An album of music and poetry

Special Projects


[in]verse is a special project of FFDN, mixing classical music curated and performed by acclaimed Canadian cellist Arlen Hlusko, with poetry recited by FFDN’s community of dancemakers from around the world. The album was released by NY based record label Bright Shiny Things on March 10, 2023. CDs and digital downloads are available to order. Stream the full album on your favourite music streaming platform now.

Discover the 26 tracks featured on [in]verse. 
Music curated and performed by Arlen Hlusko is intentionally paired with poems selected and read by celebrated dancemakers.

Gain access to full written poetry verses, including translations, through clickable links below. 

This original composition by Matthias McIntire, Canadian composer, musician, and music educator, is the result of a unique collaboration with lead musician Arlen Hlusko, inspired by a shared love of nature and gratitude for the peace it offers in times of isolation. Meditative nature sounds, recorded in the beautiful wooded trails surrounding Hlusko’s family home in central Ontario, converse with solo cello in this emotional and personal new work, which was composed collaboratively in summer 2020, at the height of lockdown and isolation.

In tribute to Canadian modern dance pioneer Patricia Beatty, celebrated Toronto-based choreographer and Artistic Director of Peggy Baker Dance Projects, Peggy Baker shares a reading of Beatty’s original poem, “For Terrill”. Complimenting this reading, the soft, gentle sounds of Scott’s pizzicato folk-song-inspired third movement from “Nineteen Movements for Unaccompanied Cello” offers a pairing so charmingly pure and unpretentious – both tracks simple, succinct, down-to-earth, and beautiful.

Read "For Terrill"


“Blue Head”, by Asisipho Malunga was written in response to a painting by a South African artist Gerard Sokoto, whose work has similarly been an inspiration to Mthuthuzeli November, a close friend and collaborator to Malunga, and an award-winning choreographer and dancer based in London, UK. The words read aloud by November evoke a sense of optimism and encouragement to face life’s challenges head on, no matter how difficult, and when paired with the deep complexity of the “Sarabande” from Bach’s Fifth Suite for Solo Cello, serves as a reminder to reflect and enjoy the color and texture life has to offer.

Read "Blue Head"

In response to the murder of George Floyd in June 2020, virtuosic American composer and violist Kenji Bunch pays respect in this re-arrangement of traditional African American spiritual turned protest song, “We Shall Overcome”.  In another artistic act of resilience, Joy Harjo, American poet of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation and 23rd Poet Laureate of the United States (from 2019-2022), draws parallels between the change in seasons and the experience of segregation in her poem, “Grace”. Read by Margaret Grenier, award-winning dancer and choreographer of Gitxsan and Cree ancestry and Executive and Artistic Director of the Dancers of Damelahamid, this work also speaks to a broader theme of hope, and the transformative power of time. While both pieces intersect to examine feelings of intergenerational pain and trauma, this pairing creates space to reflect on the possibilities of a better future ahead.

Read "Grace"

Award winning transgender choreographer Sean Dorsey reads his original poetry, excerpted from the soundscore of Sean Dorsey Dance's full-evening production "Uncovered: The Diary Project". This powerful work of dance-theater, blending movement, storytelling and music, has won accolades from San Francisco to New York. Dorsey’s poem was informed and inspired by a year-and-a-half long community research process in which he uncovered and researched diaries of transgender and queer people, offering a glimpse into these lived experiences. Original music composed by Alex Kelly responds to Dorsey’s poem, and the two compositions perform together as if in dialogue with one another.

Read "History"

“Mountainweeps” is an exquisite composition by India Gailey, American-Canadian cellist, composer, and multidisciplinary artist, focuses on eliciting the sounds of high alpine environments and their extreme and devastating struggles through climate change. Drawing parallels in the power, beauty, and strength of nature - and the necessity to respect it, this composition is paired with the poem “The Moon is Trans” by American trans woman poet, Joshua Jennifer Espinoza. Read by Canadian dancer and choreographer Emma Portner, this pairing thoughtfully highlights a nuanced interaction of sound, rhythm and phrasing.

Read "The Moon is Trans"

At the centerpiece of this album is Daniel Bernard Roumain’s powerful, commanding work, “Why Did They Kill Sandra Bland?”, written in Fall 2020 for Bang on a Can’s virtual marathons as a collaborative effort between DBR and Hlusko. This piece stands alone as a powerful reflection of 2020, and an innate narrative naturally combining what many other pairings asked of one another – an invitation to deep inner reflection, reckoning with the state of our world, and recognizing our responsibility to and need for one another. This work was intended not only as a mourning of Sandra’s life being taken from her, but also as a celebration of her beauty, her power, her life. It is dedicated to Sandra Bland and Breonna Taylor, and includes DBR’s performance notes: “Black women deserved more, continue to suffer, and continue to be victimized. I pledge to listen more, defend more, and call attention to their trauma, brilliance, and truth. What will you do? and For Sandra Bland, rest in power…”.

Haitian-American dancer-choreographer Rhodnie Désir felt strongly about reading George Elliott Clarke’s stunning poem, “Ain’t You Scared of the Sacred?: A Spiritual”. Transcendent and deeply personal, it seemed a natural pairing with American classical and folk musician-composer Leyla McCalla’s Meditation No 1, commissioned by Bang on a Can in April of 2021.

Read "Ain't You Scared of the Sacred?"

Read "Last Quarter Song"

In tribute to the recent passing of celebrated Canadian poet Daniel David Moses, Indigenous Canadian dancer, choreographer, actor and scholar, Michael Greyeyes intimately reads Moses’ original poem, “Last-Quarter Song”. Evoking images of the moon and evening sky, a natural pairing is formed with classic composer Reinhold Glière’s Berceuse from “Huit Morceaux”.

“I Wandered Lonely As A Cloud”, a quintessential poem of the Romantic movement written by William Wordsworth, is tenderly read by Shantala Shivalingappa, traditional Indian Kuchipudi dancer based in Paris, France. The love and joy elicited in this classic work is complimented by the playful and uplifting “Aria 2” from Sonata Va by prolific French Baroque composer Joseph Bodin de Boismortier. These undeniably joyful works side by side play off one another in a way that is sure to put a smile on your face.

Read "I Wandered Lonely As A Cloud"

Montreal-based artists Victor Quijada, Choreographer and Artistic Director of RUBBERBANDance Group, and Anne Plamondon, independent dancer, choreographer and former co-Artistic Director of RUBBERBANDance Group, read an excerpt from the classic novel “Siddhartha” by Hermann Hesse. This poetic text, read in English, French and Spanish, deals with the spiritual journey of self-discovery of a man named Siddhartha. American composer Lenworth Ryan Wilmot reckons with mortality and reflects on the meaning of life and the human condition in “When I Have Fears That I May Cease to Be”, inspired in part by the poem of the same name by John Keats.

Read "Siddhartha" (excerpt)

This piece was included on the original iteration of [in]verse in Fall for Dance North’s 2020 festival, and is included as a stand-alone music track here as it is actually based on a poem itself. The first of Bright Sheng’s Seven Tunes Heard in China, “Seasons” is based on a folk tune from the Qinghai province of China that goes like so:

Spring is coming,
Narcissi are blooming,
The maiden is out from her boudoir seeking,
My love boy, lend me a hand, please.

Themes of love and romance unite in this lush pairing, featuring Edward Elgar’s classic composition, “Salut D’Amour”, and the poem, “Romance Sonámbula” by Federico Garcia Lorca, one of the most important Spanish poets and dramatists of the twentieth century. Born in Spain and currently based in Montreal, QC, choreographer and dancer with Les Grands Ballet Canadien, Vanesa-Garcia Ribala Montoya, reads this tender poem in her mother tongue, dealing passionately with matters of the heart. Canadian pianist Vicky Chow joins Arlen in responding with an effervescent rendition of Elgar’s famous work.

Read "Romance Sonámbula"

For curator and musician Arlen Hlusko, the original composition, “Varsha”, by Indian-American composer Reena Esmail, evokes a sense of yearning, exploration, and adventure, while conjuring imagery of a long and winding journey. Similarly, the powerful poem, “Affirmation of Growth of the Everyday Star”, expresses a deeply personal journey of individual growth, learning and evolving, while maintaining a connection with, and appreciation for, ancestral roots. This poem is read aloud by author Quentin VerCertty, an award winning writer, visual storyteller and art educator, and Esie Mensah, a Toronto-based dancer, choreographer and educator, committed to using Afrofusion dance to explore more personal narratives of her Ghanaian heritage, blackness, and belonging.

Read "Affirmation of Growth of the Everyday Star"

The Goldberg Variations, an iconic masterpiece by Johann Sebastian Bach, has been a staple in the life of curator and musician Arlen Hlusko for decades. From intense study of Dmitry Sitkovetsky’s String Trio arrangement during Hlusko’s undergraduate studies at the Curtis Institute of Music, up until present day, this work continues to challenge the mind, yet appease and delight the heart.  A stand-alone track on this album, Variation 7, performed by Hlusko with close friend and skilled Chinese violinist Lun Li, is particularly meaningful because it serves as a warm reminder of how music can bring loved ones together. After months of isolation between spring to summer of 2020, Hlusko and Li traveled across provinces, borders and states to meet in an open grassy field in Philadelphia, PA, where they performed this piece – both of their first time making music with another human being live in months.

“Haiku”, a stunning composition by violinist and composer, Michelle Ross, is written in an open and improvisatory manner which invites and encourages collaborator Arlen Hlusko to interpret the music and make it her own. Through their collaboration on this piece in the summer of 2020, Ross and Hlusko have grown to become close and cherished personal friends, serving as a warm reminder that this project was born from a desire to find meaningful ways to share, create, and connect with others.