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Interviews, essays and commentary published by The Dance Current.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Massage Balls Contest

Enter to WIN a pair of massage balls courtesy of Halfmoon Yoga Products in Vancouver here.

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

The Dancing Chiropractor

By Dr. Blessyl Buan

Blessyl Buan (2002) / Photo by Wendy Vaubel

When I was a little girl, I wanted to be many things. I wanted to be a doctor, a teacher, a mother and, secretly, I wanted to be a professional dancer. My story is about how a little dream can drive intention and how dreams of dance don’t have an expiry date.


When I was in my third year at McMaster University studying kinesiology and juggling dance classes and shows, I was preparing to decide what I wanted to be “when I grew up.” Around the same time I was narrowing my career search, a talent agent who had noticed me at one of my shows asked to represent me. One year later, I submitted my application to the Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College just as my agent was insisting, “You need to audition for The Lion King. You’re booked to go.” Without hesitation, I packed my dance shoes and took the train to Toronto with a childhood dream tucked in my back pocket.

I arrived at the audition with confidence and an open mind. Gorgeous dancers with long legs, flexibility and lots of experience were everywhere. At the time, I had experience on stage, but was still pretty amateur. I was new to my agent’s roster of talent and, with a potential chiropractic career ahead of me, I had nothing to lose.

The first round was technique and across the floor combinations. To my surprise, the “Fosse girls” were being cut and I was still in the running. My mind was racing. I thought, “If I get cast and I also am accepted to chiropractic college, I’ll defer my entrance and dance after my undergrad!” What a plan.

The second round was choreography from the musical itself. The casting director was smiling at me. As I practiced the combo I just couldn’t get a beautiful battement line à la seconde. I thought, “Maybe they won’t notice.” However, they did notice and my name was called. I was cut. As I walked out, heartbroken, the choreographer yelled out, “Go to ballet class, ladies!” I peeked through the door to see the audition continue. From that point, I gave up on dancing.

Blessyl as Lululemon Ambassador / Photo by Bruce Zinger

If I transplant myself back to that time, I see myself internalizing the message, “You are not good enough for this level. You are not a REAL dancer.” When I watched the production a few months later and looked at the bios and headshots in the program, I cried. It’s amazing how rejection can make an impact especially when you are at a crossroad. It took eight years for me to understand that it was a necessary experience.

My aspiration to be a chiropractor was also strong at this time in my life. One year earlier I had been experiencing chronic groin and hamstring strains while performing. It was later attributed to a sacroiliac joint problem. In Toronto, I met Dr. Julie Houle, a former ballerina with The National Ballet of Canada. She was the first practitioner to tell me that I didn’t need to quit dancing while I was injured. Her approach and way of educating inspired me. I would travel to her Toronto clinic monthly even though I was studying in Hamilton. It was through meeting her that I decided to combine my two passions: healing and dance.

In 2001, I started my four-year program at the Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College and vowed that when I graduated, I would teach dancers how to be injury free, and I would improve their dance technique by being a sound practitioner and teacher. In my second year, I was awarded the Robert J. Cannon Award, given to the student who shows promise in contributing to dance health upon graduation. Reading books and writing exams consumed my time. Although I had said “goodbye” to my dance career, my hunger for it continued and dance eventually called me back under the light – except this time it was for film and television. A friend encouraged me to audition for a commercial that needed dancers. I booked it and became hooked. These types of dance contracts were short and allowed me to work as a dancer while studying.

Blessyl on set during Dairy Farmer's Milk Rap Commercial (2002)

During my four years of pursuing my Doctor of Chiropractic designation, I gained experience working on a dance series, a CBC documentary, a music video, a variety show and several commercials. I also earned my apprentice status for ACTRA. My experiences taught me what it was like to be a working dancer and also that dancers have specific needs for performance. I also started to teach hip hop classes as my part-time job and opened my own hip hop school with weekly classes on Sundays for youth and adults. It was called “choreograFIT: the choreographed solution to fitness”. I managed to juggle both worlds – dance and school – and graduated in 2005 as a chiropractor with professional commercial dance experience under my belt.

As I entered the workforce, I started to believe that my dance days were over again since I had to focus on building a practice. I also got married and began a family. But a friend once again encouraged me to audition. I was four months pregnant when I booked a commercial in which I had to dance in front of a green screen. My wardrobe mysteriously didn’t fit but I didn’t tell the director I was expecting. We figured something out and my first-born gave me little kicks when the music cued.

From that point, I continued to take ballet and contemporary drop-in classes as part of my fitness routine. (I also secretly hoped that a dance contract would come my way again and these classes also served as training.) My chiropractic practice grew throughout the years and my inclusion of Pilates, chiropractic and acupuncture techniques and treatment helped dancers and non-dancers learn about their bodies and to be injury free. For seven years I treated both emerging and professional performing artists and dedicated myself to being a resource for education, rehabilitation and treatment for my patients.

In July 2012, with the coaxing of yet another good friend, I auditioned and was cast with ten local dancers to perform with the lead actors of the movie Step Up Revolution 3 on Much Music’s live show New Music Live. At the age of thirty-three and a mother of two I was laughing inside: I was dancing with nineteen and twenty year olds who assumed I was also their age. The experience definitely gave me some validation!

Blessyl in Step Up Revolution Flash Mob for New Music Live at Much Music (2012)

These days, my oldest daughter is taking dance classes and it’s been a catalyst for me to target dance studios and dance educators on how to ensure that dancers are being trained safely. On September 16th, 2012, I spoke at the Healthy Dancer Canada Conference in Vancouver about “Achieving the perfect line: Demystifying flexibility and stability in dance training”. The presentation was well received and I plan to speak at future conferences and organizations. Recently I was invited to be a part of the Healthy Dancer Screening Committee for Healthy Dancer Canada and I’ll be a speaker at the Performing Arts Medicine Association’s regional meeting in Toronto in 2013.

As a practitioner, I can truly empathize with the dancer’s desire to be free from injury and the anxieties they experience whether they are working or between contracts. It’s knowledge that I gained from being a working dancer. I am very fortunate to juggle both careers.

Dr. Blessyl Buan / Photo by Ryan Buan

As a mature dancer, I embrace the changes in my physicality. There are other ways to showcase your body as you age. Interestingly, I am much more confident in my own skin now than when I was younger and had the flexibility and physique that I didn’t appreciate at the time.

This is what I have learned: dance is an extension of your heart. Dance is wearing your emotions on your body through movement. Under this definition, dance never ages and so your relationship with it should never end. In actuality, dance becomes more colourful as you age. I want a new generation of dancers to dance with no regrets and to have the tools to be successful. Being a healer and a dancer is my life’s work. It is both my intention and my passion to be a practitioner who is knowledgeable to treat and educate the performing artist; I can be genuinely empathetic to their needs because I am also one of them.

Your childhood dreams are messages of what you intend to become. At thirty-four years of age I can honestly say that I am a doctor, a teacher, a mother and a professional dancer. It took the writing of this article for me to appreciate my ongoing journey. For that I am both humbled and grateful.

On January 27th at 2:30pm at the Creswell Dance Academy in Toronto, Dr. Buan will lead a workshop in Acuball for Dancers. The Accuball Mini is a tool for self-care between class and rehearsals to prevent injuries. Participants will learn breathing techniques as well as ways to scan the body and release muscle tension. info@drblessyl.com for more info.

Dr. Blessyl Buan, B. Kin (Hons), DC, Dip. AC, Pilates, practices chiropractic, medical acupuncture and rehabilitative Pilates. As a professional dancer, she has a passion to educate and prevent injuries of the performing artist. Find Dr. Blessyl Buan on Facebook or Twitter, @drblessyl.

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Canadian Arts Coalition’s Arts Day on the Hill

Report by Shannon Litzenberger

Tuesday October 23rd marked the Canadian Arts Coalition’s annual Arts Day on Parliament Hill. Building on four years of positive momentum, Arts Day 2012 welcomed over 130 arts supporters from across the country – converging under the banner of the Canadian Arts Coalition to advance a common message.


The Coalition’s membership includes artists, arts organizations, business leaders, volunteers and audience members from all corners of the country – effectively the largest consortium of arts, culture and heritage supporters in Canada. The Coalition is non-partisan, 100% volunteer-led and receives no government funding – important features that have contributed to the Coalition’s reputation as a credible arts policy advisor. It is led by a dedicated Steering Committee that includes Co-Chairs Katherine Carleton (Orchestras Canada) and Éric Dubeau (Fédération Culturelle Canadienne-Française), as well as Melissa Gruber (CARFAC – Canadian Artists Representation – Le Front des artistes canadiens), Sarah Iley (Canadian Arts Summit), Bastien Gilbert (Regroupement des centres d’artistes autogérés du Québec), and myself (Business for the Arts).

Arts Day participants shared a common goal and strategic message, carefully crafted by the Coalition and focused on consensus issues within the sector that are reasonably aligned with Government interests and priorities. This year’s message focused on two key policy priorities, the first of which was to ensure critical program renewals at the Department of Canadian Heritage. A suite of programs re-packaged by the Conservative government in 2009 is set to expire in 2015. These programs are currently under review by the Department and include the Canada Arts Presentation Fund, the Canada Arts Training Fund, the Canada Cultural Investment Fund and the Canada Cultural Spaces Fund. A total of $80 million is up for renewal.

The second priority is one that has been championed by the Coalition since its inception in 2005: continued and increased support for the Canada Council for the Arts. Given the Government’s careful management of economic recovery at this time, our message was framed around sustained support with consideration for increased investment as the Canadian economy continues to recover. Last year the Coalition’s Arts Day helped to protect the Canada Council from potential cuts, in a context of spending reductions across all departments as part of the Government’s Deficit Reduction Action Plan.

A record number of 115 meetings were scheduled this year with MPs, Ministers, Senators and senior officials from all parties. Key meetings included Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, Labour Minister Lisa Raitt, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Heritage Paul Calandra, Official Opposition Leader Thomas Mulcair, Liberal Leader Bob Rae, and senior officials at the Department of Finance. Heritage Minister James Moore was unable to meet with us this year, as he was at home in his riding. Moore has been an important champion of the Coalition and our work, mentioning us recently on the CBC’s George Stroumboulopoulos show as effectively advocating for sustained investment in the Canada Council for the Arts. Moore tweeted supportively during #artsday and commended the Coalition for our friendly and productive approach. Watch his impromptu speech from the 2011 Arts Day reception here.

Arts Day participants were prepared with MP biographies, notes from past Coalition meetings with the MP, and profiles of arts activity in the MP’s riding. With the help of Government Relations firm Ensight Canada, attendees were also briefed on the politics and protocol of Arts Day. They were encouraged to frame key messages in the context of their own work, illustrating the impact of investment through personal stories and narratives that connect to the MP’s local constituency. For some MPs this is an important educational piece and for others a chance to express pride for the artistic activity taking place in their home communities.

Arts Day closed with a lively reception hosted by Deputy Speaker Joe Comartin. The room was beyond full and many MPs who were unable to meet with us during the day made brief appearances. Canadian actor and Queen’s University Political Science grad Graham Abbey of The Border offered a few compelling words on the importance of government investment in the arts, following an equally supportive and impassioned speech from Deputy Speaker Comartin.

The strategic approach to advocacy employed by the Canadian Arts Coalition has paid dividends over the years, as we are now recognized as a credible and respected representative of the arts sector across all parties, able to offer sound policy advice to government and elected officials. Following Arts Day, the Coalition received an invitation to lend our “expert point of view” with the Standing Committee on Finance during their upcoming cross-country pre-budget hearings. I appeared in front of the Committee in Ottawa on November 20th on behalf of the Coalition.

Coming up in the March/April issue The Dance Current in Part One of a three-part series, Shannon Litzenberger reflects on her work as an Innovation Fellow in Arts Policy at the Metcalf Foundation, including a report on the recent Creative Partnerships symposium hosted in collaboration with Business for the Arts, the Canada Council for the Arts, the ASO Learning Network and the Manulife Centre in Toronto. At this day long symposium, Litzenberger presented key arts sector trends and issues, contextualizing opportunities for collaboration between arts and business. Her work set the stage for a host of guest speakers from across Canada, the US, and Australia who highlighted new innovative private-sector partnership development models. Her upcoming series will reflect on contemporary issues in the national dance landscape, and offer up some perspectives on how to build capacity for the next generation of dance and arts development in Canada.

Shannon Litzenberger is a Toronto-based dancer, choreographer, writer, director and arts advocate. Currently an Innovation Fellow at the Metcalf Foundation, she is exploring the changing relationship between arts policy and practice. As an independent dance artist, she recently presented her new dance production ‘HOMEbody - lessons in prairie living…’ to critical acclaim. She is the recipient of the 2012 Jack McAllister Award for Accomplishment in Dance from Ryerson University.

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Photo Essay: Tango

The People’s Embrace
Photography by EK Park

Summary | Sommaire

Tango has been declared part of the world's Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO. It was started in the 1800s by the working poor of Buenos Aires and was only later taken on by the middle class.

L’UNESCO inscrit le tango sur la liste représentative du patrimoine culturel immatériel de l’humanité. Les travailleurs pauvres de Buenos Aires développent cette forme dans les années 1800 qui est éventuellement adoptée par la classe moyenne.


Today, the majority of tango aficionados in Argentina tend to be working class, bohemians and taxi drivers, with a sprinkling of adventurous bourgeois. Here in North America, it’s a white-collar pursuit, especially popular with engineers and computer programmers.

Alison Murray and Carlos Boeri teach a traditional style of tango from the Villa Urquiza neighbourhood of Buenos Aires. Tango has been exported primarily as stage performance, and often the uninitiated confuse what's on stage for what is appropriate on the social dance floor. Dramatic, skirt-splitting dips and poses don't go. This photo essay featuring Murray and Boeri and photography by EK Park demonstrates the more intimate, less flashy side of the Argentine tango.

Aujourd’hui, la majorité des amateurs de tango en Argentine sont des travailleurs, des bohèmes et des chauffeurs de taxi, accompagnés d’une poignée d’aventureux bourgeois. En Amérique du Nord, c’est un art de cols blancs, très populaire auprès des ingénieurs et des programmeurs.

Alison Murray et Carlos Boeri enseignent une forme traditionnelle de tango du quartier Villa Urquiza du Buenos Aires. Puisque la danse a surtout été exportée comme art de la scène, les non-initiés confondent souvent la forme scénique avec les codes acceptables dans un contexte de danse sociale ; les envolées spectaculaires à fendre les jupes n’ont pas leur place dans un salon de danse. Cette collection de photos montre un côté moins tape-à-l’œil, plus intime du tango argentin.

Check out the full photo essay in the January/February 2013 issue of The Dance Current print magazine. | Regardez toutes les photos dans l’édition imprimée de janvier/fevrier 2013 du Dance Current.
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Friday, January 4, 2013

The Dance Current Reader Survey Report

Shaping our Organizational Transition
By Megan Andrews

A great big thank you to everyone who took our marathon survey in the fall. We appreciate your endurance. If it’s any comfort, analysis was even more of a marathon! But we learned a ton and really value your commitment in taking time to share your views. You might not have known why we were asking certain questions, but we have found your responses very helpful.

We’re in the process of a transition here at The Dance Current, building a new website and evolving our organizational strategy. Your input is essential as we make choices about how to proceed. This transition also provides the opportunity to improve what we do, so it’s great to hear about what you think is working and where we can do better.


As with most not-for-profit arts organizations, we do what we do on a shoestring. We have approximately two-and-a-half full-time equivalent staff, spread among four part-time people (Kathleen, Brittany, Michael and me), plus a stable of freelancers and our invaluable interns. Our revenues include advertising, circulation (subscriptions and single copies), private donations and public funding. It takes all of this – and a LOT of goodwill – to create and produce the print and online content you enjoy.

It takes about two to three months to build a print issue, and corresponding online content, from writer commissions to designed pages. A single feature article goes through approximately eight to ten versions in the course of the editing process, and that’s before it goes into design. Photos and videos are sourced, selected and credited (which we take great pains to do as accurately as possible), additional text elements created (someone has to write the table of contents and ensure all the tag lines and biographies are in order, for example). Ad spaces are allocated, artwork is vetted to our specs and then production ensues. We go through about 4 full proofs of the completed print magazine over the course of a week, before we give our printer the green light. Online content comes together more swiftly but still requires editing and image collection, all the while we continue regular posting of national performance and event listings, news, reviews and videos.

We put a lot of thought and care into what we do and from what you’ve told us in the survey, you recognize and appreciate this work, so thank you again for taking the time to provide your feedback.

We will carry on – and most definitely in print as well as online. You’ve told us loud and clear that print is still very valuable to you and we agree. There’s nothing like flipping through a shiny new magazine, turning the pages to be surprised by a spectacular photo, or pulling it out on the subway or in the studio to finish reading a great interview or feature article. In case you’re wondering though, we do have a digital edition of the print magazine available (via Zinio) and we will be exploring some new digital newsstand options in the coming year. We know that most of you still prefer print reading, but we’re committed to staying current with our media strategy and this is part of our planned evolution.

About that online reading, you’ve told us that you don’t use our online content nearly as much as print and that some of you don’t even know how much online content we create. FYI, we publish about three reviews per month, ongoing national performance and event listings, a daily video blog, news and additional web-exclusive feature articles. You told us you really like e-current and find it a useful source of content and updates. We’ll continue and have some plans to improve it to serve you even better. On the Social Media side of things, we were surprised to hear that 92% of you are on Facebook but that only 30% are on Twitter. We love to connect with you on Facebook and will keep doing that. Keep in mind that we’re also using Twitter more and more to disseminate Canadian dance news and updates, so consider creating an account to stay current with the scene and follow us @TheDanceCurrent.

Our new website is set to launch in 2013 and will present all this great content in a much clearer and friendlier manner. Finally and at long last we were able to secure funding (through the Ontario Trillium Foundation) to do this overhaul. Rest assured, we won’t be introducing paid subscriptions online, but we will be offering advertising and sponsorship opportunities in order to support our production of this content. You should be able to find what you’re looking for with no trouble at all. Keep an eye out for the new site in the coming months and be sure to let us know what you think. Please also share, like, and encourage others to join the Canadian dance conversation online at www.thedancecurrent.com.

Many of you told us you want more content that addresses critical discourse and issues in the dance field, and others said that you want more popular content, profiles, practical tips and info. In terms of our content, it’s a fine balance to manage. We want to serve our core readers in the profession, and we want to reach out to the private studio sector, to new and younger dancers, and to a broader arts and culture readership. Our philosophy is that if you’re passionate about dance, you’ll find something in the magazine especially for you, and hopefully by flipping through our pages or browsing our website, you’ll discover new angles and areas of interest that you didn’t know about before. We aim to expand all our readers’ perspectives on dance by presenting a diverse range of artists, practices, issues and ideas in a dynamic and accessible manner.

Publishing a niche arts magazine in Canada is no mean feat. Truth be told, we need more subscribers to support the work we do in order to sustain it over the long term. There just isn’t the population to support multiple dance titles addressing multiple aspects of Canadian dance, so we balance our content to fulfill readers’ thirst for critical discourse on dance and ideas, while also engaging students, fans and dance-interested publics with our broad ranging content. Our goal: to engage more and more people in the world of dance, and to educate and excite them about the art and practice in all its shapes and forms.

Over 80% of you think it’s very important or essential that our content connects to current events in the field. You also believe it’s key that we cover developments, trends and innovations in aesthetics and practices as well as in training and pedagogy. Over 90% of you want us to keep covering arts advocacy and political issues in Canadian dance and a good number of you think we should sometimes cover Canadian artists working internationally. We think these are all important points and we’ll keep developing articles on these and related topics.

But a note of invitation: if you think we’re missing someone or something important that should be included in our pages (either print or online), please be in touch. A quick email or Facebook post will do the trick and we will be very happy to hear from you.

We were surprised to learn that 30% of you read French and over 20% of you think it’s either essential or very important that we provide some of bilingual content. We will continue to do so. If we could, we’d be fully bilingual but the resources are just not available for complete translation or the associated design and productions costs.

A few other things we learned about you, that are not entirely surprising:

• 87% of you are female
• Most of you are between the ages of 25-55
• 70% of you live in urban areas, but most of you want to see regional and rural coverage too
• 30% of you read French
• over 90% of you trained at a private dance studio as a child or youth
• 98% of you attend live dance events, and you prefer other live performance (music, theatre) over museums and galleries
• 31% of you attend live dance between 3 and 6 times per month!
• 95% of you believe our Canadianness is important,
• And, you feel we have impact in the following ways, as stated by some of you in your words:

“The Dance Current allows the professional dance community across Canada to stay in touch with the main events and trends that are going on; it helps people feel connected to a community. It provides a voice for dance in Canada and allows documentation and promotion of Canadian events.”

“Contributes to intelligent discussion of the art form. Acts as a print and virtual "community centre" for the art form.”

“Promotes communication and awareness.”

“It is so important to maintain an archival document of Canadian Dance and it gives weight and depth to the history of the art form.”

“I think that it pulls dance across Canada together. I like the fact that I can find out about what is happening in other provinces through this magazine.”

It was certainly gratifying to hear such positive feedback in general on our work, particularly because it is still a labour of love in many ways. But perhaps more important were the critical comments and evaluations you provided, which we take very seriously and will strive to improve upon. I think we all know that it’s impossible to please everyone; however, with the variety of content that we publish across our multiple platforms – print, online and social, with some live events in development – we indeed hope to deliver content that engages, challenges and inspires all of our current and new readers.

Finally as publisher, I’d like to make the point that – whatever its form these days, be it print, online or both – a publication is a public forum; it requires, and serves, an engaged public. That would be YOU! We are media and as such, we mediate. By this, we mean that we strive to make sense of the topics we cover in order to facilitate greater understanding and appreciation by the broader public. Hence our current tagline: We mediate dance!

Thanks again for participating in our survey. We promise the next one will be more concise!

And congrats go out once again to our winners: Jane Ogilvie of Edmonton won a full-year subscription for herself and one for a friend; Mary Fogarty of Toronto won Dance Collection Danse's Renegade Bodies: Canadian Dance in the 1970s; and Miriah Brenna of Montréal won a $75 gift certificate to lululemon.

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