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Maverick dance artists bring the unconventional to showcase

Not all dance is made for a stage. That’s why a group of contemporary dance artists created alternative performances for Dance…

By Brittany Duggan , in City , on November 26, 2015

Robert Leveroos, Darcy McMurray and Amy Woods in a small piece of the sky by Mirna Rosner and prophecy sun as part of the Choreography Walk directed by Justine Chambers

Not all dance is made for a stage.

That’s why a group of contemporary dance artists created alternative performances for Dance in Vancouver last week, taking to hotel lounges, parks, and unused doorways while the showcase event went on in a traditional venue.

It was their way of participating in an event that mostly focuses on dance made for stage, which leaves many others out.

“There are people who wouldn’t necessarily be included in that cohort of folks who get the major theatre shows,” said Naomi Brand, a local choreographer and performer. “There is dance that doesn’t necessarily fit into that kind of way of engaging with presenters and audiences.

This year, artists created “off-stage” events to better represent the range of contemporary dance being made in the city. These events allowed dance artists who were not selected by DIV to share their work.

Naomi Brand in This is a Full Length, a Justine Chambers project for Dance in Vancouver 2015

One of the artists spearheading these additional events was Justine Chambers, who creates site-specific and experiential work.

Her project, Choreography Walk, was a procession that wove through Vancouver’s downtown streets. Those on the walk, as well public in the vicinity, witnessed seven dances at various locations and encountered acts of unplanned choreography such as the sideways steps taken to accommodate oncoming pedestrians or the flows of people through a weekend street festival.

“It is a moment for all involved to engage in embodied practice, to ask what structures – political, social or physical – act upon the body in public space and how the body can act upon the structures,” said Chambers, who was influenced by the Vancouver Soundwalks of the 1970s.

Chambers also organized a series of site-specific performances entitled This is a Full Length, which featured 11 five-minute dances in an unused doorway around the corner from The Dance Centre’s main entrance, where the mainstage events were held.

Justine Chambers on her Choreography Walk

“The call to artists was ‘First come, first served.’ It is a very diverse group of artists,” said Chambers. The dancers who weren’t chosen to be in the main DIV event tended to be emerging artists or new in town or their work isn’t made for a stage, according to Chambers and colleague Deanna Peters.

Peters contributed to the Choreography Walk, an installation with Chambers recognizing female choreographers and a performance with musician Ben Brown in the Holiday Inn lounge on Granville Street.

Mirna Zager, executive director of the The Dance Centre and organizer of DIV, is aware that local dance includes more than the established and traditional.

“Younger voices and different cultures are coming to the forefront. We have seen steady growth in the community, which is quite dynamic.”

Part of acknowledging this changing nature of dance and dance presentation was inviting Chambers to be one of The Dance Centre’s artists-in-residence next year – moving her alternative work into the heart of dance in Vancouver.

For Chambers, that’s a sign of progress.

“My work questions how dance production can be and to expand that definition. Vancouver is an easy place to propose new ideas. It has a young dance community, fewer institutions. There’s room for other things to happen.”