We asked Catrina von Radecki, Festival Artistic Director, to tell us what excites her in this season's Festival. Here's what she told us.
As Artistic Director of the Guelph Dance Festival, I am so excited to tell you about the upcoming 19th annual festival, May 31-June 4! This year, we are celebrating Canada’s incredibly diverse culture with dance from Halifax, Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, and Guelph. Contemporary, urban, Indigenous, and Chinese dance will all be represented in our events that include On the Stage, In the Park, In theStudio, and Youth Moves. This year’s festival highlights the life cycle of birth, growth, death, and renewal. You will see in this year’s festival that we are nurturing dance artists from various generations and doing our part to keep the Canadian dance ecology healthy and vibrant.
An important aspect of putting on a dance festival is getting to know dancers from across the country. This year, I traveled to the New Dance Festival in St. John’s and to the Coastal First Nations Dance Festival in Vancouver. Among the passionate discussions between dance presenters from across the country was one about the presentation of Indigenous Dance at our various events. At both Festivals that I attended, I made new relationships that are already bearing fruit. In Vancouver, I participated in a hoop dance workshop led by Jessica McMann, a Cree native from Cowessess First Nation. I realized right away that her incredible teaching skills would be a perfect complement to the In the Park performances that will be done by two-time world champion hoop dancer Lisa Odjig (Toronto). Jessica will be in Guelph in mid-May to teach five full day workshops at five elementary schools! We are thrilled to offer this and are hopeful that the youth will then make plans to attend the Park performances by Lisa (who will be giving a hoop workshop for the general public following her Sunday performance).
And speaking of cultural diversity, I am also delighted that KasheDance (Toronto) will be performing In the Parks! Led by Jamaican-born Kevin Ormsby,the company will perform “Facing Home: Love & Redemption,” a piece that draws on Jamaican reggae and dancehall culture, while coming face to face with issues around homophobia. KasheDance works in the idiom of Afro-contemporary dance; its dancers are technical, virtuosic, and deeply committed to the depth of human expression.
Our local focus this year is on Guelph-based dance icon Suzette Sherman, who has worked with David Earle for over 30 years as dancer and Associate Director, and is beloved by many local dancers here. After meeting with a broad range of dancers in the community, it became clear that they are interested in ongoing professional support in the form of residencies and performing opportunities. To that end, Suzette is our Artist in Residence this year. She has taught a group of dedicated teen dancers in a masterclass, will be doing talks and demonstrations at two area senior centres, will be teaching 3 masterclasses for the public during the festival, and is working with a group of local professional dancers including her longtime friend and colleague Michele Green (whose journal will be posted on our blog soon) in the creation of new choreography that will premiere On the Stage on Saturday, June 3. We recommend getting your tickets soon – today even – as the show is more than half sold!
I am also looking forward to OURO Collective’s unique blend of contemporary and urban dance that will be performed In the Parks, Throwdown Collective’s tight and intricate performance In the Studio’s three performances, Belinda McGuire’s virtuosic and athletic solo On the Stage, the exquisite and eloquent Andrea Nann of Dreamwalker Dance Company, also On the Stage, and the numerous youth who will descend upon Guelph for the always invigorating Youth Moves performance as well as the performance by the 40 dancers of the Young Company of Halifax Dance and the Guelph Youth Dance Company, performing in the beautiful outdoor spaces of Hanlon Creek Park and Exhibition Park.
There’s more: workshops, talkbacks, and receptions! Get all the details at our website. Guelph Dance kicks off the Summer festival season – so make sure to attend as many events as you can! I look forward to seeing you at the theatre, studio, and parks!
Photos top to bottom: Lisa Odjig (courtesy of artist); KasheDance (photo by Stuart Reeves); Suzette Sherman (photo by John Lauener); Throwdown Collective (photo by Jeremy Mimnaugh)