Insights from the Artists
Updated: Dec 4, 2019
Saturday, Oct. 5, 1:00pm
MERIDIAN HALL Lower Lobby
Pre-Show Artist Talk: Commissions
In this Artist Talk, moderated by Festival Artistic Director Ilter Ibrahimof, we heard from the
artists who were specifically commissioned by FFDN to make new work for this year’s event:
Caroline “Lady C” Fraser (Program 2), Anne Plamondon and Vicki St. Denys (Program 2 Ryerson School of Performance partnership) and Cody Berry (Program 3). Ilter asked a range of questions that allowed the artists to share insights into their creation process and some of the variables involved in commission projects. These differ from artist-initiated work because they often involve specific parameters, like using live music, adhering to a specific time limit, or working with a particular cast of dancers.
From Anne and Vicki we learned that the commission she made with the Ryerson dance students was her first group work ever. She has primarily created solos, duets and small ensemble works. Here, she had 18 eager dance students. She noted that her intent was two- fold: to showcase the dancers own capacities and to amplify her choreographic voice through this large ensemble. (To note, this case was the same size as the Grupo Corpo cast on Program 1, for those who attended.) Vicki commented on how the training at Ryerson offers immersion in four key forms: ballet, modern, jazz and contemporary, and that the students work to develop their movement versatility through these practices.
From Cody we learned that in order to develop his contemporary Indigenous choreography, he had to seek permission or approval from Elders in his community. Because Lac La Croix First Nation is 2 days’ travel away, he would send videos to his mom, who would then share them with the Elders and pass on their responses to Cody. Protocol ensures that Indigenous traditions and ceremonial parameters are respected and that private knowledge and practices are not inappropriately shared out of context. Every step of the way, he had to navigate protocol in order to, as he said, “bring his culture forward”.
From Lady C we learned about her connections to the pioneers of various street dance forms
from whom she learned, including Don “Campbellock” Campbell, the originator of the locking
style. She explicitly stated that because she is making a living off the dances they created, she
takes care to respect their work while also noting the practice – embedded in these forms
themselves – of bringing one’s individual expression into the work.
I think we learned less about the commissioning relationship per se than about these artists’
creative processes – and that was probably what this audience wanted to hear, as they were
about to step into the theatre for the second performance of Program 2.
(I hung around in the Lower Lobby during the performance to write about my own experience
with that program the previous evening. I heard snippets of music from the works I was writing
about filtering through the building – and I heard the rousing applause and cheers after each
work in true Fall for Dance North audience style.)