By Janet Johnson
I am the artistic director of Portal Dance, a Guelph-based contemporary dance company founded in 2011. Portal Dance was asked in mid-2016 by the River Run Centre to remount a piece called The Chrysalis Project for the Linamar for the Performing Arts school program. (The Linamar program “is dedicated to building wisdom and understanding of life’s broadness and diversity through exposure to the performing arts.” The audience for The Chrysalis Project will be between the ages of 10-12 years old.)
I was thrilled to receive this offer as I, like any creator, jump at the opportunity to get back into a creative process, to bring to life ideas, and to share creative dialogue with my community. I am also a keen supporter, enthusiast and believer in youth and have spent much of my dance efforts in arts education. I am the co-founder/owner with dance ally, Catrina von Radecki, of The Guelph Youth Dance Training Program/Guelph Youth Dance Companies, and regularly teach workshops at Guelph area public schools. Youth are near and dear to my heart. So, I lept (hmmm..) at this opportunity offered up by the River Run!
I then asked Danna Evans at the River Run if I could include the forty Guelph Youth Dance Company members in this re-mount. With the request granted, I began embarking on a full-length work which would include Portal Dance’s divine professional dance artists: Jasmin McGraw, Megan O’Donnell, Lynette Segal, and Kelly Steadman, and my inspiring/inspired youth dancers, aged 9-18 years old. The Chrysalis Project was originally inspired by the evolution of the butterfly, the aging of humans, and the decay of our planet, and how all three systems are connected and affected by the other. In the original creation, I was fascinated by the beauty and wonder of this metamorphosis and the cyclical patterns revealed. With these concepts jostling around my mind I saw it as absolutely fitting to bring together this array of dancers, reflecting the evolution and transformation of us as human beings - our time on this planet.
This merging of dancers was also an obvious opportunity for mentorship and community building. The crossing of ages and companies through movement and expression in the body became highly reflective of the very conceptual material we all were working on in The Chrysalis Project’s rehearsals. The dance community in Guelph is strong, supportive and this project’s opportunity was a rich and inspiring way to experience community, succession, and compassion. The teen GYD Co. dancers can support the younger apprentice dancers, the professionals can gently nudge the older youth, who in turn can inspire the adults with their lovely hearts, passion and raw energy.
In a time of global strife, turmoil, the ripping apart of ethics, and soil ripe for disparity, I am deeply motivated and inspired to build a strong sense of belonging, family, and connection within this multi-generational cast of 44.
An early but heartfelt thank you to Danna and the River Run for asking for The Chrysalis Project to come back to life, to the amazing cast and supporting artists, to Dean Palmer and Emma Wardell, and to the Guelph community for wanting to believe.
A public performance of The Chrysalis Project will be presented on Thursday, April 27, at the River Run Centre. Tickets are available at riverrun.ca or at the Box Office.