THE LIGHTNESS OF DANCE: The National Arts Centre in Ottawa Reveals Their 2014 – 2015 Season

The best of National and International dance in Ottawa.

The most uplifting and ecstatic times of my life have been spent in the presence of dance. Dance is the adventure you take to travel to new worlds and find uncovered territories in your own soul.

This week the National Arts Centre in Ottawa unveiled their 2014 – 2015 Dance Season. I am sure this new season will be Ah-mazing! In recent months I have experienced stunning performances at the NAC –  British Choreographer / Dancer Akram Khan’s Desh and American Choreographer / Dancer Kyle Abraham’s The Radio Show. Both shows were biographical in nature taking their inspiration from each man’s relationship with their father – moving accounts of memory, love and loss.

Ottawa is blessed to have such a strong advocate for dance in the NAC–CNA as they showcase the best in international talent as well as the best in Canadian talent. Recently at Carlton U’s New Sun Conference , a symposium celebrating the finest in Aboriginal contribution to the Arts in Canada, Sandra Laronde (Artistic Director of Red Sky Performance) spoke of her own company’s relationship with this great cultural hub in Ottawa.

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Image of book called Musicage with woman's feet in background another image of book opened to poetry with woman's finger pointing at the words.The feet and finger of Peggy Baker. Image by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag.

The best of National and International dance in Toronto.

Yesterday I was reminicinsing about beautiful dance moments with Nancy Burgoyne (Cultural Planner for the City of Ottawa) a cultural kindred spirit. I was telling her about seeing another national treasure, Peggy Baker, at the Canadian Opera Company’s Free Noon Hour Concert Series. Sitting in the front row Peggy was steps away from me performing Piano Quartet, a work inspired by John Cage’s poetry based on the quotations of one of my favourite American painters Jasper Johns. This is precisely what I love about dance – that it is this flexible artistic medium! Through movements that are abstracted yet powerful visual cues a story can be told to audiences of all backgrounds and every age. It’s not about mental comprehension but about feeling the emotion of the work. Even the most stubborn of hearts can’t help but be transformed when positioned in front of the palpable energy of dance.

This damn cold winter was warmed a few times during by my visits to the COC! I saw Parul Gupta, founder of Montreal’s Infusion Dance, perform and give an informative workshop on the meaning of the hand gestures and foot work of the Classical Indian Kathak dance. The week prior Gadfly, arguably one of this country’s best Urban Dance Company, gave the audience a history lesson in Contemporary Street Dance.

The COC noon hour performances are Toronto’s secret jewel!  For creative types and freelancers these performances offer a chance for a quick inspiration calibration. A great way to take a moment out of your day to feel some lightness!

Also in Toronto the Fleck Dance Theatre, part of the Harbourfront Centre, is where more moving moments can be discovered. WorldStage and NextSteps is their superb programming of established and emerging talent. I can’t recall how many times I have been at Fleck hovering above my seat in sheer joy at what I was witnessing!

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THIS WEEK IN OTTAWA: Tomorrow night and Saturday in Ottawa you can see Cloud Gate Dance Theater of Taiwan perform Song of the Wanderers. Get tickets here…

THIS WEEK IN TORONTO: Tonight in Toronto (running until Saturday night) you can see Rina Singha and Danny Grossman perform Circles of Bricks: Rhythms of Kathak Dance. Get tickets here…

NEXT WEEK IN TORONTO: On Tuesday, March 25 you can see Peggy Baker Dance Company perform FREE at the Canadian Opera Company as part of their Noon Hour Dance Series. Show up early to get a good spot in the line!

Whether you are in the capital of Ontario or the capital of Canada you have the best of dance at your (tapping) feet.

For more information on upcoming performances and where to purchase season tickets check out:

National Arts Centre – Centre National des Arts on Facebook & twitter @CanadasNAC

Canadian Opera Company on Facebook & twitter @CanadianOpera

Fleck Dance Theatre on Facebook & twitter @HarbourfrontTO

IDENTITY CRISIS: When Two (or more) Worlds Collide with Akram Khan & Basma Alsharif

When Worlds Collide How Do You Return Back to Home?

Last Friday I experienced Akram Khan’s DESH at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa. Akram is one of Britain’s most exciting contemporary dancers / choreographers and like so many people in the 21st Century he is attempting to perform a balancing act between two (or more) worlds. There is the England of his own biography peppered with the history of the Bangladesh his parents left when they came from Dhaka to Wimbledon where Akram was born.

Once caught mimicking Michael Jackson dance moves, Akram (who also credits being inspired by the moves of Bruce Lee, Fred Astaire and Charlie Chaplin) was immediately put into Kathak classes – his parents attempt to keep him rhythmically attuned to the sub-continent rather than the beat of American pop culture.

Eventually though the mash-up masala that London was produced this phenomenon of a performer who brilliantly synthesizes Occident and Orient into the most moving experiences for his audiences. Akram has also worked with other Brits who have built their careers around the psychological space created by cultural hybridity – writer Hanif Kureishi (Sammie & Rosie Get Laid, My Beautiful Laundrette, The Buddha of Suburbia), internationally renowned artist Sir Anish Kapoor, and musician-composer-producer Nitin Sawhney who has worked with musical ‘fusion-aries’ like Natacha Atlas, Cheb Mami, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, and most recently produced the score for Canadian director Deepha Mehta’s adaptation of Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children – a poignant narrative on the agony and the ecstasy of hovering between many states of being.

“Contemporary dance can have more ambiguity which means it can also have many more stories”

DESH (which means homeland in Bangla) starts in a pre-Partition place then moves forward and backward through memories around the birth of modern day Bangladesh and the genesis of the dancer’s career in Great Britain.

When asked after his NAC performance if DESH is based on the biography of his and his father’s lives Akram replies “it was personal, but not so much to be about me but to be universal.” Akram and his team went to Bangladesh to gather stories they could link to his own and from that experience arose DESH. He went on to say that in contemporary dance there is more ambiguity in the delivery so the interpretation is able to hit closer to home for more people regardless of whether the audience has a historical connection to the story.

The miracle of multiplicity.

A day after viewing DESH I found myself at DOPPELGANGING: A Master Class held at Galerie SAW Gallery and facilitated by Kuwati-born Palestianian-American media artist Basma Alsharif. Basma’s Master Class was based on her struggles as an artist and human being to come to terms with her own shifting identity(s). She relates that when in America she would put on her American identity like a cloak. On the family’s yearly visits back to Palestine she would switch her psychological attire. She would flip flop back and forth with desire for the place she wasn’t physically in “living two lives separated from each other but existing at the same time.” She says she began to “perform” her identities “either defending an identity or denying it” and always trying to find a way to solidify all of herself(s).


The Story of Milk and Honey  قصة حليب و عسل

“I decided to explore the psychology of endless travel, isolation and escapism…I discovered a letter without an envelope or address”

The question she put to us –  is there a way to take this bifurcation of our beings and turn it into a position of strength?

I would argue that many already have.

At a time when we have a multiplicity of narratives these voices did not descend into dissonance, rather they have become a well articulated melody that many hear.

The ability of artists to translate the universality of experience is what helps us remember how to listen to each others words and respect our shared humanity.

We all understand a desire for home, for sovereignty of state, for peace of mind.

Cultural provocateurs, like Akram and Basma, offer us a road map to recover the treasure of deep empathy and a way back to “home”.

MIXED BAG MAG IN OTTAWA: What’s Happening This Week!

While in Ottawa this summer to cover Sakahàn at the National Gallery I discovered  a lot about this city that I love so I decided I needed to spend more than a weekend and more than a week – why not an entire month?!

Turns out I came at a great time! Despite the dull November sky there are some vibrant events happening this week.

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Chikonzero Chazunguza, “Tigere Muupfu?/Sitting Pretty?”, 2013, at Gallery 101 from Gallery 101 on Vimeo.

WED @ GALLERY 101

Workshop Wednesdays
Fish scale art making with Ottawa based Métis artist Jaime Koebel
6-9pm
$10 open to max of 8 people

Bounty/Abondance
Solo Exhibition by Chikonzero (Chiko) Chazunguza curated by Pamela Edmonds (Third Space Art Projects)

Oct 25 to November 30, 2013

“Bounty is a solo exhibition of recent work by artist Chikonzero (Chiko) Chazunguza exploring his subversive take on the ongoing inequalities of exchange between contemporary Africa and the Western world. This installation brings together a series of paintings, photographic images as well as a performative work that reflects on the artist’s experiences living and working across three continents (Africa, Europe and Canada).”

~Pamela Edmonds

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THURS @ OTTAWA ART GALLERY

“Aboriginal scholar, poet and writer, Armand Garnet Ruffo previews his forthcoming book based on the life and art of Norval Morrisseau! The book combines the mythic world of Ojibway storytelling with evocative realism to tell the amazing story of the artist’s life. The reading will be accompanied by a visual presentation of the artist’s paintings.”

Join Facebook Event Here!

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THURS, FRI & SAT @ CANADA’S NATIONAL ARTS CENTRE

Akram Khan is truly one of the most visionary dancers / choreographers of our time.. Experiencing his work at Luminato 2011 has been one of the highlights of my life!

(TIP – visit his website. The intro is a stunner!)

More info on the event on their NAC’s website. Purchase tickets online here.

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THURS, FRI, SAT & SUN @ GALERIE SAW GALLERY

ART STAR 5

Video Art Biennial / Biennale de vidéo d’art

November 14 – 17, 2013

Galerie SAW Gallery + Club SAW

Single screenings: $5 / Biennial all-access pass: $15

“Now in its fifth edition, the Art Star Video Art Biennial is a unique platform for artists and curators working with moving images to connect and exchange in the national capital. Under the theme of Witness and Testify, Art Star highlights practices rooted in place, intimacy, and broader questions of social movements and collective histories. Over four days, SAW hosts screenings, social events, and masterclasses with video artists from around the planet, and curators culled from our vibrant local milieu. We’re thrilled to be partnering this year with the Media Arts Network of Ontario for their national conference, Evolve or Perish, which will add a special contingent of media artists, programmers, and theorists to the mix. Join us as we celebrate art’s potential to effect social change and challenge our assumptions of the world around us.”

Join Facebook Event Here!\

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THURS ONGOING TO DEC 1 @ LIBRARY & ARCHIVES

The European Film Festival

“World-class, award-winning, and Oscar-submitted films from 27 countries across the European Union!

Special guests welcomed this year include Tahar Rahim, lead actor from the Cannes-selected Grand Central (France), as well as Matthias Drescher, producer of the acclaimed drama Shifting the Blame (Germany).

Other festival evenings will be introduced with exclusive video greetings from filmmakers or actors, and many nights are followed by complimentary Embassy receptions. All of the films shown are Ottawa premieres, presented at the Auditorium of 395 Wellington St., Ottawa (Library and Archives Canada building).”
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FRI @ ABORIGINAL ART CENTRE (GATINEAU)

Artist Talk by Jason Baerg speaking on Aboriginal Expressions: National Capital Commission Confederation Boulevard Banners 2013

Aboriginal Art Centre Aboriginal Affairs, Room 928, 10 Wellington St

11:30 am

View the Gallery of all the banners.

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ALL THIS WEEK @ BYTOWNE CINEMA

Some great films are opening this week at the Bytowne Cinema like Oil Stands Karaoke and A Touch of Sin

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