World Dance Alliance: Bridging Communities and Cultures
World Dance Alliance is a large network, linking people from many countries, facilitating international exchanges and encouraging dialogue among all people in dance. It was the first time a Global World Dance Alliance Assembly was held in Toronto, Canada. The 6th Assembly took place on 17-21 July hosted by the York University Dance Department and the Society for Canadian Dance Studies, chaired by Mary Jane Warner. All activities took place in the recently opened Accolade East Building with proscenium theatre, eight studios, numerous lectures and seminar rooms. Over twenty two countries were represented by participants attending the Assembly, including dancers, choreographers, educators, researchers, writers, presenters, administrators, artistic directors, and others. The theme Dance/Diversity/Dialogue: Bridging Communities and Cultures ran through all threads of the Assembly. Each day was filled with both evening and lunch-time performances by over 30 dance companies and artists; specialist dance workshops; networking sessions; and presentations by over 100 speakers.
The performances with Canadian and International dance artists began with a spectacular opening ceremony featuring local dance groups in a series of circle dances. During the week it was possible to appreciate dance groups such as the African Dance Ensemble, a multi ethnic performing group, which aims at sharing the African traditional experience of dance, drumming and songs with the world. Eryn Dace Trudell and David Flewelling presented the Cosmopolit and Snuffelupagus duet, based on Contact Improvisation exploring the dynamic of caring for and attending to another individual’s physical and emotional needs.
The choreography, Elmer & Coyote, performed by the Karen Jamieson Dance Company with Byron Chief-Moon, caught my attention, since it was the first work with these artists performing together in a fusion of aboriginal story telling and post modern dance. The story was developed to reveal the dilemma of an aboriginal man in contemporary life and his initiation into a new state of awareness. Moreover, the theme of creation came full circle from the ancient timelessness of a creation myth to the absolute present of a contemporary creation. To see the performances by Debra Brown and Dancers, Troy Emery Twigg and many others artists from or based in Canada, gave us a sense of the dialogue into diversity.
Some of the dance companies present in the Assembly captured the viewers with their style of the dance or the virtuosity of the dancers. Such an example was, An Angel at my Table, performed by Dance Theatre Group Interact (Cyprus). In this choreography everything appeared to be in the right place: the scenario, costumes, music and dancers creating a sense of harmony and an atmosphere rarely found in contemporary dance. However, Tai Pei Dance Circle, (Taiwan), captivated the audience when they performed selected parts of their work, Olympics. This choreography presented dance as a sports event. The dancers were scantily dressed with baby oil on top of a transparent frictionless plastic carpet. They also waded elegantly like graceful water ballerinas, glided like skiers, and paused in moments of stillness resembling modern statues. In addition, during the lunch break it was possible to see Las Madres, a choreography presented by Danza Abend (Costa Rica), whose theme was on the feelings that accompany a mother after she loses a child to war or to an injustice.
For those looking for enjoyment, socializing, or an improved movement vocabulary, there was the workshop, Designing Classes for the Mature Dancer. In this class Wendy Chiles advised participants how to express themselves and create dance. But, for those interested in exploring many different possibilities the Embodiment: Butoh-based training and Improvisation workshop by Denise Fujiwara was the place where a single step could be simultaneously simple and sophisticated. Rhonda Ryman taught us how to make computer choreography fun and easy. Firstly pick a dancer, after that set a starting position and play with the timing, that was one of the many steps learnt in, Dance with DanceForms: creating & conserving choreography by computer. For more information look at www.danceforms.com. These were just a few examples of the many workshops carried out during the week, which closed with, Circles on the Silk Road: A Journey of Sacred Circle Dances by Sashar Zarif, that captived us with the mystical mood and joy of dance which can be a ritual and also tell a story.
Adrienne Kaeppler gave the keynote, titled, Ballet, Hula and Cats: Dance as a Discourse of Globalization. First of all, the speaker discussed how dance became an international word. She also questioned what happens when dance systems crossed the world. In comparing Ballet, Hula and Cats she argued that these became widely accepted as a system of movement. She concluded that the audience creates cultural meaning from its own conception of culture, and from this point of the view, dance became a global discourse.
The paper presentation sessions covered many themes and subjects, and almost all of the speakers had plenty of time to present and discuss the paper. Many sessions had a cultural context focus such as, Dance in the Americas, Canada, India and Asia, Iran and Turkey. I presented a paper as part of a session titled, ‘Community Connections’. The paper aimed to investigate the nature of dance and the implications for teaching youths and adults with blindness, and the teaching of dance in Brazilian public schools. Another presenter in this session was Freda Crisp, who offered the dance history of the introduction to a group of seniors, both women and men, with an average age of 81, who attended weekly dance classes at the YWCA Senior Active Living Centre in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. In addition, some specific themes were discussed in the session, Theoretical Considerations. Bridget Cauthery presented a reflection on ‘trance experience and modern dance’, drawing from interviews with selected modern dance artists, addressing the ways in which trance, as defined within ethnographic literature, has been both simultaneously overlooked and misconstrued. In the same session Maxime Heppner provoked us to consider actual choreographic forms and information from interviews with several artists on how to use analysis and pure experience as tools to create, perform in and also view dance.
For those who came early, there was the opportunity to participate in the pre-conference presented by Kaha: wi Dance Theatre and organized in partnership with the WDA Global Assembly. Living Ritual: World Indigenous Dance Festival was a three day event which took place July 14-16, 2006 at York University in Toronto and the Woodland Cultural Centre, Ontario. Living Ritual was an international forum where current issues in global Indigenous dance, professional development, artistic investigation and dance education was further discussed. I had the opportunity of listening and seeing diverse contemporary and traditional Indigenous dance by renowned artists and groups, including Tewa Dancers and Singers of the North, Le-la-la Dancers, Kaha:wi Dance Theatre, Earth in Motion Dance, Byron Chief-Moon, Daystar/Rosalie Jones. Many aspects of aboriginal dance were discussed during the event, for instance, the importance of dance from ceremony to the stage; the feminine and the sacred in dance; contemporary dance and indigenous aesthetics; authenticity issues; defining traditional and contemporary dance. Living Ritual was an international celebration of diversity through Aboriginal dance. Performances, workshops, collaborations, panel discussions, master classes and dialogue fostered cultural exchanges, promoting a greater understanding of Aboriginal artistic expression and engaging new audiences for the evolving field of Aboriginal dance.
The week culminated with a Garden Party performance by 100 young people who participated in an intensive workshop led by Karen and Allen Kaeja, followed by a banquet at Black Creek Pioneer Village, a 19th –century village where many people enjoyed themselves with Morris dancing.
Ida Mara Freire
Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina, Brazil