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Interviews, essays and commentary published by The Dance Current.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Canadian Dance Assembly’s Step in Time! Conference

Ottawa: October 20-22, 2012
Report by Kathleen Smith

Douglas Rosenberg and Priscilla Guy / Photo by Nicole Smith

Mandated to explore two themes – technology and pluralism – the Canadian Dance Assembly’s (CDA) annual conference drew a diverse range of dance practitioners, teachers and thinkers to Ottawa from October 20th through 22nd.

The opening keynote address by filmmaker and University of Wisconsin professor Douglas Rosenberg wandered around the vast terrain occupied by these twin topics. [Read the address in its entirety here.] Inspiring in the richness of the ideas presented, Rosenberg’s address also spoke to the complexity of art’s relationship to society: “All art forms live in constructed narratives, simultaneously moving forward and dragging the burden of history behind them, a laborious task. Art is labour. Dance is exquisite labour, valuable for its beauty, yes; and also for its ability to speak sublimely to the human condition.”

And so it began. The conference program was a mix of panel discussions, presentations and networking events designed to share information and stimulate discussion. On the technology side, digital guru André Bouchard presented innovations in technology for the arts, sharing a wealth of tips about tech management, data analysis and open source versions of popular digital creative tools. His 25 Tech Ideas for $25 listed simple initiatives that even the smallest arts organizations could implement from easy and fun fundraising ideas to publicity stunts to taking ownership of public profile via online reviews and fan nominations and Wikipedia entries and the like.

Marc Kirschner, from New York’s TenduTV, spoke about how dance companies can (and must) successfully enter the digital marketplace creating multi-platform work and embodying a culture of innovation. It isn’t just coming, he pointed out: “It’s already here.” TenduTV specializes in the dissemination of dance on media, using platforms such as iTunes and Hulu to make the best international dancefilms and documentaries widely available.

Dance and media were amply represented throughout the weekend, bookended by two panels of dance and media artists, both led by Rosenberg, and both re-hashing many of the digital art issues raised over the last decade including authorship, copyright and dissemination.

Andre Bouchard of Technology in the Arts / Photo by Nicole Smith

In addition, Bgirl, gamer and choreographer JoDee Allen (co-founder of the Solid State all-girl crew) gave a workshop about bringing street dance values to game design. And Allan Isfan of favequest (designers of the Step in Time! Conference mobile device application) presented a seminar in Mocial Marketing; or, in other words, what happens when you use social media as a marketing tool? Isfan proposed that the era of the personal computer is over, magazines are dead and the future belongs to mobile devices and tablets. During all of these tech-based presentations, email addresses were exchanged, iPads passed around and great fun was had by the Instagram-ers and tweeters in the room (among them conference media sponsor The Dance Current testing out our new Twitter strategy) – a new model arts conference in many respects.

The more challenging and contentious idea explored in Ottawa was pluralism (i.e., respect for each other’s cultures and a recognition that all are equally essential to the shaping of Canada’s arts and cultural landscape). What’s contentious is the gap between those with a more urgent approach to upholding pluralistic values and those who tend towards a more evolutionary model. From discussions on the “Changing Demographics in Dance” and “Governance Models to Support Pluralism”, chaired by Charles C. Smith (editor of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives’ recently published book of essays, Pluralism in the Arts in Canada: A Change is Gonna Come) to a presentation by Canada Council Dance Section Head Caroline Lussier on the Council’s Dance Mapping project (the results of which will be available shortly online), the conference provided an important forum for a thorough and yet all too brief exploration of the subject. Anne Marie Jean of Culture Montréal presented research about the cultural habits of young Montréalers and spoke of the increasingly recognized importance of amateur practice and engagement. And there were a number of impassioned addresses by artists, notably panelists Amirali ALibhai, Nova Bhattacharya and Zab Maboungou and another keynote speaker, Toronto’s Sashar Zarif, who spoke movingly of his evolution in expression, starting from early childhood experiences with dance and music in Azerbaijan.

Sashar Zarif / Photo by Nicole Smith

In many ways, semantics is at the heart of all discussions about pluralism. A number of panelists used personal stories and poetry to evoke an atmosphere of respect and acceptance. As ALibhai, of the Aga Khan Foundation (a co-sponsor of the conference), put it with a recitation of the Hafiz poem: “Fear is the cheapest room in the house. I would like to see you living in better conditions.” All present agreed that the presentations and discussions facilitated by the CDA on the subject of pluralism are essential even though, as one panelist pointed out, “We’ve been having the same discussion for twenty years.”

Following the first jam-packed day of the conference, a bit of performance provided a welcome counterpoint to all the chatter. Canada Dance Festival Artistic Producer Jeanne Holmes programmed a selection of Ottawa-area dance artists in a showcase for conference delegates held at Arts Court. There were intriguing excerpts of work by Propeller Dance (Ontario’s only integrated dance company for people with and without disabilities), Yvonne Coutts (and also guest choreographer Noam Gagnon) for the Ontario Dance Directive (ODD) and Anik Bouvrette’s Tara Luz Dance. The showcase, as well as a gangnam-style participatory dance break held the next day and led by Julia Gutsik from Ottawa’s Luv2Groove studio, provided ample demonstration that the work of discourse proceeds more efficiently when the mind has experienced some art and the body has had some exercise.

Photo by Nicole Smith

On the final evening of the conference, the I love Dance Awards were presented. Twelve awards were given out to deserving members of the Canadian dance community during a gala dinner in the Panorama Room at the National Arts Centre. With Tré Armstrong hosting, performances from Supernaturalz, Mandoline Hybride and Vanessa Shaver and presenters such as Alberta Ballet’s Jean Grand-Maître, BJM’s Jay Rankin and Les Grands Ballets’ Alain Dancyger handing out the glass statuettes, the evening was a true celebration of committed contribution.

The awardees were:

Organization Award – Dance Collection Danse (Toronto)
Donors Award – Jeanne Lougheed (Calgary)
CPAMO Pluralism Award – Menaka Thakkar (Toronto)
Audience Member Award – Henry Kim Wong (Vancouver)
Corporation Award – TD Bank Group
Innovation Award – Julia Taffe/Aeriosa Dance Society (Vancouver)
Seniors Award – Charmaine Headley/COBA (Toronto)
Aga Khan Museum International Award – RUBBERBANDance Group (Montréal)
Healthy Citizens Award – Erica Ross/Dance Our Way Home (Toronto)
Award for Creative Economy – École Christiane Bélanger Danse (Québec)
EnPointe Youth Award – Julia Gutsik/Luv2Groove (Ottawa)
Rosco Floors Community Award – Karen and Allen Kaeja (Toronto)

Well run, warmly welcoming and attended by an impressively engaged and articulate (though small) cadre of dance community members from across the country, the CDA’s Step in Time! Conference generated a long checklist of ideas to research and ponder.

On the Monday following the weekend conference program, a plenary session for the various Standing Councils that loosely represent the CDA’s national membership met and brainstormed, in part for the benefit of consultant Jane Marsland, who has undertaken a strategic review for the CDA. Efforts were also made to prepare members of the dance and larger arts community for Arts on the Hill activities to be held the following day. This was work of a different kind for a small group of conference stakeholders staying on in Ottawa and was undertaken at a more contemplative pace; it was a welcome and practical application of many of the ideas discussed over the course of the weekend.

More information about the awards and conference is available at cda-acd.ca. See also Shannon Litzenberger’s Report on Arts Day on the Hill.

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Monday, December 17, 2012

First Position DVD Contest

Enter to WIN a DVD copy of the documentary film First Position here.

Simply leave your name and email and you'll be entered in our draw to win!

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(*Note: contest is not open to Dance Media Group staff, Board of Directors or contributors)

Feature: On Men Dancing

The Singular Path of Hari Krishnan
By Philip Szporer

Summary | Sommaire

Hari Krishnan / Photo by Miles Brokenshire

At last summer’s 80th anniversary season of the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival the achievement of founder Ted Shawn and his company of male dancers was celebrated with The Men Dancers: From the Horse’s Mouth, a concert featuring a “who’s who” of twenty male performers – ranging from Arthur Mitchell and Lar Lubovitch, to Josh Beamish and Hari Krishnan – with each participant executing original choreography and sharing brief personal anecdotes.

À l’été 2012, à l’occasion de sa 80e édition, le festival de danse, Jacob’s Pillow célèbre les réalisations de Ted Shawn et de sa compagnie d’hommes avec The Men Dancers: From the Horse’s Mouth, un concert avec des danseurs masculins vedettes – d’Arthur Mitchell et de Lar Lubovitch, à Josh Beamish et à Hari Krishnan. Chaque participant interprétait une chorégraphie originale et partageait une brève anecdote personnelle.


Krishnan’s layered solo about discrimination, the Other, and empowerment, Pissing off the Neighbours was a highlight. Krishnan works with a plethora of information, whether drawn from research in bharatanatyam, hiphop, martial arts, ballet and drag or more broad-based pop culture. “… I am most committed to aesthetic exchange and dialogue”, he says, “[I want to] move audiences to think beyond … binaries and celebrate secular traditions of eroticism and the body.” Philip Szporer writes about Krishnan’s methodology and oeuvre in this far-ranging exploration of one man dancing.

Le solo de Krishnan sur la discrimination, l’autre et l’affirmation de l’autonomie, Pissing off the Neighbours, se démarquait du lot. Krishnan puise une pléthore d’information et de recherche, que ce soit en bharatanatyam, en hip-hop, en arts martiaux, en ballet, en drag ou en culture populaire. « L’échange esthétique et le dialogue m’interpellent le plus », dit-il, « je veux que le public pense au-delà du binarisme, et célèbre les traditions séculaires d’érotisme et du corps. » Ici, Philip Szporer écrit sur la méthodologie et l’œuvre de Krishnan dans une exploration poussée d’un homme qui danse.

Read the full article in the January/February 2013 issue of The Dance Current print magazine. | Lisez l'article intégral dans l’édition imprimée de janvier/février 2013 du Dance Current.

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In Conversation: Alexis O'Hara and George Stamos

Alexis O'Hara / Photo by Sigi Pablo

Performer/musician Alexis O’Hara and choreographer George Stamos are close friends. Both are based in Montréal and each is equally committed to defying artistic boundaries and categorization within their respective practices.

L’interprète et musicienne Alexis O’Hara et le chorégraphe George Stamos sont de bons amis. Les deux habitent Montréal et chacun, dans leur pratique, est engagé à mettre au défi les frontières disciplinaires et la catégorisation artistique.


O’Hara is well known for her cabaret work, crooning her own tunes and on occasion diving into deep pools of parodic, comic and drag performance. And notwithstanding her recent interactive installation work and career as a musician, O’Hara’s remains drawn to the power of performance. She says, “There’s something I’m radiating outwards with my body and my face and my chest that is making a connection, that is a performative link to the audience, as opposed to just being a spectacle that they look at.” Stamos and O’Hara’s In Conversation touches on issues of gender, the challenge of labels such as ‘transdisciplinary’ and just what makes Montréal so darn special for the artists who work there.

O’Hara est bien connue pour son travail de cabaret – elle roucoule ses propres chansons et, à l’occasion, elle plonge loin dans la performance drag, parodique et comique. Sans compter son récent travail en installation interactive et sa carrière de musicienne, la créatrice est toujours attirée par la performance. « Il y a quelque chose qui émane de mon corps et de mon visage et de ma poitrine qui crée un lien, c’est-à-dire un lien performatif entre le public et moi, contrairement à un show que le spectateur ne ferait que regarder », explique-t-elle. L’échange entre Stamos et O’Hara touche aux questions de sexe, du défi de termes comme « transdisciplinaire », et du je-ne-sais-quoi qui rend Montréal si agréable aux artistes qui y travaillent.

Read the full interview in the January/February 2013 issue of The Dance Current print magazine. | Lisez l'article intégral dans l’édition imprimée de janvier/f évrier 2013 du Dance Current.

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Profile: Luther Brown

Controlled Street: Luther Brown plays the game
By Kathleen Smith

Luther Brown / Photo courtesy of Do Dat Entertainment

In the booty-shaking world of hiphop music videos and live shows, choreographer Luther Brown is king of the hill.

Dans le monde groovy de vidéoclips et de spectacles hip-hop, le chorégraphe Luther Brown est roi de la montagne.


He regularly works with pop culture icons – Janet Jackson, Diddy, Mario and, most recently, Nicki Minaj, the chart-topping mean girl with the outrageous performance persona. Brown has a unique connection to dance that goes way back to his roots in Kingston, Jamaica and Toronto’s Jane/Finch. It’s what keeps the superstars (not to mention the thousands of young urban dance devotees Brown inspires while teaching workshops from Lodz to St. Petersburg to New York) coming back for more of Brown’s signature fresh moves. In a world of extreme hype, he’s doing his best to keep things real: ““When I move the way I do to music it’s not because I’ve suddenly put on my hiphop hat and now I’m doing hiphop”, Brown says, “…people are krumping and they don’t even understand why, what’s behind it. I’m not saying that everyone needs to go through certain dramas in their life to dance that dance but still… when you do it you have to do it from the right place”.

Il travaille régulièrement avec des vedettes de la culture pop, notamment Janet Jackson, Diddy, Mario et, dernièrement, Nicki Minaj, femme fatale au sommet du palmarès et bête de scène hors normes. Brown retrace son lien particulier à la danse à son enfance à Kingston, en Jamaïque, et au quartier Jane et Finch, à Toronto. Tout comme des milliers de jeunes danseurs urbains qui participent à ses ateliers à Lodz, à Saint-Pétersbourg et à New York, entre autres, les stars quémandent la gestuelle fraîche et distinctive de Brown. Dans un monde qui tend à la frénésie, l’artiste s’efforce de garder les deux pieds sur terre. « Quand je bouge la façon que je bouge sur la musique, ce n’est pas parce que je me suis soudainement transformé en danseur hip-hop et que je fais du hip-hop », nuance Brown. « Les gens dansent le krump sans comprendre pourquoi ils le font, ou même les origines de la forme. Je ne dis pas que chacun doit subir certaines péripéties pour danser, mais encore… quand tu le fais, il faut le faire pour les bonnes raisons. »

Read the full profile in the January/February 2013 issue of The Dance Current print magazine. | Lisez l'article intégral dans l’édition imprimée de janvier/février 2013 du Dance Current.

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Report: Interrarium

Looking for Inspiration?
By Kate Stashko

Summary | Sommaire

Illustration by Nicole Bazuin

Initiated in 2006 by Nicole Mion of Springboard Performance in Calgary, Interrarium is a residency that focuses on “a process-oriented, creative environment for dialogue, critical thinking and experimentation.”

Initiée en 2006 par Nicole Mion de Springboard Performance à Calgary, Interrarium est une résidence orientée sur le processus, la créativité dans le dialogue, la pensée critique et l’expérimentation.


Open to artists across various disciplines, Interrarium provides a chance to ask questions and take risks in the company of others. “I hear from artists who say they’ve figured out a successful mode of creating, but it still means they are in the studio alone,” Mion says. “Just having a conversation with someone [else] is the beginning of shifting the way you think about yourself and what you do”. For Mion, this sharing of ideas and approaches is a form of research and development, and she feels that in the professional dance structure, this is often neglected: “We don’t think of research and development as an ongoing part of our practices and I think it’s healthy to have a place for that.”

Ouvert aux artistes d’une variété de disciplines, Interrarium offre un lieu pour poser des questions et prendre des risques en compagnie d’autres. « J’ai des appels d’artistes qui ont trouvé un mode fructueux pour la création, mais qui sont encore seuls dans le studio » raconte Mion, artiste et commissaire. « Parler avec quelqu’un d’autre, c’est un moyen d’élargir notre perception de soi et de son travail. » Selon elle, ce partage d’idées et d’approches est une forme de recherche souvent délaissée dans la structure de danse professionnelle. « Nous ne pensons pas à la recherche comme un élément dans la continuité de notre pratique », avance-t-elle. « Je pense qu’il est très sain de lui attribuer un espace. »

Read the full report in the January/February 2013 issue of The Dance Current print magazine. | Lisez l'article intégral dans l’édition imprimée de janvier/février 2013 du Dance Current.

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Friday, December 7, 2012

Remembering Perreault

Photo by Michael Slobodian

Before Perreault: Un hommage au chorégraphe Jean-Pierre Perreault, an event held on December 4th, the 10th anniversary of his passing, Bill Coleman of Coleman Lemieux & Compagnie read the following letter by President of Fondation Jean-Pierre Perreault, Marc Boivin.

It was ten years ago, on December 4th 2002 that Jean-Pierre Perreault passed away. The man, our friend and the artist left us all too soon. However, through evenings such as this one organized by Coleman Lemieux & Compagnie, we see that his work lives on and continues to make a valuable contribution to the Canadian artistic landscape.

Since 2006, in partnership with the Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec, where the collection of the Fondation Jean-Pierre Perreault is housed, the Fondation has concentrated its efforts around the work of this great Canadian choreographer, disseminating his work and lending expertise to support research and artistic reconstructions such as this one. In 2011, the board of the Fondation Jean-Pierre Perreault decided to broaden its mandate to include a wider range of works created in contemporary dance in Quebec. As president of the Board of the Fondation Jean-Pierre Perreault, I would like to thank Coleman Lemieux & Compagnie, Tim Southam and all of you here tonight, as we remember Jean Pierre-Perreault.

Jean-Pierre's choreographic vision touched many; it helped shape dance in Quebec, Canada and beyond. It had a resounding impact on a whole generation of artists who came into contact with his work. In Jean-Pierre's world weakness can be a source of strength, darkness as a canvas for light and even costumes clothing the body so as to let fleeting glimpses of skin catch light and breathe the air. We see feet running toward or away an inevitable human condition. We see hands, faces, arms, calling out the need to touch or be touched, to search for the other, to find the strength of the embrace and inhabit the duality of solitude in a society of many.

Let this evening celebrate his work, but even more so, the creative act, as he envisioned it, as Tim has captured it, as Laurence and Mark still carry within their bodies; not only as dancers but rather as people who inhabit a world, and perhaps even a better world, if only because his work has allowed us to see beneath the surface.

Marc Boivin

The Perreault tribute runs through December 8th at The Citadel in Toronto and includes the presentation of Danser Perreault a film by Tim Southam, followed by a performance of one of Perreault’s works, E.M.F. with dancers Laurence Lemieux and Mark Shaub.

In 2013, Fondation Jean-Pierre Perreault is planning many events to celebrate Perreault's life. Next year is the thirtieth anniversary of Perreault's Joe and will is also be the anniversary of the foundation.

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