Thursday, February 25, 2016

Vancouver Dance History (2006-2016): Post 7

Earlier today Justine and Max and I squeezed into my Woodward's office along with Ali Denham (Alexa was absent because of rehearsal). Ali is the third interview subject to sit down with us and talk about her Vancouver dance history. For Ali that history began when she first came to the city at fifteen to train and worked with, among others, Judith Marcuse and Paras Terezakis (two choreographers, I am learning, who gave many young movers their starts). After time spent back in Toronto with Serge Bennathan at Dancemakers, Ali returned in her twenties and danced for a host of local choreographers, including Judith Garay, Lola McLaughlin, James Gnam, Alvin Tolentino, Josh Beamish, Wen Wei Wang, Tara Cheyenne Friendenberg, Serge (she was one of the amazing cast of willis in his Elles), and the list goes on (including Justine, in Family Dinner).

As Ali spun back and forth in my office chair (a nice kinetic bit we'll have to incorporate somehow) she talked about how her connection to Vancouver dance is "muddy" right now, partly because she's injured (a frozen shoulder since the birth of her daughter) and partly because her desire to remain connected to the scene is ambivalent. That said, she affirmed that this scene is definitely a lot different from what it was eight years ago, with younger dancers having much more of an advanced critical discourse around their work, and dance aesthetics more generally. Dance in Vancouver, she and Justine agreed, is no longer about simply being a "bionic body"--a persona whose physicality on stage is the sole index of one's being.

On this latter point Ali was also very honest in saying that it was hard to talk about her dance history (or anyone's for that matter) without defaulting to negativity. So much of what goes into being a dancer for hire (the long hours, the paltry pay, the physical pain, the emotional abuse, dealing with vaunted egos) is just plain hard. This then led to an interesting discussion about the surprising lack of a meaningful tradition of an ethic of care (intellectual, physical and affective) in contemporary dance, and how that needs to change.

Maybe it's just that as an outsider to this community I've always been so astonished and humbled by how easily and warmly I've been welcomed into it, or maybe it's the fact that these two dance moms with whom I spent an hour and a half this afternoon conversing are so unlike their reality TV namesakes, but what I've taken away from this project so far is not just our interlocutors' mindfulness of what their bodies can do, but also their equal concern for what, in certain circumstances and given any number of mental and emotional considerations, other bodies cannot.


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