With sources of inspiration ranging from African textiles to the digital fabric of social media, the eight choreographers in York University’s Master of Fine Arts Program in Dance bring their thesis research to the stage in Now h e r e. The show, featuring a selection of original, self-choreographed, autobiographical solos, runs Oct. 24 to 26 in the McLean Performance Studio, 244 Accolade East Building on York’s Keele campus.
Ruth Levin. Photograph by Konstantina Photography
“In Now h e r e, the dance artists are presenting the outcomes of their own bodies’ memories: their cultures, identities and technologies; their wishes, dreams and potential; their fears and their personal power,” said Professor Darcey Callison, director of the graduate program in Contemporary Choreography and Dance Dramaturgy. “Scholar Harvie Ferguson wrote that ‘all history is the history of the body’. These choreographers are interpreting the histories of their bodies for the stage.”
Patrizia Gianforcaro’s work This & That was created as a collaborative project between the choreographer and her artistic community in a process she calls ‘audience dramaturgy’. Utilizing her body, movement and technology, the piece is her invitation to the audience to get to know her. In the course of her dance career, Gianforcaro has worked with companies such as Cirque Du Soleil, the Chimera Project, the Dance Migration and Cadence Ballet, and has toured Europe, South America and the US. As a performer, she has appeared in works by many leading choreographers, including Marie Jose Chartier, Roberto Campanella, Malgorzata Nowacka, Newton Moreas and Debra Brown.
A performer, educator and advocate of injury-free dance conditioning, Sharon Harvey (BFA ’00) has worked with choreographers Holly Small and Vivine Scarlet, and has appeared with Badu Dance Theatre and Ballet Creole. Her piece, Behind the Eyes of a Venus, is a duet for dancer and fabric. Steeped in traditional African storytelling, the work uses colour, symbols, beading and textured fabric to initiate the physicality of movement.
Michelle McClelland’s My Technicolour Playmate is grounded in her research on the kinesthetic effect that technology has on children in an age of increasing technological consumption. Through this work, the choreographer considers how television, electronic toys and video games affected her movement as she was growing up. A student of dance for more than 15 years, McClelland also holds a BA in film & media and English literature from the Queen’s University’s International Study Centre at Herstmonceux Castle, England.
Ruth Levin’s poetic description of her solo, Drag, reads: “Sensing the weight and feel of our garments /Awareness brings freedom to undress.” A graduate of the School of Toronto Dance Theatre, Levin’s creative work focuses on the study of the human experience. Deepening her research for the past six years with a dedicated spiritual practice, she uses the studio and stage to bring her insights to life.
John Ottmann’s Flesh and A Broken Whisper, to be performed by alumna Justine Comfort (BFA ’13), takes inspiration from the fact that a number of creatures are able to physically divide their bodies to survive predation. Ottman feels that people too can split themselves, but only, in the words of Polish poet Wislawa Szimborska, “into flesh and poetry. The throat on one side, laughter on the other, quiet, quickly dying out”. As a performer, Ottmann has appeared with numerous companies including the National Ballet of Canada, Ballet BC, Mascall Dance, Fortier Danse Créations and Holy Body Tattoo. He has choreographed more than 20 pieces and his work has been shown at the Canada Dance Festival, Vancouver International Dance Festival and Montreal’s Fringe Festival, among others.
Justine Comfort performs in John Ottmann’s Flesh and A Broken Whisper
In All My Colours, Valerie Calam mines a deep energy that can be carried through physicality. She uses ‘states of the body’ as a path towards being embodied and present onstage. Calam was a member of Toronto Dance Theatre from 1999 to 2009, and more recently has performed with Les Productions Figlio, Coleman Lemieux & Compagnie, ProArteDanza and The Dietrich Group. She has been presenting her own choreography in Toronto since 1997, and recently formed Company Vice Versa as an umbrella for her work in choreography, sound design and dance video.She is the 2011 winner of the KM Hunter Award for Dance and a four-time Dora Award nominee.
Embodying settlement in constant movement, Maria Victoria Mata’s solo Lejania (Distant) explores the sensation and meaning of “home”. Inspired by the choreographer’s memories of Venezuela, the piece investigates performance of cultural memory through mixed media and movement. A choreographer, dancer, muralist, urban planner and activist, Mata has developed and directed more than a dozen works that have been performed in New York, San Francisco, Caracas, El Salvador and Toronto. She is the co-founder of MataDanZe, a Toronto-based women’s dance and theatre collective, and has performed with Aluna Theatre for the past three years.
Marie France Forcier’s amusingly titled Little Guidebook for Using your Suffering Wisely explores the expression of trauma in contemporary choreography. The choreographer shares, with a humorous twist, selected incidents of her life to date, while simultaneously building an explanatory chart onstage. Forcier is the artistic director of Forcier Stage Works, where her productions have included Lab Rats, Nucleus, Passageways to Diluted Happiness and Facts of Influence for the DanceWorks CoWorks Series. Her work has also been presented in venues across Canada as well as in the US, France, India and China.
Callison serves as artistic director of Now h e r e. Professor William Mackwood is the director of design.
Admission to the show is $20 for the general public, $15 for York University alumni, and $12 for students, seniors and arts workers. Tickets are available through the Fine Arts Box Office online, in person or by calling 416-736-5888.