Yukon News

From north to south and back again

Vivian Belik Friday June 12, 2009

Mike Thomas/Yukon News


Far right, Jane Osborne demonstrates a dance piece for SYIDA's production of Local and Abroad at Leaping Feats Dance Studio on Thursday. The show will be held at the Old Firehall on Friday and Saturday.

In dance, movement is built on circular motion, a tracing of footsteps that often revisit the same spaces over and over again.

It is fitting then that Vancouver dancer Leigha Wald is returning to perform in the city that first fostered her interest in dance more than 10 years ago. Wald’sperformance this weekend coincides with the official launch of the Society of Yukon Independent Dance Artists, an organization that has set out to strengthen the connection between dancers and the Yukon.

With few opportunities to train professionally in Whitehorse many dancers trade in their Yukon roots for an opportunity to dance down South.

The Society of Yukon Independent Dance Artists is trying to bridge that geographical gap.

“Very few dancers want to leave but they feel like they have to, to nurture their careers,” said Jude Wong co-founder and artistic director of the society.

“Lots of dancers leave and we never see them again. Our hope is that our dance community doesn’t continue to be so transient, and that we can facilitate and support dancers in returning to the Yukon.”

This weekend the society plays host to a contemporary dance show at the Old Fire Hall called, Local and Abroad.

Wald, who performs in Local and Abroad, played an important role in getting the society off the ground said Wong.

“Leigha kept contacting me and asking if she could come back to Whitehorse to teach and perform,” she said.

Now Wald will be the first of many dancers that the society is hoping to bring North to share their talent.

Wald arrived in Whitehorse two weeks ago with her dance collective, The Contingency Plan, to teach a student dance residency and prepare for their show.

“In my generation there wasn’t a lot of support for contemporary dance in Whitehorse,” said Wald. “So it’s nice to be able to share what I’ve been learning in Vancouver with the dancers here.”

Wald and the other Contingency Plan dancers, Vanessa Goodman and Jane Osborne, worked with students from Leaping Feats Creative Danceworks and the Northern Lights Dance Studio on a piece that will be performed this weekend.

The dance residency, funded by the Society of Yukon Independent Dance Artists, is intended to give pre-professional dance experience to students by paying them for their work and connecting them with bigger names in the dance industry.

“Giving kids professional experience is important,” said Wong. “It can be a shock when you go from a small town to a big city to do auditions. We’re just preparing them for that.”

The dancers of Contingency Plan recognized the importance of working together when living in a big city. All three dancers met at Simon Fraser University while completing their bachelors of fine arts in dance.

“We tried to find our own separate ways as dancers (after we graduated) and then decided that we all had similar goals so we joined together,” said Goodman.

Only in their second year as a dance collective, the group has been scoring several performance opportunities around British Columbia and the Yukon.

The trio will be performing three separate pieces at Local and Abroad.

Wald will perform a solo piece choreographed by Rob Kitsos that she says will have her sweating and “eating up the whole dance floor.”

Goodman and Osborne will perform a duet named, “caesura”, which refers to a pause in the middle of a line of verse.

The dancers will move from the left side of the stage to the right, following the way text is read.

“The pause makes the viewer ask what they’re watching; is it an interruption, a pregnant pause, a different form of dialogue?” said Osborne.

The last piece, SLAM2, will have all three dancers working together on a piece choreographed by Serge Bennathan.

“It’s very physical and visceral,” said Wald. “It uses lots of imagery.”

A microphone will be set up on stage and the dancers will

recite monologues between movements. Bennathan intended the piece to be performed slightly differently each time.

“There is a certain rawness to always doing something that’s new and fresh,” said Goodman.

The Local and Abroad show will also feature dance pieces by Wong and local dancer Rebecca Reynolds.

Wong’s piece fuses contemporary dance with African and jazz roots and builds on a performance she showcased here this February.

“The piece is about someone who dances in secret, in the wee hours of the morning when music is spilling out onto the streets from nearby bars,” she said.

Local and Abroad runs June 12 and 13 at the Old Fire Hall, 8 p.m.

Information about the Society of Yukon Independent Dance Artists can be found at http://www.societyofyukondanceartists.net/

Contact Vivian Belik at

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