Highlights of the Scotiabank Dance Centre’s 20th anniversary celebration include a performance on the outside wall of the building by aerial dance company Aeriosa. (photo by Louise Cecil)
Scotiabank Dance Centre celebrates its 20th anniversary on Oct. 2 with a special edition of its annual open house. Highlights include a performance on the outside wall of the building by dance company Aeriosa; a creative activation of the Granville Street frontage by Company 605 and guests; free classes, events and exhibits; and the online première of a short film by Milos Jakovic and Hossein Fani.
“The Scotiabank Dance Centre is an important and colourful feather in Vancouver’s cultural cap,” said Jewish community member Linda Blankstein, a former Dance Centre board chair and current Dance Foundation board chair. The facility was built “specifically for dance in all its creative forms, from hip hop to ballet and flamenco to contemporary and everything in between,” she said. “Pre-COVID, the building would see approximately 87,000 people pass through its front door every year. It is extremely important for people of all ages, from toddlers to seniors, and amateur to professional dancers, to have a facility where creativity is shared while nurturing a sense of belonging for individuals seeking activity and connection.”
One of the centre’s studios is named after another Jewish community member, Judith Marcuse, who has had her offices and rehearsal space in the building since its inception.
Some of the highlights of the open house – for which all recommended COVID-19 protocols will be in place – include Aeriosa’s Home/Domicile, choreographed by Julia Taffe in collaboration with visual artists Sarah E. Fuller and Stuart Ward. This new aerial dance work is inspired by moths, and the dancers, wearing “moth” cloaks designed by Fuller, will perform on the north wall.
Company 605’s SPLAY comprises a special program of artists who will animate various spaces of the Scotiabank Dance Centre building. Each artist will create encounters for viewers inside and outside, making their process and practice visible, culminating in a sharing of intimate performance experiences across a variety of formats.
There will also be a performance of excerpts of new works in progress from artists Sujit Vaidya, an exponent of Bharatanatyam (a form of Indian classical dance), and Dumb Instrument Dance. Classes include tap and footwork with Danny Nielsen and Shay Kuebler; flamenco with Kasandra “La China” of Al Mozaico Flamenco Dance Academy; hip hop, breaking, waacking and contemporary with Cristina Bucci of OURO Collective; and AfroBeats with AKS Bison.
The documentary by Jakovic and Fani – which has the working title of Our Dance – will also be screened. It captures the impact Scotiabank Dance Centre has had on the dance community over the 20 years of its existence.
Housing six dance studios and a theatre, Scotiabank hosts hundreds of rehearsals, classes, workshops, performances and events every year.
“It has been immensely rewarding to see how Scotiabank Dance Centre, which began as a dream so many years ago, has contributed to the arts scene in our city and the growth of B.C.’s dance community,” said Mirna Zagar, executive director of the Dance Centre, which operates the building and runs programming. “As hub for dance, it provides high-quality studio space, but it is much more than just a building: we have nurtured a stimulating environment that is supportive of the creative potential of dance artists, contributing to a thriving synergy within the arts sector in Canada.”
Oct. 2’s open house runs from 1 to 6 p.m. at Scotiabank Dance Centre. For more information, call 604-606-6400 or visit thedancecentre.ca.
Dance Centre’s 12 Minutes Max features works from five up-and-coming choreographers on June 12. Pictured here is Con8 Collective: Charlotte Newman, left, and Georgina Alpen. (photo by Andy White)
An abundance of riches. Scotiabank Dance Centre’s 12 Minutes Max on June 12 showcases the talents of five up-and-coming choreographers – three of whom have Jewish community connections.
Started in 1994, 12 Minutes Max was redesigned and relaunched last year, “with a strong focus on choreographic development, critical feedback and dialogue.” In a season, there are three modules and the June show features artists selected from these sessions, with each performance lasting 12 minutes or less. Among the artists featured are Caitlin Griffin, Charlotte Newman (Con8 Collective) and Naomi Brand.
Griffin was featured in the JI last August for a piece that was influenced by her time in Israel in 2013 with the Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company, as part of its Dance Journey (Masa) program.
An exploration of the impact of war on women, what was then called The Way They Walked Through the World featured three dancers, and pairs of army boots played a central role. In 12 Minutes Max, Griffin’s work is performed by Delphine Leroux and set to Bach’s Klavierbüchlein für Wilhelm Friedemann.
“The work has evolved significantly from last September’s showing in several ways,” Griffin told the JI. “The process I went through of collecting choreographic material and experimenting with the boots has distilled my areas of interest and inspired new curiosity about the themes of conflict and femininity. While I am still working with the boots in other offshoot projects, in this incarnation, here or there focuses on the established movement vocabulary, transplanted into a classical music environment without boots. It has become a study of the potential within the movement. It is the development of one layer of my continued interest in the material.”
Griffin said The Way They Walked “served as an invaluable project to create a sketch of my interests and goals in this stage of my artistic development. Since then, I have been selecting small seeds from within that larger sketch and developing them into their own short solos. Ultimately, I may use them in combination in a more developed, longer work, but for now I am learning a lot by seeing them as individual studies to explore and cultivate my creative process.”
Con8 Collective’s Newman is new to the JI. Born and raised in Seattle, she moved to Vancouver to study at Simon Fraser University, graduating last year with a BFA in dance. She told the JI that she hopes to call Vancouver home “for the foreseeable future.”
Con8’s contribution to 12 Minutes Max is Vanilla to the Touch. Created and performed by co-artistic directors Newman and Georgina (Gina) Alpen, in collaboration with Robert Azevedo and Elliott Vaughan, it is described as “a quick-thinking, tongue-in-cheek look at growing up in West Coast suburbia, pulling from experiences of bras, boys, rolled-over jeans, juice boxes and more.”
“Like many young girls, I started dancing around the age of 3 and simply never stopped,” Newman said about the beginnings of her career. “In the past 20 years, I have had amazing opportunities to work with varying groups of dancers, in the context of performances, festivals, site-specific creation, music videos and more. I am especially passionate about choreography. I love investigating movement through the lens of our own physical limitations and strongly believe in the power of sharing ideas, concepts and questions through sharing movement.”
Newman said she “grew up with many cultural connections to Judaism.”
“I have many fond childhood memories of Chanuka dinners of endless latkes, Passovers with friends and Shabbat dinners at my grandparents’ house,” she shared. “Only in the past few years, having moved away from my family and many of these rituals I took for granted, have I become more cognizant and questioning of this identity – how do I want to bring Judaism into my own life? On this journey of exploring my own Jewish heritage, I had the amazing opportunity to join in the gift of Taglit-Birthright on a 10-day trip to Israel in May of 2014. The trip was eye-opening, thought-provoking, inspiring and pushed me to continue investigating how Jewish culture fits into my life as young adult – a question I’m still answering.”
She’s also exploring dance, of course, and its manifold permutations and meanings.
“Con8 is a play on the word ‘connate,’ meaning existing from birth and uniting to form a single entity,” she explained. “Gina and I feel these definitions truly encompass the collective’s artistic values – we strive to constantly explore through an innate creativity and unite the collective’s collaborators to make a stronger body of work as one.
“We also embraced the idea of a ‘con,’ meaning a confidence trick. Throughout our choreographic process, we often explore physical games, tricks and rules that lead to very specific movement choices and rhythms, leading to secrets within the performance that the audience will never see.
“Among many similarities,” she concluded, “we share the same birthday – May 8.”
Con8 leans toward “extremely detailed and stylized pedestrian movement that has been brought into the framework of dance performance,” said Newman. “Tight unison, rhythmical timing and a playful attack to serious movement exploration complement this movement vocabulary.”
She said, “Vanilla to the Touch began months ago as a radically different idea. With each new process, Gina and I use rehearsal space as a blank slate – in the beginning of a process, no idea is knocked down and, in a few minutes, we’ll be tossing out ideas one after the other as fast as we can. This process leads to hours of ultimately discarded material, many physically impossible and improbable proposals, and the usual bruises and bumps. We feed off of the other’s energy so hungrily, every rehearsal feels like play. In the midst of this process – around late February – we realized we had about four hours of movement to mold into 12 minutes, thus beginning the second phase of trying on, molding or discarding existing movement as we narrow our vision.
“In Vanilla to the Touch, as we are both performing the entire time, we relied on the eyes of collaborators for their outside perspectives and questions. Through the constant process of cutting, reconstructing and questioning, each movement has a meaning and each phrase was chosen with an exact specificity in mind.”
Unlike Newman, fellow Jewish community member Brand didn’t start dancing at a very young age.
“I danced a bit recreationally and in my teens was a part of a dance group run by a contemporary dancer who focused on modern dance and contact improvisation and got us choreographing on each other,” she explained. “I didn’t take a ballet class until I was 18 and so I often feel that I came to dance technique late.
“My interests in dance have always been diverse. A mentor of mine instilled in me early the importance of having a wide range of skills in order to increase your chances of being successful in the art form and so I have pursued dancing, performing, choreography, teaching and writing in order to have many avenues. I attended the dance program at the University of Calgary, where I earned my BA and an MFA in choreography, and where I also taught for a number of years after graduating.”
Originally from Toronto, Brand said, “I grew up with a secular Jewish identity. I recognized early on that a disproportionate number of artists, writers and progressive thinkers that I admired were Jewish, and that there was a connection between Jewish culture and creative thinking. My parents raised me with very strong values for learning, encouraging me to ask lots of questions and be curious, and also for social justice, family and community, values that I attribute to Judaism. These are values that have permeated my work as a dance artist. I try very consciously to make work that speaks to the relationship between the individual and the community. In my teaching practice, I encourage students to be inquisitive and inclusive, and use dance as a metaphor for how we could be in the world.”
Brand moved to Calgary when she was 19. After 10 years in the city – where she was a recipient of the 2012 Lieutenant Governor of Alberta Arts Awards Foundation’s emerging artist award – she said, “I was looking for a change, new opportunities and challenges, and so I relocated to Vancouver in 2013.”
For 12 Minutes Max, Brand is presenting Re:play, performed by Walter Kubanek and Hilary Maxwell. It is described as “an intricate duet that looks at action and reaction in the space between two bodies.”
In addition to being a choreographer, Brand is a writer, as well. “I think that my process in writing and in choreographing are very similar,” she said. “A lot of my training has been as an improviser and so I am most comfortable in the initial stages of generating ideas, jotting things down and spewing material out. Both choreographing and writing are about problem-solving to me. Once I have material to work with, it is about piecing things together, arranging, rearranging and searching for some kind of logic in what I have created. It’s like figuring out a puzzle, when at first you see a perhaps incompressible mass of ideas, words or moments and, then, through playing around with it, a structure or logic reveals itself. I rarely know what exactly it is that I want to say until it is made.”
Brand is also on the board of the Training Society of Vancouver, which has as its focus the quality and sustainability of contemporary dance.
“The field of dance is changing just as culture is changing,” she said. “What it means to be a professional dance artist today is completely different from previous generations, where the company structure was pervasive. Nowadays, everyone has to forge their own path and, in Vancouver, I see many fabulous examples of dancers with tons of drive pursuing their work and making their own opportunities. I have always been interested in being connected to dance from numerous different angles, as a performer, teacher, choreography, writer, advocate and administrator. For me, this diversity keeps me interested and engaged and able to keep perspective on my work.”
12 Minutes Max is at the Dance Centre, 677 Davie St., on June 12, 8 p.m. Tickets ($28/$22) are available from Tickets Tonight, 604-684-2787 or ticketstonight.ca. For more information on all the performers and works featured, visit thedancecentre.ca.
Serge Bennathan with Erin Drumheller in Monsieur Auburtin, which is at the Dance Centre March 26-28. (photo by Michael Slobodian)
Serge Bennathan’s Monsieur Auburtin is an autobiographical work, which promises to offer “audiences a keyhole through which to rediscover their own childhood dreams, splendidly realized or forgotten through the passage of time.”
Co-presented by the Scotiabank Dance Centre and Chutzpah!Plus March 26-28, Monsieur Auburtin spans Bennathan’s decades-long career, from France to Canada, from student to company artistic director. In addition to being a dancer and choreographer, Bennathan is also a writer and artist. He is known for his collaborations with opera companies, and the projects of the company he founded in Vancouver, Les Productions Figlio, “encompass dance, theatre, music, multi-media, visual art and literary works.”
Among multiple other honors, Bennathan was awarded the 2014 Canada Council Jacqueline Lemieux Prize because of his innumerable “contributions to Canadian dance through his creation work, his performance, his work as a mentor, [and] for his leadership within and beyond his company work. He inspires creativity among those he works with and his impact has been felt in multiple geographical centres and multiple generations.”
JI: Throughout your career, you’ve created personal works, why an autobiographical one at this point?
SB: It came quite organically as a response to a cancer that I was fighting. It made me think about what I love in my life, what made me, the gratitude to be an artist in this world. And how there are a lot of dance works but how we speak rarely about dance with the audience. So, I decided to be a storyteller and talk about how I came to dance and use my life as an artist in dance to talk about other artists that I love and admired. For this, on stage in Monsieur Auburtin, there are with me two dancers, Erin Drumheller and Kim Stevenson, and the composer playing live, Bertrand Chénier.
JI: The last time we spoke was in 2003, about The Invisible Life of Joseph Finch. There, you described your creative process as including up to a year and a half of research before starting to work with the dancers and creative team. How does your process differ, if at all, for a work such as Monsieur Auburtin?
SB: It does not really. It is the same process. I spent a year writing the text for the piece, then another working with the composer Bertrand Chénier. Just talking about life in dance, not talking about choreography but about the essence of dance. Now, here we are, in the studio with two dancers, me and the composer that will be live on stage. The time before is important to create enough stratum, subtext and be able to let go.
JI: From where do you garner the strength/courage to share so much of yourself in your choreography? Does the vulnerability ever scare you? If so, how do you overcome that fear?
SB: We live only once. It is important for me right now to talk to people, and even more important to me in the world we live in, to talk poetically to the audience, through words, movement and music. We all have in us fear, but we also have courage and strength. Doubts are not there to stop us, they are here to make us think deeper. We have to embrace fear to say our truth. And even more when we know that this life is not a dress rehearsal.
JI: [From 1990-2006], you were with Dancemakers in Toronto. What brought you to Vancouver, and how did Les Productions Figlio come to be created?
SB: In 2006, when I stepped down as artistic director of Dancemakers, it was very natural for me to come back to Vancouver. The time that I lived in Vancouver the first time, 1987, ’88, ’89, ’90, defined me as an artist. The people I met at that time became longtime collaborators that continued to work with me through my time at Dancemakers. I loved passionately this community. It is my home in Canada. I created Les Productions Figlio, a production company, to help me create the work I want to create, that is not always dance. I had just come out of 16 years with a dance company and wanted to be lighter as a structure. I create dance, but also theatre and maybe more.
JI: You are also a writer, painter and illustrator. Have you always been interested in these pursuits? What does a typical day or week look like for you, or is there such a thing?
SB: Dance introduced me to these other artistic expressions very organically and I love it. Everything feeds everything. I get up, meditate, write for two hours, paint, continue the day in the studio or the work that I have to do for a creation. Might come back to painting, read, cook, think, dream.