November 19, 2010
She fell in love with dance
Vanessa Goodman creates and performs with several companies.
Early next month, local company Dancers Dancing presents the première of Extra Extra, a new work choreographed by the company’s artistic director, Judith Garay. One of the 10 dancers comprising the show is Vanessa Goodman, a recent graduate from Simon Fraser University’s dance program. The Independent spoke with Goodman about working with Garay and her background and career in dance.
“Judith began her research for the show in 2006,” Goodman said. “She collected photographs from everyday life, wars and sports. Movements from those materials were the foundation for the show…. It’s going to be a combination of digital media and dance … a reflection of our world and its consumerist qualities … of how media influences our lives. There is beauty and anguish and distortion, a spectrum of emotions.” Goodman said she is excited to be part of such a thought-provoking show.
Like many performers, Goodman knew she wanted to be a dancer from a young age. “I took my first tap dancing class when I was about nine,” she recalled. “It was at the JCC in Toronto.” The roots of her fascination with dance reside in earlier childhood though, when she watched old musicals on TV. The performances of Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, Gregory Hines and other prominent tap dancers impressed the girl so much that she wanted to become one of them. “The lid just popped off. I fell in love with dancing,” she said.
After the first tap-dancing lessons, she took other dance classes: ballet, jazz and contemporary. By high school, she was sure she wanted to dance professionally, so she auditioned for Toronto’s Etobicoke School for the Arts and was accepted.
Hungry for roles, Goodman performed not only with her school company but also with two other youth dance companies in Toronto, PBJ Dance Project and Canadian Children’s Dance Theatre. After high school, she moved to Vancouver and enrolled in the SFU contemporary dance program.
“I chose SFU because I wanted to be a contemporary dancer. For me, contemporary dance is very challenging and stimulating. It allows me to express myself as no other dance form. It opens my creativity,” she said.
At SFU, Goodman met the person who has since become a huge influence on her artistic development: Garay, her instructor. Impressed by the young dancer’s abilities and attitude, Garay invited Goodman for an apprenticeship with her company, Dancers Dancing. Upon graduation in 2006, Goodman joined the company and has been with it ever since.
SFU also forged a deep friendship between Goodman and two classmates, Jane Osborne and Leigha Wald. In 2008, the three of them formed their own company, the Contingency Plan, and started choreographing and performing around Vancouver. In the last two years, they have presented their works at Dancing on the Edge, Dances for a Small Stage and other local dance events.
“We do everything together,” Goodman said, explaining how the company dynamics work. “We discuss everything. It’s a very giving environment.... Of course, each of us has her strong areas. Leigha is wonderful with budgets and she sees the whole picture within the choreographic process. Jane is a talented writer. She is a wizard with details in creation. And I generate crazy ideas and quirky movements. The others often have to scale it all down to the doable level,” she said, laughing.
The young dancers don’t shy from challenges. Last year, they produced their own show, Submerged. “We did everything for the first time, wore many hats: we were the publicists, we hired the choreographers, we managed the show and, of course, we danced,” Goodman said with enthusiasm, as she enumerated the various duties she and her colleagues took on.
In addition to performing with Dancers Dancing and the Contingency Plan, Goodman also performs her own solo pieces and works by other choreographers. And she teaches. “I teach little kids, two to seven years old. I also teach beginner adults dance and recreational dance, and I love teaching Pilates. I’m a certified Method Pilates instructor.”
A veritable workaholic, sometimes Goodman works seven days a week. Even when she takes a vacation, she works. “Last summer, I was tired after working without stop for a long time,” she said. “I took five weeks off and went to London. I participated in a very interesting workshop there.”
Aware that a dancer’s career is short, she tries to cram as much dancing as she can into her days and she plans for the future. She is thinking about getting a master’s degree in dance, which would allow her to teach at universities.
“I’m in a good place now,” she said. “As long as I keep growing, being challenged, as long as each day is a surprise, I’m satisfied.”
Extra Extra is being performed at the Firehall Arts Centre, Dec. 1-4, 8 p.m. Visit firehallartscentre.ca for information and tickets.
Olga Livshin is a Vancouver freelance writer. She is available for contract work. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.