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July/August 2016

Dance Central A Dance Centre Publication

Content All Bodies Dance A conversation with Naomi Brand Page 2

Notes from the Executive Director by Mirna Zagar Page 6

Outside The Bubble A conversation with Ben Brown Page 8


Welcome to Dance Central

All Bodies Critical Movements: A conversation with Naomi Brand

We are very pleased to present two conversa-

AK: What brought you to this place, and to this work?

tions with artists whose practice focuses on integrating a variety of artists, disciplines, and

NB: I grew up in Toronto, and when I made the decision to go into

audiences: Naomi Brand, who is part of All

contemporary dance, which I did later in life, I decided to leave To-

Bodies Dance Project, and Ben Brown, whose

ronto. To make my parents happy, I did the tour of Canadian university

practice includes work with All Bodies Dance as

dance programs, and ended up choosing Calgary, of all places, where

well as numerous collaborations with musicians,

I did the dance program and later an MFA. I went for a year to try it out

dance artists and performers who are commit-

and stayed for ten years. I didn’t necessarily think I was going to be a

ted to integrating movement with other ele-

professional performer as I’d taken my first ballet class at seventeen.

ments.

—I had always taught dance, the idea of working with people who are not trained dancers was always a part of my teaching world, which

We are also happy to announce that Dr. Mique'l

included summer camps and various other dance programs.

Dangeli will continue to contribute to Dance Central, while taking up her post as assistant

When I finished my dance degree, I was doing contract work as a

professor at the University of Alaska Southeast

dancer, teacher, and choreographer, and I was offered a gig to teach a

in Juneau. We will also continue our series of

class for kids with disabilities. I didn’t really know what I was doing at

features on First Nations artists, with Wal'aks

first, and used my instincts of camp teaching, which turned out to be

Keane Tait, an artist and weaver of the Sim'algax

applicable. Then I started to work more consistently with a company

(Nass) / Sm'algya̱x (Gitxaała) speaking people,

in Calgary called MoMo Mixed Ability Dance Theatre, MoMo started

in the next issue of Dance Central.

in 2003, and is a company for mixed ability, or integrated, or inclusive dance — these terms can all be used to describe the work — and they

As always, we thank all the artists who have

engage primarily with folks of all abilities. So I started working with

agreed to contribute and we welcome new

MoMo, teaching and choreographing, and doing some administrative

writing and project ideas at any time, in order to

tasks.

continue to make Dance Central a more vital link to the community. Please send material by email

I always conceived of my work with mixed ability as an ‘aside’ to my

to members@thedancecentre.ca or call us at

work as a professional contemporary dance artist, or on opposite ends

604.606.6416. We look forward to

of a spectrum. In 2010, MoMo very generously sent me to Uruguay, to

the conversation!

train for a month with Alito Alessi, an American who started something called DanceAbility®, a methodology for teaching dance to people of

Andreas Kahre, Editor

all abilities. He comes out of contact improvisation, and took that into an inclusive community in the eighties. It is basically improvisational dance, but he has packaged it into a series of exercises.

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Dance Central July/August 2016

Photo by Chris Randle


"Our work is about difference and inclusion, not only about disability."

Dance

Dance Central July/August 2016

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All Bodies Dance

A conversation with Naomi Brand

AK: What brought you to Vancouver? NB: After performing, choreographing and living in Calgary for ten years, I thought: What’s next? In many ways Calgary was very good for me, but I wanted a bit more of a challenge, so my partner and I decided to move out here, which was totally impractical. It wasn’t a step up or down for our careers, but we wanted a challenge. Which is what we got. Calgary had been an unlikely but a really wonderful place to be an emerging dance artist. I had access to opportunities and mentorships that I wouldn’t have gotten anywhere else. There is an amazing artistic community there, and it was a place where I felt quite useful as an artist. I arrived in Vancouver, and what Vancouver doesn’t need is another white, typical contemporary dancer, so I looked around for work and for a place for myself in the community. I knew that my experience working with diverse populations was something useful, and I was very aware that there is a strange lack of inclusive dance opportunities in Vancouver; despite the fact that it is by far the most accessible city in Canada. There was no established inclusive dance company or ongoing programming here, and as I tried to find—and continue to find—a place for myself in the typical dance scene as a performer and creator, I became involved in community–engaged dance, primarily through the

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Dance Central July/August 2016


Vancouver Parks board. I saw an opening for myself and my skills, and I connected with some of the arts programmers at the Roundhouse, where I began a three–year residency, which I just finished, working with a group of older adults, called the Ageless Dancers. The Roundhouse and Made in BC- Dance on Tour presented the work, and after a year of working with the Parks Board, I pitched them something about inclusive dance, knowing that it would serve a real need. I was lucky to connect with dance artist Mirae Rosner, who has been in the Vancouver community for a long time, and had an interest in inclusive dance, and with Sarah Lapp, a dancer with a disability and a wheelchair user who was super keen to create something ongoing and consistent in Vancouver. The three of us got together in 2012, applied for grants, with support from the Parks Board, and launched All Bodies Dance Project. We are now entering our third year, having worked out of the Roundhouse, and at the Trout Lake Community Centre, and this

"Before, I thought of these things as opposite ends of a spectrum — over here, my professional work, my ‘real’ art, and over there this ‘community thing’. Now I see them as more integrated and related."

fall we are starting to work at the Sunset Community Centre, and

who are non-professionals, or new to dance, or who come

will also be running a kids program at Mount Pleasant Community

to dance through really different avenues, and that means

Centre. So we are expanding, which isn’t the goal in itself, but we

there are certain things that are not to be taken for granted,

find that the work really makes sense to take place in a community

and that the work is based on meeting everyone where they

centre context: They are accessible, physically and institutionally,

are at. People enter the room with all their ‘stuff’, whereas in

and they have similar values around inclusion and participation.

the professional world you have the idea that you leave your

While it can be nice to be in art-specific places, there is also some-

real, emotional self at the door and come in and have a neutral

thing about the spaces at the Roundhouse or Trout Lake with their

self. One of the challenges, and a really exciting part of work-

big open windows, where you can see what we are doing rather

ing with all different kinds of folks, is that people bring their

than being tucked away in some high–art castle.

whole selves, without that separation, which means they bring all their issues and isms, and it means that they bring their life

AK: What is the relationship to your own dance practice?

experience into the studio— the body that somebody is negotiating public transit with is the same body that they bring into

NB: Before, I thought of these things as opposite ends of a spec-

the studio, and from that so many interesting questions and

trum — over here, my professional work, my ‘real’ art, and over

situations come up. What I also find is that there are a lot of

there this ‘community thing’. Now I see them as more integrated

ideas and aesthetics, and proposals that come up in the work

and related as far as seeing the threads of my values and interests

with All Bodies Dance Project that I would never have consid-

as an artist. With the kind of group we are working with, and the

ered, or maybe rejected in the ‘professional’ world — things

focus we are involved with, I find I have a lot more opportunity to

which through my training and experience in the typical dance

take my artistic questions and investigate them with truly any body,

world I would have thought of as cheesy, or naïve, or corny,

as opposed to exploring them only with typical, virtuosic, standing

or just not a sophisticated idea. But when they get proposed

bodies. Now I feel that these things are coming together, even while

in this kind of work, they really make sense, or are interesting,

they are part of different cultures, and that is a thing that has been

valuable and useful, and that keeps me in check in terms of my

interesting to me, especially being new to Vancouver. I didn’t nec-

biases and ideas of an aesthetic weighted by the perceived val-

essarily feel that the typical contemporary dance world was saying:

ues of a typical artwork. I find that opens up things I probably

‘Welcome! here are a bunch of jobs!’, and I realize in retrospect

wouldn’t have explored. There is also the fact that the audience

that All Bodies Dance Project has created its own little culture that

we are bringing to this work is not the typical dance audience.

hasn’t existed anywhere else, and that the practice and the world

We have produced two evening–length works to sold–out

we have created with the folks that have joined us is really different

houses at the Roundhouse, and it is interesting to see who that

than the professional world. Largely, we are working with people

audience is. These are not necessarily people who would come continued on page 14 Dance Central July/August 2016

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Dance Central The Dance Centre Scotiabank Dance Centre Level 6, 677 Davie Street Vancouver BC V6B 2G6 T 604.606.6400 F 604.606.6401 info@thedancecentre.ca www.thedancecentre.ca Dance Central is published every two months by The Dance Centre for its members and for the dance community. Opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent Dance Central or The Dance Centre. The editor reserves the right to edit for clarity or length, or to meet house requirements. Editor Andreas Kahre Copy Editor Hilary Maxwell Contributors to this issue: Naomi Brand, Ben Brown, Mirna Zagar Photography: Chris Randle, Amanda Siebert Dance Centre Board Members Chair Beau Howes, CFA Vice Chair Josh Martin Secretary Margaret Grenier Treasurer Matthew Breech Past Chair Ingrid M. Tsui Directors Carolyn Chan Angeline Chandra Eve Chang Susan Elliott Kate Franklin Anndraya T. Luui Starr Muranko Dance Foundation Board Members Chair Linda Blankstein Secretary Anndraya T. Luui Treasurer Jennifer Chung Directors Trent Berry, Kimberley Blackwell, Janice Wells, Andrea R. Wink Dance Centre Staff: Executive Director Mirna Zagar Programming Coordinator Raquel Alvaro Marketing Manager Heather Bray Venue and Services Administrator Robin Naiman Development Director Sheri Urquhart Technical Directors Justin Aucoin and Mark Eugster Technical Manager Shawn Sorensen Accountant Elyn Dobbs Member Services Coordinator Hilary Maxwell The Dance Centre is BC's primary resource centre for the dance profession and the public. The activities of The Dance Centre are made possible bynumerous individuals. Many thanks to our members, volunteers, community peers, board of directors and the public for your ongoing commitment to dance in BC. Your suggestions and feedback are always welcome. The operations of The Dance Centre are supported by the Canada Council for the Arts, the Province of British Columbia, the BC Arts Council, and the City of Vancouver through the Office of Cultural Affairs.

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Dance Central July/August 2016

From The Executive Director Hello All, I hope you are having an enjoyable summer. It has been a whirlwind of a year here at The Dance Centre, and as we close the doors on one season, we open them almost simultaneously to the next. I look at how Dance Central has evolved over these past couple of years and want to extend heartfelt expressions of gratitude to all who have contributed, and of course to Andreas Kahre who is behind much of what happens with the publication. I don’t think we are always fully aware how much effort goes into compiling this publication. Andreas, with Hilary Maxwell’s support and sharp eye, makes sure we provide a voice to artists in our community and highlight distinct and different thoughts, processes, and approaches that weave the texture of our diverse community. It is rewarding to witness how The Dance Centre has contributed to and nurtured the contexts and projects we read about — sometimes very discreetly, other times a bit more involved. In the Season ahead, we strive to again bring you a multilayered, diverse and stimulating program to experience, witness, engage and participate with dance – within a local, national and international context. We hope that we will inspire, surprise and entertain to all who choose to respond to our invitation to dance, and as we support and present artistic visions from different traditions and genres. I am particularly happy to welcome back to Vancouver Zab Maboungou, with her recently remounted piece Mozongi, a unique work rooted in traditional African style but oh so contemporary and so physical you simply cannot take your eyes off the wonderful dancers of Compagnie Danse Nyata Nyata! Our partnership with the PuSh International Performing Arts Festival this season brings back Jan Martens in a startling, ritual encounter – his signature work


Sweat Baby Sweat which has toured world-wide. We also welcome back Italian Alessandro Sciarroni (one of the artists of the Migrant Bodies project). Alessandro presents his group work FOLK-S, Will you still love me tomorrow?, a work that has propelled him into the limelight of international dance; a physically demanding work based on the popular Bavarian Folk Dance Schuhplattler in a very contemporary, though extreme, context. Closer to home we are pleased to engage with several senior artists, some who are for the first time presenting works as part of the Global Dance Connections series, whose choreographies provoke and challenge our deep desires for love and acceptance, taking us on journeys full of unexpected shifts, changes, and entertaining surprises. Noam Gagnon in This Crazy Show will take the audience on a fantastical ride in his full-throttle performance. Tara Cheyenne Friedenberg, with her Italian collaborator, Silvia Gribaudi, concludes her residency with empty.swimming.pool – a work that these two seriously funny women have crafted, with their distinct physicality. Wen Wei Dance, who is for the first time featured in our series, offers a piece created for five male dancers, and although you might have seen bits and pieces of the work here and there over the past year, we know that we are in for a surprise still in the making. I look forward to seeing Wen Wei’s precise and subtle sensibility reshaping familiar material, articulating the emotions we all identify with through, at times aggressively physical, and always startlingly beautiful movement. Lesley Telford, who is also a first–timer in our series and resident artist, will be in process to present her work Spooky Action at a Distance. Lesley is well known to the dance afficianados through her technically rigourous vocabulary that we have appreciated in her work for Ballet BC; here the movement comes into interplay with technology, science and poetry. We salute Kinesis Dance somatheatro as it embarks on its 30th Anniversary, with In Penumbra, a work by choreographer and artistic director Paras Terezakis, featuring a cast of fearless dancers in a utopistic quest for paradise in the grey area between light and darkness (the penumbra).

As you will have noted over the years, The Dance Centre has been supporting diversity throughout all its programming believing it is in the dialogue among diverse cultures, traditions and thought that gems of art and groundbreaking artistic practice happens, enriching all of our lives and across communities. We are particularly proud to be working this year with Yvonne Chartrand and her company V’ni Dansi as we participate in the celebration of the Louis Riel Day Celebration, which will bring together traditional Métis dance and innovative contemporary works. This past and next season present more in-depth learning journeys as we work with Dr. Mique’l Dangeli to present a very special event Ancestralizing the Present to discuss, present, learn, dialogue around/about protocols and practices in Northwest Coast First Nations. As usual, there is a myriad of other programs including the popular Discover Dance series, as well as the works by resident artists and those participating in the DanceLabs. I want to draw your attention to the Business of Dance series which is a great springboard to network and to get your ideas and projects off the ground (be prepared for some news). I rather suspect it will be a dynamic season in this area too with all the changes occurring with funding of the arts not only nationally but how it all trickles down to the provincial and municipal funding. These are great, quick, and easy to absorb sessions, which allow you to network also with peers and colleagues and you are always bound to pick up some great advice too! I invite you to be part of the developments and contribute to the paving of new passages here at The Dance Centre either by participating in any one of the programs, or simply stopping by to say Hi and share an idea or two! And, to kick the new Season off, do join us with Zyian Kwan/ dumb instrument Dance, and Vanessa Goodman/Action at a Distance for the premier of Simile on September 10. Mirna Zagar Executive Director Dance Central July/August 2016

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Outside the

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"I really like the discussion that I have been getting in the last five years working with dancers. I immediately noticed a difference in my playing, and in my approach to art in general when I started working with them."


Bubble AK: In a recent conversation with Naomi Brand of the All Bodies Dance Project — also in this issue of Dance Central — she described the important role of sound in the project and especially your interest in sound as a direct sensory experience. She also referred to your recent work with Dame Evelyn Glennie (an internationally recognized Scottish percussionist, who is profoundly deaf and known for her extraordinary ability to sense sound) whose work is very much informed by the intersection of sound, movement and space in the body.

BB: Yes, that is one of the most important points for me right now. I am choosing mentors, and I truly think that I have found Evelyn Glennie as a mentor. One important reason I wanted to study with her is that she is a conduit between sound and movement, and I couldn’t think of anyone better to take my inquiries to because she experiences sound through visual sense and vibration. AK: How did you get in touch with her? I don’t imagine she would be an easy person to meet. BB: It’s true, it felt like the Wizard of OZ: She is behind a wall, and you never actually see her or talk to her, but I just got in touch with her office, and they were really supportive. I thought that maybe there would be some kind of audition process, which there isn’t, but you’ve got to have the money! I got a grant from the Canada Council to study with her and Han Bennink, my drum heroes, and you have to go to her home in Cambridge, which is quite a journey. I took four lessons at her studio. Left: Andria Nicodemou and Ben Brown. Photo by Rob Milker

Thinking Bodies:

A conversation with Ben Brown

AK: Is the studio unusual, given her requirement to sense sound through her body? BB: It’s not. The most unusual thing is how she hears the doorbell. I don’t know how she hears it; that’s the thing that always psyched me out; I had to go there and ring the bell, and she would appear immediately. Her studio is just a normal looking studio, and she has got a very humble but quirky and beautiful home filled with percussion and trinkets everywhere, and her studio is full of incredible instruments. She also designs and makes instruments, so we spent an hour talking, with me probably asking too many questions, and then we improvised. We’d play and over the four lessons she taught me some exercises based on where she was at, and because I went to her saying can you train me to feel sound? AK: She works barefoot, doesn’t she? BB: Yes, and she taught me one exercise which is supremely successful, which I have been using very successfully with Naomi’s All Bodies Dance class, with a huge range of dancers: Old people, young people, dancers who are in wheelchairs, blind, or hard of hearing. The exercise is to play an instrument, to feel where it registers in your body and then to create a visceral map of your body. It‘s such a simple exercise but it was really profound to watch people map out their body. I just used a bass drum and a cymbal— the high and the low. When I did it with Evelyn, she was incredibly specific. We would both play the same Dance Central July/August 2016

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Thinking Bodies: A conversation with Ben Brown instrument, and we talked about where we felt the sound. She was extremely specific and she knows her body so well, but with this exercise everyone can do it— the only people I have encountered who don’t want to feel sound so far are ten–year old boys who are very stubborn and say I don’t feel sound anywhere. AK: Any idea why? BB: As soon as one of them says it, all the others jump onboard, so there may be some peer pressure, but I am not exactly sure. Most people have an immediate response to sound, and they will be specific: ‘It travels along my cheek and then down my neck…’ It’s an incredibly empowering exercise, and that’s what I felt with Evelyn: She offers a new way of feeling music, where dancers and musicians are on the same plane, finally. That’s what I find so hard to do in my work with dancers: To find a common vocabulary, or a common starting point, and this exercise is really successful in that way. AK: I remember a similar experience from my years of working with dancers. The vocabulary may appear similar— tempo, texture, gesture, but it is at best analogous, and the analogies don’t really refer to the same concepts. Take counting: Many choreographers count a steady pulse something like ‘One, Two, Three, Foooour, Fiiiiive, sixandsevenandeightandaone’. Time seems to bend around them, which can be frustrating for a percussionist. But I have watched you improvise with dancers, and your connection seems immediate and obvious and strong. Having to negotiate it, describe it or find a common language is a whole other matter. 10

Dance Central July/August 2016

BB: Yes, that is what I am trying to learn to articulate now. I have been really interested in Liz Lerman’s ideas. I was just recently in Boston, playing some gigs with someone else on this search: Andria Nicodemou, a Cypriot now based on Boston, who is an incredible vibraphone player. She contacted me from Europe after discovering my group's Facebook page, MAMM (Music and Movement Mondays). She is on a very similar path, wanting to work with dancers, and wanting to integrate movement into her performance, exploring actual movement while playing her instrument. She absolutely dances on the vibes. So we’ve formed a duo together called Hum Shadows. While in Boston, I went into a bookstore looking for a book on Pina Bausch, and came out with Liz Lerman’s book, Hiking the Horizontal. I was totally blown away. It felt totally akin, like a soul mate in many respects; how she was talking about creating and about dance, and part of what she talks about is finding a common vocabulary. When you are saying what it is like to watch me playing with dancers, that comes from developing a regular practice over the last five years, with MAMM, which began as a weekly session. I was in Amsterdam for some time, and that was the closest experience I have had to musicians and dancers developing a shared, regular practice: They have their groups just like MAMM, with the dance and music community, and it’s the first and only time I have seen a situation where it’s a given that the dancers check out the musicians work and invite them to collaborate on their shows, and the musicians ask the dancer, and the scenes are one; there is no division, and because of that there is a dedicated practice. Another person working with live music is Katie Duck. She is the other


"That is what I see as my role; to create more of a relationship between these places, and to create work where I am not just the drummer in the corner."

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Thinking Bodies: A conversation with Ben Brown

person I consider a mentor: A dancer who’s dedicating her whole dance career to working with live music. I don’t think I was really successful in creating a regular practice with MAMM, because I don’t think there is the same dedication to creating that common vocabulary in Vancouver. AK: It seems to come in waves. There certainly was a time when the dance and music communities collaborated regularly, and places like EDAM continue to work that way, but I find that the ‘professionalization’ of the arts has created conditions that aren’t always favourable to collaboration. From the way that grants are administered in ‘disciplines’ to the rigid grid of ‘genre’ in the media, everything tends to enforce the idea that you have to focus on one discipline, and that broadening your horizons is going to make you disappear from view. This is the case even within disciplines such as music. Are you originally a classically trained percussionist, or mainly an improviser? BB: I come from improvising, as a self-taught guitar player. I went to Jazz school where I studied guitar and drums, and I dropped out of VCC and out of Capilano College, but I went back and finished a diploma at VCC. When I first went into music school I was musically illiterate, and I came very much from experimentation and from a musical family. I also took dance classes as a kid, briefly, and I am now taking contact improv classes.

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AK: It shows in your playing, where you are very much physically involved with the instrument; it looks similar to Han Bennink, the fabulous Dutch drummer, who uses his feet on the snare and dances with whatever object he is playing. In that respect, you remind me of another artist who integrates practices: Sammy Chien, whose work combines media, video and dance, even though his discipline is more disembodied when video requires him to hit keys on a laptop. BB: Yes, he is a great example. We dance together, at Anne Cooper’s contact dance class that I take every Sunday. I’m trying to make a regular practice out of it, because I believe if I am asking dancers to understand my world better, then I want to understand their world better, and I find it hugely beneficial to my playing. Sammy is one of the guys that I dance with, and I always joke: ‘You come from the other side of the world!’ He uses computers and technology, which I don’t touch, — I kind of stubbornly go the other way, almost back to a folk way of playing percussion. I want to do as much as I can acoustically, but what he does fascinates me, and I feel like we do the same thing: We integrate different things. I love Sammy because he incorporates so much, with openness and playfulness. His practice is really interesting. AK: He approaches video using gestures that are like movement, with a beginning, middle and end. They breathe, and they are paced very much like a dance, and observing them feels like observing a moving body. That sets his work apart from a lot of video, which creates a window into another world, or is structured by editing from a perspective outside the frame. Sammy’s work is much more concerned with the flow of gestures than the frame, makes it easy to link organically with movement.


BB: It is an integral practice for him, I think, where life and art are integrated, which is something many people want. But no matter where I travel, apart from Amsterdam, I am always surprised that these communities are so disconnected. I was talking with Naomi, who is one of the people I can really explore these ideas with, telling her about my first experience of getting into the dance scene in Vancouver, about ten years ago. While I was at college, I was playing, for Justine A. Chambers’ contemporary dance class at Harbour Dance Centre. It was the busiest class; all the dancers I now know and work with came to it; Deanna Peters, Vanessa Goodman, Jane Osborne, and so on. After Justine left, Deanna Peters took it over, and I got a chance to work with two people who are now my colleagues, but back then no one talked to me. I was the accompanist, and I was really nervous and totally intimidated by this roomful of beautiful dancers. I was 21 or 22, and they didn’t talk to me. I think that comes from an ‘accompanist culture’. People were polite, and they thanked you, but there was never any connection, and no one ever said “Oh, I need music for this gig, would you experiment with me?” or “I am working on a research project. Would you work with me?” There was no inclusion, which may come from the fact that the dancers assume that there had to be money to do anything, but even if I offered and talked to different dancers and companies and said “Let us just start to collaborate”, they said “There is no money” and instead relied on YouTube. That adds to the disconnect I feel between musicians and dancers. Perhaps it was different in the past… AK: There are places, like SFU or the Western Front, that had an interdisciplinary focus, and continued on page 20

An Update on The Dance Centre's 2016/17 Artist-in-Residence Dr. Mique'l Dangeli The Dance Centre is very pleased to announce that Artistin-Residence Dr. Mique’l Dangeli has been accepted to a tenure-track position as Professor of Alaska Native Studies at the University of Alaska Southeast in Juneau. She has agreed to continue her work as one of the curators for The Dance Centre’s 2016-2017 season. We regret that this means that her contributions to Dance Central will be less frequent than planned, but we are very pleased that she will continue as contributing editor leading up to her dance event, Ancestralizing the Present: Protocols and Practices in Northwest Coast First Nations, which is scheduled to take place on June 10, 2017. Canadian dance artist Erin Manning uses the term “ancestralize” to describe the ways in which Indigenous visual artists draw upon ancient ways of being, knowing, and relationships to territories to create work that activates the present so that it becomes the future. This approach is also foundational to Northwest Coast First Nations dance. We ancestralize the present by strategically bringing forward our inherited repertoires in relation to our performative contexts. As future ancestors, we create new works that may become the ancient songs and dances of generations to come. This event brings together dance artists from many Nations to discuss the protocols integral to these practices. Erin Manning, Relationscapes: Movement, Art, Philosophy (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2009) 60, 83, 159.

Dr. Dangeli is also proud to announce her latest dance publication in the University of California Riverside’s Dance Research Journal (DRJ). Just released in print this summer, this is the very first of the DRJ that is dedicated entirely to Indigenous dance! The contributors are Indigenous dance artists and scholars as well as non-Indigenous dance scholars working in collaboration with Indigenous dance artists. It includes an introduction by dance studies scholar Dr. Jacqueline Shea Murphy (Editor), choreographers' statements by Daystar/Rosealie Jones, Rulan Tangen, Tanya Lukin Linklater, Rosy Simas, Jack Gray, and Emily Johnson and articles by Sam Mitchell with Dr. Julie Burelle, María Regina Firmino Catillo, Dr. Karyn Recollet, Tria Blu Wakpa, Marrie Mumford, and Neil MacLean. Dr. Dangeli’s article focuses on a Vancouver-based collaborative performance between Aeriosa and the Squamish dance group Spakwus Slulem. See: Mique’l Dangeli. “Dancing Chiax, Dancing Sovereignty: Performing Protocol in Unceded Territories,” Dance Research Journal, University of California-Riverside, 75-90 Spring 2016. Dance Central July/August 2016

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All Bodies Dance Thinking Bodies:

A conversation with Naomi Brand

A conversation with Madelaine McCallum

continued from page 5

"One of the challenges, and a really exciting part of working with all different kinds of folks, is that people bring their whole selves, without that separation, wh means they bring all their issues and isms, and that they bring their whole life experience into

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hich d it means the studio."

continued on page 17

to The Dance Centre’s shows, so we are not necessarily ‘educating’ them, but we are proposing a new way to look at what dance is, and we have had very interesting feedback from audiences about how they take in and respond to the work. For people who are part of the typical dance audience, it challenges some of their biases and ways of judging, evaluating and thinking about what a dancing body is saying and doing. Then there are the people who have never seen dance, and it is great for them to have their first impression of dance be not necessarily of a white, thin ballerina’s body. There is a gathering of an interesting culture that we are creating, both from participants and viewers. I am excited about this work as a person in the world. At this point in my life I can't avoid asking ‘What is the role of dance, its purpose, does it change anything?’ I went into dance with the belief that it had some useful purpose in the world, but often that belief feels challenged. I have seen a lot of shows that I left not feeling that they really changed anything in the world. I don’t want All Bodies Dance Project to be a ‘kumbaya: let’s hold hands and be happy about everything!’ experience, but there is definitely something exiting about what we are doing; we get much more feedback than I would receive for a typical dance show, we get feedback that what we are doing is useful, empowering and influential for the participants, and there is an immediacy in the response that is very gratifying. AK: What does the term choreography come to mean in your work with All Bodies Dance? NB: My work as a choreographer is influenced by the fact that I formally studied and trained through a university. I have a master’s degree in dance, and I learned to think of composition in analytical terms, and when I come to creating something with an ensemble of mixed ages, seated and standing, verbal and nonverbal, and with various ways of perceiving the world, the challenge is to bring my knowledge of composition, the things I know about space, time, quality and the elements of design, but to also make the work, and especially the experience of making and performing it accessible to the participants. This means that I have to do a lot more planning and the process requires me to name things a lot more. We name things as a group; we create a lot through structures and improvisations that we refine. One of the challenges is that I can’t make a phrase of movement on my body and assign it to someone else because we are not always working with the same tools. That is also the interesting part. You can’t easily have understudies in this work. Things are made

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based on the specificities of each body, and on that per-

been curious about people who come to the group but don’t

son’s way of understanding and communicating. Conse-

have a disability and have never been involved with the disability

quently, the choreography is always collaborative, because

community. I have even been a little suspicious of them, but what

we need the people who are dancing it to have so much

people have told me is that it’s about the culture — a culture of

influence and feedback around the specificities of how

acceptance, about valuing everyone’s contribution. It’s not about

they would achieve a certain image, and how they perform

anybody being there to ‘help’ anybody else. There is support

a movement will be determined by their body mobility

but the support roles go in many different directions. We build

tool, their individual understanding of space and time. As a

strategies into the choreography so that someone who has more

choreographer, I am building a container, asking questions,

memory for example, can cue someone else, or that folks can

and doing many of the things I would do in a typical dance

lead or follow in different ways. The ensemble is amazing; there

context, but it involves a lot more negotiation with the

is a balance around different strengths and different needs, and

participants, and the authorship is much more shared. I do

really different personalities. We have many with bold, strong

a lot of shaping and rearranging of sections, thinking about

personalities that they bring to the work and to performance, and

how images relate to one and other, but the actual content

that is refreshing and interesting to watch.

and material often comes from the participants. That is a choice; obviously I could go into a process with a clear idea

AK: I noticed among the photographs of the work a group shot,

of what I wanted and direct it, but the values of this work is

with everyone in their own space— spinning, standing, sitting,

to create dance in engagement and co-authorship with the

and so on. It reminded me of a Breughel painting— a set of in-

participants.

dividual and of shared spaces connected by gestures that linked them. What is absent is the culture of hyper-achievement that

AK: You spoke of ensemble, and it is very apparent in

sometimes appears alongside disability, in sports for example,

watching the group that they have developed an ‘ensemble

where the wheelchair is turned into a virtuosic instrument, or

spirit’. What is it like to work with that?

even aestheticized as a form of weapon in order to create martial narratives of ‘conquered’ disability.

NB: The ensemble is amazing because it is has formed very organically, by self-selection. We have decided to prac-

NB: We are not interested in any narrative of ‘overcoming’ any-

tice radical inclusion as much as we can until it becomes

thing. We can’t control the kind of narratives that are projected

a problem, and we created the last two productions by

on the work, of course, and people carry a lot of these when it

saying: This is the structure, theses are the rehearsal and

comes to disability, but we try to avoid the ‘inspirational’ tropes

performance dates, this is the commitment and whoever

— that’s not what the work is about. Our work is about differ-

showed up was in. We thought for two seconds about an

ence and inclusion, not only about disability. I am interested in

audition process, and realized we had no reason for recre-

making dance, making choreography, making art. While there is

ating values from a different culture of dance. Out of that

something inherently political about the choices that we make

natural selection process we have arrived at an ensemble

when we put people in front of a public eye, and I’m comfortable

that is far more diverse than I could have imagined when

with that being a political statement, our work is about mak-

we started. It is also a rare thing in the typical dance world

ing dance, about including people in the process of making art,

to create a work with fourteen dancers. When Mirae, Sarah

and challenging who gets to be a performer, not simply about

and I started we would have been thrilled if there were ten

a ‘feel-good, heart–warming’ sensibility. We often see a form

people in the room, and perhaps a few wheelchair users,

of condescension by encouragement: ‘People achieving their

but what happened instead was a group that is wide-

dreams’, and all that. I am interested in a sophisticated reading

spread in age, diverse in gender, and experience showed

of bodies, not avoiding tension— the tension that comes with

up. There are professional dancers and there are people

the fact that all bodies can be ugly and grotesque and do things

who are dancing for the first time in their lives. What is also

that look awkward. We are not used to seeing a diverse range of

really exciting is that the ensemble is really mixed in terms

bodies doing those things. We are used to thin, white bodies, and

of who identifies as having a disability and who does not,

most of us rarely get an opportunity to see an expressive range

with a mix of standing and seated dancers. I have always

of qualities from a body in a wheelchair, or an older body, or a larger body. People don’t often read difference that way, and we

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Dance Central July/August 2016


Betroffenheit

"The choreography is always collaborative, because we need the people who are dancing it to have so much influence and feedback around the specificities of how they would achieve a certain image, and how they perform a movement will be determined by their body mobility tool, their individual understanding of space and time."

All Bodies Dance

A conversation with Naomi Brand

are looking at expanding the palette and the range in which we see the body be expressive. For example, what it means to see a body like mine, which is fairly typical, in a unison phrase with a seated dancer. We are looking at difference and also at unity. Our first full–length evening show was called See and Be Seen, and one of the sections was called Us and Them. In this section we had all the seated dancers on one side and the standing dancers on the other side of the stage, in order to address a perception that we were on different ‘teams’, and we had a big debate about whether this was an appropriate image. In the piece, we do a series of crosses, and eventually we blend, but it was important to acknowledge in the piece that these differences exist. It isn’t helpful in building inclusion to pretend that we don’t see that people have disabilities, or to avoid saying it. I have learned a lot from the people I have collaborated with and am trying to follow their lead. AK: What will happen next? NB: As with all of my work as a choreographer, I am trying to think of ways of being responsive. Mirae, Sarah and I want to guide it and we want to be as responsive as possible to what emerges from it: The needs, the wants, the shifting focus. What we are realizing is that we have created a monster which has a certain life of its own. There are people in the group who have expressed interest and are taking on roles as choreographer and leading their own projects. The show we had last year included five pieces that were created by the participants, and I took on the role of outside eye, and helped to mentor these choreographers in building their skills. In some ways I felt like I was teaching choreography 101, but at the same time I learned a ton. There are folks who are interested in pushing the range of skill and expertise and training toward performance, and what we are constantly negotiating is the rigour to create work that is at a certain level— I don’t know how to say it without creating hierarchy—but also keeping the value of inclusion. One of the things we are looking to build is a project for next year that is a larger performance about the experience of participating in the work as an audience member, and how that experience can be made accessible through various senses for someone who is deaf, or blind, or someone for whom the normal theatre experience is not accessible because they might need to make noise, or to move around. We are looking at relaxed theatre and at a different kind of interpretation. There is an organization in town called the Vocal Eye, who do audio description, and during the fireworks displays in the summer they do sensorial description, so we are looking

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All Bodies Dance

A conversation with Naomi Brand

title is given or claimed by a body that hasn’t had those years of training and the access to that training, some folks feel discomfort; they don’t know how to engage or view these people as colleagues. Besides, we don’t speak the same language as the dance world, and I am happy about

at integrating those things to see how accessibility can be truly

that because I think the language of the dance world can

integrated in the aesthetic of the work, and to explore how these

expand, and there are values that are ready to be shaken

people and these ideas can be embedded from the beginning.

up. I think the role of dance is ready to be changed and

Those are the kinds of questions we get really excited about. Be-

expanded, and my goal is that the work of All Bodies Dance

ing a non-profit vehicle we want to create new kinds of perfor-

can hold its own in the contemporary dance scene, and

mance experiences for performers and audiences.

can be viewed by presenters in the same light as other contemporary dance, even if it doesn’t necessarily have the

AK: I was interested in the musical dimension of the work, and

same values of virtuosity, but for its rigour and for its artis-

especially Ben Brown’s contribution.

tic value. I would hope that our work can sit in that community, but also sit in a community that no one thinks of as

NB: We are really lucky to work with Ben; he is a good friend and

the dance world — a world of folks that no one ever sees in

he has been really keen to come in and to collaborate with us

an art space, that they could be included.

around his work with percussionist Evelyn Glennie. Ben gets the values of what we are doing, and he is interested in how people

AK: Is there a community of like-minded companies that

receive and take in sound and music, so he has come and accom-

you are in touch with across Canada?

panied and led a few sessions with us. At the same time, music hasn’t been a major part of the project until now. Perhaps it has

NB: Yes, definitely! There is a small but mighty community

to do with my training, and the idea that we wanted to get people

of other inclusive dance companies in Canada, and we are

to move from impulses in an internal landscape rather than from

really lucky that we are quite connected except that there

the external stimulus, but we can’t deny that music is inherent in

is an unfortunate divide between the French and English

what we are as humans, so we flip-flop from an internal world,

speaking parts of the country. In the English–speaking

trying to get people to find their impulses in the imagination and

world, there is MoMo Dance Theatre in Calgary, which I am

the physical world, and also using sound as a tool. Personally, as

still connected to; there is an ensemble in Edmonton called

a choreographer, I don’t bring music in right away; I usually look

CRIPSiE, there is a group in Ottawa called Propeller Dance,

for a musical or sound world that supports what we are already

who in many ways is leading this work, and there are a

doing in movement, and by providing some contrast or tension

whole other set of companies in Quebec. These companies

adds a quality that amplifies what is happening. This is definitely

and others, got together last year in Calgary for the first–

an area that we want to invest in more, and Ben continues to

ever Canadian–led integrated dance teacher training pro-

shame me about not having live music, because of how sensorial

gram, which I got to help facilitate, and we brought folks

live sound is, but for all kinds of practical reasons we haven’t been

from our company to get together and exchange skills. The

able to include it yet.

real leaders of inclusive work are in the UK, but there are also numerous well known companies in Australia, and in

AK: Do you feel the dance community is engaged with your work?

the US.

NB: Right now it feels like we are in a little pocket, but I am curi-

AK: Do you think that the restructuring of the Canada

ous and excited for a spillover. Ideally, I would like our work to

Council, especially the community–engaged program will

be located in the dance community and in the real world. In a

affect your work?

certain way I don’t know if the dance community is ready for us, because there is something that our work challenges as far as a

NB: I think it is a really interesting time, and I think there

value system, and that is a bit uncomfortable. I know that from

is a reconsidering around the definition of ‘professional’

my own experience, for bodies that are so highly trained and have

artists. The structure of eligibility for Council funding is re-

worked so many years to claim the title of dance artist, when that

ally challenging for this kind of work and while the Canada

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Dance Central July/August 2016


Council has made a lot of effort to provide funding for artists who are deaf, or identify as having a disability, what we do doesn’t easily fall into those categories, because we have a group of people with mixed abilities, and while some of our work clearly is community-engaged, another part is not. While my dance upbringing includes professional training, and what I have done to be considered professional is not going to work in this field. There is no place for Sarah as a dancer with a disability to go for a four–year program and become a ‘professional’, so what is happening is that for the participants in the project, this is their training. Making the work, performing, and taking classes is all happening at the same time. The cultural practice of what we are doing is very different from the academic model. We are a bit more messy for the Council to define, and there are a lot of things in that messiness that challenge my own biases as someone who claims the title of being a dance artist with a certain weight. There is also something about letting go of an artistic hierarchy, and some of my privilege. I think those are useful things to challenge. AK: Thank you!

Dance Central July/August 2016

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Thinking Bodies: A conversation with Ben Brown continued from page 13

encouraged collaboration between music, theatre and movement-based artists, albeit within an institutional frame, but part of the reason dancers don’t approach musicians is that they may not recognize that musicians are eager to collaborate, even if it takes a while to find money. Now there is a more ‘professional’ structure in place, and it is difficult to find places to just experiment. BB: Yes, you need a space to fuck up. I am not running the MAMM sessions right now, which gives me a chance to reflect on what I want to do with them and I have been talking to some dancers who have been sharing their perception of those sessions, and in some cases told me why they didn’t attend. There was a roster of people who came regularly, many very young, some from Modus Operandi and some from SFU; amazing dancers, who are now working for Company 605 and other companies, and are doing really well, but the two big reasons why people told me they didn’t come to the improv sessions was that they didn’t know what the floor was like (depending on which dancer you talk to, some just roll their eyes at that…), and they were too scared

to improvise. But that is the point: There has got to be a space to try this stuff out. MAMM has never been about performance. In MAMM’s initial stages I talked to a bunch of dancers and asked ‘What do I have to do to bring you here?’ and the biggest thing I heard was “Ben, we need a place. We are sick of musicians asking us to come do a jam at the Anza Club for some event, where it is on a stage, with a band asking dancers at the last minute to be an addition to what they are doing, on their turf. Just give us a place where we come regularly and where it is not a performance.” That worked for a while, but then more and more non-professionals started coming to the sessions, because there is a huge need for community expression, so it ended up more and more as a community event, with different ages and different backgrounds — almost like All Bodies Dance. It was great, but I also found myself in a different facilitation role. I had started trying to connect the world of my professional musician friends with the professional dancers, and it ended up being a framework for mostly hobbyists, but they would give me the most incredible feedback. They came every week, and they were completely dedicated, because they said ‘we finally have a place where we can come and express ourselves, and talk

Dance Central September 2004 20

Dance Central July/August 2016

3

Photo: Yvonne Chew


about ideas.’ That’s what Liz Lerman is talking about. She speaks of the horizontal line where art, which is at the top, is measured by its uselessness, and the bottom is so embedded in culture it’s not called art. That is the dialogue that MAMM brought up in the community. I wonder if there is a successful model of a mix between the professionals and non-professionals; that was an on going issue to me: Either you are fulfilling the need of the community, or you are catering to professionals, but as soon as you are putting professionals into a room with non-professionals, you get all kinds of issues. Can you think of a tradition that successfully combines these two? AK: Indonesian Gamelan is one example, where someone who has been studying for a month can play alongside someone who has done it all their lives. The music is structured in a way that allows this. It is marvelous, but I can’t think of many other examples. The world is full of integrated dance and music, of course; but that is the norm from which Western culture has separated itself. I also wonder how much the funding infrastructure has contributed to separating discipline lines. In speaking with Naomi, we wondered whether the restructuring of the Canada Council’s community-engaged practices funding may affect them. BB: Naomi just told me that they lost a part of their funding for All Bodies Dance Project from another agency. I just can’t wrap my head around that. I can understand that if I have an idea as an artist it may not get supported, but she is fulfilling a basic community need, that no one else is really fulfilling, and she does it so well. As a musician, I come away from that group feeling the opposite of the ‘accompanist vibe’ we were talking about earlier. I just feel like a human being, and that we have discovered something together. Naomi is amazing at facilitating.

I really like the discussion that I have been getting in the last five years working with dancers. I immediately noticed a difference in my playing, and in my approach to art in general when I started working with them. One aspect is the acknowledgement of the audience. I find that musicians don’t generally do that, while dancers are always talking about the role of the audience, and how they can be more integrated. Liz Lerman asks that question about involvement and division; who gets to dance? Even in contemporary dance performance there is more consideration of the audience than among musicians. Pugs and Crows, my band, have been playing for a decade now, and it occurred to me that we probably never look each other in the eye, let alone the audience, while we are performing. The amazing thing is that we have somehow managed to play with each other and to connect with audiences this way. We just finished a week–long tour of the major jazz festivals of Western Canada, and we are a successful band in the sense that we are playing challenging music, a lot of improvised music, but we can play folk festivals, jazz festivals, rock venues — but we have managed to do that while not acknowledging the audience at all. As you know, when you are playing with someone long enough, you develop a telepathic communication. This last tour with Andria and the Amsterdam players reminded me of this visceral way of playing, where they are very present, and they definitely look you in the eyes. Evelyn Glennie does that, too. I have never had anyone look me in the eyes like Evelyn when we are improvising. Her eyes would be on me like a hawk — ‘Okay, you are making a gesture, you are moving your brush in circles, and I will be playing with these bells…’. It is incredible and Dance Central July/August 2016

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"If you are improvising you can’t catch everthing, you just need to make a decision, and it needs to be a clear decision!" 22

Dance Central July/August 2016

very intense. Andria does it as well. On our last tour she brought me out of my Pugs and Crows jazz—heads—down shell, onto a place where we are present in the moment, and acknowledging each other and the audience. At the end of my 6-month solo European tour (collaborating with musicians and dancers), I felt extremely empty because it was the first time that I was playing only improvised music. In Vancouver I have a very healthy diet, playing singer-songwriter gigs, studio music, playing for dance, playing some improvised music, playing in my band, and I feel like I have lots of different options, but on the tour I played only improvised music almost every night, and it felt like a social bubble. No matter which stage I was playing on and which country, it felt like there was no acknowledgement of the audience or even each other beyond. It is a weird custom, and it left me feeling quite cold, even if the music was good. AK: I understand the feeling. For many years, drumming meant improvising, and the rules included that you never played straight time, and traditional gestures were at best used ironically. There were beautiful experiences inside the ‘bubble’, but it felt incomplete. Now I play anything from country to fiddle tunes, and people respond physically. I also make sound installations using bone induction, which is a form of sound through touch, working with a composer in Toronto, Darren Copeland for a number of years, using transducers that transmit sound through bone. If you are in physical contact with an object you both hear and feel the sound, and that reminds me of Evelyn Glennie, of course. It is fascinating to observe people experiencing this kind of immersion, where sound and the body can’t be experienced separately. BB: That’s why I want to go back to work with


Evelyn again, because for her there is no separation. With her you learn just by being around her. It could be making pancakes. I went in there with a very keen interest in having her make me feel sound, and she does, but not with a pedagogy, she doesn’t have a book; it’s her life. I don’t think many people ask her about it. She is used to students from the London conservatory asking for help with a Bach piece, and she’ll insert some of her practice into that but I don’t think she was used to someone like me, who can barely read, asking her to teach me how to feel music in my body. I had so many questions, and in the end perhaps too many. She doesn’t analyze it that much, and said at some point ‘Don’t think about it too much, just do it!’. She also said something I loved: ‘If you are improvising you can’t catch everything, you just need to make a decision, and it needs to be a clear decision.’ She gave the analogy of crossing traffic. If you are watching traffic and you are trying to get every detail, which I described to her as getting overwhelmed by taking in all the sound, and all you do is observe in detail; ‘that’s a Toyota, that’s a red truck, etc.’ you will never cross the road. Evelyn has such a profound way of executing this because her decisions in life are so clear, and she is so dedicated to everything she does in a way that I find really inspiring. AK: What happens next, now that you are back in Vancouver ? BB: I will go and create more of a relationship with what I started in Europe, that is my goal now. I am actually based in two places. I am 32 and for the first time I feel that having been in one place is creating different opportunities and jobs, but the place for right now is Berlin, where I am going in November to spend some time. In Vancouver it is difficult to find a place to try things out, just because every-

Thinking Bodies: A conversation with Ben Brown thing is so expensive, and so segregated, but in Berlin the rents are low, studio time is cheap, people have time to collaborate, and I want to start to create work with dancers where I am performing and moving in the work. In the last few pieces I have done with dance, I am again like an accompanist: A guy on stage with no role. It’s almost like playing to a silent film, it’s a strange relationship. I want to be in a place where I can create work, experiment and where there is the time and the space to do it. I have developed a cool relationship with dancers who play music, and musicians who can move, and that is a very rare combination. I also feel the need to make some work rather than just improvise. That’s what I started with Naomi Brand and Deanna Peters, and it has been really exciting, but in Berlin it is a lot easier to create and present that kind of work, because there are lots of venues. I want to create a relationship between these two places. I am also interested in working with Lisa Simpson, who plays a sewing machine, with contact mikes and extensions like a Casio keyboard. She can play with anyone, and make a functional piece of clothing at the same time. Lisa is also based in Berlin, and she is coming here in September. That is what I see as my role; to create more of a relationship between these places, and to create work where I am not just the drummer in the corner. AK: Thank you!

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Dance Central July/August 2016

Dance Central July/August  

The Dance Centre Bi-Monthly Publication for Members and the Dance Community

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