Saturday, January 9, 2016

My Year in Vancouver Dance (a review) + Vancouver Dance History, 2006-2016 (a preview)

Hard to believe that this time last year I was in the final stages of rehearsal for Le Grand Continental. The free outdoor performance on the plaza of the Queen Elizabeth Theatre--choreographed by Montreal's Sylvain Émard, programmed as part of the PuSh Festival, and featuring 70+ community dancers strutting their stuff--recently made Deborah Meyers' year-end Vancouver Sun list of top 2015 dance shows in the city. That was nice to see.

Who would have thought that the experience would go on to launch something of a parallel community site dance career, what with the Mountain View Summer Solstice and Wreck Beach Butoh experiences following in quick succession this past summer? Certainly if you'd said to me last January that I'd now be taking weekly class with Barbara Bourget, I'd have laughed in your face. Though, if we're pointing fingers, I should probably place much of the blame for all of this at the feet--quite literally--of Tara Cheyenne Friedenberg, who has certainly spoiled me for thinking that dancing and laughing naturally go together. (Sorry Barbara!)

There were a lot of laughs yesterday on the sixth floor of The Dance Centre, where I gathered with Artistic Associate Justine A. Chambers and Alexa Mardon to brainstorm a planned project on recent Vancouver dance history that Justine is spearheading as part of her two-year DC residency. Part living archive, part dance ethnography, part an exercise in kinaesthetic mapping and performance kinship, the collaboration is still in its very early stages. But the general idea is that the three of us will, over the next year or so, conduct video interviews with several of the city's leading dance artists in order to document the story of Vancouver dance over the past decade. Or I should say, stories. Because we are particularly keen not just to include as many voices as possible, but also to note where those voices converge and diverge on common anecdotes or topics of discussion, be they related to specific works, creation processes, tours, presenters, etc.

The temporal period we've imposed on the project coincides with Justine's arrival in the city, but also with something of a generational shift--or perhaps, more properly, supplement--in/to Vancouver dance practice, with many younger artists (several of them, like Justine, relocating to Vancouver from elsewhere) beginning to form companies and make new work and get noticed locally, nationally, and internationally. To be sure, we are also expecting that fissures will automatically open up in this timeline, with questions of aesthetic influence, and dance training, and performance collaboration and mentorship necessarily pointing backwards as much as forwards. We envision the process being rhizomatic rather than linear; as Justine put it yesterday, by the end of this we should have a constellated web of Vancouver dance-world connections in which there are zero degrees of separation between anyone.

Oh, and did I mention that all of this will culminate in a performance, and that I have agreed to participate in said performance? That part of it makes me a little sick to my stomach, not least as it will almost surely be at the Dance Centre in front of an audience made up of many of the artists whom we'll have interviewed. That's far in the future, though, and for now I can compartmentalize it in my mind as something comfortably abstract and on the distant horizon. However, I was relieved to hear from Justine and Alexa, both experienced performers, that they still want to throw up before most performances.

Watch this space--and possibly others--for updates on the progress of this project. My first task: to dig through the last decade of my collected programs.


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