Undressing the Dance Dialogue #1 (Sept. 25th, 2015)

Last month, Dancers’ Studio West presented the 34th Annual Alberta Dance Festival: The Fate of Dance. This year’s festival theme was chance.

Under the direction of Artistic Director Davida Monk, choreographers were invited to embrace how chance limitations can bring freedom and inspiration to the creation of new works. The Fate of Dance focused on chance operations and strategies at all levels of the experience, from the beginnings of the creative process, to final choreographic refinements, to productions values as well as those that address the audience experience.

Over two weeks of performance, audiences experienced 13 new works from contemporary dance choreographers.

Each night of performance, a lucky audience member drew a choreographer’s name, selecting them to be part of a chance experiment. The chance experiment sa that chosen choreographer’s dancers perform their work twice, once with the original music, then again to alternative music picked by their music advisor. The experiment was not only entertaining, but also insightful with regards to the possibilities inherent within the creative process.
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Chance Operations in Dance Creation and Performance in the Fate of Dance 34th Annual Alberta Dance Festival

Week one choreographer Sylvie Moquin described the chance elements as being very exciting. Moquin said she felt encouraged by the chance elements to dig deeper into her own process and work.

On this theme of exploration, Nicole Charlton, a week two choreographer, shared with the group that her process saw several music changes. The numerous changes to the music, Charlton noted, were immensely informative.

“Every piece that I used helped inform the final work,” said Charlton to the group. “It brought out different key elements within the piece that became important based on the score, and things I didn’t necessarily realize should be highlighted, or needed to highlighted, in the piece.”

Music advisor Babur Tongur expressed that he would have liked to have seen the dance pieces performed in silence, then with the music chosen by the choreographer, then finally with the alternative music to see if what one feels within the movement is brought out more by the music or changed by the music.

Flamenco dance artist Rosanna Terracciano, another week two choreographer, thought it was interesting to sit and have this discussion with the group about what creation can be. No doubt, the group was keen on discussing the possibilities inherent within the creative process, an exercise Robin Tufts was happy to see take place.

“I think in this particular experiment the most important thing to me is that it made everybody question the big ‘why?’ question in every thing we did,” said Tufts. “One of the big questions I think artists avoid asking is, why are we doing this? Why am I making this choice or the other? Why do I want to be in the theatre? We don’t ask the why question enough. We just get down to working.”

“The chance elements gives us an opportunity, when interjected into the process, to ask those questions while we’re creating the work,” he concluded.

Ilkim Tongur had a similar thought concerning the chance elements.

“I’d like to touch on the difference between space and time, “said Tongur, a music advisor. “Space as dance, time as being the music. When you change one element, you change the entire perspective of the thing, creating a healthy distance for the choreographer to see their work in a different light.”

What can be taken away from this brief exchange (of a much larger discussion) is that the group was fascinated by the positive disruption caused by the introduction of chance elements. The chance elements illuminated new directions, which one may have not seen or considered before, by imposing new perspectives to approach the work from. That change is necessary, as Charlton and Ilkim remarked, for artists who might trap themselves and the potential of their work in their process. Artists, however, are not the only ones who benefit from chance elements.

Introducing chance elements during a performance may be risky, if not terrifying, but they bring the audience into a new dialogue with the work. The creative process is made visible to the audience. Laid out, the audience can further dissect the choreographer’s intent, ask questions about their choice of music, and what impact its absence (and total absence) has on the meaning of the work. It is one thing to witness a performance, think about what one has seen, then ponder other directions the work might have taken, and another to see those possibilities, albeit a short range, play on stage in real time.

And so, the introduction of chance elements ultimately opens new doors of discovery. And in that journey towards new dimensions of creativity, there lies rewards for both the audience and the artist.
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The 34th Annual Alberta Dance Festival: The Fate of Dance ran September 10 & 11, 17-19, 2015 at the Victor Mitchell Theatre (Pumphouse Theatres).

Join us Sunday, Oct. 25th for our second Undressing the Dance Dialogue.
This month’s topic is the 2015 Fluid Festival.
Artistic Director & Curator Nicole Mion will be joining our discussion about the Fluid Festival, now in its 10th year.

Where: Gravity Espresso & Wine Bar
When: Sunday, Oct. 25th, 11:00am – 1:00pm
FREE

Seating is limited.
RSVP: communications@dswlive.ca