online areas.

The Editor reports to the Board of Directors and works closely with the Publisher. Reporting to the Editor are the News & Copy Editor, Translator, Listings Editor/Staff Writer, and Art Director. As The Dance Current is a small, not-for-profit organization, the position involves a wide variety of responsibilities and the ideal candidate will enjoy working within a closely collaborative and responsive context.

This is a contract position requiring 1-3 days per week dependant on the publication cycle. Compensation is commensurate with experience and time required on a per issue basis.

Qualifications for this position include but are not limited to:

● A bachelor’s degree in English, Journalism, Communications, or a related field (required)
● A minimum of 8 years of experience working for magazines with hands-on editorial experience, both print and online
● Exceptional written and verbal communication skills, extreme attention to detail, excellent time management, collaboration/facilitation and team management skills
● Knowledge and experience with new media and online editorial models/approaches
● Experience leading teams or work groups with an ability to develop and communicate a vision and to motivate staff to achieve it
● Excellent organizational skills with an ability to juggle multiple tasks while still meeting deadlines
● Knowledgeable and passionate about contemporary dance and arts and culture
● Experience with Microsoft Office and online publishing technologies
● Bilingual French/English highly desirable.

Responsibilities of the position include but are not limited to:

● Developing and maintaining editorial vision and long-term planning
● Curating and planning print and online content
● Editing and preparing print and online content including substantive, style and copy editing, and proofing
● Writing monthly columns or features including an editorial for each issue
● Approving final copy and files
● Creating and managing online presence
● Overseeing the editorial budget
● Working with the sales team to communicate editorial objectives and set advertising strategy
● Developing and mentoring editorial staff by providing guidance and offering feedback and developing editorial contracts with freelancers
● Collaborating on organizational vision, implementing strategic plans and playing a role in the stewardship of the organization

Compensation: Commensurate
Qualified applicants only. Please apply with resume, letter and references to:

Hiring Committee

For further information visit www.thedancecurrent.com or email dc.boardchair@thedancecurrent.com.

Application Deadline EXTENDED: April 26th, 2011. Position start date to be confirmed.
We thank all applicants, but only those selected for an interview will be contacted.

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Job Posting: Publisher

Job Posting: Publisher (Publishing/Not-for-Profit)
Position Type: Permanent, Part-time
Job Region: ON – Metro Toronto; Location: The Distillery District


The Dance Current is a not-for-profit dance media organization publishing a flagship print magazine and a variety of online content extensions through our web presence at www.thedancecurrent.com. More than a magazine, the organization positions itself as a media and community development organization. Entering our 14th year in May 2011, we are in a growth and development phase and are looking to expand our team.

The Dance Current is looking for a Publisher to oversee and administer its financial and business operations. Responsible for the overall direction of the organization and the profit/loss position of the publication, the Publisher oversees the editorial, advertising, circulation and production departments, and the business office. The Publisher coordinates the efforts of staff members and works with them to develop current and long-range objectives, strategies, and policies for the publication.

The Publisher reports to the Board of Directors and works closely with the Editor. Reporting to the Publisher on the creative side is the Production Coordinator. Reporting to the Publisher on the business side are the Sales and Development Manager, the Circulation Coordinator and the Bookkeeper. As The Dance Current is a small, not-for-profit organization, the position involves a wide variety of responsibilities and the ideal candidate will enjoy working within a closely collaborative and responsive context.
This is a permanent position requiring 3-4 days per week. Compensation is commensurate with experience and time required.

Qualifications for the position include but are not limited to:

● A bachelor’s degree in English, Journalism, Communications, or a related field (required). Diploma, degree or certificate in Publishing is desirable. Certified Management Accountant (CMA), Master’s of Business Administration (MBA) or alternate relevant professional designation would be considered an asset.
● A minimum of 8 years of related experience, in the publishing and/or not-for-profit sector
● Knowledge and experience in the publishing industry and familiarity with business models in the communications/media sector
● A commitment to the importance of arts and culture in Canadian society with a knowledge of and/or passion for the arts, specifically dance.
● An excellent creative and strategic thinker with the drive and aptitude to take the organization to new levels and to make an organizational vision into a reality
● Business administration and financial management expertise with the ability to create and manage complex budgets
● Exceptional written and verbal communication skills, extreme attention to detail, excellent time management, collaboration/facilitation and team management skills
● Experience leading and managing individuals and teams
● Able to work both independently and in collaborative contexts
● Experience with Mac and Windows operating systems, Microsoft Office, QuickBooks, and FileMaker
● Bilingual French/English highly desirable.

Responsibilities of the position include but are not limited to:

● Planning and overseeing revenue development strategies/campaigns: creating budgets, writing grants, analyzing financial reports, developing revenue streams
● Planning and overseeing business development campaigns and marketing, promotions and special projects; collaborating on ad and circulation sales strategies
● Organizing, managing and evaluating business operations and related human resources: structuring, implementing and monitoring business plans, measuring and analysing results
● Managing HR and staff: contracts, roles, responsibilities, pay, benefits, and schedules
● Maintaining relationships with suppliers/service providers for printing, bookkeeping, technology infrastructure, partner organizations, funders and other stakeholders
● Ensuring the necessary resources are available for staff to perform their duties
● Collaborating on organizational vision, implementing strategic plans and playing a role in the stewardship of the organization

Compensation: Commensurate
Qualified applicants only. Please apply with resume, letter and references to:

Hiring Committee

For further information visit www.thedancecurrent.com or email dc.boardchair@thedancecurrent.com.

Application Deadline EXTENDED: April 26th, 2011. Position start date to be confirmed.
We thank all applicants, but only those selected for an interview will be contacted.

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