York alumna receives award for her dance creation

Choreographer Samara Thompson, who earned an Hons. BFA in 1995 in dance and an MA in 2002 from York University, received the 2004 Paula Citron fFIDA Award for her creation See Through Me. The York alumna and dancer Jesse Dell (BFA ’03) performed Thompson’s piece, a duet with the projection of a computer-generated faceless dancing figure, at the Fringe Festival of Independent Dance Artists (fFIDA) held in Toronto last week. (See the Aug. 20 issue of YFile.) Paula Citron, a freelance writer who contributes dance articles to The Globe and Mail and Toronto Life magazine, established the annual award.

Left: Samara Thompson

An elated Thompson said, “I am thrilled and honoured to have received the Paula Citron Award, and to be among the select group of dance artists who have been recognized previously for their achievement in choreography. This level of professional recognition was facilitated by the strong foundation provided by my educational experience at York University.”

Citron’s citation for Thompson reads: “Dancers have long been enthralled by technology, but many fall short of effective integration of the new toys into a dance piece. Samara L. Thompson has been brilliantly inventive in fusing the software Dance Forms into her delightful See Through Me, performed in charming fashion by the talented Jesse Dell.

“The work places Dell in front of a screen projecting a life-size, 3D animation character, and so the wonderful play on words, See Through Me, takes on many meanings during the quirky, cheeky duet between a dancer and a faceless body figure. The mirror images they create give Thompson’s dance piece its symbolic anchor. Dell is also ‘animated’ because she is alive, and her facial expressions dance as merrily as her body does. The real dancer, performing the same quicksilver movements as her animated self, is coy and ironic. The faceless figure may also have form, speed and virtuosity, but is bland and passionless, a virtual self that pales beside Dell’s charisma like a shadow.”

The citation continues, “Thompson’s clever choice of circus-inspired music by the Maarten Altena Ensemble and Quartetto Gelato is also filled with humour, matching Dell perfectly in her tongue-in-cheek execution. Thompson may have planned the choreography on the computer, but it was learned by Dell in the studio, where the dancer and choreographer had an intense human encounter.

“Dance Forms may be a useful tool, both as a starting point in generating movement ideas and as an ending point in terms of documentation, but the glorious middle is the live dancer. Without her, we have no dance, only the idea of one. Kudos to Thompson for also being her own animator and video editor.”

More about the Paula Citron Award

In 1996, Toronto dance critic Paula Citron inaugurated a prize to recognize the accomplishments of independent choreographers. She chose as the annual recipient, an artist participating in the fFIDA International Dance Festival because the event is the largest gathering of its kind in Canada. 

In creating the criteria for the award, Citron chose to use the word “recipient”, rather than “winner”, because this award is not about being the first among equals. Rather than separating out “the best” dance piece in an egalitarian festival, Citron’s criteria has been to choose a work that compels attention for any number of reasons (an impressive first choreography, highly sophisticated craftsmanship, difficult or unusual subject matter, innovative dance vocabulary, and so on). The object of the Paula Citron fFIDA Award is to congratulate an independent choreographer on his or her artistry in a world where recognition for the “indie” is few and far between.

York dance alumna Viv Moore (BFA ’90) of Toronto received the Paula Citron fFIDA Award in 1999.