One of the most popular conceptions I am greeted with these days is that summer time = quiet time on the dance front… While there is a grain of truth in this (it’s true, we are NOT racing in production mode), summer time is when we get caught up on all of last year’s loose ends while also nailing down the foundation for the coming year: artist contracts, hotel reservations, subscription packages, ideas germinated for the pre-show talk series… Urban Foragingoh my, how that quiet summer time list of things-to-do gets long fast! Happily, Live Art Dance’s core staff has been bolstered with a pair of summer staffers, Hannah Harper and Karen Gross, who’ve been a great aid in helping coordinate the many pieces that need to be in place before that aforementioned production mode kicks in to high gear. If you’ve received a Spam consent form, our subscription package, notification of the PINK pass, or some other recent communication, chances are good that Hannah or Karen is behind it.

In between a little urban foraging (check out those red currants we stumbled upon!) and beach visits with my grrls, the pieces are slowly falling into place for a [email protected] new season of dance. We have a really exciting group of artists due in town, a superb roster of sponsors in place (their support is inspiring us to raise the bar this year), and are finally comfortably settled into our new suite of offices with our friends at 2b theatre. With one more month of summer time we should be more than ready to welcome the public to our 32nd season!

One of the most exciting developments carrying us forward is our freshly rejuvenated website and I’d like to give a big shout out to our geekgoddess, Ms. Jennifer, for her constant presence and creative input. Please take some time to wander around our site and let us know what you think.


Wow… January! Is there anything like taking a nice bit of time off only to get caught with a logjam of work all clamoring for attention once January gets going? At Live Art Dance, January means dealing with a shortened marketing calendar to get our first production of the winter season up and running – in this case, TDT’s mesmerizing RIVERS inspired by Ann Southam’s hypnotizing solo piano composition brought to gorgeous life by Christina Petrowska Quilico. Check out a clip here:

Once the January show has run its course (thank you Halifax for showing up!), it’s time to think put the finishing touches on next year’s, get primed for our upcoming fundraiser, the Salt Truck Follies, and of course pay attention to all the upcoming grant deadlines.

Fred Gravel is an artist I have been wanting to bring to Halifax for a long time. It almost happened 5-6 years ago – I remember speaking with then HPX guru Waye Mason about doing it as a coproduction – but then scheduling got in the way. Fred’s still on my radar though, and it seems he’s gaining attention far and wide. Check out this clip from PuSh Festival for Usually Beauty Fails:

Another dream I’ve been having is to see Ballet BC out here on the Atlantic coast. Now there’s a superb company that has gone through their share of rough times only to come out of it stronger than ever. I have been a big fan of this company since my Vancouver days and Artistic Director, Emily Molnar (named by the Globe and Mail as Dance Artist of the Year 2013), seems to be leading them onto exciting ground. My 2014/15 dream list is pretty long and it’s time to start putting some ink on the contracts! As always, our audience can look forward to an eclectic mix from the here and now of contemporary dance/performance.

Dance as an art form is so ephemeral, coming to life for the specific duration of a given performance and then disappearing into memory. Sure, it’s true that all live performance is like this, IE. existing only in the exact moment of its happening, but there’s something about dance’s neural impulse-driven blood & sweat existence in space/time that renders it so… fleeting!

The dance community in Halifax likewise has a certain ephemeral quality as nothing is entrenched enough to resist the march of time for very long. Case in point: Mocean Dance recently celebrated their 10th anniversary (a sure-fire sign of entrenchdom!) and now all of a sudden the founders are completely removed and Susanne Chui is the new face of Mocean. From full flight as a repertoire company to sudden switch into a project company. (For the record, I find it tremendously exciting that they’ve got the hutzpah to embrace change and have every confidence in Susanne’s ability to steer the ship).

The latest change to face of HallyDance was revealed last week when Megan Matheson-Hamilton was announced as the new Executive Director of Dance Nova Scotia (DANS). For those who don’t remember (though it does not seem so long ago…), Megan “Azulita” Matheson used to grace the stage as the promising student with El Viento Flamenco before creating Compania Azul and developing her own style and earning legions of fans across the city. Megan has been working at DANS for several years so has had ample time to learn from outgoing ED, Dianne Milligan.

Speaking of Dianne… what a mountain of gratitude dance in Nova Scotia owes to wonderful Dianne! She has been a vocal advocate for improved conditions for artists of all stripes, has sat on numerous boards and committees in Nova Scotia, the Atlantic region, and across Canada, and has been Chair of the inaugural board for the Legacy Centre for the Performing Arts. Dianne’s drive has been relentless and her commitment full; Megan has big shoes to fill but you know what – she’s going to be amazing!

On behalf of Live Art Dance, I salute the efforts of those who’ve helped build the community we have and look forward to contributing to its constant evolution with a new generation. A toast to the changing face of dance in Nova Scotia!

On Tuesday evening Elise and I welcomed the 3X3X3 dancers into our home for a little maritime hospitality! So sweet meeting everyone and learning a little about who they are and what inspires them in life and dance.

This CanDance inspired/supported creation exchange project is really exciting and I’m so jazzed to work with Tangente in Montreal and La Rotonde in Quebec City. Creating opportunities for artists to meet and exchange ideas is dear to Live Art Dance’s heart, and I realised just how broad this exchange is while drinking wine with our guests. The seven people in the photo hail from Edmonton (Ashely), Regina (Lauren), Quebec (Brice & Maryse), New York (Dorian), and Halifax (Susanne & Jacinte). That’s a lot of origins and diverse geography! Art originates with ideas generated by people who bring their collective experience into the present. I am really looking forward to the present of 3X3X3 from 8-9:45pm, April 25-27 in the Sir James Dunn Theatre.

How many times have I confessed to being the worst correspondent? Personally I’m having a hard time believing that my most recent post was in Sept ’12! How can I have failed to write about all the great shows and events that have occupied HRM’s cultural calendar these past 7+ months!!?? Forget about the learning curve of a new position, staff turnover, a nasty production schedule that had us launch the season with 3 shows in 3 weeks… All that is just work and we should be able to roll up our sleeves and push through it.

My little family!

What I recognise is a shift in my time management priorities: for the many past months my usual writing hours – evenings and weekends – have been devoted to house and home, meaning sitting in front of the computer has taken a back seat. What more needs be said: life is effervescent, and I’ve been enjoying (immensely!) watching my little ‘uns grow!

I promise to stop promising to improve the regularity of my correspondence… We’ll just let it ride and see where it goes.

So… It seems like our season is book-ended by “creation” events: we started with STIR, a really exciting creation lab that gave birth to a lot of fun ideas (not to mention the seeds of a wick’d collaboration between choreographer, Deborah Dunn, dancer, Elise Vanderborght, and composer, Lukas Pearse) and are concluding with 3X3X3, which is a Candance Creation Exchange Project. Three choreographers from three cities contribute three works to a shared program that shines the spotlight squarely upon up-and-coming dance artists. With financial and administrative support from the CanDance Network, this edition is a first collaboration between Live Art Dance and our esteemed partners La Rotonde (in Quebec City) and Tangente (in Montreal). The concept is pretty simple: each presenter champions an artist from their community who contributes work to a program that then tours to each others venues. The rewards are great: the artists get to share their work with new audiences while being engaged by their peers in the process, and the audiences get to see work by up-and-comers who rarely voyage beyond their immediate horizons.

Jacinte Armstrong presents Falling Off the Page, which she performs with the always stunning Susanne Chui. Inspired by calligraphy and being in the present, this is a gorgeous piece that features two superb dancers well-tuned to each others presence. The work was originally presented via the Kinetic Studio’s Exploration program and featured a series of film installations by Jeff Wheaton. Check out a short video: Small Brushes by Jeff Wheaton (From Falling Off the Page)

From Quebec City comes Maryse Damecour with another exceptionally performed duet from a gifted young dance maker. Damecour’s work straddles the boundaries between dance and theatre and plays with notions of identity, fear and solitude.

Dorian Nuskin-Oder made her way to Montreal via New York, and now calls la Belle province home. Interested by the power that cinema holds over our visual landscape, she is fascinated by the idea of re-purposing film/ideas as a method for framing and contextualising her choreography.

Three sharp works full of punch; I can’t wait to see them onstage together! Check out the show, April 25-27 at the Sir James Dunn Theatre.

You never know what you’re going to find when you go digging. A few years ago I began filtering the dirt in my back yard to put in a garden… I dug up so much stuff: broken bottles (Minard’s linament anyone?), car parts, claw feet from a bathtub (the fourth must still be out there somewhere), rusty nails, and clunkers galore… Someone told me my neighbourhood had been filled in with the rubble from the Halifax Explosion, and seeing as how our house was built in 1917, I suspect they’re bang on.

On the surface, everything was pretty (well, pretty overgrown is more accurate) and gave no indication whatsoever of what lay beneath the surface. Like in the photo below… this used to be a parking lot up until a few days ago. Who would have known beneath its dilapidated surface lay the residue of some former life? But there it is, a foundation upon which something, at some point in time, was built.

I began thinking about what we see and what we don’t see when the back hoes first started unearthing these bricks and mortar. Perhaps because Live Art Dance is currently involved in a project that is all about foundations, and revealing a little of what’s hidden behind the facades we’re accustomed to looking at.

This week, from Sept. 3-7, along with The Room, we have assembled a stellar crew of artists and facilitators to explore the creative process: Choreographers Jacinte Armstrong, Deborah Dunn, and Lisa Phinney; composers/musicians Erin Donovan, Geordie Haley, and Lukas Pearse; media/spoke word artists Nick Rudnicki, Tim Tracey, and Ardath Whynacht; and dancers Rhonda Baker, Miriah Brennan, Susanne Chui, and Elise Vanderborght; and facilitators Kathy Casey and Don Rieder. Their research will culminate on each of three nights in a series of performances (check out STIR in the 22nd Atlantic Fringe Festival), but what we’re really interested in is the foundation, all that bricks and mortar stuff hidden beneath the surface. As audience members we’re privileged to walk into theatres, galleries, etc and be able to witness works of art in its polished glory. Rarely are we afforded a tour of foundation, the blood and guts struggle of wrestling ideas into some coherent form of creative expression. STIR is all about this: Artists assembling ideas, laying brick upon brick and seeing how it can all stick together to support some magnificent ultimate thing.

Bring your curiosity and $7 to the Park Place Theatre (Point Pleasant Drive, Lower Parking lot (home of Shakespeare by the Sea))) Sept 5-7 at 8PM. Shucks, bring an extra fiver so you can have a beer with the artists and share your thoughts about what you saw.

Forget wood, tin, crystal and china. Forget about silver. Live Art Dance has been absolutely rockin’ it since our silver anniversary five years ago and we’re still tearing up the carpet now that we’ve hit Pearl (30).

What a nice run we’ve been enjoying these past seasons: a bunch of world premieres (BJM Danse, SiNS Collective, Lisa Phinney, Mocean Dance, & George Stamos), La La La Human Steps’ and O Vertigo’s first visits to Atlantic Canada, increased subscriptions and single ticket sales, a generous new sponsors’ circle, and lots of new buzz about what we’re doing. That all this growth has taken place during a time of recession economic downturn is all the more exciting, but maybe it shouldn’t be: smart guy Andrew Terris quipped to me (in the not-so-distant past) that increased attendance at contemporary dance events during times of economic hardship has been documented. Who’d a thunkit?

Well, now that we are thinking of it, why shouldn’t it be so? If a picture = 1000 words, dance is a 3D live moving beast of a communicator that can tap into our senses in ways well beyond the capabilities of static images and words. In a world full of Harpernomics, media-spin, texting, tweeting, & economic disparity, perhaps people want to tap into something meaningful that expresses our humanity, stimulates our imagination, inspires us, and makes us FEEL!

Or, maybe more people just want an escape from reality…

Whatever the reason, Live Art Dance’s audience has been growing steadily since our Silver anniversary and, at the same time, (is there any correlation?!?) dance is increasingly being used to communicate complex ideas from the worlds of science, business, and art. Is dance the new truth? Should we forget about language and just go for the guts? What would a tweet look like as a dance? How about a scientific theory? John Bohannon offers an example in his Ted Talk:

John Bohannon: Dance vs. powerpoint, a modest proposal

And, how about the 2011 winner from the Dance your Phd contest:

Microstructure-Property relationships in Ti2448 components produced by Selective Laser Melting: A Love Story

If you want to learn more about dance, and how dance can help you communicate with the world around you, I have one Pearl of Wisdom to share: check out Live Art Dance Productions’ 30th season. We’re sure to grow on you!

I was happy to take in the Wit’s End production Science In Action at the Bus Stop Theatre last night. Griffin McInnes wrote and directed this humourous two-hander and, with partner Liz Johnston, assembled a crack team of collaborators to create the environment within which the action takes place. A modern day love story set against a back drop of televisions, the show reminds me of why every city with an active theatre/dance/performance community needs a Bus Stop Theatre. While Science In Action could be called a low budget show it must be understood that such terms are relative. While that wall of TV’s probably didn’t cost a bundle – experience tells me Griffin’s pretty resourceful – Nick Bottomley’s video musings that inhabit their screens probably did. The point I want to make is that even those shows where half of everything is cobbled together for free and the performers agree to work for a slice of the door (not saying that’s the case here, just that it happens), there are still bills to pay. Combine that with the challenge of attracting an audience willing to lay some dough on the table and I really wonder at the patience and perseverance required to develop talent.

Cue the Bus Stop Theatre… The Bus Stop offers two things I believe are thoroughly necessary to the ongoing success of a theatre/dance/performance community in a city like Halifax. 1) It’s affordable. Yes, you still have to pay rent, but no where near as much as you’d pay in a formal, established venue, AND you get plugged into the city’s funky underbelly; 2) It’s the right scale. Last night the theatre was for all intents and purposes sold out to the 40 or so people in attendance. We got an interesting experience in an intimate setting that felt wonderfully exclusive. Transplant those 40 people into a 150 seat house and all of a sudden the costs have gone up, the house feels empty, and the immediacy is gone.

New works by artists at all stages of development need spaces like the Bus Stop to develop their chops and grow their public.

Walking into the theatre bar/lobby last night, owner Clare Waqué’s always pleasant greeting from behind the bar makes own feel immediately at home… Props to Wit’s End for pulling off a solid production, and a big shout out to the Bus Stop Theatre for being there!

Saturday June 16 marked the final day of the 25th edition of the Canada Dance Festival and it was a doozy: Adelheid (Heidi Strauss) at 4pm at La Nouvelle Scène, Mayday (Mélanie Demers) at 7pm in the NAC Studio, and TDT at 8:30 in the NAC Theatre. I was also planning on seeing Sylvie Desrosiers at the Arts Court space earlier but closing down the festival bar the night before, combined with the departure of all my grrls, made for a late start to the day.

Playing on the final day is never easy… all the conferencey stuff is over so audiences are beginning to thin out; those that are still there, les durs des durs, are beginning to get saturated. For me, watching my partner and daughters jump in a cab and head off for the bus station was the beginning of the end. All of a sudden time shifted. Children demand that we be present in the moment and their departure created a vacuum in which I momentarily drifted…

I came back to the timed world  with a great Holy sh*t! I’ve got 15 minutes to get to La Nouvelle Scène (I’d normally want 30 minutes to do that walk)! Aaargh, what to do? Keep drifting? No, you can do it… go go go! Out the door I head for a forced march in the Ottawa heat. I got to the theatre just in time and collapsed sweatily into a chair. I had heard Heidi pitch this work in Toronto a few years ago and was looking forward to her contemplation on relationships. The audience sat facing each other from two sides with the performers dancing between, almost like an arena. A pair of excellent dancers (Justine Chambers and Brendan Wyatt) performed and, well, I just couldn’t get into it. Blame the brilliant day outside, blame the last day of the festival… I struggled to keep any sort of focus. In all fairness, I don’t think anything would have held my attention, what I really needed was to be drifting in nap time. But that said, and because someone commented I was being hard, I do want to say that relationships are messy, they’re full of struggle and huge emotions that boil over as well as exquisite loving that reduces us to absolute stillness. I didn’t get a sense of any of that in Strauss’ this time, it came across as very safe in a well-scripted kind of way. The staging with white screens at the base of the risers didn’t help, making it seem like an operating theatre as opposed to one in which blood sports happen.

After some quiet time with a bottle of wine, I made it back to the NAC for Demers’ Junkyard/Paradise. Now here was a messy, complicated show… Demers draws huge parallels between media/show biz/politics while looking at nature/nurture issues not to mention some barbs in the direction of consumerism. Whew! Did I say it was messy? I’ve been the technician cleaning up after artists and have more than once felt abused by the relationship (ie. I’ll go onstage and make a mess and you clean up after me!) Technicians are the unsung heroes of the performing arts. The old technician saying goes: When there’s a problem, we’re the first to hear about it; when everything goes smoothly, we hear nothing. As a technician, I always hoped the artist’s idea was rich in merit and well considered. In such cases, technicians should be ready to do anything to support the work. I hope the NAC technicians, after ten days of non-stop crazy schedules recognise that Melanie’s work had merit and was well considered! (For the record I’ve had to deal with waaaaay worse! A pair of live eels anyone? How ’bout a room full of bunnies and their poop? But those were performance artists…)

The big finale, Toronto Dance Theatre’s Rivers closed the festival and it was lovely. Pianist Christina Petrowska Quilico played a suite of Ann Southam compositions and TDT Artistic Director/Choreographer, Christopher House, adroitly captured the essence of a river in all its ebbs and flows and eddies and rapids and calm soothing pools. Naishi Wang, who was creepily stunning in Jean Sebastien Lourdais’ work earlier in the week, is exquisite to watch. The guy has a level of precision, flow, and presence that are captivating: at one point he dances a duet that highlight Christopher House at his very best. Having just closed my own season with a superbly crafted dance/music collaboration, it was wonderful to see another richly successful collaboration.

Queue the end music! To the Fountain Room we retired for one more go ’round of $8 drinks (where did my perdiem go?) I love the Canada Dance Festival: it is the only chance we have as a national dance community to gather and share our stories. Love ’em, hate ’em, or get uncaringly left in between, the dance professionals that make up our community from coast to coast to coast are working their butts off under circumstances that are less than desirable. Somehow, in spite of all the hard work and impossible odds, people are making things happen and getting it out there. Following the TDT show (On my way up to once again close the bar in the Fountain Room) I stopped with some colleagues to read the Dance Manifesto. Yes, people, that’s right, a manifesto exists!

When I think about arts and culture today, I can’t help but think about politics. If politicians truly cared about the long-term economic well-being of their constituents they would invest in cultural and scientific research. (for the record I only use the term “economic well-being” cuz that seems to be the catch phrase of the moment.) So much research has been done that illustrates the benefits (read: cost savings!) of healthy and creative minds and bodies… but that’s for another post. Long Live Dance in Canada! Long Live the Canada Dance Festival!!

Sometimes life conspires against our most ardent wishes… Last night was my most anticipated night of the Canada Dance Festival… Halifax’s Lisa Phinney in the NAC Studio at 7pm followed by Vancouver’s 605 Collective in the Theatre at 8:30. I was really looking forward to seeing Phinney’s Analogy for Solid Bones again (Live Art Dance premiered this work a few years ago), and who wasn’t looking forward to 605’s full length sophomore effort?

So there we were, the whole family: my six-year old, Clara, looking forward to seeing her maman dance, Elise’s maman Chantal, en voyage avec nous to help take care of the kids, my buddy Scott, in from Montreal to catch some of the fest, and my beautiful baby Camille, firmly strapped onto my chest in the snuggly. This wasn’t going to be Camille’s first show – some of you will remember her rapt attention in Rebecca Lazier’s gutsy work, Coming Together/Attica – but alas, tonight things weren’t looking good. As soon as the she was strapped into the snuggly the hiccups started… as soon as the lights went to black the protest started… How was she to know that all maman’s absences, the reason papa has been her daily companion these past 4 months, were about this night tonight, this coming hour. Performances are live, never to be reproduced, and Sweet Life intervenes as it will. I’m bummed I missed the show but wouldn’t trade this for anything!

I heard the show went off well and many people approached me to tell me that Elise was absolutely stunning. I wish I could have seen it. If you did, and you’re reading this, please share your thoughts!

On to 605 Collective… I love these guys. Their work Audible closed Live Art’s season last year and they absolutely rocked it: Fun work full of humour with totally infectious ensemble work. Everyone wants to see where they will go next… Enter Inheritor Album, their brand new full length work that received its World Premiere Friday night.

It was amazing to see (this relatively) young company on the NAC Theatre stage, and 605 deserves big props for thoroughly taking advantage of its size (stage) & technical capacity. So nice to see how access to resources can translate into such superb production values. Presented almost as a series of vignettes – let’s call them songs – Inheritor Album begins in dynamic fashion with the aforementioned exquisite ensemble work (they were 6) that has earned 605 Collective so much attention. Their super-grounded, push-pull, urban dance style is at its best here: the connection between dancers is thoroughly exhilarating to watch and we realise they can’t do this alone – the whole group is required to make it work. Perhaps this comes from the street dance cypher, where everyone feeds off the circle’s energy to push each other to new heights. But where street battling often focuses on individual competition, 605 uses this energy to elevate the whole, and this is perhaps one of the strongest underlying messages in this work: we advance collectively or we don’t advance.

This was show #8 for me (well, number seven I guess) and an overall festival theme began taking form in my mind while watching: we live in turbulent times! So many of the works were built on ideas of stress or tension or being adrift in a sea of anonymity and Inheritor Album is no different. The lighting was on the dark side, at least in a can’t-see-their-faces kind of way, leading a simultaneous deconstruction of the individual and construction of the clan. There are some truly striking moments in this 65 minute work, but the youth of their creative collective gets revealed as the show progresses. Maybe I’m being unfair – this crew IS truly mesmerizing at times – and am a prisoner of the high expectations I carried into the show. But… take away the wonderful production values, strip away that great big stage and I think weaknesses in the overall choreographic structure would become more apparent. Is this something that time and distance can resolve? I think so. World premieres are difficult but they give artists great ideas about how to move forward. The 605 Collective has many people in their corner and I have every confidence they are like the proverbial big cheese or fine wine: with the passing of time they’re only going to get better!

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