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Interviews, essays and commentary published by The Dance Current.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Contorting in the Cirque du Soleil

By Lori Henry

I remember being quite impressed in elementary school when I heard that the Cirque du Soleil was Canadian. You mean those high-flying, spectacular trapeze artists were from my own country? How cool. Something so exotic always seemed to come from somewhere else. I never had any aspirations to join the circus, as my dance classes clearly taught me that I wasn’t one of the ultra flexible ones, but their world fascinated me for that very reason: I couldn’t pull off what they were doing.


The story of the troupe started out on a small, seemingly insignificant stage. Although now they are known all over the world and are the largest and most successful circus, Cirque du Soleil was once just a group of young Québec performing artists who showed off their stilt-walking, fire-breathing and juggling skills on the streets of Baie-Saint-Paul, a small town near Québec City. It was the eighties and they called themselves Les Échassiers Baie-Saint-Paul (the Baie-Saint-Paul Stiltwalkers), founded by Gilles Ste-Croix. Although not initially a financial success, the performers worked and toured their show, eventually breaking even.

From their modest success, a young hopeful named Guy Laliberté and the rest of the troupe created a cultural festival called La Fête foraine de Baie-Saint-Paul that offered performances and workshops for the public. This put the troupe on the map enough for the Québec government to approve a grant for a show called Le Grand Tour, by the newly formed Cirque du Soleil (Circus of the Sun), that was to be created for the city of Québec’s 450th anniversary celebrations of French explorer Jacques Cartier’s arrival. That was the chance the group needed to catapult themselves onto the world stage.

They performed in what would become their iconic blue and yellow big top tent, seating 800 people. A tour across Canada to Vancouver’s Children’s Festival and Expo ’86 grew their need for a tent capacity of 1,500 spectators, allowing them to head south for the first time and present their show at the Los Angeles Festival. By 1990, the troupe was performing to a 2,500-strong crowd and travelling to London and Paris, then onto Japan and other parts of Europe.

Possibly one of the most important moves for the company was their first permanent show in Las Vegas, of which there are now seven, including The Beatles LOVE at the Mirage. Perhaps the most ingenious of them all is the aquatic show O at the Bellagio, where a pool of water makes up the stage and synchronized swimmers and divers perform in and out of it. Then there was the Superbowl XLI performance in Miami, the permanent Viva ELVIS at ARIA Resort & Casino in Las Vegas, and two shows, and TOTEM, written and directed by Canadian favourite Robert Lepage. They have also taken on the first large-scale show about Michael Jackson since his death in The Immortal World Tour.

Melena Rounis, one of the dancers in The Beatles LOVE show in Las Vegas, is as impressed as the rest of the world with this once-small company, and she has been working with them since 2008. Melena and I grew up dancing together at Caulfield School of Dance in Port Moody, BC. She was always the most flexible in our group of girls, but had no intention of joining a circus company.

Her training didn’t have any hint of circus in it, nor did anyone in our group consider a company like Cirque as a future employer. Being half Greek, Melena was surrounded by other kinds of music and dance. This led to her studying jazz by the time she was ten years old, and then adding ballet, modern and hip hop at the studio. Of course, Greek dancing was also something she learned, as well as a little bit of Chinese and Indian dance (bhangra and bharatanatyam).

After high school, she trained towards a BFA in contemporary dance at Simon Fraser University, covering Graham, Cunningham and Limón techniques. From there she took on more hip hop, as well as locking, popping, house, voguing, waacking and commercial dance choreography in Los Angeles and New York City. Travelling back and forth from coast to coast was challenging and unpredictable for her, but she loved every second of it.

“I learned a lot about people,” she says. “A lot about what it takes, and what people think it takes [to be a dancer] … In my various trips to LA, I did it a couple different ways. There were short visits where I stayed with friends and hopped around, and there were longer visits where I would either rent a furnished apartment, preferably from a friend, or stay in a hostel.

“I must say that the Orbit [Hotel and] Hostel near Melrose and Fairfax was a great experience for me. I stayed there with one of my dear friends and we were pure entertainment to all who stayed there for our month-and-a-half adventure. They liked us there. We would wake up usually around 11am and were in class, depending on the day, anywhere from 2pm to 11pm.

“We danced. We would come back to the hostel like sweaty messes exhausted with big smiles on our faces and everyone would want to hear about what we did, learned and, most importantly, wanted to see what we learned (or learn a lil’ somethin’ themselves). We had the opportunity to perform at the Choreographers Carnival at the Key Club several times, at Battle Zone [a clowning and krumping dance competition made famous in the 2005 documentary, Rize], as well as meet some really inspiring individuals. They are definitely what helped keep us motivated and improving.

“In New York City I stayed with friends, as it is super expensive to find a place when travelling by yourself, though I’m sure there are reasonable ways to do it. I was fortunate enough to know some people within Manhattan, Harlem and the Heights. I learned the subway, sort of, while I travelled there but every time I went back I stayed in a different part of town, so there was definitely some adjustment time for me to figure out how to get where I wanted to go every time I visited.

“My schedule in New York was similar to my schedule in LA: wake up around 10 or 11am and take class well into the evening, meet people and be social. I definitely did more sightseeing and food tasting, though, while in New York. There are so many great little spots to try! I trained at all the major studios, Broadway Dance Center, Peridance [Capezio Center], Steps [on Broadway], with friends in their apartments, in the club – they know how to dance in New York City!”

So it seemed Melena was on course for a career in the mainstream dance world, or perhaps a spot on So You Think You Can Dance. Instead, “In 2005, there was an advertisement in a provincial newspaper about open call auditions for Cirque du Soleil, but they were in Las Vegas. [Since] Las Vegas is the entertainment capital of the world, which is exciting, and there wasn’t too much that interested me in Vancouver at the time, and nothing really holding me back, I thought, hey, why not go. At worst, I will have a vacation in Las Vegas.

“I decided to go try my luck and, to my surprise, after two FULL eight- to nine-hour days of auditioning, I made it to the end of the audition process and was put on file. The show they had me in mind for (The Beatles LOVE) was five months into creation already and there were no more contracts available at the time. They told me that those contracts were up for renewal in two years and that at that point I may hear something.”

Not one to wait around for someone else to call, Melena stayed in Vancouver and opened a dance studio on Commercial Drive, called the Drive Dance Centre, with her business partner Geneen Georgiev in 2007. (It’s now one of the best drop-in dance centres in the city.) But as John Lennon once said, life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.

“I got a call from Cirque [almost a full two years after my audition] stating that I was a potential candidate for a position in The Beatles LOVE in the Mirage Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. It was late October and they were curious as to my availability. Being a new business owner, this call made me very nervous, but understanding what a life changing experience this would be, made my nervousness turn to excitement. They were definitely concerned that I had just opened up a business but I assured casting that the studio wouldn’t be an issue and let them know I was interested and available.

“They told me there were just several other auditions that needed to take place before they could confirm I had the job. I asked where, so that I could have a bit of an idea what I was up against, and they told me Toronto, New York, Chicago and possibly Europe. I was stunned. That many other places? That many more people? I didn’t know what to say so I wished them luck and hung up the phone thinking, well, that was the biggest, fastest high and low I had ever experienced in a matter of minutes.

“In January 2008 I received another call from casting informing me that they were through auditioning folks and that I got the job. My family and business partner were very understanding and encouraging and we decided that this was a once-in-a-lifetime experience I had to have.” A couple of months later and she was in Montréal at Cirque headquarters for intensive preparation.

“We trained Monday through Friday for two weeks, 9am to 5pm, sometimes 6pm. We had a gum booting class with a brilliant man from South Africa brought all the way to Montréal to educate us on the style of dance and history of its origin. Stomping our feet in rhythm with his and learning his percussion patterns was how we would start the morning at 9am for roughly one hour. I would barely be awake at this point and he would be shouting ‘with more energy!’ in his South African accent. It was priceless.

“We would then learn choreography from the show, go for strength testing and training to make sure we were fit and healthy to do ten shows a week with no potential risks, and go to costume fittings and measurements. We even had plaster moulds taken of our heads so that they would have the correct sizing and measurements to create our head pieces accurately. I was able to re-choreograph sections of the show where I was featured to better suit my style, we got a sneak peak at what they were creating for Zed in Japan and we even got in a couple days of sightseeing.”

Training was different and yet the same as her regular dance show preparation. “Given the fact that I was being integrated into an already fully functional show,” Melena says, “the initial training was the same as it would be for any major production that is already up and running. There were many elements and things to learn about in a condensed period of time, which made it challenging, yet exciting.

“I was taught how to properly hang in a harness, as well as use a swivel harness while automation moved me up and down and in and out of the space on stage, which was new to me, and the importance of working out or conditioning outside of my discipline. I became much more aware of my surroundings at all times and the importance of continuity in my choreography and blocking on a daily basis.

“I witnessed the artists training for other shows in Montréal, which was inspiring, but I didn’t have a full grasp of what Cirque would be like for me until I was surrounded by my fellow cast members at LOVE. The true difference between being a dancer and a Cirque performer wasn’t fully comprehensible for me until we got to Las Vegas.

“I think the most unique part about working for Cirque is the company’s ability to combine so many different skills, talents, specialties, ethnicities, cultures and heritages under one roof into an hour-and-a-half production. It’s amazing.”

By April, Melena had moved to Vegas and rehearsals at the Mirage started in full swing. It was a condensed schedule of long days. “It was completely different trying to figure everything out on the stage. The LOVE theatre sits in the round so just navigating your way in the space was challenging, let alone the fact that the stage is powered by hydraulics and it moves in pieces with a top speed of a foot a second. We quickly learned the importance of knowing where you are going at all times and always taking the same pathway.

“We had two weeks’ worth of staging and rehearsals on stage before we actually went into the show and were integrated slowly, several acts or cues at a time until we knew and were comfortable with the whole show. We watched the show at least ten times and shadowed the artists we were replacing. It all went very smoothly.”

Melena was performing by May and settled into life with Cirque, where she still works. “Years later, rehearsals are roughly the same as when we first integrated. As the cast continues to grow and change over it is truly a never-ending integration process, which can become wearing on anyone given the amount of times we have had to integrate someone into the show because they are new or returning back after an absence.

“The most valuable things that I learned joining Cirque don’t necessarily apply to my art as much as they do to my day-to-day appreciation for life, and an opportunity such as this.

“On a daily basis we are surrounded by a plethora of languages – German, French, Portuguese, Russian, Romanian, Spanish, English, Swedish, Zulu, British and Australian slang – I could go on! We get to experience different cultural holidays, foods, traditions, words, sayings and so much more that makes this experience so beautiful and like no other.

“To me these differences in themselves are the tools we have gained and are what unite us as a cast and in some ways as a family. They have helped build and form Cirque’s reputation and internationally acclaimed success, and are one of the reasons you cannot duplicate a production company such as theirs. We all have such a great appreciation and admiration not only for each other’s abilities and work ethics, but for who each and every one of us is and where we come from.”

That camaraderie also makes the demanding show schedule easier to handle. Melena goes into the theatre on work days at around 3 or 4pm, but sometimes as early as 1:30pm for training or staging. She then does a half hour of Pilates, a strength training session with one of their personal trainers or a twenty-five-minute run on the treadmill, and some physical therapy. Make-up is a fifty-minute chore, although she has now gotten it down to around half an hour if need be.

The show itself is an hour and a half maximum, as per Las Vegas casino rules, and then she stretches and does preventative icing before heading home at about midnight, five days a week, “just like any other job.” Although contracts are signed on a yearly basis, about a third of the cast has remained the same since the beginning. The turnover is mostly with the children, as they need six boys to work a maximum of four days a week (eight shows) for the “Kids of Liverpool” section. These children are privately schooled by Cirque and help keep the atmosphere light behind the scenes.

As for Melena, you can see her on stage right from the beginning of the show. “I believe my character name is Baby in Black and I mainly wear the rainbow leg warmers and arrow print jumper with the blue head-band,” she smiles.

“I can usually be found straight away in the top of the show performing to ‘Get Back’, as well as locking on top of the VW Beetle we have on stage during ‘Drive My Car’, if I’m not flying in the ‘Something’ act. I am also one of the falling heads in ‘Mr. Kite’. I play a groupie who is so intoxicated that her head keeps falling off … It’s quite brilliant.

“During the ‘Peace and Love’ section of the show, I can sometimes be seen as a jellyfish in ‘Octopus’s Garden’ and in ‘Lady Madonna’ or ‘Come Together’, provided I’m not performing as Lady Madonna that evening. Ultimately our roles, as you can see, rotate and we essentially all understudy each other’s spots to a certain degree. It is useful for the company and it helps keep us stimulated.”

Some of the remarkable opportunities that working for Cirque has given Melena also keep her stimulated. Among them was escorting Sir Paul McCartney, Yoko Ono and Olivia Harrison on stage at the five-year anniversary of LOVE in front of a packed house filled with friends, family and celebs. “It was a pretty surreal experience.”

This is an excerpt from the book, Dancing Through History: In Search of the Stories that Define Canada by Lori Henry (Dancing Traveller Media, 2012; ISBN 978-0-9876897-6-4).

Learn more >> www.LoriHenry.ca

Lori Henry is a freelance writer based in Vancouver who specializes in dance, travel and indigenous cultures. Although she has trained in Polynesian, jazz, tap, ballet, modern and hip hop, she has no experience in the circus.

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Friday, February 17, 2012

Feature: Dancing As Fast As They Can

Competition as a Growth Industry
Article by Lys Stevens

Summary | Sommaire

Photo courtesy of Peak Invitational / Photo by GT Foto fx

It’s competition season in the North American dance sector. Events come in all shapes and sizes from multi-city tours that culminate in national championships to yearly city-based festivals, in many cases sponsored by the local Kiwanis Club.

En Amérique du Nord, le milieu de la danse entame la saison des compétitions. Les événements se déploient sous toutes sortes de formes, de tournées interurbaines qui culminent en un championnat national, à des festivals municipaux annuels, souvent parrainés par le club Kiwanis de la région.


It’s competition season in the North American dance sector. Events come in all shapes and sizes from multi-city tours that culminate in national championships to yearly city-based festivals, in many cases sponsored by the local Kiwanis Club. Large and flashy or small and homespun, dance ‘comp’ is a hotbed for the killer instinct for some dancers…and their parents. Montreal writer Lys Stevens examines the field and reveals some of the tensions at play in contemporary dance culture around this growth industry. In today’s high stakes dance competitions, striving for excellence through discipline and effort meets a love of spectacle and mass popularity. At its best, competition in dance can promote all that is positive about dance culture and community. Swing dance teacher Alain Wong puts it this way: “Competition spurs the dance forward. It's the way we show what we're all about and become inspired by what others bring to the floor. Competitors are supported and encouraged no matter their level, and afterward, everyone social dances together. It's a healthy, communal environment.”
But not all competition dance environments are quite as ideal…

En Amérique du Nord, le milieu de la danse entame la saison des compétitions. Les événements se déploient sous toutes sortes de formes, de tournées interurbaines qui culminent en un championnat national, à des festivals municipaux annuels, souvent parrainés par le club Kiwanis de la région. Grande et scintillante ou modeste et artisanale, la compétition de danse est un terreau fertile pour l’instinct féroce de certains danseurs… et parfois de leurs parents. La rédactrice montréalaise Lys Stevens se penche sur le phénomène et souligne les tensions dans la culture contemporaine en danse par rapport à une industrie en pleine croissance. Une compétition aux enjeux importants donne à voir une quête d’excellence nourrie de discipline et d’effort : elle répond ainsi à notre amour du spectacle et à la culture populaire. Au mieux, le concours de danse promeut le meilleur de la communauté et la culture de danse. « La compétition fait progresser la danse », propose Alain Wong, professeur de danse swing, « C’est comme ça qu’on se fait connaître et qu’on s’inspire des autres. On soutient les concurrents, peu importe leur niveau et après le concours, tout le monde danse ensemble. C’est un environnement sain et convivial. » Stevens offre un aperçu d’une manifestation plurielle, pour le meilleur et pour le pire.

Read the full article by Lys Stevens in the March/April 2012 issue of The Dance Current print magazine. | Lisez l'article intégral de Lys Stevens dans l’édition imprimée de mars/avril 2012 du Dance Current.

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In Conversation: Christopher House

with Brendan Healy

Summary | Sommaire

Christopher House / Photo by David Leyes

Christopher House sat down with Brendan Healy, noted theatre director and artistic director of Buddies in Bad Times Theatre in Toronto, for a discussion about dance as process, spectacle, conceptual statement and cultural critique.

Brendan Healy, metteur en scène reconnu et directeur artistique du Buddies in Bad Times Theatre à Toronto, engage Christopher House, chorégraphe parmi les plus respectés au Canada, dans une discussion sur la danse en tant que processus, spectacle, déclaration conceptuelle et critique culturelle.


Christopher House is one of Canada’s most respected dance artists. Born and raised in St. John’s, Newfoundland, he joined Toronto Dance Theatre (TDT) as a dancer in 1979, was named resident choreographer in 1981 and became artistic director in 1994. He has contributed over sixty works to the TDT repertoire including Glass Houses, Four Towers, Early Departures, Vena Cava and Chiasmata. He has also created works for Lisbon’s Ballet Gulbenkian, The National Ballet of Canada, Les Grands Ballets Canadiens and Ballet British Columbia, among others, and directed two collaborations with Joel Gibb and The Hidden Cameras. His most recent choreographies include Dis/(sol/ve)r (2009), Pteros Tactics (2010) and the “annotated remount” Nest Redux (2010), all for Toronto Dance Theatre. He is currently working on a major new choreography set to a cycle of intricate minimalist piano works called Rivers by Ann Southam. House sat down with Brendan Healy, noted theatre director and artistic director of Buddies in Bad Times Theatre in Toronto, for a discussion about dance as process, spectacle, conceptual statement and cultural critique.

Brendan Healy, metteur en scène reconnu et directeur artistique du Buddies in Bad Times Theatre à Toronto, engage Christopher House, chorégraphe parmi les plus respectés au Canada, dans une discussion sur la danse en tant que processus, spectacle, déclaration conceptuelle et critique culturelle. Dis/(sol/ve)r (2009), Pteros Tactics (2010) et la « reprise annotée » Nest Redux (2010) comptent parmi les dernières chorégraphies de House, toutes créées pour le Toronto Dance Theatre. Actuellement, il travaille sur une pièce intégrale montée sur la suite de piano Rivers (1979) d’Ann Southam. « Voici ma grande question quant à cette pièce : qu’est-ce qu’une danse créée en 2012 constituée d’une gestuelle composée pour une musique sans contenu ironique ? » cogite-t-il. « J’espère que cela soit beau et surprenant. Je l’ai exprimé ainsi : “un effort de produire un contrepoint vital et imprévisible à la musique”. C’est ça qu’on essaie de faire », explique-t-il. « Les deux éléments auront une autonomie, mais ils donneront lieu à autre chose, ce qui – si on le fait comme il le faut – est très satisfaisant et potentiellement bien excitant. »

Read the full conversation in the March/April 2012 issue of The Dance Current print magazine. | Lisez l'article intégral dans l’édition imprimée de mars/avril 2012 du Dance Current.

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Report: Canada is a Dance Nation!

International Dance Day and National Dance Week

Yvon Soglo (Crazy Smooth) / Photo by Jonathan Maher

Every year, the International Dance Committee of the UNESCO International Theatre Institute circulates a message around the world as part of International Dance Day celebrations.


This year, Flemish Moroccan choreographer, Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, authored the message for UNESCO's 30th International Dance Day. Read here: http://www.international-dance-day.org/en/index.html

Since 2005, the Canadian Dance Assembly (CDA) has issued a Canadian message that celebrates dance in our community.

This year Yvon Soglo, Crazy Smooth, authored a message to all Canadians. Founder of Bboyizm dance company, Crazy Smooth takes his never-ending mission to elevate and carry on the tradition of street dance culture to the world of performing arts. He was the first b-boy to receive a grant from the Canada Council for the Arts to study b-boying and other forms of street dance in New York and Philadelphia and is currently on a cross-Canada tour with his critically acclaimed showIZM.

Yvon Soglo (Crazy Smooth) / Photo by Jonathan Maher

“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 and 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 doit fondamentalement exprimer. »
Crazy Smooth, Directeur de Bboyizm
Dansez pour vous exprimer, pas pour impressionner

NATIONAL DANCE WEEK: April 22 – 29, 2012

The Canadian Dance Assembly proudly presents the first ever National Dance Week leading up to International Dance Day as part of the I love dance/J’aime la danse National Campaign. During this week, one theme will be celebrated each day to embrace the rich and varied landscape of Canadian dance. In the following pages, individuals across Canada express how dance has touched their lives, or how they have observed its effect/influence on others. Their testimonials invite you to participate in the National dance week.


Margie Gillies in her own work THREAD / Photo by Michael Slobodian

Dance and Community/Intimate and Global: A message from Margie Gillis

Imagine life without a body to wrap around your soul. Without a body we are not here, we are not alive. And yet, human beings, being what they are, our living dance is a mysterious, intricate and complicated matter.

Dance is who and what we are and can become. To dance is to express life. To explore, imagine, to create and recreate. The body is each living person’s piece of nature. We are each of us, born with this body nature and it connects us to this living earth we all share and need to nurture. Dance creatively explores and discovers health paradigms. Dance offers us a clearer expression of intelligence as it oxygenates and brings fresh blood to circulate through the body and mind. Experiential wisdom will become hugely important within the next century as we are challenged to understand, expand and deal with the problems that face humanity in a more integrated manner. Not everything has been discovered yet and moving into the abstract world allows for new metaphors and understanding to surface.

We still have much to discover about how the body truly does house who we are and how that body wisdom supports intellect, simulating creative problem solving in a safe environment.

Dance allows us to deeply and wordlessly understand diverse cultures and points of view.

Dance is intimate and yet facilitates and gives us the instant empathy of collaboration.

Dance is a deep source or renewal for the integral human, the integral world.

Take Life by the Hand and Dance

Avril and Austin Hayward / Photo by Nelson Simard

Before becoming so involved with dance we really had no idea how far reaching the effects would be on our lives and our community. An atmosphere of friendship, camaraderie and support thrives in the square and round dance movement.

As in all types of dance our fitness is a key element and reward for taking part. Square and round dancing improves self-esteem, improves balance and co-ordination, improves endurance, improves memory and concentration, improves social skills and, probably most importantly in our busy world today, decreases stress.

There is always joy and love on the floor of a square or round dance. It is the form of dance that families can participate in together, couples can share as a great activity and singles can feel welcome, all in the same club. Unique to square and round dancing is the fact it is called and cued in English all over the world. Travelling and feel like dancing? Just search out a square dance club. You will be instantly welcomed and made to feel as if you were always part of the community.

In our own club we have three generations of one family dancing together and having a great time, sharing and building wonderful memories together. In another club, a gentleman who recently experienced the loss of his long time partner now experiences joy because his grandchildren have begun to dance with him and share his love for dance. Every club and all dancers have wonderful stories to share.

Communities benefit in numerous ways from square and round dance clubs. Annually, many clubs sponsor dances for charitable organizations as well as managing food drives and toy drives. They also entertain at retirement and nursing homes to bring a little joy to those who can be very challenged in daily life. Many clubs and callers donate their time to go into the public schools and teach the children to dance. The joy, the laughter, the noise in a room full of children on the dance floor is indescribable in so many ways. There is hardly a fair or expo that doesn’t showcase square and round dancing.

So the next time you see that group of colourfully outfitted people, showcasing their talents and having fun, think of how vital they are to the well being of your community. More importantly, think how you can become involved and improve your social, physical and mental wellbeing and Take Life by the Hand and Dance.

Austin & Avril Hayward, Presidents South Western Ontario Square and Round Dance Association (SWOSDA), Woodstock, ON


Sasha Ivanochko, blackandblue dance projects in her own work The future memory heartbreak junction (2008) / Photo by Kristy Kennedy

“As a dance artist and educator, I am a fortunate witness to the remarkable, consistent life benefits directly stemming from participation in dance training, dance as professional artistic expression and dance/movement as therapy. In a world that is becoming increasingly virtual, dance plays a role in anchoring us back in our bodies, integrating body and mind, enabling us to fulfill our ideas and our potential as human beings. By purposefully inhabiting our body's resources, we give our intellect context, our actions meaning, and our beings grace. There is a reason why dancers appear tall, strong and proud.”
Sasha Ivanochko, blackandblue dance projects, Montreal, QC

« Je suis toujours surpris et fasciné de constater à quel point la danse a le pouvoir de changer le monde; la danse, au-delà de l’activité physique et de l’immersion sociale qu’elle encourage, renforce la force mentale de l’humain. En stimulant les centres de nos émotions et de notre imagination, la danse se positionne comme outil thérapeutique sans précédent. On ne parlera jamais assez des bienfait de la danse! »
Alain Dancyger - Directeur général, Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal, Montréal, QC


Pia Lo / Photo by Kathy Lo

"I'm captivated by dances of foreign cultures. They tell stories that connect our diverse communities and help us understand ourselves as Canadians. "
Pia Lo, Dance Journalist, www.globedancer.com Vancouver, BC

“Dance in Canada has the gift of expressing itself through a rich cultural palette of pride in where we came from when we decided to make this our home and pride in how our diverse communities have grown to express ourselves in the here and now. Our roots give us a social cohesion that binds us to make “Canadian dance”. Through our 52-year history the Shumka Dancers evolved to an inclusive company of artists from a broad spectrum of cultural heritages. We are united through a passion to create original work with a Shumka voice that is alive, innovative, and reflective of a changing world. Today our dance is made with an interdisciplinary blend of: genres from folk dance to ballet, techniques from Asian theatre to mixed media, and music from symphonic orchestration to digital manipulation. In this century we believe that Canada’s plurality of cultures and communities welcomes this evolving phenomenon of dance style that offers insight into our lives, our emotional and physical relationships, and the fascination of our present linked to our past. We celebrate and express our differences with new juxtapositions and with an elegance for creation expressed through the language of the body. Dance truly has the power of bringing our diversity together to celebrate a life worth living.”
Gordon Gordey, Stage Director/CEO, Ukrainian Shumka Dancers, Edmonton, AB

“It is amazing to share art and culture through the language of creative movement also known as dance. Be it, through the infectious West African rhythms or the vibrant Caribbean beats students are always moving from soul to sole.”
Masani St. Rose, Instructor, Choreographer, Performer, Edmonton, AB


As more and more of the population are living longer, healthier lives, dance has become an integral part of the senior ecology. Classes in everything from line dancing to ballroom of every variety are being offered in an unprecedented number of ways. Group classes, private lessons and competitions especially geared to that age group are extremely popular. The joy of movement, the social interaction and, for some, the challenge to learn and master a new interest, all contribute to this. As one woman who has been deeply involved in ballroom competitions since she was 65 (she is now 74) puts it: ”It makes me feel alive, vital and young again!”
Joysanne Sidimus, Canadian Senior Artists’ Resource Network, Toronto, ON

“In 1994 the opportunity arose to attend an English/American week at Pinewoods Dance Camp in Plymouth, Massachusetts. My enjoyment of the English dances, and the potential for extending my dancing years, gave rise to the formation of an English Dance Group here which is now in its 14th year. We have many seniors in the group to whom the benefits of this type of dance are very beneficial. In fact, one of our regular attendees is 81 years old and dances every dance.

The movements are basic walking steps to delightful music and we are very fortunate to have several musicians who play for our classes every week. In fact most of them are seniors also. They enjoy playing as much as we enjoy dancing. All dances are different, and generally in fall and winter terms we do as many as sixty different dances composed of combinations of a variety of figures - involves a lot of memory. One dances with a partner and during the progression of the dance, meets and interacts with other dancers where visual contact happens as well as physical. Partners can be two women, which is often the case as some are widowed or have non-dancing spouses. In conclusion, as a dancer, I am thrilled to continue dancing and as a teacher find it gratifying to share this joy with others and see the fun and enjoyment exhibited by the dancers.”
Noreen Maclennan (78), St. John's, Newfoundland


Debbie Kapp / Photo by Blair Robertson

"Dancing makes me feel happy. My favorite styles are break dance, hip hop and ballet and my favorite move is the backwards frog. Dance is a fun activity and is cool. I dance every day at school during lunch. I take my ipod wherever I go and whenever I listen to music I dance."
Michael Fages (age 8) Rosedale Heights Public School, Toronto, ON

“The joy of Dance is that it provides an avenue for learning that is not available in traditional academic arenas. Dance stimulates and inspires creative and expressive abilities because it involves the intellect, emotions and physicality. This body, mind, spirit connection provides a channel for youth to express themselves best suited to the way they experience the world. Youth have a voice through dance. They communicate their thoughts, feelings and hopes in the risk free environment of the language of Dance.”
Debra Kapp, Dance Educator, London, ON

“Dance and youth together- what a powerful combination. Dance empowers youth to construct and articulate authentic connections with the world around them. Dance expression and performance can be used as a vehicle for public service, to accelerate personal growth and drive social change. The study of dance enables self-directed learning and collaboration, and provides the developing artist with an opportunity to be honest, to re-invent self, and to evolve.”
Lisa Weiler, Dance Educator at Father John Redmond C.S.S & Regional Arts Centre, Chair of the TCDSB Dance Professional Learning Network, Toronto, ON


David Angus / Photo by Janzen Photography

“Dance is a celebration of mind, body and soul. It is also a key contributor to the new creative economy. It is when creative people come together in a community that new innovative ideas are born. Today, we celebrate the growing power of ideas and the creation of an environment that builds success in our businesses, our community and our people.”
David Angus, CEO of the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce, Winnipeg, MB

“Dance organizations contribute energy and vitality to a community. In economic terms, they are small dynamic businesses that employ artists, managers and other crafts people, while also producing tremendous indirect financial benefits to the surrounding restaurants and retail outlets. In addition, dance schools train our next generation of leaders to embody creativity.”
Jeff Melanson, President, The Banff Centre, Banff, AB


"Avant mon arrivée au Canada, j'étais danseur professionnel de Breakdance en France, à Paris. C’est grâce à mon appartenance à la communauté de la danse et des réseaux sociaux que j'ai pu entrer en contact avec les bboys de Toronto. J'ai ainsi pu rencontrer les principaux acteurs de la scène Hip- Hop et faire mes premiers pas en tant que professeur de breakdance à la Street Dance Academy, et ai eu le plaisir d’être nommé juge dans différents événements hip-hop. Grâce à mon master de marketing- communication et mon intérêt pour les médias sociaux, j'accompagne aujourd'hui l’Assemblée canadienne de la danse dans le développement de la campagne "I love dance/ j'aime la danse". Dans le domaine de la danse au Canada, je suis accueilli en tant que breakdancer avant d’être identifié comme français et c’est la même chose en Europe ou dans le reste du monde : on appartient à la même famille. La danse parle un langage universel et je dois dire que la communauté de la danse au Canada et les réseaux sociaux ont très largement facilité mon intégration dans ce pays."
Gael Mouello, Breakdancer, I love dance social media expert.

It’s not too late to join the campaign and National Dance Week, contact the Canadian Dance Assembly for details and information about how you can become actively involved. There are many existing events taking place surrounding International Dance Day, so let’s build community, cohesion and strength and come together under one banner uniting in our creativity and uniting in our love of dance!


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Profile: Esmeralda Enrique

Outward Expressions of the Inner Soul
Article by Paula Citron

Summary | Sommaire
Esmeralda Enrique / Photos courtesy of Esmeralda Enrique Spanish Dance Company

Here are three facts that you may not know about Esmeralda Enrique.

Voici trois faits peu connus sur Esmeralda Enrique.


Here are three facts that you may not know about Esmeralda Enrique. She is a fourth generation Texan. She is named after the gypsy in The Hunchback of Notre Dame, a novel her mother was reading when she was pregnant with Enrique. She performed with the José Greco Dance Company when it was the opening act for Frank Sinatra in Las Vegas.

Facts more universally known about Enrique are that she is one of Canada’s most distinguished flamenco artists, and both her Esmeralda Enrique Spanish Dance Company and her school, The Academy of Spanish Dance, are celebrating their 30th anniversaries this season.

Enrique discovered flamenco while performing Mexican dances at community fiestas with her sister Carla in San Antonio, Texas at the tender age of fourteen. When asked what initially attracted her to the form, Enrique’s answer is immediate and direct. “In Mexican folk dance,” she says, “you are a character. Flamenco, on the other hand, draws out the individual. You grow as an artist because you are constantly learning about yourself. It makes dance a more enjoyable experience. Flamenco is the outward expression of the inner soul. It is the connection of human to human.” Thirty years on, Enrique is one of Canada’s best loved and most respected flamenco artists.

Voici trois faits peu connus sur Esmeralda Enrique. Elle est texane de quatrième génération. Elle est nommée en l’honneur de la gitane dans le Bossu de Notre-Dame, le roman que lisait sa mère enceinte. L’artiste a dansé avec la José Greco Dance Company lorsque celle-ci se présentait en première partie du spectacle de Frank Sinatra à Las Vegas. Faits notoires, cependant : Enrique est une des artistes flamencos les plus distinguées au Canada, et elle célèbre les trente ans de sa compagnie et de son école, la Esmeralda Enrique Spanish Dance Company et la Academy of Spanish Dance. Enrique découvre le flamenco à quatorze ans, lorsqu’elle danse des danses mexicaines à des fiestas communautaires avec sa sœur Carla à San Antonio, Texas. Quand je lui demande ce qui l’a attirée à la forme, la danseuse répond vivement. « En danse folklorique mexicaine », explique-t-elle, « on est un personnage. À l'inverse, le flamenco va chercher la personne même. On grandit comme artiste parce qu’on apprend continuellement sur soi. La danse devient ainsi une expérience plus agréable. Le flamenco est l’expression manifeste de l’âme. Il est le lien entre un humain et un autre. » Après trente ans, Enrique demeure une des artistes de flamenco bien aimée au Canada.

Read the full article by Paula Citron in the March/April 2012 issue of The Dance Current print magazine. | Lisez l'article intégral de Paula Citron dans l’édition imprimée de mars/avril 2012 du Dance Current.

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L’anxiété de la présentation publique
de/by Katharine Harris de l’École nationale de ballet du Canada

Photo courtesy of Canada's National Ballet School / Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann

Le spectacle, l’évaluation, l’examen, la compétition et l’audition s’inscrivent naturellement dans la vie du danseur, et en découlent les hauts et les bas de la présentation publique. Pour aider vos élèves, offrez-leur de l’information et des outils pour naviguer ces situations stressantes afin qu’ils puissent en tirer des expériences positives.


1. Partagez toutes vos connaissances sur la présentation publique avec vos élèves ; aussi, encouragez ceux qui ont plus d’expérience à en parler. Selon le contexte, vous pourriez mettre en scène l’expérience que vivra l’élève. Par exemple, s’il se prépare à un examen devant jury, simulez un jury en studio.

2. Plus l’élève se sent préparé, plus l’expérience sera aisée. Répétez les enchaînements avec les costumes afin d’assurer que ces costumes sont bien ajustés et adaptés au mouvement. Prévoyez avec les élèves comment gérer des embûches, par exemple, la piste musicale n’est pas la bonne, le costume se déchire, etc.

3. Servez-vous de votre rapport particulier avec chaque élève. Chacun est différent, chacun développe des stratégies particulières pour gérer le stress. Certains préfèrent être calmés avant un spectacle, d’autres aiment être vivement encouragés.

4. Informez-vous des attentes des parents. Vous fournissez un soutien à l’élève, mais ses parents passent beaucoup plus de temps avec lui. Renseignez-vous sur leurs objectifs et leur perception. L’adage « qui ne risque rien n’a rien » s’applique à toute présentation publique ; considérez la partager avec les parents et l’enfant.

5. Le parcours d’un danseur compte beaucoup d’auditions et d’évaluations. Ce sont des occasions pour apprendre à recevoir des commentaires critiques. Il est sain pour le jeune élève d’apprendre cette réalité, car cela lui permet de développer la résilience et des outils pour composer avec le stress. Aidez l’élève à apprendre que la valeur d’une présentation publique se mesure au-delà du résultat. Valorisez avec lui le chemin que vous faites ensemble pour y arriver.

Finalement, rappelez à l’élève que même le danseur professionnel se trompe et n’est pas toujours parfaitement à la hauteur de la situation. L’erreur est humaine et il faut se concentrer sur la suite des choses. Dites-lui que vous êtes fier de lui, peu importe le résultat. En tant que leur enseignant, vous êtes témoin de l’effort qu’il déploie dans la préparation. C’est ce travail qui est la chose la plus importante.

Performance/Audition Anxiety

Performances and evaluations are a natural part of a dancer’s life and with them come the highs and lows of performing. As a teacher, one of the most helpful things you can provide for your students is the knowledge to get through stressful situations and still have a good experience.

1. To help your students with performances, competitions or exams, tell them everything you can and encourage older students who have been through the process before to share as well. Depending on the circumstances, it can be helpful to recreate the experience your student will undergo. For example, if they are preparing for an exam performance in front of a judging panel, create an improvised judging panel in your studio.

2. The more your students can anticipate, the easier it will be on them. Have them perform their routines in costume to ensure that they fit properly and move with them. Also, talk to your students about what to do if something goes really wrong – if the CD starts to skip, if the wrong track is cued, etc.

3. Use the rapport you have with each of your students to your advantage. Each dancer is different so each of their coping mechanisms will also be different. Some might prefer to be calmed down before a performance, others might rely on being pumped up.

4. It’s also important for you as the teacher to know what your students’ parents are expecting. While you are a support system, parents are with their children more often, so it’s important for you to be aware of their goals and perceptions. Consider telling both parents and students that the adage “nothing ventured, nothing gained”, applies to all dance evaluations, exams and performances.

5. The life of a dancer involves lots of auditions and examinations, and also the opportunity to learn how to receive critical feedback. It’s healthy for your students to experience this aspect of performance life at an early age, allowing them to develop thick skin and coping mechanisms. As a teacher, it’s important for you to help your students learn that the value of exams, competitions and even performances is not always in the outcome. It can also be in the journey that you and your students take to get there.

Remind your students that even professional dancers make mistakes, miss at auditions and aren’t always perfect. Mistakes will always happen so it’s important to focus on moving forward. And be sure to tell them you are proud of them no matter what the outcome. As their teacher you saw how hard they worked in preparation for this day and that is what counts most.

Learn more/Pour en savoir plus >>

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Healthy Dancer

Ana Alexandre’s Fave Green Smoothie

1 handful of spinach
1/2 banana
1/2 cup fresh or frozen pineapple
1 tbs. coconut milk
1 tsp. ground flax seed
1 cup coconut water
1 scoop of protein (hemp or rice)
water [if needed] for blending
Place all ingredients in a blender. Enjoy yummy green goodness.

Note: The smoothie in this photo is extra green because I added extra spinach and some spirulina too.

Ana Alexandre is a speaker, life coach and nutritionist who gets crazy excited about helping you live your most passionate, vitality-filled life. Currently based in Barcelona, Spain, she leads events and wellness retreats across Europe and North America. Her website and blog offers information about upcoming events as well as lifestyle tips and recipes.

Read her blog and more at www.anaalexandre.com

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