York flavours indie dance festival

York University has a strong presence at this year’s annual Fringe Festival of Independent Dance Artists, better known as fFIDA. The festival, which began Aug. 11 and continues until Aug. 22, is staged in Toronto at venues in and around the historic Distillery District. The event will showcase works by more than 70 choreographers from across Canada, the US, Japan, Spain and the UK. Among this international line-up of talent is a dynamic core of York University alumni and faculty.

The centrepiece of this year’s festival was the Grande Scale Gala, a catered fFIDA fundraiser, held in the Fermenting Room in the Distillery District on Aug. 19. One of the performers featured in the gala was York University alumna Andrea Nann (BFA ’88), who performed a new solo titled Meditation #5: On Loss and Desire.

Meditation #5: On Loss and Desire is a solo inspired by a passage from the prologue to Michael Ondaatje’s powerful novel Anil’s Ghost. The dance is performed to an electro-acoustic composition emerging from the elemental metaphors of the novel,” explains Nann. “Composer Anne Bourne has created a series of pieces for solo voice and cello with me, Meditations #1-#5. These performance pieces delve into themes of grief and love, life and inner strength, and offer a field for viewers/listeners to reflect on their own losses and ecstasies.”

Left: Andrea Nann

Born in Vancouver, Nann currently lives and works in Toronto as a choreographer, performer and teacher. As a choreographer and director of Dreamwalker Productions since 1998, Nann has collaborated with poets, authors, musicians, visual artists and filmmakers to create dances for stage, film and video. She was a member of the Danny Grossman Dance Company from 1988-2003, creating and performing over 35 original roles with celebrated Canadian choreographers, including Rachel Browne, Patricia Beatty, Peter Chin, Emmanuel Jouthe and Bill James. She is currently collaborating with West Coast artist Wayne Ngan and dancers Alison Denham and Kate Holden to create a new production INK, which will premier in western Canada this summer.

Other Yorkies who will have their choreography featured this weekend as part of fFIDA’s mainstage series include Tracey Norman, Naoko Murakoshi and Lucie Carmen Gregoire.

York alumna Tracey Norman has choreographed an orginal piece titled 14 Stairs; 1 Window (world premiere) which will be performed on Aug. 20 at 7pm. Repeat performances will take place on Aug. 21 at 2pm and Aug. 22 at 9pm. The venue is the Dancemaker’s Centre for Creation, The Cannery Studio, #313 in the Distillery District.

Norman graduated from York University with a BFA in dance in 2003. Her last piece was shown at the Season Finale of Series 8:08, a choreographic performance workshop, held May 13-15 at the Dancemaker’s Studio in Toronto. Her other works have been presented at Celebrate Toronto Street Festival, fFIDA 2003, Junction Arts Festival, Series 8:08 and Small Potatoes Series. She is currently dancing in a work by choreographer Kerry Rathje.

Over the course of her career, Norman discovered that the word “home”‘ means many different things to different people. Norman said, “Where we come from geographically, environmentally and genetically shapes our relationships with others. 14 Stairs; 1 Window involves three women with different ideas of home who share a home together for a time. The exploration will be somewhat personal for the performers, as it draws on their own thoughts and stories of homes that exist for them as buildings, people, communities, feelings and more. The text is original and the music is an original composition for violin by Kousha Nakhaei.”

Naoko Murakoshi is a part-time faculty member in York University’s Department of Dance. Originally from Japan, Murakoshi has been performing in Canada and abroad for more than 20 years. She was a member of Toronto Dance Theatre for eight consecutive seasons, touring across Canada and internationally. Her choreography has been presented at SELANE, Seven for Seven productions, fFIDA, Salon de Gold in Tokyo, Dance Meeting in Nagoya and other venues. This summer her new work Camellia premiered at New National Theatre in Tokyo.

Right: Naoka Murakoshi

Murakoshi will present her silence softly breaks (premiered in Toronto in 2003).  Murakoshi said, “I created this work for Aurora Dance. My inspiration was simply a dancer’s body language. Through the process of creating, the poem She Tries Her Tongue, Her Silence Softly Breaks by Nourbese Philip, came into my mind. I asked her permission to use a line from the poem as the title of this piece. It became a piece about women’s inner voice which, among us, can share across races or cultures.”

Murakoshi’s work will be featured on Aug. 21 at 7pm and Aug. 22 at 4pm at the  Dancemaker’s Centre for Creation, The Cannery Studio, #313.

Lucie Carmen Gregoire graduated from York University with a BFA in dance in 2003. This year, she has co-created a fFIDA performance piece with musician Jeremy Gamache and choreographer Marysol Horion, titled Perçu (Toronto premiere; premiered in Montreal in May 2004).

The other Yorkies who have helped to fill stages and punctuate the cobblestone crannies of the Distillery District with imaginative pieces during the festival are Dominique Chartrand, Kerry Rathje, Gdalit-Ariella Neuman, Samara Thompson, Jennifer Robichaud and Nicole Bemister-Lardino.

Dominique Chartrand graduated from York University with an BA (Honours) in dance in 2000, then mounted her first professional site-specific choreography in North Bay called Nanoot. It received a creativity grant from the Laidlaw Foundation. She subsequently moved to Montreal where she taught, choreographed and performed in fFIDA 2001. In 2002, she left Montreal to attend the University of Oregon to pursue her MFA in dance, where she is currently working on her dance concert and thesis.

Chartrand’s fFIDA presentation is titled Disjunction (Toronto premiere; premiered in Eugene, Oregon, in 2003).

Kerry Rathje graduated from York University with a BFA in dance in 2003. As a member of the 2002-2003 York Dance Ensemble, Rathje was able to work with guest choreographers such as York adjunct professor Danny Grossman and York alumni Motaz Kabbani and Andrea Nann. She performed in Tracey Norman’s We Fill Up at this year’s fFIDA and in Norman’s work Waving from the Inside, presented in the Series 8:08 Season Finale in May 2004. Her choreographic accomplishments include Apocalypse (2001), Voices from the Piilu (2002) and In Case I Remember (2003). Her fFIDA presentation is titled Red and Blonde Roots (Toronto premiere 2004).

Gdalit-Ariella Neuman is currently enrolled in her third-year in York University’s dance program where she is completing a joint degree with the National Ballet School’s Teacher Training Program. Neuman’s fFIDA presentation is titled Adam’sapple (world premiere).

Samara Thompson began her career in Alberta before earning her BFA (Honours) in 1995 and MA in 2002 in dance at York University. An independent choreographer and dance educator, she is specializing in the use of computer technology with modern dance. Thompson has also trained in the US and has performed works by Dana Reitz, Carol Anderson (BA Hons. ’73), Chuck Davis and Trish Armstrong. She has been a guest instructor at York as well as the University of Windsor, George Brown College and Medicine Hat College. She is a co-host and technician on CIUT FM 89.5’s Evi-Dance, and serves on the board of directors of Dance Ontario. This is her fifth season presenting work at fFIDA. Thompson’s presentation is titled See Through Me (world premiere).

Jennifer Robichaud and Nicole Bemister-Lardino each graduated from York University with a BFA in dance in 2002. They contribute to the arts community as dance educators, performers and emerging choreographers. Through their training, they have had the opportunity to work and study with York University dance professor Holly Small and guest choreographers Matjash Mrowzewski and Michael Sean Marye. Their co-performance credits include Series 8:08 Finale 2004, Moving Pictures 2003, Dusk Dances 2003, An Evening of Artistic Empowerment 2003, fFIDA 2002, York Dance Ensemble 2002 and numerous corporate events. Their co-presentation is titled The Larchaud Project.

Visit the fFIDA Web site for more information about performances and venues.