For three weeks in May 2019, nine emerging artists from Europe and Canada gathered in Montreal for a creative exchange that focused on sharing practice and engaging with new ways of thinking about dance making. Loosely inspired by the Colina residencies produced by O Espaço do Tempo, the seeds for this exchange were planted in November 2017, when a delegation of European Dancehouse Network members travelled to Montreal to share best practices with Canadian dance organizations as part of the EDN Encounter Canada.
In conceiving this project, we identified four primary objectives:
1. To create a dynamic artistic and cultural exchange between choreographers from Canada and Europe, allowing for a greater understanding of the realities artists face in different geographic locations;
2. To provide space for artists to share their work and practices with each other, as well as time to create/research collaboratively without the pressures of producing a finished product – and with an emphasis on experimentation!
3. To increase participating artists’ networks and build lasting relationships with the potential to lead to potential future projects;
4. To facilitate opportunities for artists to see shows and meet artists & presenters from the Canadian and International dance milieus during the Festival TransAmériques.
Gathering an eclectic group of artists was of paramount importance to the Centre de Création O Vertigo (CCOV). Through a series of informal conversations with Pia Krämer and other EDN members, a loose framework was developed in which each of six partner organizations would recommend artists from their communities. Our partners’ geographic locations provided one layer of diversity but, more importantly, each was requested to propose candidates with varied aesthetic interests.
Armed with lists of names from our European and Canadian partners, Andrew Tay, Artistic Curator at the CCOV, proceeded to the challenging task of selecting artists who would potentially complement and oppose each other in the most effective ways possible. Once the visiting artists were selected, Andrew completed the programming by adding three artists from Montreal. Group dynamics are often a delicate balancing act and, regardless of the best intentions, one never knows what is going to happen once everyone gathers in a room. Happily, we had a fantastic group come together for this inaugural edition of Emerging Encounters!
While we wanted to create a horizontal power dynamic that implicated the artists in the decision-making process, Ginelle Chagnon and Angélique Willkie joined Andrew Tay to undertake the advance planning and to determine the overall program design. A loose structure was identified for each of the three weeks, within which the participants ultimately chose the path forward. Ginelle and Andrew joined the artists in the studio on a daily basis, simultaneously participating on a peer-to-peer level while also playing the role of the reflector, shining ideas back at the group, and witness, documenting the process and sharing their observations.
SHARING PRACTICE AND CREATING ENCOUNTERS
The first week was dedicated to sharing practice, with each individual taking time to discuss their work and lead the others through movement exercises. Given individual backgrounds that ranged from Bharatanatyam to circus, with a full contemporary dance spectrum in between, these sessions offered highly diversified opportunities to try on someone else’s movement practice and served to push people out of their comfort zones.
The second week explored in greater depth the individual processes touched upon in the first week. To this was added daily discussion periods that touched upon a broad scope of topics of concerns. From the creative process to authenticity to remuneration, these conversations provided a means to compare and contrast the realities, obstacles and opportunities being lived in different communities.
Week three was dedicated to creating encounters with Canadian and international dance professionals who were gathered in Montreal for the FTA and OFFTA. Encounters ranged from fully produced performances to informal presentations of ideas that are being developed. While the CCOV wanted to create an experience where artists could work without the added pressure that comes with presenting, feedback from participants indicated a strong appreciation for witnessing the work of a colleague whose process you have spent two weeks observing.
Throughout the three weeks, space was created to cook and eat together, to see shows together, and simply to hang out together. It comes as no surprise that these extracurricular activities were as enriching as the time spent in studio.
This event represents a first for the Centre de Création O Vertigo, whose first 32 years of operations were dedicated to producing the works of Ginette Laurin (under the name O Vertigo Danse). In 2016, the CCOV adopted a new mission to contribute to the evolution of contemporary dance practices by supporting research, creation and production. These three weeks in May 2019 represent a most fulfilling culmination of the transformation process the CCOV has been engaged these past three years. Our EDN and Canadian partners connected us with amazing artists who filled our space with excitement, risk and curiosity. We’re still buzzing from the experience and are looking ahead to hosting a second edition in two years.
The Emerging Encounters were produced & hosted by the Centre de Création O Vertigo – CCOV in Montréal, Canada in collaboration with: Dansens Hus Stockholm, Tanec Praha, O Espaço do Tempo, the Dance Centre (Vancouver), Mile Zero Dance(Edmonton) and the Indigenous Performing Arts Alliance (Toronto).