Thursday, 26 January 2012

Mosa Neshama McNeilly at the GCDF

Mosa: The GCDF blew my socks off my first summer in Guelph, 2006. I moved here with my daughter from Toronto in the dead of winter, and the festival really played a part in my finding my artistic bearings in this new much smaller city. 
Mosa at the GCDF 2010.
I was so impressed with the caliber of performances and the general feel of the festival that right away I wanted to become involved in some way. I met Catrina through signing my daughter up for dance classes at Temple. When she learned about my dance background, she invited me to do an African dance arts ed project at John McCrae, her children's school at the time, where she was an active parent. I was thrilled when she asked me if I would be interested to sit on the Board of Directors for GCDF, and did for two years, 2008-10. My experience on the board was educational and rewarding. I learned a lot about the logistical and artistic behind-the-scenes runnings of the festival, and each year felt so proud to be an ambassador for such an awesome festival. The meetings were always a good mix of good vibes and hard work. Nothing but good memories, really, and when my time frees up a little, I will be knocking on their door to see if there is still a seat on the Board for me.

A multidisciplinary artist and educator with 25 years experience, Mosa's mixed media collage and installation art work has been exhibited internationally in numerous group and solo art exhibitions. She has performed extensively as a singer, storyteller, and dancer in schools and public venues. She teaches African dance, drumming, drama and spoken word, facilitates arts projects culminating in murals, banners and quilts, and makes lecture presentations in galleries and universities. She is currently engaged in a program of independent study in voice and encaustic art working with two mentors. Mosa's website.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Dance From The Inside

 Daniel Poulin is the Assistant General Manager of the GCDF. You can often find him MC'ing the outdoor events and teaching theatre during the Arts Explosion Camps. He also works at the University of Guelph in peer-counselling and is the acting-chair of the Board of Directors for Out On The Shelf.

Daniel MC'ing the 2008 Noon Time series. Photo: Anuta Skrypnychenko
Daniel: It’s hard to put into words what excites me about contemporary dance. When I watch dance it’s like I go somewhere else—to a place of possibilities. Each breath, each movement, each pause, each silence is a choice and watching the string of choices combine with the shear athleticism and precision of the artists creates this rush inside me which can sometimes leave me breathless. It pulls me out of my day-to-day self and into a space that is creative, imaginative, playful, dark and wonderful.

Coming from theatre, I knew almost nothing about dance when I started at the Festival four years ago. I have always loved watching dance, since I was little. The dancers captivated me—their sense of total focus. I often wondered where they went when they danced—sometimes I still do.

I started to develop a taste for a particular aesthetic—crisp, clean, dark, precise. Like a machine with many complicated moving parts. Moments of what seem like chaos quickly turn into precise synchronized movements. Simultaneous displays of total control and total abandon. This aesthetic is what draws me—not only to dance, but theatre, visual art, and film.

  Kaeja d'Dance performing Abbatoir  at Maintsge B in 2008. Photo: Anuta Skrypnychenko
Now going into my fifth Festival, I reflect on the over 100 pieces I have been privileged to see. Each one had a unique impact on me. Some fall into my aesthetic taste and others don’t at all. But that’s what I love about the Festival: there are such a variety of pieces, dancers, and styles. I love that the Festival challenges me to look outside of my aesthetic comfort zone—to balance my perspective with the perspective of others. I love that every year I have been surprised and caught off guard.

So bring it 2012—challenge me. I’m counting down the days (133 to be exact).