Monday, 30 April 2018

Q&A With Susie Burpee

We had the opportunity to ask Susie Burpee a few questions about her career, her previous 
presentations at the Guelph Dance Festival and the piece she will be sharing this year with us. 
Susie has previously performed at the festival in 2006 and 2010; its great to welcome 
her once again in 2018 as we celebrate 20 years of dance in our community!

GD: Can you talk to us a bit about the various performances and workshops you have 
brought to Guelph over the years?

SB: The first work I presented at GCDF was in 2006: Mischance and Fair Fortune - a duet 
with Dan Wild. The work is inspired by the myth of Pyramus and Thisbe - two lovers who 
lived their lives separated by a wall. Long curtains divide the space, and there is a phone
microphone that gets used halfway through the work. I have such fond memories of working 
with Taras Cymbalisty and the crew on the production elements.  It was the first time as an
independent artist that I was presenting and performing work outside of my home city, and 
the remarkable Taras and crew helped me bring it to life in Studio A.

The second time I brought my work to Guelph, it was 2010. The work was
A Mass Becomes You, a solo work with a radio artist and lots of boom boxes. Once again, 
the team at GCDF really became a part of the work, and if I remember correctly, there was 
an outstanding stage manager named Dorothy whom I'll never forget!

GD: How have you felt your work has evolved or changed over the past 20 years?
SB: These days, I feel really grateful for all that I've been able to do (and still can do!) in the 
field of dance. As a maker and as performer, I still gravitate toward work that celebrates the 
uniqueness of the individual, including the individual within the group.What's evolved? The 
questions I'm asking within my practice. I'm halfway through my life and career, and right 
now I'm looking back at all that has happened and using it as a means to move forward. 
So the projects I'm doing are about history and memory and using that to make something 
meaningful for the future.

GD: What have been your career challenges and highlights and what would you like to see in 
the dance world as you move forward?

SB: One of the highlights of my career has been the people with whom I've worked. Over 
the years, my colleagues in dance have been the brightest, smartest, most interesting, and 
most luminous people I've ever known. I feel honoured to have had so many meaningful 
working relationships with people who have challenged and enriched my artistic experience. 
Dance is social. We communicate our ideas and negotiate space in and around each other. 

We know that when we move, there is a ripple effect of our actions. The act of dancing 
embodies ideas that our world needs right now. Moving forward, I would like to see these 
ideas illuminated more publicly. I would like that dance remember and use its political power. 
I'm trying to figure out what my role is within this.

GD: Can you tell us a little about about the work you are bringing this year?
SB: Cotton Handkerchiefs and Dog's Tears is a duet by Tedd Robinson that I dance with the
amazing Robyn Thomson Kacki. Here's the background of how it came about:
Tedd Robinson first rose to prominence in 1984 as Artistic Director of Winnipeg's 
Contemporary Dancers, where a teenage Susie Burpee sat in the audience and watched 
his astonishing dance theatre works take the stage. In the late 90's, as a dancer at Ottawa's 
Le Groupe Dance Lab, Susie would finally dance in Tedd's work, and a long-term artistic 
relationship was forged. Fast forward to 2008, when a younger Winnipeg-based dancer, 
Robyn Thomson Kacki, came to study with Tedd and Susie in a summer workshop. A 
triangle was formed - three different generational points of view, connected by a history of 
place and memory. This is the foundation for Cotton Handkerchiefs and Dog's Tears - 
"a metaphysical post-modern treatise on 'home'" (Holly Harris, Dance International).
You can catch Susie Burpee and Robyn Thomson Kacki on Friday, June 1st as part of the
On the Stage A series, presented at the River Run Centre at 8:30pm. For more information
Production photos for Cotton Handkerchiefs and Dog's Tears by Mark Dela Cruz

Monday, 23 April 2018

Interview with Waterloo’s Contemporary School of Dance

The Contemporary School of Dance's Dance Company, based in Waterloo, has been performing at the Guelph Dance Festival as part of the Youth Moves series for the past twenty years. Christine Parker-Reid, director and owner of the school, tells us a little bit about this journey and what it has meant to her students over the years. 

CSD has been performing at the Guelph Dance Festival. What have you noticed about the company and how it has evolved and changed over the past 20 years?

It is hard to believe that we have performed in the Guelph Dance Festival for 20 years, but I do remember the very first year!  Our Dance Company at the time was only 10 students and there was very limited performing opportunities available for this age group, especially non-competitive ones and in the field of modern dance. 

At the time, we created many of our own performance experiences, so the opportunity to dance in an all youth contemporary performance at the Guelph Dance Festival was so special! 
In the early years, our dancers were able to perform in both the Youth Moves series and the Site Specific series.  It was, and continues to be, important for our dancers to see and appreciate other dancers of similar age who also study and train in contemporary or modern dance.

Our Dance Company now has 4 levels with 50 participants, so if our application is accepted, our most senior dancers get the opportunity to perform at the Youth Moves series.  This is something that our younger dancers look forward to as they move up through the ranks! 

Our Dance Company used to focus solely on contemporary dance, but now, our repertoire includes many dance genres, and approximately 15 performances per year, including performances with the K-W Chamber Orchestra, the K-W Symphony Orchestra, and many professional dancers and companies that have come to the K-W region.

As a long time participant in the Youth Moves Series what has this opportunity meant over the years for your students? What would you like to see as we move into the next 20 years of the Guelph Dance Festival?

Our dancers have been so fortunate to perform in the Youth Moves series for the past 20 years.  It is so important for them to see many other dance groups of similar age studying contemporary dance from all over Ontario. 

It has been wonderful for me to re-connect with some old dance friends from university days, and see the great work that is being done with young dancers across Canada. Our dancers have also been able to participate in some of the workshops and see some of the other performances on the main stage.  The festival is an opportunity for them to perform in a professional festival but also to grow as dancers through the other experiences as well. 

For those students who go on to pursue dance professionally, it offers them a great introduction to the types of dance festivals that are thriving in Ontario. 

In the next 20 years, I would love to see more options for the young dancers to learn from experienced professionals through more workshops, dance talks, and perhaps even opportunities for choreography experiences with the professional dancers. It would be great if there could also be a way to showcase students’ choreography and perhaps get feedback from professionals in the field.

What is it that you love the most about performing in a contemporary dance festival?

I think the breadth of the work shown in the festival continues to amaze me year after year.  Contemporary or modern dance is a big genre and encompasses so many styles within the field.  The idea for a dance can arise from so many unique inspirations.  The audiences’ interpretation of each dance is varied as well, and all of this is completely fine!  All of it is accepted and appreciated in the nurturing environment of the festival.  I think this is so important for young dancers to be a part so that they can have the confidence to explore their own creativity and learn to appreciate the complexity and variedness of dance even more.   

This year the CSD Dance Company brings us Be the Change, choreographed by Georgina Rombough. For more info in the 2018 Youth Moves series visit

Monday, 16 April 2018

Message from Michelle Miller

I have been one of the 100,000 lucky patrons to have experienced incredible, diverse, national and international contemporary dance over the past 20 years, right here in the city of Guelph. It has been pure joy for me to have had the opportunity to discover and witness amazing dance talent from across Canada and beyond. We are incredibly fortunate to have such awe-inspiring and impressive artistry brought to this fair city. I am truly thankful for all that Guelph Dance has given me personally not tomention the community it has built and nurtured around me that I am now a part of. It is not always easy to get to big cities to be able to experience the high caliber of dance that we are presented with each year through Guelph Dance. I applaud all the incredible hard work, foresight and shear tenacity of Catrina von Radecki and Janet Johnson in creating such an amazing and inspiring festival.

Dance is an art form that is inherently grounded, communicating and expressing through our most sensual and rooted tool, our bodies. It can be an integral and elemental way to elicit genuine feelings of connection, authenticity and true conviction. As an audience member, it can be incredibly transformative to experience dance as a collective. To communally witness pure articulation that transmits shared stories and evokes shared emotion is very empowering. In fact, I believe it can even elicit social change.

I am always astounded by the infinite delight I alone can reap from witnessing an extraordinary moment of artistry. I also believe that in our increasingly isolating world it is vital for us to make concerted efforts to partake in collective experiences. Experiencing art as a collective becomes more fulfilling and emotionally intense, fueled by the crowds unified responses of oohs and ahhs. It has the power to expand my world vision and most importantly it is capable of evoking real empathy and eliciting true connection. Good art is capable of changing perspectives, provoking meaningful query and conjuring deep feeling. These are indelible gifts that can last a life time.

This year we celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Guelph Dance Festival. This festival has always brought us diverse, provocative and surprising artistic performances. It is never predictable and it is always an opportunity to immerse ourselves in this enthralling and provocative art form. Hope you can join me!

Michelle Miller
President, Guelph Dance

Monday, 9 April 2018

Hear from the artists participating in the Breaking Ground Mentorship Program

New this year, the Guelph Dance In the Studio series will include four works by local artists breaking new ground.  Julia Garlisi, Amber Sherwood-Robinson, Solana Del Bel Belluz and Robert Kingsbury all have worked under the mentorship of choreographer Sharon B. Moore (Toronto).  

Last Family Day long weekend they had the opportunity to discover new tools in developing their craft as well as the time and space to explore, all with the support of their peers along the way.

We'll let the artists speak for themselves in this great video produced for Guelph Dance by Nicholas Loess.

Catch our Breaking Ground Mentorship participants at the 20th annual Guelph Dance Festival on Saturday June 2nd at 4:00pm and on Sunday, June 3rd at 2:00pm at the Guelph Youth Dance studios, 42 Quebec Street. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased here in advance.

Monday, 2 April 2018

Panel Discussion: The Future of Contemporary Dance

by Catrina von Radecki

Guelph Dance Festival is excited to announce that we will be hosting a panel discussion on Friday, June 1st, 2018 from 12:30pm-2pm on the Future of Contemporary Dance. As we celebrate our 20th annual festival, we will be looking to our past to recognize our accomplishments and looking to the future to set the next steps.

Guelph Dance Festival would like to play a role in building relationships and providing a platform for women, youth, people of colour and Indigenous dance artists to tell their stories and speak their truths.  With the incredible power of the #MeToo, #BlackLivesMatter, and #NeverAgain movements and our efforts towards reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, Guelph Dance feels it is essential that we ensure a space in our theatres, park, and studios for voices that are often not given space to be heard. Guelph Dance Festival is an excellent platform for this as our audiences come to the festival to be challenged and exposed to something new. We encourage those that come to expect the unexpected and to be open to listen and to learn.

Though we recognize that we cannot represent everyone, we are happy to announce six key panelist that will open the discussion.  Sandra Laronde from Red Sky Peformance, Katie Ewald, local dancer/choreographer, Suzette Sherman, local dancer/choreographer, Emily Law and Ashley Perez from Mix Mix Dance Collective, Sharon B. Moore, a multidisciplinary dancer and choreographer Guelph Dance Breaking Ground Mentor, and Hope Sarah Gumahad and Sydney Runions members of the Canadian Contemporary Dance Theatre.

                     Sandra Laronde

Sharon B. Moore

Ashley Perez. Photo by Emily Law
Emily Law

Katie Ewald. Photo by Jacklyn Barber

Suzette Sherman

Hope Sarah Gumahad. Photo by Francesca Chudnoff
 Sydney Runions. Photo by Francesca Chudnoff

Each panelist has been given carte blanche to speak for 10-minutes on whatever they feel is important for the future in the contemporary dance world. This will be a safe space for each panelist to speak and we invite the general public to come to listen. This is a time for listening.  For being heard. Here are some of the topics panelists are looking to explore:

Sharon Moore: "How do we keep our artistic integrity in a changing ethos?"

 Suzette Sherman: "I would like to share my vision of how revisiting the founding values of modern dance could help inspire a powerful future."

 Katie Ewald: "The future of contemporary dance recognizes the abuse that people who identify as women have experienced within the dance community and beyond, and actively resists it, from the micro level (in the dance studio) to the macro level (curation and programming)."

Following the panelist talks, we will then break out into smaller groups where everyone will have an opportunity to add their voices to the discussion. A final
coming together in a circle to report back on the meeting will end the afternoon session and provide diverse discussions which we hope will inspire people as we move forward into the future!

The Panel Discussion follows a Masterclass with Suzette Sherman from 10:30am-noon which will also be offered at Guelph Youth Studios, 42 Quebec Street.   We hope you will join us for the class as well- an excellent way to warm up for the discussions!

The Panel is Free!  Space is limited so please be sure to sign up in advance by visiting

For more information and to register for the masterclass visit: