Guelph Dance Festival Returns To In-Person Performance June 2-5 

Guelph Arts Council’s Paul Barson had a conversation with Artistic Director of the Guelph Dance Festival, Catrina von Radecki

PB: It’s been 3 years since you’ve had an in-person Festival. 2020 was cancelled and 2021 was online. How has the dance community in Guelph fared during this difficult time for performing arts?

CvR: I think the dance community is incredibly resilient! I am in awe as I watch the artists adapt their work quickly to online formats- some never having created dance films before. I think we have all learned how to present dance in new ways and I know we are all very eager to be able to present work in person once again. There is truly nothing like coming together in person. To breathe with the dancers, to see and feel the connections they have with one another as well as how that transcends the stage and reaches the audience.

I hear from many audience members and dancers alike – that they have a renewed sense of purpose and meaning behind the work they do now that they have felt what it is like not being able to perform or see performances live for so long.

PB: What can we expect to see at this year’s festival? 

CvR: We will have performances in a church, a park, a warehouse and a studio.

Our In the Park performances on Friday at 7pm and Saturday and Sunday at noon are always a huge hit. They are family friendly, innovative, physical and show diverse styles of dance. This year 3+ Collective (Toronto), Laboration Arts Company (France and Luxembourg), Meredith Thompson’s Community piece Imprint (Toronto) and Passion Fruit Dance (New York) will be sure to not disappoint.

We will also present Portal Dance’s (Guelph) piece The Returned which involves 36 community members and professional dancers. This piece will take audiences from the River Run Centre, along the river and ending in a full length performance at the SEED Warehouse. Janet Johnson is the choreographer and director of Portal Dance as well as one of the founders of the Guelph Dance Festival. She has made a huge contribution to dance in this city and we are very excited to see this very large production finally come to fruition after two years.

Suzanne Miller will perform Needle and Thread at the Royal City Mission Church on Saturday afternoon, which is a commemorative piece that starts with the listing of 600 names of Holocaust victims. The performance is riveting and powerful. The work is one hour and audiences can come for the whole time or for as long as they wish.

We are very excited to present Holla Jazz on Friday Late Night (9:30 pm) with the Dora Award winning piece FLOOR’d. This jazz dance is raw and physical and will have the whole audience dancing and partying after the show. There will be a cash bar and lots of space to dance with festival artists and patrons.

We will also present Double Time – a program developed and curated by Katie Ewald that will be presented at the Royal City Mission Church. For this program, twelve artists are randomly paired up. Each pairing creates a short work of 2-5 minutes and then they show it twice. How they show it is up to them.  It could be the same or it could be totally different. It is an experiment in presence and listening. This Saturday Late Night show will be followed by a festival lounge where artists and audiences can have a drink, chat, and perhaps dance some more!

Finally on Sunday our Guelph Dance artists in residence, Ben Gorodestsky, Meredith Thompson, and Alten Wiltmore will have an in-studio showing of the work they have been creating this year. This will be an informal showing where audiences can see works in progress as well as students from the Emerging Artist Intensive showing the work they created over the course of the previous week with choreographer Laura Arend.

PB: What’s special about holding a large portion of the festival outdoors at Exhibition Park?

CvR: This beautiful park is always such an incredible environment to experience dance. It is by donation, so very accessible to all and audience members can watch for as long as they like and come and go at any time. The crowds usually build to between 200-600 by the end so I think most like to stay and even come back to see the pieces several times.

PB: How many performers are local? How far away do non-local companies come from for the festival?

CvR: We have many local performers as well as artists from as far as France/Luxembourg. Our community projects, Imprint and Portal Dance’s The Returned will include a total of 75 local dancers. These projects have provided an opportunity for people of all ages to come together to dance and to perform. Many of the Double Time artists are also local and our artist in residence are also from the Guelph and surrounding area. The festival will also include artists from New York, Toronto, Montreal and Saskatchewan.

PB:  A big part of the festival is workshops. What are the offerings like this year and who can take part in these? Are these meant for seasoned dancers, or can anyone with a love of dance get involved?

CvR: We have many workshop opportunities once again this year. On Saturday at 10 am, Laura Arend from Laboration Art Company will offer a Contemporary Dance workshop that is inspired by yoga, improvisation and Gaga techniques. On Sunday at 10 am, Tatiana from Passion Fruit Dance Company will teach a class that will provide an introduction to house dance culture, drills, techniques and free styling. These classes are open to all and no experience is required.

We also have workshops all week leading up to the festival as part of our Emerging Artist Intensive that is developed and curated by Rowen McBride- Pilon, a local emerging artist herself. A variety of workshops will be offered each morning as well as information sessions and peer to peer sessions in the afternoon. This is an intensive week where emerging artists can dig deep and get many questions answered as well as network with other emerging and professional artists.

PB: There is an open panel session – Dance For Social Change. How can dance be a player in the promotion of social change?

CvR: I am very excited for the Panel, “Dance for Social Change”, which will open the festival on Thursday June 2nd at 7pm. The Panel will be on Zoom so everyone can participate from the comfort of their homes. Hosted by Kween the panel will include panelists Aria Evans, Suzanne Miller, Ben Gorodetsky and Tatiana Desardouin.

Festivals are an opportunity to come together as a community and to listen and learn new ideas. We are encouraged to be challenged, to make mistakes and to learn new ways of thinking and being in the world that is more inclusive and respectful to all. The panelists will talk about how their work and their creative process can bring awareness to social issues, how they can tell their stories and how we can heal as we come together.

PB: Is there anything else you would like to mention about the Guelph Dance Festival?

CvR: The festival will be offered both in person as well as online. All our events will be livestreamed and available on our website for the whole month of June. This will provide audiences the opportunity to see performances even if they cannot make it to Guelph or if they are not yet ready to gather in person. It also provides an opportunity for people to witness works both in person and live.

Learn more about the Guelph Festival Online.

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