Saturday, December 2, 2017

About Screen Moves: at Dancemakers Monday December 4th!

Monday is traditionally dark night in the theatre but this Monday, December 4th Dancemakers will be lit up with Screen Moves, an enterprise of dance films made specifically for the event.

Conceived by the RT Collective and presented in collaboration with Dancemakers, Screen:Moves invites 20 artists from across Canada to create original short dance films for this one-night-only program.

The program features a wide range of formats—experimental, narrative, animated and comedic works, offering a unique cross section of Canada’s diverse dance communities on screen.

Artists include: Katie Ewald (Dora Winner with Public Recordings, Outstanding Ensemble and Outstanding Production 2014), Nova Bhattacharya (Summerworks 2016 Winner Outstanding Direction) William Yong (4 Time Dora Nominee), Robert Kingsbury (Premiere’s Award for Emerging Artist), Rodney Diverlus (Choreographer and Co-founder of BLM-TO), Brandy Leary (AD of Anadam Dance), Natasha Powell (Company Member Holla Jazz), Peter Kelly (TDT Company Member), and many others.

Here's an interview with the RT Collective's Chris Dupuis and Dancemakers' Amelia Ehrhardt,  as well as Nova Bhattacharya and William Yong, artists whose work will be featured in the event.

Still from Francesca Chudnoff's Effigy

LUCY: I am wondering how the idea for Screen Moves evolved? What sparked the need to make it happen? 

CHRIS: Screen:Moves was initially conceived by Marcin Wisniewski and myself (who run the RT Collective The company was founded in 2013 to present screenings, exhibitions, workshops and panel discussions centred around contemporary media arts practices. My own background is in performance, and so I had been interested in taking the platform we've established and using it as a way to start a conversation with artists working in that field.

Instead of having artists send works they've already made, artists submit proposals for new projects they want to make, and we select from those proposals to curate the program. While this is a very normal way to operate in the performance field, it's highly unusual in the film/video/media arts world. Dance film/video is an art form that has very few platforms for presentation, and so creating a space where we not only offer artists the chance to show their works, but also stimulate the creation of new works in this genre, is beneficial to both the dance sector and the media arts sector. 

On a personal level, I've also been interested in starting a conversation with Dancemakers and Amelia for a while, and so the project seemed like a good way to do that. 

Still from Katie Ewald's Bustin Makes Me Feel Good

AMELIA: From a Dancemakers perspective, Screen Moves evolved out of a former program started by my predecessors, Ben Kamino and Emi Forster. We cancelled it temporarily last season with the idea that we would pick it up again it the right partner came along, so I was thrilled when Chris approached us. More and more I feel that dance artists are looking for alternative ways to present their works, and as theatres get more expensive and digital media gets cheaper, the answer is obvious. 

Still from Nita Bowerman's Tutu

LUCY: How was the selection process? What were keys  to deciding who to program?

AMELIA: For Dancemakers we're really interested in artists trying new things - either for themselves, or trying to find new things for the form. So working with people who were pushing themselves or audiences was a priority for us. These kinds of programming decisions are always difficult....

CHRIS: Open calls can generate so much unpaid artistic labour, with people sending out proposals to different places all the time, in the hopes someone will offer them a shot. 

AMELIA: I think about this a lot, and how odd it is that people in positions like mine get paid to read the applications but artists who produce applications might not even get paid if they get programmed.

Still from Zachary Nicol's  Ill

CHRIS: You get so many amazing proposals that you have to turn down because you don't have enough money to support them all. In terms of selecting proposals, it was a three-way conversation between Amelia, Marcin, and myself, where each of us had certain proposals we were drawn to. Overall with the program, we wanted to feature a range of dance traditions as well as different approaches the medium of video. 

One thing worth mentioning about the RT Collective's curatorial process is that each program we do is made up of a small number of pre-selected artists and then completed with an open call for submissions. This process allows us to forge relationships with new artists and build relationships with artists we already know. When we're making our pre-selection for a new program, some of the artists are always people who've previously applied to one of our programs, but whom we weren't able to offer a spot to. So being turned down for one program, definitely doesn't mean that we aren't interested in working with someone.

LUCY: Nova Bhattacharya, you were one of the pre-selected artists...

Still from Nova Bhattacharya's Traces

NOVA: The invitation created the impetus for me to do something that had been on "the list" for a long time. It gave me the opportunity to put something out there that had a dancer of colour, working in a form of dance that resonates for many Canadians descended from the South Asian diaspora.

LUCY: Tell me a bit about your contribution to Screen Moves -- what are you exploring, how does it fit with your overarching artistic vision?

NOVA: It's about ritual practice and bharatnatyam iconography, the use of the body as a filtration system for emotions. It pursues an ongoing line of inquiry into ritual practice through dance and pushes the space for a wider understanding of the art form. Later this season I'll be doing a series of pop-up performances at The Theatre Centre which will continue the exploration of ritual practice through dance.

Still from Melanie Gordon's Cutting Paper

LUCY: And William, what about you? what brought you to Screen Moves?

WILLIAM: I love the idea of showcasing dance and movement in a film and show it in a movement-themed film festival. I have performed or choreographed in many dance films. When I was presented with this opportunity, I knew it would be a wonderful film-making practice for me to make another dance film.  I used to love a film festival called Moving Picture Festival but it folded many years ago. I miss it terribly. I am excited what Screen:moves has to offer.


Still from Shakeil Rollock's Mask4Masc

LUCY: So what is your film about? How does it align with your overall artistic vision?
I think this film project is rather more aligned with my artistic challenge than my artistic vision. My master degree dissertation in dance was research into the specialization of dance film and video making. It was always part of my practise to study dance films. Even in most of my full-length stage works, I often incorporate video projection visuals and integrate them into live dance. I also love editing films. I edited all of my company's trailers and teasers. So, this project is a further challenge to see how I manage technically to direct, film, light and edit a whole short film single-handed.

With my film "Quench" I am interested in how individuals have different intentions and emotions even doing the same routine activities. Particularly in a private environment.

LUCY: The bathtub?

WILLIAM: Yes, three individual immerse themselves in self-indulgent bathing ritual behind closed doors...

LUCY: This will not be your last film, clearly.

WILLIAM: My next focus will be on developing my upcoming full-length dance work for my company Zata OMM...but I want to learn more about directing and making films. I would love to make at least one feature film before I die.

Still from Natasha Powell's Jazz Dictionary

LUCY: And the future for RT Collective and Dancemakers? 

CHRIS: RT Collective has a full wave or programming set for next year, including an exhibition in March at the Gladstone Hotel as part of Myseum Toronto, and then two screenings in June and one in July. We're also definitely interested in continuing to work with Dancemakers on a second edition of this program next year and possibly some other initiative we've yet to dream up.

Still from Rodney Diverlus' film.

AMELIA: Dancemakers has its next edition of "Flowchart", on January 25th, a series of multidiscipliary performance. William Ellis will show work alongside Francesca Chudnoff and Justin de Luna -Francesca who is also showing work in Screen:Moves! - and then in February we have our last "Flowchart" of the year, with Aisha Sasha John, Marisa Hoicka, and Barbara Lindenberg/Allison Peacock. We'll also show more work by Emerging Artist in Residence Amanda Acorn, bring Andrea Spaziani's "Silver Venus" to production this year, host Lee Su-Feh's "Dance Machine", and get a first look at a new work by Antony Hamilton. 

Still from Brandy Leary's Melting

We for sure hope to keep working on this project with RT collective, it's a really ideal co-production. As for my immediate future, I'm about to go teach an adult beginner dance class, finish this tea, and hopefully have a huge sleep tonight. 

Still from Cassandra Wittman's Night Mother

Check it out this Monday, December 4th
Dancemakers Centre for Creation
9 Trinity Street
Theatre Studio 313
Toronto's Historic Distillery District
Tickets are Pay What You Can at the door 
suggested contribution of $5-$10

More info here:

all stills courtesy of RT Collective and Dancemakers. Thanks everybody!

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

a little bit of time with Anisa Tejpar and Hanna Kiel

I love watching rehearsals, not just a run of a performance work in a rehearsal, but the dynamics between collaborators, the body language of artists as they chat, analyze a moment, stretch, plug a device into another device, shuffle papers and ideas around. 

When Anisa Tejpar invited me to watch a bit of rehearsal and write about her upcoming show "in time", I knew with this rehearsal being part of her technical residency at Dancemakers, that I would be in for a lot of this kind of action, the movement surrounding the performance, as much as the movement in the performance.

Video is being tested and arranged and timed. The composer is present taking notes, the dancer paces and chats with me, the choreographer calmly slides through the space. A network of white fabric hangs in tow pieces from the grid hinting at butterfly wings, albino stained glass or facets of a jewel. The projections break and pick up again over the seams and spaces between. The air is charged with an urgency but no seems particularly stressed out...this is the world of a technical residency, when you have the time and space to figure things out and the excitement of feeling the successes and the gaps as it comes together. 

"in time", by Hanna's and Anisa's account really is a project that formed over time and just in time for both of them. They met over a year ago to chat about possibly working together, not quite sure what that would be. Anisa was thinking of commissioning a full-length duet, Hanna was feeling drawn to making a solo that drew inspiration from the work of a housewife. When they chatted, they realized their ideas and artistic desires could actually be realized together.

"I had this idea about a woman's solo but I hadn't found the right dancer. When Anisa approached me it was clear. Anisa is the perfect dancer for this. She is good at making things happen. I am good at coming into it." says Hanna.

"We complement each other that way." Anisa says.
Anisa Tejpar

At this rehearsal they run the final section for me. John Gzowski's music is minimalist and emotionally provocative without being cloying or manipulative. The notes and harmonies and the choreography each have a precision but do not fall in step together, which creates a spellbinding effect.

The suspended set and its projects create a fractured view and Anisa herself is partially obscured for much of this section. It is not jarring or disorienting, but rather gives the feeling that you can never see the full truth. Even with several angles, views, interpretations of the same moment, none gives you a complete picture. Something is always hidden, unexpressed but still happening, privately.

Anisa and Hanna speak about the intimacy and privacy of the process, of hours of talking, sharing their experiences: being part of immigrant families; the devastating impact of losing a parent; the roles and mantles of being a woman and wife.  Hanna's initial idea of "a housewife" became fused with something much more personal.

"I haven't had any process where we've talked so much about personal many tears and emotion in the process. Everything came together [choreographically, artistically] with that experience together." Hanna explains.

Anisa continues, "There's a kind of serenity, even in the crazy part. With solos you have to lose your mind in order to remember why you wanted to do it in the first place. Hanna is very respectful, she doesn't nitpick the details, she lets me figure it out."

Hanna and Anisa have worked together before in ensemble choreography, where Hanna is quite forthcoming with corrections and details. Her eye is very specific, choreographically speaking, lots of movement, lots of detail. Anisa describes the difference between the two experiences as the difference between being the physical embodiment of Hanna's imagination and being the embodiment of an "us", a fictional composite that bears striking resemblance to their personal experiences.

Anisa moves with an ease and softness to hard-edged movements and extreme shapes. She exudes the interior world of an old soul that contradicts this ease. This combination of qualities is mirrored in a video image of a parachuter who seems to fall into a rectangle on the floor,  delineated by tape, the dancer's "house". Parachuting requires bravery and release. So does a solo show.

As Anisa says, "I had to do this now. When else am I going to this? I hope people come and they like it, but ultimately I just had to do this for me, to let this out."
This stellar dancer has just three shows of "in time". Don't miss it.

For more info:

all photos courtesy of Anisa Tejpar.

Monday, November 13, 2017

40 years of DanceWorks! A brief interview with the intrepid curator Mimi Beck

DanceWorks is 40 years old. A champion of Canadian choreographers and companies, of artistic experimentation. A organism that has morphed and changed, grown and streamlined, riding massive changes in the dance community within and without Toronto, and political shifts that have rocked the arts over this time.

Mimi Beck, DanceWorks' curator who is kind, thoughtful and rebellious in a subtle, cheeky way answered some of my questions about the upcoming 40th anniversary celebration performance November 16-18, at Harbourfront Centre Theatre.

LR: 40th anniversary!!! that’s quite an accomplishment. what are some of your most proud accomplishments with DanceWorks?

MB: Keeping it going, year after year, sometimes against difficult odds.

LR: And what are some of the most unusual moments for DanceWorks?

MB: In preparing for the 40th anniversary, I’ve cycled through many memories. A poignant and extraordinary experience took place in March of 2009 around the presentation of Provincial Essays created by Vancouver choreographer Lola MacLaughlin for her company Lola Dance. As Lola lived with cancer, she was powerfully motivated to continue creating and sending her work on tour. Lola planned to come to Toronto with the company, but it became clear that she was too ill to travel.

We opened on March 6 with a fabulous, sold-out student matinee of Provincial Essays performed by Caroline Farquhar, Susan Kania, Alison Denham, Ziyian Kwan and Ron Stewart. Sadly, Lola passed away that afternoon.

At the evening program, Company Manager Bernard Sauvé and I came onstage and shared the news of Lola’s passing. Many in the audience were Lola’s dear friends and colleagues, dating back to her days with Desrosiers Dance Theatre. A gasp went through the house. After tears, and a pause, we ran the piece.

LR: I remember that. It was one of the best performances I have ever seen. The dancers were so....just in it. No over-expressing, no tears. It felt like a crystallized performance. Few performances will ever touch that...

MB: It was an honour and a gift to present Lola’s work on that day. She was a cherished friend and colleague who decided that her repertoire of dances would cease at the end of her life. It was the last piece of Lola’s that I saw in performance.

LR: Can you speak a little bit about the founding of DanceWorks? What precipitated it? What were the first few seasons like? 

MB: I'm going to direct you to an interview by Catherine Romano with DanceWorks' co-founder Johanna Householder.

LR: Thanks. Rather than summarize that, I'll just put the link here. What a great read! I didn't know much of the history, even though I worked for DanceWorks for six years! But I love hearing that there was a dose of feminism and rebelliousness from the start. And that there was such a strong relationship with music, composers and experimenters of the time.

MB: The first events were at the Music Gallery. We later moved to St. George the Martyr parish hall on Stephanie Street. The minister’s wife didn’t want us taking down the religious banners, so we decided to find a new space. Many venues followed, with stints at the Winchester Street and Betty Oliphant Theatres and four spaces at Harbourfront Centre. Special events happened at 15 Dance Lab, the Rivoli, St. Lawrence Hall, The Art Gallery of Ontario, offices of the Pilkington Glass Co. and the Friends House, to name a few!

LR: How has your role shifted, grown or evolved over 40 years?

MB: I started with DanceWorks as a member of the collective. A group of independent choreographers were creating works and presenting them on shared programs. It was collaborative and non-hierarchical. As some of the founders shifted their creative focus, Irene Grainger began to curate the programs. Irene invited me to assist, but when Irene took on other responsibilities, as a new mom and photo editor at NOW magazine, I carried on with the series.

LR: What do you like most about your job? What is most challenging?

MB: Supporting the evolution of artistic practice and new ideas captivates me. I really like working with people – creating magic, while cultivating relationships. Contributing to the growth of individual artistry and the art form gives me deep satisfaction.

Making plans when facing many uncertainties is challenging! There are risks involved each season, and with every performance – mental, physical, financial, etc. We work little miracles every day with the resources we have.

LR: What do you see or hope for the future of DanceWorks?

MB: I hope the organization will continue to embrace change and be a relevant, positive part of the community. 

Esmeralda Enrique

LR: How did you choose the choreographers/companies involved in the 40th anniversary show? What do each mean or symbolize for you?

MB: The selection of works is rooted in the past, celebrates the present and invites hope for the future. The five choreographers have all premiered and performed pieces in DanceWorks seasons, dating back to 1981. Each has a strong artistic vision that supports a unique creative practice.

Several pieces have live music, giving a nod to DanceWorks’ first performances at Toronto’s Music Gallery. These include world premieres by Denise Fujiwara (Moving Parts) and a choreographic collaboration by Esmeralda Enrique and Joanna de Souza (Amalgam). 

The improvisation component of Fujiwara’s work reflects the original intent of the series, when it was titled DanceWorks / Improvisations. Parachute Club’s song Rise Up that closes the piece was performed by band member Lorraine Segato in an early DanceWorks program in a performance with one of the founders, Janice Hladki. 

Fujiwara Dance Inventions in Moving Parts

Enrique and de Souza take their stellar partnership to a new level, engaging us in the rhythms of both Flamenco and Kathak dance. Adding the haunting vocals of Arabic music, they cross cultural boundaries.

Esmeralda Enrique and Joanna De Souza in Amalgam

Holly Small and Robert W. Stevenson have re-imagined Cheap Sunglasses, a solo dance with vocal quartet, shown by DanceWorks at the Art Gallery of Ontario 36 years ago. Others on the bill were Tom Dean and Margaret Dragu (our first curator of performance art) and media artist Jorge Lozano.

Evan Winther in Holly Small's Cheap Sunglasses

Visual projection is a key aspect of Learie McNicolls’ ritualistic solo, The Night Journey, receiving its Toronto premiere. The duet by McNicolls, Dancing With the Ghost, is taken from a quartet performed in November, 1995 by tonight’s brilliant dancers, Jennifer Dahl and Robert Glumbeck, who originally appeared with Marie-Josée Dubois and the choreographer. On that mid-November opening night, a blizzard descended on the city and only the most intrepid patrons made their way to the theatre. On the second night, even more snow fell. This piece is a memory for me and a mini-revelation for those who missed the electricity of that show!

Learie McNicolls


Get your tickets NOW! 
They're selling fast.
And you don't want to wait for another 40 years.

Joanna De Souza

DanceWorks 40th anniversary 
November 16-18 at 8pm
Harbourfront Centre Theatre
More info and tickets:

all photos courtesy of DanceWorks

Monday, November 6, 2017

39 Years of Creativity with Janak Khendry

November dance performances in Toronto mark some amazing anniversaries. DanceWorks celebrates its 40th anniversary, ProArteDanza hits 13, Older and Reckless has its 40th incarnation and Janak Khendry Dance Company turns 39. 

Janak Khendry is easily one of the warmest and friendliest people in the Toronto dance community. He is a multi-award winner, he has performed over 1000 times all around the world including performances for Indian presidents and an American Vice-President. He has trained in four distinct styles of classical Indian dance: Bharatanatyam, Khatak, Sattriya and Manipuri, and also Cunningham, Graham and Limon styles of western contemporary dance. He also has a Masters Degree in Sculpture and his sculptures have been featured in solo exhibitions and in private collections around the world. 

I am honoured to share with you a brief Q and A between us in the lead up to his new work Life Eternal, premiering this week at Fleck Theatre, Harbourfront Centre.

Life Eternal

LR: How does it feel to have a 39th anniversary of your company?  What are your most proud accomplishments with the company?

JK: It feels very elevated, an achievement, and at the same time, humbling. The most proud accomplishments are the creation and presentation of several very important dance presentations: Panchkalyanaka (from the life of Mahavir), Gayatri, Women Liberated (about women's acceptance in the Buddhist faith), Upanishad, Ganga (the story of the River Ganges), Kaal-Time (the story of Time), John Milton's Paradise Lost and now, Life Eternal.

LR: How do you stay inspired and motivated, especially in times of turmoil, sadness or upheaval?

JK: Dance has been my very life; it keeps me inspired and motivated by thinking of future creations, which happens constantly. The positive thoughts of new creations keep me away from sadness.

LR: How does the theme of your upcoming show reflect your life or your curiosity or preoccupations?

JK: The theme of my current work Life Eternal reflects every human beings desire. We all want to reach the higher level. Forever, the desire for IMMORTALITY has been the greatest yearning of human beings, and I also wrestle with the question. 

Almost all forms of life, however old they may grow, eventually die – whether from ageing, disease or physical trauma – and even inanimate objects ultimately decay and break down into their constituent elements. But the idea of living forever has fascinated me since I was a child.

During our time, we have achieved great strides in philosophy and religion, science and technology, and reason and rationality. In all scenarios of progress and problems, life has survived. This concept of the mission of life expands from India’s ancient Vedic times and diversifies through Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. One theme in all these remains the same: the search for immortality in spite of death, a state of life in which Death itself would die.

Janak Khendry

LR: When you create a new show, what is the path that takes you from the idea to the production?  How do you build the choreography and story?

JK: For the creation of my new work, I follow the path of total understanding of the subject thoroughly, intensively researching and living in the theme. The subject is developed step by step. The inspiration of the choreography depends on the subject, the music and the language. I listen to the music for weeks at a time before I choreograph a step, then I begin to write steps on paper. These I transfer to my dancers in the studio.

LR: How do you dream or envision the future of your company? (Let’s hope for another 39 years!!)

JK: I dream of a very bright future for the Janak Khendry Dance Company and to achieve that, I will keep working very hard. My hope is to spread our message around the world as we travel abroad as Indo-Canadian Cultural Ambassadors to propagate the Diversity of Cultures and the Unity of Canadian society.

Janak Khendry Dance Company's world premiere of Life Eternal, a captivating classical Indian dance work featuring 14 dancers that explores Immortality and Freedom

November 9-11 
 Harbourfront Centre's Fleck Dance Theatre.
Tickets are available by calling the Harbourfront Centre Box Office at 416-973-4000

or visit Janak Khendry Dance Company's website at

photos courtesy of Janak Khendry Dance Company.