Monday, November 7, 2016

Passion in performance: world premieres and inspiring dancers at ProArteDanza

In my quest to expand the coverage of these interviews and articles and to learn the methods and madness of new dance artists, I offer now an interview with the seemingly tireless Roberto Campanella, current artistic director and co-founder of ProArteDanza. They have a show coming up next week which includes a world premiere by Roberto and a ProArteDanza premiere of Robert Glumbek's work Diversion, originally made for Ballet BC.

Read on for Roberto's answers on change, passion, inspiration and the amazing dancers of the company.

Roberto Campanella

LR: Probably you've been asked this question a thousand times, but from the vantage point of more than a decade of ProArteDanza, what spurred you to found the company and what drives you to continue?

RC: Well...sometimes I feel it was very naive of me and Joanna Ivey to found a dance company in this very challenging financial climate....

A lot of our inspiration stemmed from the need to create a venue for all those talented dancers, young and older, that were populating Toronto during those days, something that Joanna felt really strongly about, and to continue to foster the creative partnership between Robert Glumbek and me.


LR: The company tag line is "passion in performance" -- how do you draw this out of your dancers and collaborators? And with your Summer Intensive Program, how do you instill this value in students and young professionals, especially in a time when hyper-technical dancing and tricks seem to be the trend?

RC: I personally feel that it is a combination of the whole team that surrounds ProArteDanza, a team of incredibly passionate artists. A group of people with a strong feeling of enthusiasm, excitement, intense drive and love towards what we do.

We also view the term passion as a great sense of sacrifice. And we all know how much dancers sacrifice their lives and their bodies to achieve that moment of magic on stage. Without this two-fold approach to dance we don't feel it's possible to create art, or artists. It's a non-negotiable ProArteDanza culture.


LR: Where do you personally draw inspiration to make new works?

RC: It's always different. It might start from the music, as is the case for my new creation Fearful Symmetries. It can also start from a more biographical reference; such is the case in Robert Glumbek's works.

In the studio with the dancers, I sometimes just patiently wait for the moment I say "ah!" and the light bulb goes on. It happens often working with the calibre of dancers and collaborators we work with.

LR: And about Fearful Symmetries -- what is the source of this work?

RC: My original idea was to delve into the world of the silent, black and white old movies: Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin....

Then I came across a video of a live concert that was playing John Adam's composition Fearful Symmetries while showing on a big screen behind the musicians all of Buster Keaton's amazing stunt work.

As I was being transported by the drive of the music and the fast tempo of such an intriguing piece of music, I realized that that is the tempo in which I -- and a lot of other people on this side of the world -- conduct their daily lives, at the speed of light. We move and operate at a very quick pace, but where we're all going is  still a mystery to me...At times I feel we're all sucked in to a big vacuum, a big black hole.


LR: How does it feel to be on the cusp of a world premiere?

RC: Nerve racking!

On the other end, we all know that a new creation is also an adaptive organism in which we have the opportunity to tweak, adapt, modify, develop. Especially going on tour in Ontario (St. Catharines, Oakville and Markham!) before we land back in Toronto. It will give me the ability to sit back and have a better perspective on the work, and therefore make adjustments.

However, a new creation is always an unknown, we will never know in advance how it will be received by an audience. And that perhaps is one of the reasons why choreographing is so exciting?


LR: What do you value or look for in your dancers? You have a wonderful mix of long time collaborators and fairly fresh faces on board right now...that must be a really interesting experience....

RC: ProArteDanza has been incredibly privileged with the current and past collaborators who made the company we are right now. We value the dance artist who collaborates, thinks independently, takes initiative and who is committed to not only the work, but also the overall vision of the company. 

Our summer program -- which now has two levels, an apprentice program for 18-24 year olds and an aspirants program for young dancers 14-17 years old -- reflects that vision as well. We try to install all the above-mentioned values to our students on the cusp of becoming professionals.

We are the antithesis of hiring dancers who only do what they're told, as it was our training during the old days.

We have been drawing our new wave of company dancers from our summer program in August where the students spend a month working with us. At the end of our program we award an apprentice contract for the year, an ideal format for both the young dancer and for Robert Glumbek and I as creators.

This year Sonja Boretski is our apprentice.

Roberto Campanella

LR: Wondering if you could speak to both the current roster of dancers and the course of the company dancers over time....what have the changes meant to the vision or to you as artistic director?

RC: Our biggest challenge was to maintain the high standard which we never compromise. The challenge is to be able to continue to maintain a relationship with these high calibre dancers although we don't have the ability to offer more permanent contracts. We're slowing improving and developing into longer terms for contracts, but there is still a lot of work to do.

In the meantime, we plough ahead with the dancers who have been loyal to us, for which we are incredibly grateful and with the young dancers that we continue to cultivate....

See ProArteDanza in Performance

  • Fleck Dance Theatre, Harbourfront Centre
  • Wed, Nov 16, 2016 at 8pm
  • Thu, Nov 17, 2016 at 8pm
  • Fri, Nov 18, 2016 at 8pm
  • Sat, Nov 19, 2016 at 8pm


More Info:

all photos courtesy of ProArteDanza

Friday, August 12, 2016

experimenting, sifting through memory and bravely: Allison Cummings at Summerworks 2016

Allison Cummings' work album  -- a collaboration with actor and sound designer Lyon Smith -- is a compare and contrast visit through the memories of Allison's and Lyon's lives. Just writing those words creates a vibrating potency. An album contains captured moments of life, often visual and visceral triggers, for something bigger than the paper or the 0s and 1s that make them up.

There's a trend in the dance contributions of the Summerworks festival this year, undoubtedly shaped by curator Jenn Goodwin, of simple, strong ideas guiding creations. They lead to deeper things, by way of the body not a philosophical, conceptual or technical approach.

Below is a short interview with Allison Cummings, a wry, passionate, uncompromising woman who surprises with each performance work she makes. Her show opens THIS AFTERNOON at 2pm. Go see it and be moved.

photo of Allison Cummings by Jan Blythe

LR: OK, so the obvious but important question is what triggered the creation of this work? What started the ball rolling on “album”?

AC: When Lyon and I first started talking about creating a duet together, we were initially inspired to include Lyon’s growing love and practise of photography. He has always collaborated with me as a sound designer and we thought it would be interesting to shift our usual dynamic by focusing on these specific skills of his. 

Originally it was going to be less personal, more about an exploration of the act of capturing moments, and how these moments that have been captured are remembered in a somewhat idealized way. 

We were always interested in dissecting our own photo albums as part of the process, but more as a way to create material.

But then on Feb. 25th this year, I lost my home and all my belongings in a fire. Our conversations changed after that, and the process became the material.

LR: I can imagine that would change a lot of conversations. And when people speak of losing things to a fire, so often it is the loss of photo albums that is most devastating. It goes without saying that the entire dance and theatre communities are so very glad that you and your son are safe after the fire.....

The last few works you’ve made you have not performed in--correct me if I am wrong. It seems absolutely necessary that it be you performing this one…although that leads me to a sub-question who would play you in a movie/dance of your life?… my main question is how does it feel to be performing? 

AC: I am performing in this piece and yes, it is crucial that it is me. Lyon is also performing and the same goes for him. Hmmm…. who would play me? Hopefully someone with a sense of humour…. 

Truth be told, I am terrified to perform. However the nature of this piece is casual, more like a live conversation unfolding or intimate sharing of memory with its triumphs and vulnerabilities. That in itself is scary as there will be no “choreography” to remember. Our process has only entailed long conversations about our lives. The piece will begin to be made once we enter the space the day before we open the show.

As a choreographer setting work on others, I am able to create the vision outside of myself, this is satisfying for me as a process because I can see what is and what is not working, I can trust my collaborators to suggest paths and in the end I can detail and hone the work as I see fit. Creating a piece like this, I have no outside viewpoint and no clear idea if its going to work. So its pretty unsettling. But maybe that’s exciting too.

LR: Can you share a bit about what are those landmark moments of comparison in the work?

AC: Lyon and I are two days apart and both grew up in Ontario. We both went to post secondary theatre / dance training, we both work in the arts, we are both parents, we both have had relationship struggles and break-ups.

However, we have chosen very different paths and if we parallel our lives through ages together they veer off incredibly, yet, here we are at this age in this room doing the same thing, together. 

In our conversations, we both discovered these vast oppositions in our whereabouts and priorities from age to age. It opened a space to deepen our understanding of true individuality in each other and then beyond us, the various characters that show up in our archives, memories and photographs.

photo of Lyon Smith and Allison Cummings by Nannes Springer 
 LR: Are the visual records of your histories and memories physically part of the show, do they appear in their original form, abstracted, embodied?

AC: Yes, there will be photographs in the space.
Some will be dealt with hands on. Some through abstraction and some not at all.
There will be dancing.

LR: I feel that your work is always highly personal, but not necessarily transparently autobiographic— how do you prepare or approach this kind of transparency in “album”? For instance you have literally been sharing old photos and memories on Facebook leading up to the Festival.

AC: This is scary for me… I am more inclined to hide behind theatrics, language and clear choreography. 

This will be very different. This will be raw, constantly changing throughout the run and unpredictable.

Lyon and I will veer off from each other, but hopefully still end up in the same place at the end.

LR:  Can you tell me a bit about your history with Lyon Smith?

AC: Lyon and I met while doing the Rhubarb Festival at Buddies in Bad Times in probably around 1998. He was acting in a show for Rebecca Brown and I was playing “Cow” in Gil Garrett’s “Severe Blow to the Head”.

That’s a long time ago. We always admired each other's work and became part of the same young theatre scene that started our careers in the festivals in Toronto: Rhubarb, SummerWorks, Fringe, etc.

We started really collaborating in 2008 when he volunteered to create composition for a piece I was doing for the School of Toronto Dance Theatre.

There’s an urgency and unpredictability to Lyon’s soundscape that really compliments my need for detailed precision and dark matter subject lines. 

We both delight in finding beauty in the underbelly, release in confusion and have an understanding of the poetry that can be found in those moments that are designed to unsettle.

We have also become great friends which has laid the foundation for this particular experiment.


You have lots of opportunities to peruse Allison and Lyon's album
Friday August 12th2:00 PM - 3:00 PM
Friday August 12th4:00 PM - 5:00 PM
Friday August 12th6:00 PM - 7:00 PM
Friday August 12th8:00 PM - 9:00 PM
Friday August 12th10:00 PM - 11:00 PM
Saturday August 13th2:00 PM - 3:00 PM
Saturday August 13th4:00 PM - 5:00 PM
Saturday August 13th6:00 PM - 7:00 PM
Saturday August 13th8:00 PM - 9:00 PM
Saturday August 13th10:00 PM - 11:00 PM

all shows at Hub 14 
14 Markham Street
Tickets $15
book online:

more on Allison's work

photos courtesy of Allison Cummings

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Exploring the small, quiet moments: Simon Renaud at Summerworks 2016

The more of these interviews I do here, the more I realize our discipline, the arts, the city and actually the world is populated with some really wonderful people. I continue to be inspired by the creativity and ideas all these artists are exploring. Though I know the subject of this interview less well than many of the others I've interviewed, Simon Renaud still captures my artistic heart.

Simon's work noyé/e/ opens on Saturday as part of Summerworks Performance Festival 2016. It is a study in minimalism, or perhaps more appropriately micro-ism, a deceptively quiet piece aimed at drawing the audience into the minute details of the relationship and partnership of its two dancers, questioning what can be virtuostic, what is compelling in the subtle and quiet.

Simon Renaud and Joanie Audet

LR: What led you to be interested in the small, quiet and intimate? Has this alway been an interest or a recent pursuit?

SR: It has been an interest for me from the moment I started choreographing professionally.  After dancing It can’t be dying, - It’s too rouge, a work choreographed by Alban Richard, now director of Centre Chorégraphique National de Caen en Normandie, that I discovered the possibility of creating vocabulary outside the pre-determined dance steps we all know.  

He also showed me that we could play with the temporality of physicalities, going from extreme slowness to quick as the wind.  The slow motion struck something in me.  It made even the smallest gesture become so powerful.  It gives the audience the luxury of really seeing and feeling - two actions we don’t often do in our crazy, fast-paced lives.  

I was lucky to have Tedd Robinson and Alban Richard, two unique and generous artists as mentors: Tedd, with his talent for showing you fantastical images with everyday objects; and Alban, who is constantly renewing himself and the way he works, and who by being specific with the quality of movement is able to share many textures with the audience.  That’s where it began, me trying to find my own voice.  I’m understanding more and more that I’m interested in choreographing movements instead of choreographing dance, if that makes sense.

LR: How did you decide to work with Joanie? She is such a powerful presence and artist, what specifically drew you to her for this project?

SR: I’ve known Joanie now for about six years.  I moved to Toronto knowing almost no one in 2010 and also barely speaking proper English.  I was lucky  that my upstairs neighbour was Andrew Hartley, another great dance artist in Toronto.  At that time, he was in his third year at STDT, in the same class as Joanie.  We quickly became friends, and the three of us were inseparable.  I remember Joanie dancing fiercely with her dark red hair in a Sasha Ivanochko piece and Christpher House’s Colder Ink.  From that moment on, I knew I had to bring her inside my world.  

She danced for me in 2013 in Les Reines Orphelines alongside Jasmine Inns.  Watching them carrying the images I had created blew me away.  Later on, she was part of a group study I did for Artspin here in Toronto.  Then, in late summer 2015, I was ready to start on something new.  I had created material during the project FACETS, a collaboration between Tedd Robinson, Ame Henderson, James Gnam, Charles Quevillon, Angie Cheng, Thierry Huard and myself, that I knew was the start of something.  I didn’t know if it was a solo or a duet at the time.  Joanie and I had both moved to Montreal around the same time and we decided to play in studio with some of my ideas from FACETS.  That’s how Joanie’s involvement with this project started.

Joanie Audet

LR: Is this work indicative of an overall interest for you, and/or what other themes, physicalites, ideas interest you?

SR: In the winter of 2015, I was commissioned by Common People (Emma Kerson and Andrew Hartley) and I created a duet for them called l’inanité des bibelots or love would only slow me down.  Through this creation, I discovered a more abstract, simpler aesthetic.  I wanted to keep pushing the idea of creating an independent, self-contained world in which people, shapes, and feelings evolve. It’s those same ideas that motivated the creation of noyé/e/. 

The Noyé/e/ process was also about trying to face the theatrical associations brought on by using props and objects.  I will continue to work with slow-paced movements and keep experimenting with different ways to give more space to the viewer than the space I created. I started working on a new quintet few months ago and realized that I only skimmed the surface of those ideas, so I think I’ll stick with those concepts for a bit.

Simon Renaud and Joanie Audet

LR: How was the experience of making such an intimate work while being one of the interpreters of it?

SR: It’s been helping my control freak syndrome (haha).  Knowing you can only be in control of yourself is scary but also so liberating.  I think it’s helping me to find a more direct, purer or truer way to be viewed by the audience and I think it will help me direct my interpreters.

Simon Renaud and Joanie Audet

LR: What do you hope the Summerworks experience will reveal, give, or embody for you?

SR: Honestly, I don’t want to have expectations.  My work is and will be about developing the work itself.  I hope people will see and feel that.  For sure, it would be great if some people would help us to give noyé/e/ a longer life, but that isn’t my ultimate goal.  I would also love to develop new artistic relationships with potential partners to help move my next project forward.  But in the end, I hope people will be open to an immersive experience and maybe will find something new.

Be refreshed and see noyé/e/

SummerWorks Performance Festival
Factory Theatre Rehearsal Hall (this is a gorgeous room!!!!!)
125 Bathurst St
August 13th at  630pm
August 14th at 12noon

Tickets $15
Book online:

all photos courtesy of Simon Renaud

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The things we do are funny: Tina Fushell at Summerworks 2016

Tina Fushell: funny, unfathomably stylish, sweet and independent. And all these things come through in her dance creations. I was lucky to dance in one of her works in 2007, "Ladies in Waiting" uniting four distinct archetypes/stereotypes of women as wives. I was the mousy librarian-ish (typecasting?!) and although I can't remember much of the choreography now, I remember what a fun time we had in rehearsals and in performances and I remember how interesting it was that Tina could take a single, simple idea and tell a story that did not succumb to cliche or grandiosity. It stayed slightly off-kilter, fun and true to that singular idea.

Tina's work Waving is Funny opens tomorrow night at Summerworks Festival (see end of interview for details). It is a remount of a work she self-produced in 2014. Read on to hear about the process of remounting and the wonderful spirit that is Tina.

photo of Tina Fushell by Karolina Kuras

LR: Your works always have this beautiful thing of the “magical mundane” — a Sarah Chase phrase which I adore! — taking a simple idea and expounding it. I think back to that amazing piece that was in The Violet Hour show that we produced eleven years ago (what!?) Do you have a sense of why or how this has developed in your work?

TF: That piece you speak of is called The Things We Do, it was literally about the things we do, i.e brushing our teeth to washing our face. The work I'm showing at Summerworks is called Waving is Funny, again a work about something we all do, waving. I seem to be attracted to the everyday sort of occurrences and actions. I am a people watcher, I often catch myself taking someone in and admiring them from afar. I'm attracted to animated people, to humour, to simplicity. There's that saying art intimating life... I guess that's what I'm doing!

LR: In remounting Waving is Funny, have you found anything new, has it shifted or morphed at all?

TF: The work is getting a little bit of an upgrade. I am working with newer equipment, I'm being more specific in how the set looks, I purchased a trolley with wheels because the last time we presented the work the space we used had a trolley and I liked the look/feel of pushing it around. 
I also received some feedback from our last presentation and one of things I took from that feedback was less is more, so rather then going back into the studio and making additions, I've made a couple of edits.

LR: I remember having a conversation with you on the Parliament bus a few years ago about rejecting or at least not relying on the arts council grants path to get your work made and produced….and I think of that conversation a lot, not just in terms of producing with or without a grant, but moreso in being uncompromising with one's vision for the work despite budget, to think more creatively. We are so good at doing that in the studio, in what we call the “creative process" but that conversation with you got me to thinking about the “creative process” of all the non-art-making aspects of making art. It’s still a creative act….I am so grateful for that conversation. In a subtle way, it shifted a lot of things for me.

TF: Wow Lucy, that's super cool and I totally remember this conversation. 

My view on this has not changed, I am true believer that you can do a lot with a little and I am also stubborn. If I set my mind to something I'll make it happen and that's where creativity definitely comes into play. The first thing I tell myself is I have to be realistic and have realistic expectations, which means you may have to re-think some things. For Waving is Funny I ended up self presenting it in a community centre as oppose to a theatre, I had a stage manager but no lighting designer. 

The one thing that never falters is the performers salaries, paying the people that you hire CADA rates is of the utmost importance to me, fundraising certainly helps in making that happen! I also find doing barter exchanges with other artists is very helpful, we have such a rich community here in Toronto and I have found when you give you can also receive. This it what keeps the creative engine of art making going in our city and hooray for that!!!

LR: I experienced that beautiful richness in the community myself when I produced earlier this year. I really felt that "it takes a village" sentiment. It's important for us to help and support each other, not necessarily by being bums in seats. Our work should reach way beyond our peers but I think it's so healthy when we all feel invested in each other's quests. It is so easy to feel isolated but there are so many out there who are ready to lend a hand in all sorts of ways. Once you let yourself ask for help/exchange/barter the possibilities flood in!

Speaking of not being isolated, you are not alone on stage in Waving is Funny. Could you speak a little about the cast? What drew you to Molly and Luke, what inspires you about them, and how do you like dancing in your own work?

TF: Waving is Funny began as a joke between Molly and I. We were sitting on my sofa saying how funny the action of waving at another person is and how there are so many different ways to wave. We began waving at each other, acting out as many different waves back and forth to each other as we could conjure up. I laughed so hard that afternoon over such a simple thing and it occurred to me right away that this simple concept was the starting point to a dance piece and Molly had to be in it! 

Then when I started seriously thinking about it I thought it needed a third person and whoever they are they need to share a similar sense of humour as Molly and I, Luke was the first person I thought of. Luke and Molly are the perfect accomplices in this action, igniting the work with their individuality and further inspiring my motivation in making this work in the first place. I am in this piece because of how it started but also I had never worked with either of them in this capacity and wanted the chance to do so.

LR: What is you dream project? (and can I be in it? I so loved dancing in your work way back when.)

TF: I would love to make a work that allowed me to hire all the people who inspire me and who I love as people and as artists...this cast would be HUGE!!! It would involve  performers from many different backgrounds, it would be collaborative and anyone who is involved whether they are the set designer, performer, or costume designer would be in the room from the beginning offering insight and contributing to the work as it unfolds... an art party, a journey, a celebration!!! 

Waving is Funny (a shared program with Laughing Merlin and the Romanticals)
Summerworks Performance Festival 2016
Factory Theatre Studio
125 Bathurst Street
August 11th at 630pm
August 14th at 130pm
Tickets $15
Book online:

all photos courtesy of Tina Fushell

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Sara keeps doing a solo...and thank goodness for that!

Opening tonight as part of Summerworks, Sara Porter's well-travelled "Sara Does a Solo" returns to Toronto, a constantly evolving creature on a quest for honesty and free-ranging engagement in performance. She is an unforgettable being on stage, and this work reveals the intelligent mechanisms that allow her such range and possibility.

LR: Sara does a Solo has had quite a life so far. This is well deserved and yet so unusual these days. How did this solo get its (forgive the pun) legs? How did the touring happen for you?

SP: Yes. I’ve been fortunate to perform the work in several locations to different audiences. I built the piece (through 2014) with the help of the wonderful Gerry Trentham and Katherine Duncanson, and did a studio showing – to some invited people – in the spring of 2014. The first public performances were produced by Gerry’s company – pounds per square inch performance – as part of Double Bill: Porter/Trentham, a show we shared at the Intergalactic Arts Collective Studio at Artscape Youngplace in March 2015.  

photo by Omer Yukseker

After that, I was wondering what to do next. So, I applied to the Performance Mix Festival in New York City , to present an edited version of the piece. I knew of Karen Bernard – festival director – from my days in Montreal – she and Studio 303, where I’d worked, had done some exchange– and we’d performed at a festival together in Ottawa years ago. I knew she ran a festival that included performance art and contemporary dance, and I knew some Montrealers who had presented work there. 

So, I was accepted and did one performance of the edited  25-minute version. It went well, and after the show, I was approached by two artists – choreographer Douglas Dunn and Niegel Smith of the The Flea Theatre –  to bring the full version down to NYC. Niegel Smith recommended me to a San Francisco producer, Laura Lundy-Paine of Blue Panther productions and she co-produced the show at the San Francisco Internationl Arts Festival in May. 

I took the piece to Montreal’s Studio 303 and was invited to the Guelph Festival. I’m also headed off the Newfoundland’s Festival in the fall, and to Hamilton. I think something about the honesty in the work appeals to people.

LR: After getting a chance to perform the work in many places over a sustained amount of time, what have you learned about the work, how has it changed or shifted?

SP: The piece is partially improvised, and it’s a solo, so I have plenty of room to shift things around as I feel in the present moment. It’s very much about where I’m at in the present, so each performance is slightly different. The piece has developed over two years because I have developed as a dancer, an artist, a mother. 

What I have learned is that some things are always hard. You never master vulnerability. It’s always a challenge. You never overcome the rawness of performing. It’s always raw. 

But I suppose, I’ve learned about the craft of performing more, simply from having performed more. There is a certain ineffable aspect to performing that you can’t truly master. It’s always new, every time. 

photo by Laura Lundy-Payne

The work has become more produced over the years. The first iteration was raw, in studio, I ran all the sound from onstage. There were no lights. Now there’s a video, a technician who tours with me, special stage lights. It’s still a flexible show – we do it in a variety of kinds of spaces – but the production side has definitely grown.

LR: I hope you don't mind my saying this but you have such a beautiful quirky mind, such an interesting and articulate way of questioning and expressing yourself in our past conversations. I wonder, how does that thinking guide you in the creative process, or shape your choices in making work on yourself? Not to divorce body from mind, of course. I am curious how you see your thought processes unravelling in the form of a “dance”? 

SP: I have a quirky mind? Okay, I’ll try to answer that. As I age, I’ve come to realize that trying to make sense of everything is a fool’s errand. Sense melds with nonsense, imagination feeds practicality, efficiency can be devastating to a day’s joy. Is that what you mean? Everything dances, moves, changes all the time. I think choreography is just trying to make order out of the stuff of life.

LR: That was a ridiculously hard, slightly inadequately-put question I asked. So that is a sensational answer! Can you tell me a bit about your journey to becoming a dance artist?

SP: I come from a very musical Maritime family, and play several instruments, and I was a jock-science-nerd girl all through school. I’d taken some jazz dance classes in high school in Halifax and participated in the school musicals, but they didn’t feel quite right to me. I didn’t have long legs or a taste for the kind of sexy femininity they offered.I took a ballet class as a child and hated it. I didn’t want sparkles on my toes. 

I always had an active body, did gymnastics, track and field, basketball. I was provincial high jump champion and played university level volleyball. I entered university in Nova Scotia as a full scholarship biochemistry student but soon felt I was not amongst my people, so I transferred through various disciplines, ending up in the theatre department to take movement and acting classes, and graduated at the top of the school because I realized I’d found my métier and did independent shows, and choreographed theatre productions. I was very full on. I did plies in the hallway of my apartment every day. The blend of acting and dancing opened up my imagination. 

I did a summer school session at Toronto Dance Theatre but knew they were not quite my people either. Because I loved studying, I pursued an MA in Dance Studies the following year in England, pursuing both academic and studio work, training in Cunningham technique and learning choreography from the fantastic political feminist choreographer Emilyn Claid. 

On graduating, I decided I really wanted to dance – not be an academic – so I moved back to Canada, to Montreal, and spent five years there, dancing for Isabelle van Grimde, and making my own work, and writing about the city’s dance artists for the weekly newspaper. 

I moved back to work in the UK, teaching and making work for a few years, before landing in Toronto. I focused on teaching (in York’s dance department) for five years), then researched and wrote a book about Peter Boneham. I had three kids. 

It’s been a journey to find my own voice as an artist. But I think it’s simply been a process of synthesizing all the various strands – and passions – of my life. The work integrates my music, writing, dancing, theatrics, clowning, costumes, stories, parenting … it’s all there.

photo by Omer Yukseker

LR: Sara Does a Solo is such a personal narrative, such an expedition into you, not in a navel-gazing way but the most exposing, brilliant, welcoming way. How did it become compelling or necessary to make this work?

SP: I’d stopped dancing for a few years. Not from any intentional decision, but from life circumstances. I was writing a book and I had three small kids at home. There simply wasn’t enough time in the day. I’ve always loved writing, and thought perhaps my dancing days were behind me. Aging can try to convince you of strange things. 

After completing the book about Peter (Boneham), someone suggested I write about my own life. Well, I had no other creative projects on the go, so I thought I’d try. I churned out several very short stories and began a small collection of (sort of) memoir pieces. Then I was invited to join a studio collective that needed a new member. I thought, ‘At least I’d have a quiet place to write’ away from my busy, kid-centred home. 

Well, writing gave way to memorizing stories, which gave way to some improvising, and then putting the two together. One day I lay on the studio floor and began to sing, feeling the vibrations in my back. I sang old songs I knew really loud and thought it didn’t sound too bad. 

Things began to come together so I got together my gumption and asked two great artists to help me put together a piece from my improvised dances, and songs, and stories. Gerry Trentham and Katherine Duncanson have been on the journey with me from the beginning. 

Then came the dresses, the music, the melding of many things in my life. It was like a haven of ‘me-ness’ away from the intense demands of parenthood. I was asking myself big questions about life, about what happened next, about where I was in life. About what I’d accomplished, if anything. 

Parenthood has a way of ripping away the reference points that previously gave your life meaning and orientation. But things began to clarify through the making of the piece. I realized the questions were the important thing. I didn’t need to answer them, just examine them. And so, my piece grew and developed from that process. And as I’ve grown over the past two years, my questions change, and so does the piece.

Sara Does a Solo
part of Summerworks Festival 2016
Aug 4 at 9pm
Aug 7 at 5:30pm
Aug 8 at 9pm
Aug 14 at 5pm

Scotiabank Studio Theatre, Pia Bouman School
6 Noble Street

Tickets $15
Book online:

more info:

all photos of Sara Porter courtesy of the artist.