Éva Fahidi, in front, and Emese Cuhorka in a still from The Euphoria of Being, directed and written by Réka Szabó.
Éva Fahidi was 18 years old when she and her family were taken to Auschwitz. The men and women were separated. The women’s selection committee cut the line after Fahidi: “I went one way, and my whole family the other way. It was over. We are talking about a fraction of a moment, when one didn’t even have the faintest idea of what was really happening.” Forty-nine members of her family were murdered, including her mother, father and sister.
Fahidi tells this part of her story as dancer Emese Cuhorka, covered from head to toe in a black leotard, moves around her, expressing with her body some of what Fahidi is expressing verbally. This is but one of many moving scenes in The Euphoria of Being, written and directed by Réka Szabó. The Jewish Independent has chosen to sponsor the documentary’s screening at this year’s Vancouver International Film Festival, which runs Sept. 26-Oct. 11.
Szabó had heard Fahidi give a talk in Berlin, and she had read Fahidi’s memoir, The Soul of Things. She wrote to Fahidi about wanting to make a performance about her, with her it in. The almost-90-year-old Hungarian Holocaust survivor responded positively: “Every person should possess some form of healthy exhibitionism,” she says in the film. “I have more than is needed, so I don’t have any excuses.”
Cuhorka reminds Szabó of Fahidi. From this resemblance came the concept of a duet. At one of the first rehearsals, Fahidi shows Cuhorka what she’s able to do physically. “And, from the outside, it is like seeing an entire life at once,” says Szabó, as she watches them move together.
The documentary covers the three-month period prior to the October première of what would become Sea Lavender. The work is the collaborative creation of the three women and, while what we are shown of the final result is powerful, it is the process and the bonds formed by the women that have the most impact, and give the film its inspirational quality.
Fahidi is remarkable. She is smart, spirited, well-spoken and endearing. When she talks about her Holocaust experiences, it is as if she is reliving them; her eyes look unfocused, her body appears heavier, her anger remains. She says her family should have left Hungary in 1935. “But my poor father, he couldn’t see beyond his nose,” she says. So proud was he of what he had built, he couldn’t leave it behind and only go with the clothes on his back. “This is the eternal tragedy,” she says, “that you don’t see things for what they are when you see them. Absolute idiocy.”
The film then cuts to a photo of the family – her parents, sister and her – as Fahidi describes the way in which she imagines them being gassed. She talks about a documentary she saw on Zyklon B, how it was first tried on geese. Such factual expositions lay raw the depth of her grief.
Yet, when Szabó asks Fahidi to list some of the things that helped her survive, Fahidi remarks that you have to appreciate and value the fact that you’re alive. “The fact that you exist, in itself, is euphoric,” she says. Hence, the name of the documentary and of the choice of “the flying chair duet” as the final scene of the performance. In discussing the nature of tragedy, Fahidi concludes that it’s no use thinking about it because you always end up in the same sad place. “Meanwhile,” she says, “you live happily.”
Seeing Cuhorka and Fahidi work and perform together is delightful – the two really do bear similarities, and their mutual respect is evident. The closing text of the film notes, “At the age of 93, Éva is still performing regularly. So far, we have staged 77 performances of Sea Lavender in numerous cities, such as Berlin, Budapest and Vienna.” While it is too much to hope that the show will come to North America, it is satisfying to know of the project’s life-changing effect on Fahidi, who, apparently, “can’t imagine being alive and not performing the piece anymore.”
The Euphoria of Being screens Sept. 27, 12:30 p.m., at International Village 8, and Oct. 3, 7 p.m., and Oct. 4, 10 a.m., at Vancity Theatre. For tickets, visit viff.org.
Sandra Bernhard performs at the Chutzpah! Festival Oct. 31. (photo by J. Graham)
The Chutzpah! Festival returns during a new late-fall time period – from Oct. 24 to Nov. 24 – with performances at the Rothstein Theatre, Vogue Theatre, Rickshaw Theatre and the WISE Hall. Here are some of this year’s offerings.
Opening night, Oct. 24: Multi-award-winning, London-based songwriter, broadcaster and musical storyteller Daniel Cainer performs the Canadian première of his internationally acclaimed Gefilte Fish and Chips. Based on personal stories of what it’s like to be Jewish – and British – then and now, it includes travelers’ tales, feuding tailors, a naughty rabbi, family fables, and foibles. All of the human condition is here, lovingly and intelligently depicted in a remarkable collection of stories in song.
Quick Sand, Oct. 31: Sandra Bernhard is always three steps ahead of the crowd. She has to be. She’s “quick sand.” In these fast-paced times, a lady can’t stop moving. You never know what you might encounter next in this fun house world we’re living in. So, performing with a three-piece band, Bernhard takes control, bringing a mélange of musings, music and whimsy – “never boring, j’adoring” is her motto, covering the waterfront of the outrageous, quotidian and glamorous.
The Trombonik Returns to New Chelm, Nov. 1: Taking inspiration from the traditional comic tales of Jewish folklore about Chelm, songwriter Geoff Berner and writer, performer and satirist T.J. Dawe, along with friends Toby Berner, Tallulah Winkelman and Jack Garten, present a klezmer musical set in Depression-era Saskatchewan.
A wandering con artist posing as a rabbi becomes entangled in the Prohibition-era whiskey trade. This production combines the social critique of Berner’s decades of activist songcraft with the comedic zaniness of Mel Brooks. Following this performance is a celebratory full-on drinking, dancing Klezmer Punk performance with Berner and his co-conspirators, along with special guest and renowned clarinetist Michael Winograd, to mark the release of Berner’s new CD, Grand Hotel Cosmopolis.
The Diary of Anne Frank LatinX, Nov. 6-9: Everyone knows the story of Anne Frank, the Jewish teenager hidden away while Nazis hunted down Jews during the Holocaust. One American-Jewish director, Stan Zimmerman, adds a modern-day twist to the production, which will see its Canadian première at Chutzpah! Zimmerman said, “When I learned there are over a dozen Safe Houses in the L.A. area hiding Latinx families from ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement], it got me wondering – How do these families survive with so little money and needing to remain in the shadows? How do they not lose hope? What are their lives like on a day-to-day basis? Do they see the parallels to Anne’s story?”
DAI (enough), Nov. 12-13: Iris Bahr is an award-winning writer, actor, director, producer and host of the hit podcast X-RAE and she is bringing her critically acclaimed, award-winning solo show DAI (enough) to Vancouver.
AvevA, Nov. 14: Chutzpah! presents the West Coast première of Ethiopian-Israeli singer and songwriter Aveva Dese. A rising star in the Israeli music scene, AvevA’s music fuses traditional Ethiopian sounds and groove with her soul-pop songs; she sings powerfully in both English and Amharic about society, freedom and love. Opening for AvevA is B.C.-based Leila Neverland with Mountain Sound.
Closing night, Nov. 24: Celebrates a week-long inclusion project of sharing, exploring and creating through art. Internationally renowned disability and mental health advocate and stand-up comedian Pamela Schuller and Brooklyn-based professional dancers and choreographers Troy Ogilvie and Rebecca Margolick will perform stand-up and solo dance work, respectively, in a shared evening of dance and comedy. The show will also present Ogilvie and Margolick’s new movement dance work created, directed and performed with members and guests of the inclusion community of the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver.
In addition to these and many other shows, the Chutzpah! Festival will pay tribute to the JCCGV and celebrate the 25th anniversary of its long-standing and renowned musical theatre summer camp created by Perry Ehrlich – Gotta Sing! Gotta Dance!; present a Shticks & Giggles comedy night with local comedians Ivan Decker, John Cullen, Lisa Person, Yisrael Shurack and others; and host multiple workshops as well as creation residencies for artists in dance and theatre in urban and rural B.C. settings.
Artists of Ballet BC in a previous production of Bill. (photo by Cindi Wicklund)
Ballet BC’s 2019/20 season marks its 34th anniversary year, as the company continues to celebrate life as movement. The new season features a North American première, a Ballet BC première and the return of five renowned choreographers.
Reveling in the beauty of our humanity, the season opens with Program 1, Oct. 31-Nov. 2. It features the première of BUSK by Canadian choreographer Aszure Barton and B.R.I.S.A. by Johan Inger. Inspired by the world of busking and set to an atmospheric score, Barton’s BUSK showcases her versatile and poignant choreography. Inger’s B.R.I.S.A., a probing and liberating piece exploring themes of awakening and change, returns to the stage by popular demand.
In Program 2, March 4-7, the company revisits the pleasure, pain and politics of young love with Romeo + Juliet by Medhi Walerski. In response to unprecedented demand and soldout performances for 2018’s world première of Romeo + Juliet in Vancouver, Ballet BC returns to this iconic story set to Sergei Prokofiev’s score. Crafted by Walerski, an original voice in international dance, it is an innovative and contemporary retelling of the full-length classic.
The season closes May 7-9 with the return of two of the most influential artists in international dance today, both of whom are from Israel. Ballet BC will be the first North American company to perform Hora by Ohad Naharin, following the success of the audience favourite Minus 16 in previous seaons. Program 3’s dynamic lineup features the much-anticipated return of Bill by Sharon Eyal and Gai Behar.
For the holidays in December, Ballet BC presents Alberta Ballet’s retelling of holiday classic The Nutcracker. With choreography by Edmund Stripe, sets and costumes designed by Emmy Award-winning designer Zack Brown, and Tchaikovsky’s musical score played live by the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, this extravagant production is set in turn-of-the-century Imperial Russia. Reflecting an era noted for its opulent grandeur, this show, which runs Dec. 28-30, displays more than a million dollars in sets and costumes.
“In 2019/20, we are excited to continue a dialogue about dance and its power to transform and connect us in ways that echo across time, place and culture. Today, more than ever, we need channels of expression that examine society and our place in it,” said Ballet BC artistic director Emily Molnar. “Dance can move people to feel and interpret life in new and meaningful ways. This season we are eager to delve deeper into a dance with each of you.”
All performances are at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre. Tickets and more information can be found at balletbc.com.
Bangarra Dance Theatre (photo by Edward Mulvihill)
DanceHouse’s new season, October 2019 through May 2020, showcases the work of four new companies to DanceHouse audiences and two returning favourites. This season’s offerings highlight a diverse range of artists who are transforming traditional dance styles with fusions of genres and cultures.
“Dance is a vibrant art form that is constantly evolving. We are delighted to share a curated lineup of world-class dance companies at the vanguard of their respective fields in our 2019/20 season,” said Jim Smith, artistic and executive director of DanceHouse. “We strive to present works with a unique and compelling perspective that simultaneously entertain and challenge our preconceptions. Vancouver audiences will be inspired by the artists’ athleticism, artistry, diversity of styles and dedication to inclusiveness.”
This season, new additions to the DanceHouse family include Bangarra Dance Theatre, one of Australia’s leading aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander dance companies performing Spirit, a collection of dance stories selected from their 30-year repertoire (Oct. 25-26); Montreal-based arts collective The 7 Fingers in collaboration with Artcirq of Igloolik and Taqqut Productions of Iqaluit with Unikkaaqtuat, a work that melds ancestral Inuit practices with circus arts (Jan. 22-25); Montreal’s RUBBERBANDance Group showcasing their dynamic blend of breakdancing, ballet and dance theatre in Ever So Slightly (March 20-21); and Spain’s Compañía Rocío Molina’s reinvention of flamenco dance in Fallen from Heaven (Caída del Cielo) (April 1-4).
DanceHouse welcomes back audience favourite and internationally acclaimed Brazilian company Grupo Corpo Feb. 28-29 in a mixed program featuring Gira, an homage to dance as a conduit to the divine. Finally, following their crowd-pleasing appearance in Vancouver in 2018, the New York-based tap dance company Dorrance Dance will return May 15-16 with ETM: Double Down, a celebration of the percussive potential of the human body.
All performances take place at the Vancouver Playhouse, except for Fallen from Heaven, which will be at SFU Goldcorp Centre for the Arts. DanceHouse subscribers get up to 30% off tickets to all six performances and single tickets will be on sale as of Sept. 9. For tickets and more information, visit dancehouse.ca or call 604-801-6225.
The cast of Tara Cheyenne Performance’s The Body Project. (photo by Wendy D. Photography)
Among the more than 20 choreographers and companies from across Canada, Brazil and Korea that are participating in this year’s Dancing on the Edge Festival are local Jewish community members Alexandra Clancy (Soleful Dance Company) and Tara Cheyenne Friedenberg (Tara Cheyenne Performance).
Soleful Dance Company’s Where the Music Begins will take place July 12, 8:15 p.m., in the Firehall Arts Centre courtyard, and Tara Cheyenne Performance’s The Body Project (working title) is part of Edge 5 July 11, 9 p.m., and July 13, 7 p.m., at the Firehall. DOTE runs July 4-13. Click here to watch the festival trailer on YouTube.
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Where the Music Begins, created by Clancy and composer and musician Mike W.T. Allen, was commissioned by Dances for a Small Stage for its Summer Series.
“Mike and I had played music together but never officially constructed any works for stage,” Clancy told the Independent. “Throughout the rehearsal process, there would be a back and forth of ideas; sometimes I would have a rhythmical phrase of tap dance and Mike would then create a melody over top, and sometimes Mike would compose a phrase of the melody and I would choreograph specifically to that part of the tune. After some give and take between our prospective instruments and ideas, we solidified a melody and then decided upon the structure of the tune. Some of the tune is improvised, some is a conversation, and some is very set and predetermined. We both enjoyed the collaborative process and found a harmonious way to create music and dance together.”
Clancy grew up in Vancouver and has always been involved with the Jewish community. “I was raised Jewish; attending Hebrew school on Sundays, becoming bat mitzvah, and participating in holidays and traditions,” she said. “After going on Birthright a few summers ago, I was re-inspired by the beauty of the culture and have tried to stay more engaged in the community by attending Axis events and other social gatherings, as well as going to synagogue when I can. I am grateful for the support and familial kindness that I have received from the community, consistently reminding and encouraging me that I am capable of whatever I put my all into.”
And she has put her all into a lot, having trained in all genres of dance, studying at Danzmode and the Vancouver Tap Dance Society. She was a member of Tap Co., a pre-professional youth tap dance company, and has trained and performed across North America.
“After graduating, I lived in Austin, Tex., and was a member of Tapestry Dance Company in its 25th season,” said Clancy. “I then moved back to Vancouver and have been performing and teaching ever since. This past year, I taught at the Arts Connection, Dance Co., and the Pulse, sharing my love and passion for tap dance and educating the next generation of talented dancers.
“As recital season comes to an end, I am currently in a creative residency with Dances for a Small Stage, where we are developing works for our Summer Series and exploring digital literacy in dance. As well as preparing for DOTE, I am also in the studio rehearsing and creating for our upcoming performance at Jacob’s Pillow later this summer. In the fall, I will be moving to Calgary to attend the training program at Decidedly Jazz Dance Company.
“My goal,” she said, “is to broaden my toolbox to assist in expressing myself and telling stories through dance. This upcoming year, I hope to continue to collaborate and create through Small Stage, develop more new works with Soleful Dance Co., film a concept video, and share dance through as much teaching and performing as possible.”
Jacob’s Pillow is located in western Massachusetts in the town of Becket. Clancy auditioned for and then attended the inaugural tap dance program at Jacob’s Pillow in 2010 and returned two years later (again with an audition) for a second summer of learning and dancing. “My time at the Pillow was the most influential training thus far in my life and it has always been a dream of mine to perform my own work at the Pillow,” she said.
That dream will become a reality this summer.
“Jeffrey Dawson and I co-choreographed a piece for an online competition Jacob’s Pillow was running this year, and we were lucky enough to be chosen as Top 6 and then voted Top 3, meaning we will get to perform our work live at the Inside/Out stage on Aug. 17,” said Clancy.
In addition to choreographing and teaching, Clancy established Soleful Dance last spring. She and some other dancers “felt we needed a name and a clear avenue to share the work we had started developing. Based in Vancouver, this company is a platform to express ourselves and tell stories through the music of tap and the movement of dance.
“Although under my direction,” she said, “Soleful Dance Company is rooted in collaboration. Our ultimate goal is to make audiences feel something. All of the members of the company’s primary focus is tap dance; however, everyone brings a versatile background to the creative process, spanning from contemporary dance, to acting, to playing music and more. We hope to continue to grow and create more works to share with audiences in the near future.”
Clancy described tap dance as “a magical art form that allows one to not only express through movement but connect and emote through sound.
“This traditional American art form has a rich and complex history that is intertwined deeply with jazz music and culture,” she explained. “There is a sense of community that I have always appreciated about tap dance, and I feel a great amount of respect and gratitude that I get to perform and participate in its culture. It just feels good to get to move your body and dance and then, on top of that, creating and connecting with music opens endless doors of expression.”
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The Body Project is a new interdisciplinary performance created from interviews, symposiums and roundtables.
“I started research on and around the theme of ‘female body image’ about a year ago,” Friedenberg told the Independent. “Part of our research/creation process has been interviewing female-identifying and non-binary people (many dancers and actors). To date, 35 people have generously participated.
“In the studio, I have been mining my own complicated and unhealthy relationship with my body as a dancer in a female body with the help of my amazing collaborators/performers. The process so far has involved exploring how the forms of stand-up comedy and dance can express this difficult, and often absurd, story of struggling with body image that many of us share.”
The performers – Bevin Poole, Caroline Liffmann, Kate Franklin and Kim Stevenson – came into the process shortly after Friedenberg began her exploration of the topic.
“We are working very closely with intimate and difficult material so, although I am leading the process, it is essential that all the voices/bodies in the room are present in the work. For example, there is a section choreographed by Kim Stevenson – much of the gestural language has been created through our own gestures as we’ve spoken about our personal experiences with body image.”
About the creative process, Friedenberg said, “These are very busy people, so we have had times when we are all in the studio and other times when it’s just me and one collaborator. Making room for people’s lives and demands, including parenting and caring for parents, is an important part of our feminist practice.
“Justine A. Chambers is our dramaturge/outside eye and Michelle Olson will be involved in the project as a consultant and possibly a performer in the next phase of development.”
As professional dancers, the performers/creators have shared some common struggles and coping mechanisms regarding body image.
“The pressure to fit a very narrow ideal of the ‘dancer body’ has been difficult and complex for all of us,” said Friedenberg. “There’s the pressure to be very thin, small, more muscular, or less muscular. Pressure to fit an oppressive ideal of beauty. We each have found ways to navigate these limiting ideas. Sometimes we have had to remove ourselves from certain arenas in order to survive. Sometimes we have found power in defying the stereotypes of what a dancer should look like to the euro-centric patriarchal gaze. But I keep coming back to the effort and energy required to bare these expectations and what we can transform with that energy instead.”
She added, “It must be noted that the many voices, words, time and contributions from the people we have interviewed are alive in the work through our bodies and presence. Their names will be listed on our website. Although the work, at this early stage, is a version of my story, it is also very much a result of being together in conversation about body image, in a circle, speaking, listening, moving, supporting and sharing with many powerful female-identifying/non-binary people – ‘the personal is political.’”
George and Tamara Frankel at Masks, Revelations and Selfhood, the spring forum of Jewish Seniors Alliance, in partnership with the Louis Brier Home and Hospital, which was held May 26 at the Peretz Centre. (photo from JSA)
Since August 2018, Louis Brier Home and Hospital residents have explored themes of personhood and creative expression, crafting masks, narratives and original dances with expressive arts therapist Calla Power and choreographer Lee Kwidzinski. The whole process was filmed by Jay Fox for a documentary.
Power, Kwidzinski and Fox, as well as Louis Brier resident Jennifer Young, who participated in the project, shared their experiences with guests at Masks, Revelations and Selfhood, the spring forum of Jewish Seniors Alliance, in partnership with the Louis Brier. The forum was held May 26 at the Peretz Centre for Secular Jewish Culture.
The four presenters brought with them many of the masks that were made by the Louis Brier residents, which they placed on tables near the audience. Everyone could examine them up close and try them on. This allowed people to experience the changes one feels when masked, hidden from others.
JSA president Ken Levitt welcomed everyone and spoke about JSA’s motto, “Seniors Stronger Together,” noting that JSA’s free peer support programs – which require the financial support of the community to continue – exemplify the power of older adults assisting other older adults. He then introduced Power, who has been working with residents at the Louis Brier for about five years.
The Masks Project lasted seven months, culminating in a program that includes masks, stories, poems, drama and dance. In her summary of the history of masks, Power said the oldest masks, dating from the Neolithic period, were found near Jerusalem several years ago. She explained that masks are used in many cultures as part of religious and/or spiritual ceremonies. In a slide presentation, she showcased masks from different cultures, including African, Indian and local indigenous cultures. Frequently, she said, those wearing the masks would represent “the gods” and be a conduit for messages from above.
Ginger Lerner, Louis Brier recreation therapist, had approached Power about making masks for Purim, obtaining a donation from the estate of Frank and Rosie Nelson that facilitated the project. Power did some research on Purim and discovered that many of the characters were masked; for example, Esther, who masked her origins, and Vashti, who refused to be unmasked. As residents engaged with the project, they discussed such topics as what parts of ourselves do we keep hidden behind a mask.
Kwidzinski, who specializes in dance movement, has 30 years of experience working with older adults, mainly those with dementia and those who are in wheelchairs. She has a dance company in Mission, and the dancers worked with the mask makers to create movements related to the masks and the residents’ ideas. The dancers became the bodies of the mask makers, who chose the movements and the music. The mask makers came on stage with the dancers for the performance.
Young, one of the mask makers, expressed how moving the entire experience had been. She said the group became close, even though they hadn’t known each other well before.
Young said she had been reluctant about the dance aspect but felt that the dancers were extremely supportive and, at the end, she said she found the movements liberating, as if she were also dancing. She said she gained energy and willpower from the experience, and thanked Power, Kwidzinski and Fox for giving her the ability and opportunity to “get up and keep going.”
Fox has produced award-winning films, documentaries, music videos and public service announcements. He was involved in the Masks Project from the beginning. He felt that the journey was as important as the film and the art produced. The film was screened at the forum, and can be viewed at youtube.com/watch?v=YspYE6juiy0.
Gyda Chud, JSA first vice-president, led the question-and-answer session. Members of the audience expressed their appreciation for the information and the beauty of the project. It was suggested that advocacy was needed to have this type of project adopted by other care homes and adult day-care centres.
I wrapped up the afternoon event with a thank you to the presenters, which was followed by snacks provided by Gala Catering.
Shanie Levinis an executive board member of Jewish Seniors Alliance and on the editorial board of Senior Line magazine.
Magic & Remembering opens at Scotiabank Dance Centre on June 1, which is B.C. Access Awareness Day. (photo from All Bodies Dance Project)
The themes in this show range from home and belonging to our collective connection to self, city and architecture,” All Bodies Dance Project co-founder and facilitator Naomi Brand said about Magic & Remembering, a program of dances and films, featuring dancers with and without disabilities, that runs June 1-3 at Scotiabank Dance Centre.
“A lot of ABDP’s choreography highlights the relationship between different bodies moving in different ways,” said Brand, who is a member of the Jewish community. “We try and make work where our differences as dancers are celebrated and exploited for their choreographic potential. We’re always looking for new territory that challenges notions of the ‘typical’ dancer and the typical ways of making dance.”
A similar motivation sparked the idea for this show.
“Magic & Remembering was born out of the desires from artists in our company to lead their own choreographic processes, as well as an idea to explore new territory in dance filmmaking,” said Brand.
The program comprises three dances and three films. Most of the works are new for this production and created by longtime members of All Bodies Dance Project.
“ABDP works in a very organic way as a collective of artists who work through collaboration and improvisation to devise new choreography,” explained Brand. “Each of the pieces came about in a different way through a different creative process. My role has been to act as an ‘outside eye’ to support the choreographers, offer feedback and suggestions; sort of an editor to help clarify the pieces.”
Two of the three filmmakers are local, she said. Martin Borden – who is also a visual artist, woodcarver and educator, and has been documenting ABDP’s work for many years – collaborated with dancers/choreographers Rianne Svelnis and Harmanie Taylor on Sanctuary.
Gemma Crowe worked with Carolina Bergonzoni on Ho.Me. “Gemma is a dancer who has been working in video for a number of years,” said Brand. “As a dancer, she brings a keen understanding of how the camera moves almost as a partner in the dance.”
The third film is called Inclinations and it was created, said Brand, “by our friends and colleagues Danielle Peers (Edmonton) and Alice Sheppard (based in New York) and features a cast of four manual wheelchair users, including Harmanie Taylor from All Bodies Dance Project.”
Quoting from Sheppard’s website, Brand described the piece as one that “contrasts the playful connections when disability esthetics, disability community and a gorgeous ramp meet the institutional histories and discordant inclinations that can lurk just below the surface.”
“We are excited to include this beautiful film in our production,” said Brand, “as a way to connect and support disabled dance artists in our network from outside of Vancouver.”
The press material for the production notes that the films are “of dance works reimagined for the camera.” As to what that means, Brand explained that Sanctuary and Ho.Me were originally created as dances performed live: the former for the 2018 Vines Art Festival and the latter for last year’s Dancing on the Edge Festival.
“We’ve taken those dances,” she said, “and ‘reimagined’ them through the lens of the camera by using the same movement material, but reconfiguring it into a new piece. The camera allows for an intimacy and detailed insight into the dances that opens up whole new possibilities. For example, Carolina Bergonzoni’s Ho.Me, which consists of three personal solos, was shot in the dancers’ own apartments. We get to see these unique bodies and their movements in their private spaces, surrounded by objects of meaning to them.
“Sanctuary is shot in a busy urban location. The duet is accompanied by a soundscore created from the sounds of a typical Vancouver afternoon. Video allows us to take viewers into new worlds and to see the dancers and the dances in new ways.”
As for the dances in Magic & Remembering, Brand said they “use the dancers’ differences in unexpected and evocative ways. For example, Harmanie Taylor and Peggy Leung’s duet, Inflect, was born out of the simple choreographic question, what would happen if both seated and standing dancer used wheels? Peggy dances on a wooden wheelie board that facilitates all kinds of interesting and surprising ways of relating to Harmanie, who is a manual wheelchair user.
“Romham Gallacher’s trio, Re/integrate, delves into some deep and personal territory by exploring the process of bringing trauma-shattered pieces of oneself back together. The piece makes use of some intricate contact duet material between Adam Warren and Peggy Leung. Adam is a wheelchair user but dances the pieces without his chair.
“Cheyenne Seary’s Clove Hitch is a quintet based on themes of identity, individuality and belonging in a group,” she said. “The piece is set to music by Juno-nominated indigenous artist Cris Derksen.”
All Bodies Dance Project has many collaborators and partnerships that make its work possible, said Brand. “For this production,” she said, “we have partnered with the Roundhouse Community Art Centre and the Gathering Place, where we do most of our rehearsals, and are grateful to have received grant funding from the City of Vancouver.”
Magic & Remembering opens on B.C. Access Awareness Day, which is “a comprehensive campaign to raise awareness about disability, accessibility and inclusion,” said Brand.
In line with ABDP’s efforts to remove barriers, “all of the performances are scent-reduced with sliding scale ticket pricing – no one is turned away for lack of funds,” she said. “Our two performances on Monday, June 3, include ASL interpretation.”
The outdoor fair features live entertainment. (photo by Galit Lewinski)
The Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver invites the entire community to its annual JCC Festival Ha’Rikud. The theme this year is “Seasons of Israel,” with a variety of programs to inspire, inform and entertain visitors. The highlight of the month-long celebration, which runs May 9-26, will be the outdoor community fair.
Beginning at noon on Sunday, May 12, the JCC parking lot will be transformed into an Israeli street fair with food trucks offering shwarma, falafel, vegan Middle Eastern choices and other popular treats; a marketplace (shuk); live music performances; family activities; dancing and more. Admission is free and everyone is welcome.
For Israeli dance lovers, there will be two shows in the Rothstein Theatre, at 1 and 3 p.m., featuring Orr Vancouver dancers and visiting performers from Mexico and Miami. For foodies, there will be a presentation at 5 p.m. by Gil Hovav, a leading Israeli culinary journalist, author, TV personality and speaker.
Other festival events include a group art exhibition in the Zack Gallery, which opens May 9; Israeli recreational dance workshops May 10-12, hosted by the Vancouver Israeli Folk Dance Society; an evening of poetry inspired by the artwork in the gallery, on May 16; and an Israeli song sing-along on May 26. Visit israelifestival.com for the complete schedule.
Ballet BC dancers Scott Fowler and Parker Finley in rehearsal for the company’s final program of the season, which features all Jewish community choreographers. (photo by Michael Slobodian)
Ballet BC concludes its season May 9-11 with Program 3, featuring all Jewish community choreographers: Israel’s Sharon Eyal and Gai Behar, Vancouver’s Serge Bennathan and Israel’s Ohad Naharin.
Program 3 begins with the North American première of Eyal and Behar’s Bedroom Folk and concludes with the return of Naharin’s Minus 16, a crowd-pleaser that Ballet BC presented in 2017. The middle piece, by Bennathan, is a world première, commissioned by Ballet BC.
“Emily Molnar invited me to create a work for the company,” Bennathan told the Independent in a phone interview. “That’s it. All the rest is for me to create what I want for them.”
Given that leeway by Molnar, Ballet BC’s artistic director, Bennathan said he wanted to create a work for all the dancers.
“I’m so in love with the company that I felt it will be wonderful to have them all, mostly for the kind of work I do,” he said.
“When I create work, whatever it is, for my company or another company, I always say I like to have the group of people that are strong individuals that make sense together,” he explained. “That is exactly what the company is right now. If you take Ballet BC now – individually, they are quite fantastic, each of their personalities, they’re fine, but they make so much sense together. That’s the beauty of it.”
Bennathan was born in France and came to Canada more than 30 years ago. Artistic director of Toronto’s Dancemakers from 1990 to 2006, he then came to Vancouver, where he founded Les Productions Figlio.
“My work, I would say, is quite physical, but my point of departure is to work from the energy. Not the energy being exuberant or something like that, but the energy that makes you move. So, you have to be present in the moment with your body and move from inside…. You have to find it in yourself to move.”
Bennathan has created many full-length works, both for his own companies and others, and he has a long history with Ballet BC.
“My first-ever commission was the first time I came to Vancouver. Reid Anderson was the artistic director,” he said. “I had just arrived in Canada. I was a young immigrant and I was doing work here in Vancouver and they saw my work and they invited me to create. The first-ever piece was a duet. And then, throughout the years, the invitations kept coming, so I created.”
Set to an original score by Montreal-based composer Bertrand Chénier, Bennathan shared a little about next month’s première, as well as his creative process.
“It’s [about] how do you find the form of resilience. How do you sustain that [thing] that keeps your head above water? That’s what it is,” he said of the work.
“Before I create the piece with dancers, I spend time [on my own] – I paint, I sew and I write and I explore these ideas that come to me through painting; not to paint movement … but to try to extract what it means in a poetic way. So, when I ‘write,’ in the studio with the dancers, what happens is, when I choreograph, I don’t think about the piece. I let my body talk because I believe that the mounds and mounds and mounds that I read – like, for this one, I read a lot of poetry, I painted, I wrote poetry – when I’m in the studio with them, I just let my body talk when I choreograph. And then they grab it. But this is only the beginning. After that, there is another period. I don’t want them to do exactly what I did. The movement can transform itself – what needs to stay true is the essence of why we did this movement at the beginning.”
For Bennathan, dance is more than an art form.
“I left my family quite early, I was 14 years old. Let’s say, my life was taking a direction that, deep inside me, I knew it was not the direction I wanted to take. I want to say [that] to people because, sometimes we see a lot of youth and we say, ‘Oh, you should get out of this, or you should do this …’ but the fact is, sometimes, mostly when you are young, you are taken into a spiral and you cannot get out. And, if you do not have the opportunity, or create yourself the opportunity, to lead you to someone that can tell you a word or a phrase that will change you or offer something you can open the door to, you are in a terrible situation, you cannot get out. I was able to have this in my life and … at 14, I said, ‘OK, I’m going to leave this, I’m going to Paris, I’m going to study dance, and that’s what I want to become, a dancer. This saved me, literally. I needed to do this to get out of a situation I didn’t want for me.”
Bennathan described dancers as “courageous, at all levels; not courageous just to apply themselves physically – because it’s there, they have the courage to abandon themselves into this art form – but, at the same time, to live as a dance artist. And, even more in our days, you have to be courageous, you have to have resilience.”
He said he can’t just invite talented dancers from other parts of the country to come work with him here because Vancouver has become so expensive. “Young artists or young families cannot come live here anymore. That’s the thing. And you have to be courageous to say, ‘OK, I’m going to come.’… These days, you don’t just say, ‘Oh, I’m going to live in Vancouver.’”
Bennathan believes in the power of dance, and art in general, to improve the world.
“A lot of people say ‘art can save the world,’ but why can you say that? It’s because we need the inspiration, we need poetry in our lives. Sometimes, poetry, these days, is dismissed. We so forget the importance of the inspiration of poetry in our day-to-day lives. There is a reason, not only in North America, but everywhere in the world right now … why cynicism is the most important thing…. It’s because we left all this – whether it’s writing poetry, written poetry or dance or music – we stop these art forms at the door instead of inviting them into our lives.” If we did invite them in, he said, “we would talk differently and we would start to see things differently.”
Program 3 is at Queen Elizabeth Theatre May 9-11, 8 p.m., and Ballet BC will celebrate 10 years with Emily Molnar as artistic director with a reception after the closing performance on May 11. For tickets to the performances, visit balletbc.com. Tickets for the reception are available via eventbrite.ca.
Dancers Jeremy O’Neill, Ted Littlemore and Kate Franklin. (photo by Idan Cohen)
Last May, Idan Cohen introduced local audiences to his reimagining of Christoph Willibald Gluck’s opera Orfeo ed Euridice. He will share more of this ongoing work in EDAM dance company’s Spring Choreographic Series, in which he is a guest artist, along with Jennifer McLeish-Lewis.
In six performances between April 10 and 20 at EDAM’s home at the Western Front on East 8th Avenue, Cohen and McLeish-Lewis will present new work, while EDAM, under artist director Peter Bingham, will present a directed improvisation.
“I was introduced to Peter and the EDAM family through Linda Blankstein, who I met through the DanceLab residency I took part in last May at the Dance Centre,” Cohen wrote the Independent in an email from London’s Heathrow Airport, as he waited for his flight back to Vancouver. “Among the many other roles through which Linda supports Vancouver’s arts community, she is on the board of EDAM, and was kind enough to introduce my work to Peter.
“The space and people at EDAM were very welcoming,” said Cohen, who is artistic director of Ne. Sans Opera and Dance. “Peter invited me and the performers to take his daily morning classes, and offered this wonderful opportunity for me, Ne. Sans and the artists collaborating on this piece – musicians/dancers Jeremy O’Neill, Ted Littlemore and Kate Franklin.”
The part of Orfeo ed Euridice that Cohen will showcase next week is called Trionfi Amore (in English, The Triumph of Love).
“In Greek mythology, Orpheus [Orfeo, in Greek] was a musician and a poet who had the ability to enchant all living creatures through his musical gift, and could even stop the waves of the ocean from rolling,” explained Cohen. “In an attempt to bring his newly married wife Eurydice back to life from the dead, Orfeo persuades the guardians of the underworld to allow him entry to their kingdom.
“Trionfi Amore deconstructs the key elements and motives of the story and puts it into a contemporary context. We integrate dance with a bit of live music in a piece that speaks of love, and of the power of music and art to move, entertain and touch us. We also look at the power of art to manipulate, exploring the ways in which different aspects of love can be transformed into the act of performance. I am focusing on the ‘love story’ part of the mythological tale, recreating its themes through the intimacy and fragility of the body.”