Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Guelph Dance Festival Sneak Peek: IMAGEO artworks

In the weeks leading up to Guelph Dance Festival 2013, some of the amazing artists who will perform at the Festival will also share their vision with us here on the blog. These intimate, behind-the-scenes looks will bring us closer to the artistry, process, and experience of dance. We encourage you to not just read these amazing stories, but to ask questions or engage in conversation about dance in our comments section below. Welcome to our 15th anniversary year!

On Friday May 31 from 5pm to 6pm at Dancetheatre David Earle, the Guelph Dance Festival in collaboration with Musagetes will present IMAGEO artworks and the premiere of Invisible Hands as part of the Local Initiatives Series. Georgia Simms joins us today.

GeorgiaInvisible Hands is an experiment.

What happens when two social science students, trained in dance, and a poet team up with a modern dancer and a context artist to explore themes of transition, political relationships, community-engaged research and dialogue through a choreographic process?

Photo by Peter Grimaldi

The inspiration for this experiment began with questions of transition, motivated by research conducted by Musagetes—a local organization that promotes the arts and artistic creativity as tools for social transformation. The research consisted of ongoing community dialogues hosted in Guelph in 2011/2012. An emergent theme in these dialogues (which included a diverse array of topics such as food security, affordable housing and cultural development) was the current state of local democracy, and the shared desire to create thriving systems for citizen participation in decision-making to refresh those that feel stuck, adversarial and reactive. This was a common thread that spanned across the different topics.

Within a collaborative and adaptive creation framework, this Guelph-based group has been kinesthetically exploring experiences ranging from conflict, blame, avoidance and defensiveness to active communication, empathy, opening and an embracing of change. The movement vocabulary is primarily informed by gestures and metaphors that were collected during a movement-based workshop, “Empowering the Public Body”, hosted in November 2012, where city staff and residents of Guelph were invited to share their opinions and experiences about municipal governance and decision-making, both with their words and their bodies. While the workshop did not effectively capture a balanced set of perspectives, the gestures, metaphors and messages that were collected, and our critical reflections on the experience of the workshop, gave us much to work with in the studio.

Photo by Peter Grimaldi

By embodying the “harvested” gestures in improvisational exercises, and allowing these shapes and movements to evolve and grow, in both independent and relational contexts, we have been investigating the ways in which persistent patterns of conflict and blame can shift into ways of being that can truly hold complexity and foster empathy and understanding.

This video documents the process linking community dialogue and Invisible Hands.

The process has been guided by two overarching questions: How can we move past entrenched beliefs and assumptions about the way things are? How can we improve the quality of relationships that exist between people who engage in making collective decisions? By examining assumptions, clich├ęs and the patterns revealed in the “same old stories”, we are discovering where there is potential for action and change. It is hoped that participants from the research dialogues and the workshop will attend the performance and witness their contributions in motion! The audience will be encouraged to take advantage of the opportunity for shared reflection, comments and questions following the performance.

This layer of experimentation, and part of the intention behind this project, is the investigation of the idea of “policy theatre”.  In other words, rather than having a group of people who are wrestling with the challenges of decision-making sitting around table, can you instead have them sit together as an audience to share in a theatrical experience, and let that experience launch ideas and discussions in new, unexpected directions? Can engagement in decision-making processes be more attractive, fun and generative? And can creative processes actually help to develop skills needed for civic literacy? A unique feature of this project is the connection with the University of Guelph’s Institute for Community Engaged Scholarship (ICES), linking artistic initiatives in the community with cutting edge qualitative research, and refining techniques for mobilizing knowledge through embodied interaction, creative exchange and performance.

Join us to witness the results of this experiment, and be part of the evolution of the conversation about transition, political relationships and community engagement in Guelph.

“…Extending a hand in a different direction with a new intention,
from a hard line to a soft path, paralysis to fluidity…”

Photo by Peter Grimaldi

Georgia Simms is the creative director of IMAGEO artworks. She is a professional dancer, choreographer, researcher and workshop facilitator. She strives to combine her passion for performance with her hope for social and environmental change.

Tanya Williams is a context artist with a passion for dancing with systems, in community, land and body, drawing on many approaches including physical theatre, contact improvisation and Alexander Technique movement education. She founded Friends of the Floor Dance-Theatre and grooves on residing in a dynamic community of practice called The Living Room Context.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Guelph Dance Festival Sneak Peek: Tracey Norman

In the weeks leading up to Guelph Dance Festival 2013, some of the amazing dance artists who will perform at the Festival will also share their vision with us here on the blog. These intimate, behind-the-scenes looks will bring us closer to the artistry, process, and experience of dance. We encourage you to not just read these amazing stories, but to ask questions or engage in conversation about dance in our comments section below. Welcome to our 15th anniversary year!

Tracey Norman presents at our In the Studio series on Saturday, June 1 and Sunday June 2, 2pm, at Dancetheatre David Earle, 42 Quebec Street. Book your tickets now!

Tracey: I was reading an article and came across the line “by the very act of watching, the observer affects the observed reality.” This was something I had heard before but, as is often the case, this time something about it registered with me differently. The article was explaining the results of a scientific study in which particles behave differently when viewed versus otherwise. I was interested in the human application—the effect we have on each other’s reality by the very act of observing or witnessing.

Witness. Photo by Craig Chambers.
At about the same time as I read this article, I was taking a workshop with Lee Su-Feh of Vancouver and about to embark on a creative process with Jesse Dell and Jordana Deveau (JDdance). Su-Feh’s workshop was called “Observing and Adjusting” and it had me thinking a lot about “how” we see each other. And so the starting point for my work with Jesse and Jordana stemmed from this interest in both how we come to witness one another and how we alter our behaviour accordingly, based on our cognizance of being watched. We worked on many physical tasks related to this interest that led to developing a vocabulary for the work. During this time, I came to terms with something that had been on my mind but unarticulated for a while: as dancers we’ve chosen to participate in an art form in which we inherently pronounce “watch me”, although we may not always be comfortable or embracing of this idea. The performers I’m most intrigued by often display a certain mix of comfortability and vulnerability in the knowledge of being watched. They’re able to strip away ego (as much as is possible) and give and take equally with an audience.

Witness. Photo by Craig Chambers.
Witness was created in collaboration with Jesse and Jordana. The work asks them to be both wild and precise; to execute intricate movements and communicate in a specific language while sharing a real-time experience in which the viewer is invited to witness and affect the performance. The movement language is sometimes detailed, gestural and mysterious, while other times it is large, risky and flies through space. Our outside eye for this work and all of my work in recent years is veteran dance artist Julia Sasso.

Witness. Photo by Craig Chambers.
Witness premiered at episodes | andscapes, a co-production by JDdance and Tracey Norman with DanceWorks CoWorks in April 2013. Prior to that it was shown in-progress at Series 8:08 and in excerpt form at Dance Ontario’s DanceWeekend 2013.

Toronto-based dance artist Tracey Norman has presented her choreography across Canada. Currently on faculty in the Department of Dance at York University, Tracey received her MFA in Choreography & Dramaturgy in 2010.    www.traceynorman.com

JDdance (JDd) is a dance-theatre collective that was founded by Jesse Dell and Jordana Deveau in 2009. JDd is a multifaceted collective that strives to create, produce and present high caliber, thought-provoking, contemporary dance work.    www.jddance.ca

Witness (excerpt) from Tracey Norman on Vimeo.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

This Week at the Guelph Shebang

The Guelph Shebang, River Run Centre’s artist residency program, wraps up this week with a four-day creative collaboration. As part of the community outreach elements of the program, the public is invited to participate in two free events:

Tuesday, April 16, 2013 – Community Workshop: “What Moves You”
6:30 to 8:00 pm , Co-operators Hall
90-minute participatory dance workshop includes a series of movement and story-sharing experiences
Free and open to the public

“What Moves You” is led by River Run’s artist in residence, Andrea Nann, Artistic Director of Dreamwalker Dance Company. Attendees to the workshop are encouraged to wear comfortable clothing and are invited to participate in the movement activities.

Thursday, April 18, 2013 – Presentation: “Feedback”
7:00 to 8:30 pm, Co-operators Hall
An interactive presentation by the Shebang’s artists in residence
Free and open to the public

“Feedback” is a presentation by the Shebang’s six Guelph-based artists in residence: dancers Ishra Blanco and Megan O'Donnell; musicians Bry Webb and Amadeo Ventura; writer Claire Tacon and videographer Jenn E. Norton.
Dance artist Megan O' Donnell.
In preparation for the presentation of “Feedback”, the artists engaged the community by asking people to tell them about the best and worst advice they have ever received. The responses will be woven into their public presentation on the 18th. There’s still time for anyone to respond by leaving a message on the Guelph Shebang phone line at 519-837-5619 or sending an email to goodandbadadvice@gmail.com.

The Guelph Shebang is River Run Centre’s first artist residency program, presented in partnership with Ed Video Media Arts Centre, Eden Mills Writers’ Festival, Guelph Dance, Guelph Jazz Festival and Hillside Festival. It is multi-disciplinary project that focuses on a collaborative approach to creative practices and is led by celebrated Toronto-based dance artist Andrea Nann, artistic director of Dreamwalker Dance Company. Andrea specializes in facilitating movement-based creative strategies to cultivate a group-based artistic creation practice.

The Guelph Shebang is funded in part by Ontario Arts Council through its Ontario Dances program which supports initiatives to enhance appreciation of dance in local communities and increase public awareness of the expanding spectrum of dance-based projects being developed by Ontario artists.

Andrea Nann
Artistic Director Dreamwalker Dance Company 

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Help Us Bring Workshops in Schools to Kids in Need!

Janet: Guelph Dance’s Workshops In Schools series lies close to my heart. As the main facilitator of this series, I’m privileged to be on the front line with the kids who attend these workshops.

It is Guelph Dance’s passion and commitment to foster and encourage artistic and self-growth in our youth. Guelph Dance’s commitment and inclusion of youth is a rare and vital component of our organization. We provide performance, training, camps and in-school dance education to the population of Guelph.

We work closely with at-risk or marginalized schools in the Guelph area.  To continue this work, we would like to bring a dance artist for a week’s residency at these schools to develop dance awareness and skills, but also to encourage the growth of self-identity and discovery through movement. This week-long residency allows for a relationship to develop between the facilitator and students, as well as providing time for a more meaningful and effective experience for the learners.

Guelph Dance has longstanding relationships with many schools throughout Guelph and a clear, strong rapport with many principals and staff, creating a vital pathway for the growth and inclusion of their students. The Guelph Dance artists intended for this project are highly accomplished choreographers and performers, as well as experienced and passionate teachers. Offering these affordable workshops helps to create a stronger sense of community in Guelph, as well as offering an arts education experience.

Having facilitated many workshops-in-schools, I have witnessed profound physical and emotional development in the learners. I watch the non-verbal become verbal, the challenged become able, the dynamic of a classroom become celebratory, almost victorious. It is here, in this arena, that I frequently hear teachers declare in astonishment that they never knew the drive, interest, and/or skill a particular student had for dance/movement.

In the wake of the recent cuts to extracurricular activities in the public school system, we believe it is all the more important and necessary to develop and fund activities that promote physical and artistic enrichment for students. With a non-successful grant application from the Ontario Arts Council in hand, Guelph Dance has chosen to avoid defeat, but has chosen instead to raise money within the community to be able to offer a few day-long workshops for schools to at-risk students. I am immensely moved by and grateful to our community for their help so far, and hope we can offer these workshops to more schools with your help.

Please visit our indiegogo page to donate to this year’s Workshops In Schools program. Any amount helps! Thank you.

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Dark Circles at the Guelph Dance Festival!

In the weeks leading up to Guelph Dance Festival 2013, some of the amazing dance artists who will perform at the Festival will also share their vision with us here on the blog. These intimate, behind-the-scenes looks will bring us closer to the artistry, process, and experience of dance. We encourage you to not just read these amazing stories, but to ask questions or engage in conversation about dance in our comments section below. Welcome to our 15th anniversary year!

Joshua L. Peugh, choreographer and artistic director of Dark Circles Contemporary Dance—founded in Seoul, Korea, and now based in Dallas, Texas—bring us Jokers in the Deck. Dark Circles Contemporary Dance presents at our On the Stage A performance on Friday, May 31, 8pm, at the River Run Centre. Gala and Talkback session to follow. Book your tickets now!

Joshua: I met Cho Hyun Sang right after I left Universal Ballet Company. I had been commissioned to create a new work for the Opera House in Daegu, and through a mutual friend, Hyun Sang ended up in my cast. While rehearsing the new work we spent countless hours drinking coffee, eating pork, and discussing dance, sometimes until four in the morning. We were a perfect match. We had the same ideas about movement and the purpose of art. We saw a lack of humanity in the dance work being created and presented in Seoul.
DCCD. Photo: Ok Sang Hoon.
After that first performance, we opened a small studio together where we could rehearse and create without the pressures of the Korean dance culture, which was unvaryingly controlled by university professors at that time. We sent our work out to local festivals and continued to receive performances. Eventually, we decided our little enterprise deserved a name. Because of our late night/early morning conversations, Dark Circles seemed like an appropriate choice.   
DCCD had its first performance in the spring of 2010. Since then, the company has performed in festivals all over Asia and has begun to bridge the gap between East and West, forming a new branch based in Dallas, Texas. In January, DCCD made its North American debut at Tempe Center for the Arts at Breaking Ground Contemporary Dance and Film Festival with Cosmic Sword. The performance at Guelph Dance will be the second performance for this new American incarnation of the company.

Jokers in the Deck was premiered July 22, 2011 at Arko Arts Theater in Seoul, Korea. It was also my first time on stage with one of my favorite people in the world. I literally bumped into Kim Dong Hyoung in a dance class just as I was starting to panic about the new work I was to create for DCCD’s second full evening program. I couldn't find any available dancers I was interested in working with. Dong Hyoung didn’t stop moving the entire class. I could see his need to move, his pleasure, his obsession with dancing. I asked about him at the front desk and left my business card. When he contacted me a few days later, I asked him if he was available and, without any questions, he appeared at rehearsal with a smile on.
DCCD. Photo: Ok Sang Hoon.
During the rehearsal process it rained almost everyday, but the work was so easy. Dong Hyoung’s willingness and curiosity were inspiring. He was gentle and quiet and our work together allowed me to answer some hard questions about fate that were spinning in my mind. I treasured every minute I spent making Jokers. It’s my personal favorite piece of work I’ve choreographed. I can’t wait to share it with you.
Joshua L. Peugh is Choreographer and Artistic Director of Dark Circles Contemporary Dance, Associate Choreographer of Bruce Wood Dance Project, and Adjunct Lecturer of Dance Composition at Southern Methodist University. In 2006, Joshua moved to South Korea to join Universal Ballet Company where he performed soloist and featured roles in the works of Ohad Naharin, Christopher Wheeldon and others. After two and a half years with the company, Joshua left UBC and founded his own company, Dark Circles Contemporary Dance, in Seoul. Since then, he has created work for festivals all over Asia and North America. His most recent works are Cosmic Sword, White Elephant, and Slump. Joshua lives in Dallas, Texas.

Kim Dong Hyoung is a native of Seoul, South Korea. He began his dance career as a back-up dancer and hip-hop trainer for some of Korea's top pop stars. He trained and coached the original Korean cast of the musical Billy Elliot. Dong Hyoung has performed works by choreographers Kiki Soh (Pas Troupe), Tovaris Wilson (choreographer for Janet Jackson), Free (choreographer for Omarion), and Bruce Wood. In 2011, Dong Hyoung joined Dark Circles Contemporary Dance and has performed internationally, winning awards in Korea and Japan for his performances in Jokers in the Deck. Dong Hyoung is also a consultant with Bruce Wood Dance Project.