My little family celebrates St. Nicolas on Dec 6 each year, happily paying respect to a tradition celebrated by my partner throughout her Belgian childhood. Transported into our Halifax house it is as much about gathering friends as anything else, and for the past several years two of my daughters best friends have come to spend the night and share in the excitement of waking up to see what St. Nicolas has left in their shoes. Marzipan, chocolate, mandarin oranges, and speculoos cookies…

While our little household uses the 25th as a great reason for gathering together friends and enjoying time together, I can’t help but finding myself wanting to load the tree with presents so that my child may delight in “Santa Claus” and the abundance that I was privileged to experience as a child. Ah, Christmas… While the importance of gathering remains, ideology from our consumer driven society certainly sits more than comfortably at the table. I guess this is so present in my thoughts as I just braved a trip out shopping on Dec 23! Wow!

So, what has this to do with dance anyways?

Part of my wonderful job as an arts programmer involves traveling to different festivals and events to network with colleagues and, well, shop for dance. At the very beginning of December I had the opportunity to spend a few days in my old stomping grounds of Montreal, Quebec for an event called Parcours Danse. A few days in Montreal is all that was required to remind me that some cultures really value their artists and hold a deep respect for the presence of arts and culture within society as a whole. This was profoundly brought home each morning when I showed up at the sire of our meetings at the Centre Culturel Intergenérational in Outremont. Arriving at the CCI (two blocks off a main drag in the heart of a residential neighbourhood), it’s gorgeous architecture announces that you have arrived at something special. Step inside and you realise “intergenerational” is a truly integrated into the Centre’s concept. A small cantine with a bunch of internet stations overlooks a full size ice rink with seating for about a thousand. Continue along the corridor overlooking the arena and you eventually end up in the large conference room where most of our meetings were held. Head up the stairs and you’ll find a number of dance studios… While I didn’t manage a full site visit, what was abundantly clear was that the Centre served the needs of many different groups and these groups were using it. It gave me warm fuzzies soaking up the building’s wonderful energy, pleasing architecture, and just downright progressiveness of thinking.

After a day at the CCI I had to rush off to catch a show at the Maison de la Culture Montreal Nord. Anyone who knows Montreal, knows how incredible their chain of “Culture Houses” are: located throughout the city, the MdlC each have something specific going for them… maybe a theatre, or art gallery, or library, or any combination of these. The MdlC Montreal Nord is far away from downtown; hell, it’s far away from everything! In the same time it takes to drive to the MdlC Montreal Nord you could go from downtown Halifax to Herring Cove!! Imagine getting there on public transport! OK, so you’ve arrived out on the very fringe of North Montreal in what feels like an industrial wasteland and there you find a gorgeous little 200 seat theatre that is brilliant for dance. And you know what else? It’s full!! It’s when I walk into a space like that, out on the very fringes, for a contemporary dance show, and see a curious public manifesting itself in strong numbers I realise the Quebecois have got something going that the rest of Canada just doesn’t get.

With all the hubbub about the Creative Economy, it seems the people of Quebec are well ahead of the curve. Not only do they have an abundance of mechanisms in place that support arts, culture, and creativity across broad demographic and geographic spectrums, but it’s working! People, from children to senior citizens, from posh neighbourhoods like Outremont to more challenged ones like Montreal Nord, are getting and getting involved. It is truly inspiring to witness.

So, what do I want for Christmas? In a nutshell, I want to live in a community where the arts and culture are held in such high esteem that centres devoted to them thrive with activity each and every day. Is this possible in Nova Scotia?

Last night’s performances by Company Marie Chouinard had audiences on their feet for an extended ovation. Wow! As the presenter, I couldn’t be happier: a next to sold out house, wonderful performances, and an extremely appreciative crowd! The comments by people afterward were uniformly excited – Thank you so much friends of Live Art for extending your enthusiasm and appreciation so generously! And for all the audience members out there: know that the dancers – those wonderful dancers! – were full of appreciation for your attention and generosity of spirit! Several of them expressed their great delight in the crowd’s response… beginning with the calm, rapt silence that welcomed to the stage at the top of the show, to your laughter during Chopin, and right through to that thunderous applause at the end. Performers feed off a crowd’s energy, and last night, on both sides of the curtain, we were well fed!

Marie Chouinard has rightly earned the title of Canada’s Queen of Contemporary dance. Celebrating her company’s 20th anniversary this month, Marie has been making dance for more than three decades, a time during which she has shocked, provoked and utterly captivated legions of fans the world over. From being banned by the Ontario Art Gallery in 1980 (for urinating onstage) to opening the Cultural Olympiad in 2010 at the Vancouver Winter Games, her ascent has been nothing short of stellar.

For me, the one thing that has constantly defined her work is her rapture with the human body. Safe lines and tidy images are not her strong suit: she is blood and sex and sweaty animal; hunger, passion, and driven curiosity. Her dancers explode with primal energy – be it physical or vocal – and so aptly depict we humans in all our savage poetry.

On November 17, Live Art Dance presents two classic works by this incredible company: the delightfully whimsical 24 Preludes by Chopin and wildly pagan Rite of Spring. Each of these works is a jewel unto itself, but together they form a wondrous whole that will be one of the most talked about shows in Halifax this year! If you’re reading this, YOU DON’T WANT TO MISS IT! And you know what? Your friends who know little or nothing about dance will thank you for tuning them in!

Here is a quick peek at Chouinard’s Rite of Spring:

There’s a great review for Live Art Dance’s presentation of the latest offerings by Susie Burpee and SiNS dance that appeared in the Coast’s online Art Attack section. Sue Carter Flinn really hits it on the head and provides great insights into the show, which runs through Saturday Oct. 9, 2010. Read it, then check out the show!

ps – Big Kudos to Sue CF for having her priorities in place: apparently the Globe & Mail’s Dance Critic Paula Citron was next door in the neighbouring hall checking out Atlantic Ballet Theatre of Canada’s production of Fidelio. I find her writing is often quite polarised, but this review seems to go down the middle of the road…

Danièle Desnoyers work Là où je vis (Here Where I Live) brought dance back to Halifax as Live Art Dance kicked off it”s 28th season on Sept 30. Here Where I Live is a masterfully crafted work that casino online uk blends gorgeous visuals with terrific dancing. The cast of six (5 dancers and a media artist) delivers a stunning performance that is at times profoundly tender and brutal. Andrea Nemetz at the Chronicle Herald and Sue Carter Flynn at The Coast each had wonderful things to say about the work. The show closes Oct. 2 and is definitely worth checking out.

Live Art Dance launched a new season last night (Sept 30), not to mention this brand new website. For the occasion, Danièle Desnoyers’ five gorgeous dancers filled the James Dunn Theatre with an inspired performance of Là où je vis (Here Where I Live). Amongst them was Cape Breton native Molly Johnson, who earned some of her stellar dance chops in YoCo (the Young Company) at Halifax Dance. Desnoyers’ choreography is at times driven by a consuming sense of urgency, and this plays well as multiple layers of imagery are overlaid, rendered live visually by media artist Manon De Pauw. So many layers, like the masks we wear in the public realm, all brought to head by Clara Furey’s text: “I want to be well again”. The dance is sublimely furious, the visuals are mesmerising; Le Carré des Lombes delivers!

Welcome to Live Art Dance’s new blog! We’re really excited about having this as it allows us to introduce subjects and ideas not strictly about our main activities (though we will be writing about those as well!) We’re here to break news, inspire, and connect the dots on all things dance. If it moves with passion, intention, and commitment it’s fair game. Numerous contributors will be posting here so check in often; we look forward to reading your comments and sharing ideas originating from the wide world of dance!

To jump right into the thick of things I am compelled to relate that, after years of telling newcomers (Brandon, our programming genius at Norex is the latest) that contemporary dance doesn’t necessarily communicate a narrative, I find myself confronted by the latest news from ScienceMag. For the past 3 years, scientists from around the world have teamed up to create dance videos based on their graduate research. Dubbed “Dance your Ph.D.”, this year’s finalist have been announced and 2 Canadians figure into the mix. The concept is simple, express your research, ie. selection of a DNA aptamer for homocysteine using systematic evolution of ligands by exponential enrichment, through dance. It would seem specific and complex ideas MAY be the subject of dance after all!

You can see (and vote for!!) the work of the four finalists, one each from the disciplines of chemistry, physics, biology, and social sciences, at: http://news.sciencemag.org/sciencenow/2010/09/dance-your-phd-finalists-announce.html

For my part, Australia’s Steven Lade (Physics) and Canada’s Anne Goldenberg (Social Sciences) have delivered some pretty exciting stuff… maybe they should consider career changes!

Join Live Art Dance for a 28th season of incredible dance performances. Seven different shows and seventeen performances! With three World Premieres, and performances in a variety of spaces around the city, the 2010/11 season features gifted performances that will make dance lovers jump with joy!

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