Twenty-eight programs in nine venues over nine days. It's hard to beat Ottawa's annual Canada Dance Festival for an overview of what's au current among those in the unitard set.
Edmonton choreographer Brian Webb has been the festival's artistic director since 2002 - and he revels in what he calls its "eclectic" mix. "I don't program one aesthetic," he says, "I include many aesthetics that collide, merge, and play off each other." CDF has also contributed $100,000 to ten new works debuting this year.
Still, Webb does have a mandate - increasingly towards diversity and youth. That means dancing across cultures (think everything from South Asian to Afro-Caribbean), incorporating styles such as urban dance, jazz dance and contemporary ballet and training programs for young dancers. It also means boosting the national profile of dancers with local followings.
"CDF allows us to see what's happening across the country, because each of the large dance centres is different," Webb says. "Toronto is conceptually based with an emphasis on new forms, structure and fusion. Montreal is influenced by European centric nouvelle dance based on self-expression. Vancouver's aesthetic emphasizes physicality."
Herewith, some highlights from this year's gathering of the clan.
Guillaume Côté and Q Dance Côté is an international superstar and principal dancer at the National Ballet of Canada. Peter Quanz of Q Dance is an acclaimed freelance ballet choreographer who has created works at home (for the Royal Winnipeg Ballet and the National Ballet) and abroad. The multitalented Côté composed the score for Impermanence, which he has co-choreographed with fellow National principal dancer Zdenek Konvalina. The work is performed by a mix of dancers from the National Ballet and Toronto's Coleman Lemieux Compagny. Quanz's In Tandem was commissioned by New York's Guggenheim Museum and features dancers from the Royal Winnipeg Ballet performing to composer Steve Reich's Pulitzer Prize-winning Double Sextet. June 7, NAC Theatre, 8:30 p.m.
Coyote Arts Percussive Performance Association
Vancouver-based Byron Chief Moon has had a distinguished career as a theatre and film actor as well as a dancer and choreographer. He has reached back to his Blackfoot/Blood Nation roots in Alberta for Ihtsi-pai-tapi-yopa: Essence. The piece expresses dance as ritual through First Nations traditional and gestural dance forms fused with elements of western dance. The charismatic Chief Moon creates work that is tough, yet touches the heart. This piece is performed by a trio of Aboriginal dancers. Friday June 11, La Nouvelle Scène, 4:00 p.m.
Gladyszewski is a new voice from Montreal. His two works, In Side and Aura, cut across performance, visual and digital arts. As projections are superimposed on the nude bodies of his three dancers, he manipulates perception until it is impossible to distinguish what is real and what is not. A poet of imagery, he creates optical alchemy that plays the senses off each other. June 12, La Nouvelle Scène, 7:00 p.m.
Wen Wei Dance and Beijing Modern Dance Company
Twelve dancers from two countries give a global perspective to contemporary dance. Under the Skin is a co-creation between Vancouver's Wen Wei Wang and Beijing's Gao Yanjinzi, and was commissioned to celebrate the 40th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Canada and China. Wang is a proven maverick of wild imagination. Gao is an iconoclast whose artistic goal is liberation of expression. Together they are forging new ground in the dance arts. June 12, NAC Theatre, 8:30 p.m.
Hip Hop 360 - Street/Stage
These two shows demonstrate CDF's commitment to urban dance. Hip Hop 360 features two explosive b-boy crews - Toronto's F.A.M. and Ottawa's Bboyizm - who both bring the excitement of street dance to the stage. The second evening features Vancouver's the response under choreographers and dancers Amber Funk Barton and Shay Kuebler. Their work Status Quo fuses urban dance with contemporary dance and ballet to create a risk-taking, inventive and exhilarating hybrid. June 7, NAC Studio, 7:00 p.m., and June 11, NAC Studio, 7:00 p.m.
Canada Dance Festival runs through June 12. For more information, visit canadadance.ca.