“Like Gravel’s previous works, Usually Beauty Fails was created in close collaboration with the dancers and musicians of Grouped’ArtGravelArtGroup. In this surrealist and unbridled metaphor on our relation to beauty, Gravel creates an intensely physical exploration of everyday movement. The dancer’s combinations of physical restraint and furious motion collide with their charming sweetness and casual bravado to produce an invigorating work that challenges our perspectives on dance, beauty and society itself.”
Esmeralda Enrique will perform as part of Saturday’s Older & Reckless
Tomorrow night the Festival closes with Older & Reckless at the Arts Court Theatre.
“Making its Canada Dance Festival debut, Older & Reckless is an acclaimed dance series gaining notoriety for its celebration of mature dance artists and their tenacious life-long pursuit of physical expression. Appealing not only to a senior audience, but to all generations, Older & Reckless shines a light on those Canadian dance artists who have dared to approach mastery in their art form.”
World Premiere of REsolve by Circadia Indigena’s Jerry Longboat and Byron Chief-Moon this Sunday at the NAC.
The Canada Dance Festival begins this weekend at the NAC. “CDF 2016 will set the Nation’s Capital alight with challenging new ideas showcased through powerful movement and beautiful movers – all telling uniquely Canadian stories through dance.”
Sunday’s performance includes the world premiere of REsolve a collaborative work produced by Ottawa-based choreographer Jerry Longboat (www.circadia-indigena.com) and Bryon Chief-Moon. The work is a companion piece to an earlier collaboration Greed “a themed based examination of today’s exploitative stock market system and the effects of crippling corporate and personal greed. This work is a juxtaposition of Traditional Knowledge and values that maintain a living harmony with the natural environment and provides dynamic balance through “taking only what is needed”. The actions and intentions of greed carry over and compound biospheric destruction affecting the living balance of the planet. This work layers First Nations worldviews on the dissonance of agency that strips the resources from our territories and poisons the environment around us.”
REsolve “layers First Nations worldviews on the dissonance of agency as it addresses issues of de-colonization of self and homeland. Through an awakening of the individual confronting an authoritarian system set on keeping us in a increasingly dependant matrix. Resolve is taking control of your own destiny by exposing the hollow lies from leaders and officials, and challenging our present economic slavery and physiological poisoning. These are transcendent moments of realization and awakening, where one has no choice but to stand up for freedom, and mobilize the ability to act and (self)determine.”
Marie Watt’s sewing circle and Nick Cave’s SoundSuits provide ways to start discussions around challenging issues.
As our long winter was on it’s way out and a new spring beginning an interesting initiative began here in Ottawa. Vicki Heyman, wife of US Ambassador to Canada Bruce Heyman, launched Art in Embassies, a project started by John F. Kennedy as way to share the talent of American artists abroad as well as “start cross-cultural dialogue“.
Maria Watt was the American artist chosen to open what has become a series of events focused on the role of art as a catalyst for social change. The timing seemed oddly predestined. Marie, a woman of mixed Settler / Indigenous heritage sat on the stage at the National Gallery of Canada speaking to Greg Hill (the NGC’s Audain Curator of Indigenous Art) about the connecting quality of her work.
“My work draws from my experience as a Scottish German Seneca person in the US growing up in Oregon…[I explore] Indigenous moments in history and European history – those nexuses.”
This was on the eve of the Roundtable Discussion on the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls that was also taking place in Ottawa that week. On the Friday, as Carleton University was hosting the National Roundtable, the Carleton University Art Gallery (CUAG), in collaboration with Art in Embassies, was holding a roundtable on Indigenizing the Gallerywith Marie as the honoured guest participant. If a nexus “is a series of connections linking two more more things” than what was happening at that precise moment in Ottawa, in the social spaces where art, academia and politics converge, was a moment where Indigenous women’s voices were being prioritized.
“will highlight the rich history of commerce and trade in Ottawa. The word “Ottawa” comes from the Algonquin word adawe, which means “to trade.”
Along with their blankets participants were requested to write a story that illustrated the importance of that blanket to their family. The stories become the currency and their richness is revealed in their ability to criss-cross countries and cultures, span many generations and fuse past with present. With her works involving blankets Marie does what she can to have the stories available for audiences to read (view some of stories from the NGC install here). At her National Gallery talk she related a few of them to us. One story was Peter’s. The blanket he gave to Marie came from a concentration camp. If I remember correctly, it was his wife’s and it was all she had when she was liberated from the camp. Eventually that same blanket would be used to wrap and protect art work purchased by the couple in the life they created together. Marie feels that such a story flies in the face of Hitler’s denigration of art and is a perfect symbol of reclamation – a blanket’s meaning transformed by its new role.
The stories are also ways for people to enter into the intimate space of another. In this complex historical moment where we struggle to understand the meaning of words like reclamation and reconciliation sometimes the way of navigating that complexity is through the simple act of creating a space for people to share moments. This is the strength of the Art in Embassiesinitiative which has been infused by Vicki’s desire to explore art as social practice precisely because it can build bridges and foster understanding between disparate social circles. As a way of gathering a diverse group together for a common goal, another event that was held as part of Marie’s visit to Ottawa was a sewing circle. It was moving to see people of all backgrounds, ages, and genders stitching together in the Great Hall at the National Gallery. And the artist was present! Marie took the time to speak with people as well as listen to new stories being shared. For Marie, it’s about being affable in her process. As she says, a sewing circle is about “tucking yourself into something as humble and familiar as cloth. It’s a safe space that’s a much more informal space – getting together in a neighbourly way.”
In these informal spaces people can digest what they might otherwise feel challenged to confront. Marie’s work, although not overtly political, is charged by a political climate that does it best to ignore Indigenous rights and a national leader who publicly declared that the issue of #MMIW (Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women) as not “really high on our radar.” As a Seneca woman she uses her art as a way to generously share Indigenous teachings to a non-Indigenous audience.
The next artist speaking as part of the series is Nick Cave. Nick’s work is also about looking at social as well as disciplinary nexuses of art, dance and fashion. Like Marie, he uses the act of sewing and assemblage to move a challenging conversation forward. The intense subject of racial profiling prompted Nick to look at ways we disregard and denigrate. His first “soundsuit” was created by gathering discarded sticks and twigs, the things that surround us during our day that we ignore and allow to become invisible. The final product functioned as both apparel to be worn by a dancer during a performance and sculpture to be inserted into a gallery space. Whether still or animated by performers whose race and class are concealed inside the soundsuits, Nick’s work is meant to break open a space. They are impossible to ignore. As performers climb inside they have a chance to access the feeling of being connected with something seemingly foreign from their everyday but yet some of the materials that Nick utilizes, like Marie’s blankets, are humble ones that are familiar to all.
Again, the timing of this event is important. After months and months of the heaviness of how racial profiling is being executed – literally – by agents of power, we need to widen the discussion around race that has been split open by the murders of black men at the hands of the police. The problematics of race isn’t just an American issue. Here in Canada the erasure of Black bodies in cultural, academic and political institutions has the potential to fester and become a much deeper problem. We need to have the challenging conversations immediately and those conversations have to happen in places like the National Gallery of Canada, an institution where Black contribution to Canadian history and art has been close to absent. No time like the present.
I applaud the audacious spirit that Vicki has brought to the cultural table here in Ottawa and I look forward to participating in more of these types events that create a nexus for change by widening the circle of social influence.
You can follow the conversation at #artconvoAIE. More events will be coming up in 2015!
Past history and present tense invoked with installations at Fort York, Toronto.
Today we know of Fort York as the (barely visible) small patch of green space that buffers the expansive condo development that now grinds against the north and south sides of the Gardiner and barricades us from a view of the sky.
In 1793 the plan for a garrison was put into place by John Graves Simcoe. At the time, Niagara was the capital of the province but Simcoe felt that Toronto was a more suitable place for a naval base that would protect the area from the possibility of an American attack. Soon after, it was decided to move the base again – to Kingston – but a community had already developed around the area and by 1800 there was a residence built for the lieutenant-governor on the site.
In the spring of 1813 the Fort was attacked by the Americans. Both the Indigenous nations of the Mississaugas and the Ojibwa assisted Canadian and British forces to keep the Americans at bay but in the years the followed Fort York was continually attacked and occupied by American Forces. Eventually, due to the victory of the British in the War of 1812, Fort York became a more stabilized community that grew to become the settlement that was renamed Toronto in 1934, from the Kanienke’haka (Mohawk) word Tkaronto meaning “the place in the water where trees are standing.”
Two centuries of peace have passed but the site still remains to commemorate the battles and lives lost.
It has also become a great place to showcase dramatic and large scale art and performance.
Luminato does Fort York.
In 2012, as part of the commemoration of the 200 years since the war of 1812, Luminato staged a massive art install at the Fort called “The Encampment.”
“Marking the bicentennial of the War of 1812, The Encampment is both a luminous large-scale art installation and a kind of metaphoric archaeological dig—one that unearths not physical artefacts but long-buried shards and strands of human experience. Conceived as a “temporal village,” the installation comprises 200 A-frame tents pitched on the grounds of Fort York, which fell to U.S. forces during the war. Each tent contains an installation by one of 200 artistic collaborators, selected via an open call for contributors. Each creates a visual representation of an aspect of the war’s civilian history, gleaned from research into real-life stories of family, love, loss, survival, patriotism, collaboration and betrayal. Visible at a distance from several downtown locations, the massive assemblage of tents presents a wondrously glowing sculptural landscape. Explored at close quarters and through social activations, it offers poignant insights into the lives of ordinary people swept up in the epic drama of history.” More info…
Kaha:wi Dance Theatre participates in remembering and honouring the lost lives.
“Body of War reflects on how man becomes a soldier through the relentless repetition of acts of violence. What happens to the psyche as it learns to transgress social principles and integrates the willingness to kill? Set in the geography of the Normandy Landings and punctuated by testimonies of retired and serving soldiers, a mis-en-scene of visceral hand-to-hand combat is gradually deconstructed. The viewer is invited to engage in the relationship between human intimacy and the brutality of war choreography.
CHIC POINT by Sharif Waked (Nazareth, Palestine / Israel) Video Installation
“Chic Point ponders, imagines, and interrogates “fashion for Israeli Checkpoints.”
Male models expose body parts – lower backs, chests, abdomens – peek through holes, materials and standard clothes are transformed into pieces that follow normative fashion standards while calling them into question. Chic Point bares the loaded politics of the gaze as it documents the thousands of moments in which Palestinians are forced to undress in the face of interrogation, as they attempt to move through the intricate and constantly expanding network of Israeli checkpoints.”More info…
“The work is an attempt to explore world orders that defy geo-political definition. A red carpet-flag allows the audience to experience the glamour of walking down the catwalk, while unexpectedly being confronted with different political ideas regarding the fall of a totalitarian system.”More info…
MELTING POINT, 2014 by LeuWebb Projects (Toronto), Jeff Lee (Toronto), & Omar Khan (Toronto) Light Installation
“Located on the original shore of Lake Ontario, Fort York was built for defense. Over time, the Fort has stood its ground against enemy advances, expressways and condos as the lake’s edge has pushed further away. Situated in this context of protection and resistance is Melting Point, a sound and light based installation. Melting Point stocks a pair of cannons with an artillery of glowing good feelings, in the form of sparkling tributaries of light pouring from the mouths of the old weapons. Accompanied by a chorus of rolling waves and trilling harps, the work lays a defense agsinst the swirling market forces beyond, countering hard with soft and dark with light and creating a safe space for Art.”More info…
“Mismatched chairs are gathered from households for re-creation of the moment of a family function. Initiated by the audience, the movement of these objects creates the sounds of a family shuffling their chairs into position at the table.
The mirrored floor captures the physical reflections of the audience and the chairs, imbued with personal nostalgia, thus becoming the medium that retains and reflects private experience and memory.” More info…
BRIGHT BUNDLE 2014
“Bright Bundle is a light sculpture ablaze with pulsating light and sound representing the past and present of growth, prosperity, culture and the future. Set in the centre of Fort York, this 1000 metre ribbon of LED lights will glow and pulsate in a golden-white colour seen from a distance and beckon audiences from surrounding pathways towards it to bath in the glow of its pulsating lights and sound.”More info…
Wishing everyone a safe (and dry) night!
NOTE:Ascendant Line & Melting Point will continue to be on display until October 13.
“Before Day Break contemplates a sensitive artistic practice. Evoking the complexity of life itself, artists from diverse regions will offer singular perspectives in an attempt to cover different angles of reality. Through these practices they enable the audience to turn the ordinary into extraordinary artistic memory. Like the pixels in a photograph, human relationships, religion, socio-political and cultural behaviour are among the themes used to present a deeper message that speaks to the universality of the human experience. Motivated to challenge and surprise the viewer’s expectations, this vibrant environment will invite reflection on contemporary history, while juxtaposing it to Canada’s quest for inclusion and plurality. All of this leads to satisfaction of the eye and the intellect.Before Day Break defends and trusts the restorative power of art.” More info…
All images above by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag unless otherwise noted.
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.
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!
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:
“OUR TOXIC ADDICTION IS SLOWING DESTROYING OUR BEAUTIFUL WATERWAYS” GreenPeace
Shop till you drop…dead?
In the aftermath of Boxing Day blowouts it’s a great New Year’s Resolution to take time to consider how fashion impacts the planet.
GreenPeace recently launched the Global Detox Campaign in an effort to inform people on how the garment industry, especially in places like China, is turning “public waterways into private sewers.”
According to GreenPeace 320 million people in China are without access to clean drinking water, 40% of surface water is considered polluted and 20% of the urban drinking water is contaminated.
“BEAUTIFUL FASHION DOESN’T HAVE TO COST THE EARTH” Greenpeace
The campaign sparked an around-the-world protest against companies like Zara, Victoria Secret, the Gap and Adidas some of which have now agreed to “detox”.
These toxins don’t just end up the water. New clothing is often sprayed with formaldehyde to protect against mildew and to keep fabrics wrinkle free. We then absorb the toxins through our largest permeable organ – our skin – via the clothes we wear.
With our purchasing dollars, especially during those Boxing Week Sales, we vote ‘YES’ for the continuation of harmful systems unless we opt to change our habits and the way we engage with mall culture and consumerism.
Necessity (mixed with creativity) is the mother of all invention (and prevention).
One way to change is to rock Second Hand Style.
The gorgeous dancers from JACK YOUR BODY – Emily Law, Kristine Flores, Ashley Perez and Jasmyn Fyffe – demonstrated, on the MIXED BAG MAG #MashUPStyle shoot, how to re-mix used clothing. I met JYB dancer Jasmyn Fyffe, when she modeled at a prior shoot and I was inspired by her ability to take cast offs and make them fresh. Many of us do this out of necessity as a way to save money but as we become more engaged around the issues of environmental protection re-using, up-cycling and swapping become great ways to assert our fashion sense while remaining true to the cause.
On the subject of Second Hand Style, Street Culture and Re-Mixing Emily Law (co-choreographer of JACK YOUR BODY along with Ashley Perez) explains that for the show:
“we attempted to costume each section with vintage clothing as much as possible. The majority of the cast owned a lot of second hand clothing, so it was not that challenging to find great retro pieces. Creating this show gave me a chance to wear some of the retro clothing I have been collecting!
Analogous to using authentic clothing pieces from each era, we used classic ‘vintage songs’ specific to each time period. By creating to these songs we are giving them a second life just like the clothing.”
In Street Culture fashion and music riff off each other in a constant creative conversation. Just like DJs who re-mix retro beats to make them fresh the clothing is also about taking the best of the past and making it stylistically relevant to the present. Perfect timing for a world in need of more sustainability (but sexy) choices!
All above images by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag.
“Jack Your Body is a high-energy dance performance that pays homage to American street dance culture. The cast poses, struts, waacks and jacks their way through soul train, paradise garage and other iconic street dance scenarios. Issues of race, gender and social status come into focus during this dynamic dance piece that explores the evolution of underground social dances from the 70s-90s.”
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”.
CONGRATS TO THE MANIFESTO TEAM ON ANOTHER YEAR OF AMAZING PROGRAMMING & IGNITING THE COMMUNITY!
This festival continues to show how when enough people connect on a vision something wonderful and fresh can occur. The weather today? Not so good but Manifsto is offering plenty of food for thought and inspiring creativity inside and away from the rain with their symposiums & talks.
NOON TODAY – SO MUCH THINGS TO SAY: Evolution Summit. An inspiring array of panel discussions, keynote speakers and mentor classes. More info…
3 PM TODAY – THE FLOOR AWARDS. Manifesto celebrates the best urban dance artists, educators, youth and community catalysts at our 3rd Annual Floor Awards. First created through community dance consultation, this awards provides a platform to honour the depth of creation and innovation happening in urban dance arts in Toronto. More info…
4 PM TODAY – HEARTIST. A pre-show panel discussion and audience talk back about the growth of mentor-mentee collaborations in Canada, how they work, and add value to the health of the Canadian arts sector. More info…
6PM TODAY – SACRED SEVEN ART SHOW – This year for the 7th Annual Manifesto Art Show we will explore the notions of connectedness and evolution as we present thought-provoking works from local artists as well as game-changers from across the globe.
“Everything in our world is sacred and interconnected – and we’re in the midst of an epochal shift to recognizing that truth in every realm of human endeavor.” – Stephen Dinan
It was a late night tweet from one of Toronto’s finest MP Kristyn Wong Tam that put MIXED BAG MAG onto this exuberant project – WAACK REVOLT A Dance Film.
Watching the video I was sold on the fact that this team has tons of talent.
Waack Revolt’s Diana Reyes aka Fly Lady Di (above) and Emily Law aka Em Fatale (left).
Already familiar with dancer Diana Reyes aka Fly Lady Di (MIXED BAG MAG almost had her as part of the MASHUP STYLE shoot – next time Diana 😉 ) and Emily Law aka Em Fatale from the incredible Toronto dance troupe Kaha:wi (check out MIXED BAG MAG’s post on Kaha:wi’s The Honouring) it seemed an easy decision to get on board to help spread the word!
MIXED BAG MAG’s interview with WAACK’s Director / Writer Sonia Hong was in a word ‘soulful’. At a time where there is ubiquitous imagery representing a too-cool-for-school vibe we often mask our deeper human qualities like vulnerability and the yearning we all have for connectedness behind that chill exterior. I appreciated that Sonia was an open book and ready to share her history as to how she became a film artist who focuses on LGBTQ issues.
Bullied for not fitting in, somewhere along the way and at a young age, Sonia reached in to that spiritual place that we all have inside to find her source. From hiding her light to shining bright, Sonia had done such a remarkable turnaround with her confidence that a teacher who noticed shared this with her then asked her to be the valedictorian at her Grade 8 Graduation.
She built on that confidence and started to attend theatre summer schools where she said improv helped her try on new characters, play around with identity, and continue to grow more comfortable in her skin.
She also spent time working at Legal Aid alongside her mother. “If I hadn’t of gone to film school I would have gone to school for social work.” A keen sense of social justice, she takes her role as an artist seriously developing projects that can help kids struggling with their identity and place in the world.
Writer / Director Sonia Hong (right) with Producer Allia McLeod(left).
“Community building and creating an inclusive community is what I have always been really passionate about. I want to help young people feel empowered and to know from an early age that it’s ok to be yourself.”
Somewhere in the interview we got to speaking about girl culture – for me coming of age with Madonna and Sonia coming of age with the Spice Girls. Whether we agree with it or not, pop culture is what meets kids where they are at. As a female, Madonna taught me that my sexuality was for me alone to own and to be aware of it and my decisions around it but not without having fun – Express Yourself!; for Sonia the Spice Girls belted out the message that she understood to mean be yourself in the most bombastic way you dare – Zig A Zig Ah!
Our musical tastes have matured (I think?!) but for both of us the concern is that in today’s hyper-sexualized Britney-Miley-Nicki world sexuality now is only about an act of ‘performance’ for another’s gaze (mostly young girls for the validation of males) and something is getting lost in the delivery along with the chance for youth to develop a strong sense of self.
WAACK REVOLT takes all that on and promises to be sexy short with a definite message regarding understanding, owning and standing up for your sexuality. Commissioned by the Reel Asian International Film Festival as a collaboration between dancers and filmmakers, WAACK REVOLT will be premiering at this year’s festival.
“This cheeky love story, WAACK REVOLT. A DANCE FILM, sets the stage for a playful journey that opens during an audition in 1940s Hollywood. It is here that our two lovers first meet and begin their love affair with one another – which centers around their shared passion for “Waacking”. Outraged by their “Waacking” dance style, a visual metaphor for their unconventional love and identity, the public exclaim that they aren’t permitted to “Waack” in public, and must keep it behind closed doors.
In response, the couple escapes to different iconic time periods, sliding and interchanging between genders, ultimately blurring the lines entirely as they “Waack” their way to a full, vivid expression of themselves and their love.”
Using dance to challenge traditional gender roles and stereotypes.
The artistic medium of dance has given Sonia the perfect vehicle to investigate gender as it refers to sexuality.
Sonia goes deep into the exploration of how gestures sub-consciously communicate the assertion of power or an act of oppression and she explains that when they are thinking about the choreography they don’t want the dancer playing the male role to come across as a predator or the dancer embodying the female character as not without movements that communicate empowerment.
“I am really exiting about gender-bending with the actual choreography as music and dance are very gendered.”
Waack itself is a form of dance that evolved during the disco era and much like Voguing was embraced and developed by communities on the fringe of the mainstream as a way to own power around race, class and sexual orientation.
“To me, as a 12 yr old girl, the Spice Girls’ “Zig A Zig Ah” could mean anything you wanted it to much like this style of dance. You should be able to be yourself anywhere and you should be able to WAACK wherever you want.”
Emily Law aka Em Fatale
Professional dancer and founding member of the Toronto house dance crew Warehouse Jacks. Emily has been nominated for a Dora Mavor Moore award and a Gemini for her work with Kaha:wi Dance Theatre.
Diana Reyes aka Fly Lady Di
Multi-disciplinary artist, who has appeared on several progams including MuchMusic’s “RapCity”, and CBC Music’s “How to Dance to Classical Music”. Diana is a member of b current’s prestigious rAiz’n ensemble – home to some of Canada’s most successful performing artists, playwrights and producers.
A dynamic and multi-faceted artist, based in Toronto, Maylee’s music combines organic and electronic forms, including elements of boogie, bossa, space funk, psychedelia and soul. She’s shared the stage with the likes of Janelle Monae, Lee Fields, Aloe Blacc, Little Dragon, and The Budos Band. SOCAN has recently nominated her for the coveted songwriting prize. Get into the ‘Waack Revolt. A Dance Film.” groove with some of her funky tunes. www.mayleetodd.com