Jan. 02, 2013 - Issue #898: Apocalypse Not?
A year in dance saw touring highs and lows around a galvanizing local scene
Though 2012 looked to start out on a high note with La La La Human Steps taking the Jubilee stage for the first time in over a decade last January, the first major dance show of the year turned out a resounding flop. Poor lighting, lacklustre presentation, I can't say what it was exactly, but considering it was one of the most anticipated dance performances of this writer's lifetime, La La La's Untitled was spectacularly unmemorable.
What was memorable was the preview interview with La La La's artistic director, Édouard Lock. He had some stark, surprising things to say about producing dance for the past 30-some years, notably this:
"You can never coast on a reputation for more than one piece. People will give you a one-piece pass. 'OK, maybe the last one was good, but you might have screwed up on this one—try it again next time.' Really you're always in a fragile state; there is no stability that is not earned without having to be re-earned constantly."
Tough love, from a man who's seen his fair share of reviews, nasty and otherwise.
The year chugged on, with advertisements and images for Swan Lake being plastered everywhere throughout March. Alberta Ballet's production was great, the music—as always—greater. The truly great Kidd Pivot closed out the year in November with her stunning The Tempest Replica, proving once again that dance and well-produced theatre can make the best of friends.
Among the season's regular offerings, a letter arrived at Vue's offices this Spring, copied to all major print outlets in Edmonton. It was from a group of local dancers, choreographers and collectives, and it pleaded the case for increasing dance coverage, going beyond the preview format and running reviews of dance despite its short one-to-two show runs.
"Previews do not do enough to educate our community, increase audiences, or bring dance discourse to the public. We see this as the role of print media," the letter stated.
Among other things, this highlighted how the dance scene has galvanized in recent years, with more dancers calling Edmonton home—and their voices are increasingly being heard, onstage and off.
Our city now boasts a handful of contemporary co-ops and talented choreographers, an up-and-coming neo-classical ballet company, a festival dedicated to movement arts, world-class East Indian dancers, groups of B-boys and B-girls, a groundswell of Burlesque troupes and what is likely the world's largest and most prolific Ukrainian dance community outside of Ukraine itself.
Still, the dance organizations that most in Edmonton are aware of are Alberta Ballet (based in Calgary) and the Brian Webb Dance Company (which usually programs artists from elsewhere).
If anything, you've got to admire the tenacity of any artist that produces here. As an audience member, I appreciate the risks and vulnerability shown on stages year-round, and can only hope that Edmonton's artists continue to surprise me—just as Noam Gagnon did at the Expanse Movement Arts Festival in March (no, he's not from 'round here either).
In his crumply fairy tale-style paper dress and strikingly honest storytelling in Thank You, You're Not Welcome, Gagnon's was the keynote piece of the year for me. He was also the only interviewee that (playfully) threatened my life in the past cycle:
"I would have to kill you if I told you," he says in response to a question about the autobiographical contents in his work. "I know where you live, too. I'll find you. You have no idea."
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