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Backbone: dance performance inspired by the ‘spine’ of the Americas

Scores of people gathered into the dimly lit and hushed lower-theatre of Berkeley Street Theatre to see the latest production featured by the Canadian Stage, a not-for-profit contemporary theatre company. It was the opening night, on Nov. 3 of Red Sky Performance’s latest indigenous contemporary performance —Backbone. Nothing could have prepared me for the invoking performance that was presented before me.

In anticipation of the performance, I had a chat with Red Sky’s founder and artistic director, Sandra Laronde. Laronde was inspired to create Backbone using her indigenous beliefs based on the ‘spine of the Americas.’

” I wanted to show the ‘backbone’ of the Americas in dance and music, a rocky spine ( Rocky Mountains) that has life, circuitry, electricity, and impulses that are alive and dynamic—much like the human spine. For indigenous peoples, there is a strong connection between the earth’s backbone and a human one, we are inseparable.” Laronde said.

Laronde’s connection to indigenous culture and interest in indigenous mapping inspired the core of Backbone. Indigenous mapping sees the land as a live and spiritual space. Instead of seeing the mountains (Rockies and Andes) as divided by borders, as traditional western mapping does, Indigenous mapping marks it as a continuous fluid.  Many characteristics of Indigenous mapping lays respect to Mother Earth and speaks about the meaning of the land instead of naming an area after a person or a discoverer.

Laronde asked herself how she could translate this concept into movement? With a team of nine dancers and one live musician, Laronde partook in collaborative choreography training with Jera Wolfe, Ageer, and Thomas Fonua to create the contemporary aesthetic of Backbone that visually and audibly appeals to the viewers.

The sounds that accompanied the dancers movement on stage was crucial to create visuals and situations that allows your mind to imagine and feel the moment. In the opening sequence of Backbone, dancers present themselves as a spine, with each movement in cohesion with the cracking  and popping sounds of human bones. The spine coming to life, unfolding, separating, and eventually merging together again.

This stunning performance was only possible through the use of talented dancers using every bit of their intense training. On average, the dancers trained from 10 AM to 6PM, Monday to Saturday, their training is akin to a high-level athlete, with many training since childhood.

With music being such a big component to this performance, Laronde turned to percussionist and composer, Rick Sacks, a long-time collaborator with Red Sky. Sacks was the 10th, but most crucial performer on stage, delivering sounds to accompany the dancers.

“Most of the music was performed live except for about 10 ambient cues from a computer in a booth. Rick played and/or triggered all the music. He triggered sounds from an electronic drum set and an electronic MalletKAT. The composition is made vital by ornamentation and punctuation that he could change each night depending on the dancer’s movements and the energy of the performance. This could only be the result of a live performance— it keeps it spontaneous,” said Laronde

Backbone marks the third back-to-back Toronto premiere that Red Sky has had since August. This is also their first collaboration with Canadian Stage, where Red Sky will be in residence for two years — the 17/18 and 18/19 seasons. Red Sky Performance was founded in 2000 and for the past 17 years they have focused on highlighting different traditional areas of indigenous dance theatre and music in a contemporary form.

Backbone runs from Nov 2-12 at the Berkeley Street theatre in Toronto. Red Sky Performance has also been invited to perform Backbone at Live Art Dance in Halifax, Nova Scotia on Nov 17. they will tour to Europe and Asia in January and February 2018-19. For more information visit redskyperformance.com.

 

Tourism Toronto captures beauty and creativity in city

The perception of Toronto by outsiders and those actually living within the city are very different. As someone who moved year a little over a year ago, I can confidently say that Toronto is not the mean, green, and cold place many across Canada think it to be.

Toronto is hot, it is fresh, and it has an edge to it that offers people many creative outlets to express themselves. The new video “The Views are Different Here,” released by Tourism Toronto, truly manages to capture Toronto’s essence and shows a variety of different perspectives to living in the Big Smoke. The video is getting massive hits on social media because it shows the quintessential Toronto narrative of a multicultural city, where everyone is welcome. Tourism Toronto manages to capture the annual pride parade, the AGO, Caribana and a Drake concert in the video and it creates a narrative of what it is like to be a part of the multicultural fabric of this city.

When I moved to Toronto from Western Canada, I had certain assumptions of the city. I thought it would be big, mean, and greasy. It has the reputation of being the main hub of Canada where people go to work long hours and spend most of their time underground on the subway. I was completely surprised when I learned that Toronto isn’t just a chaotic and busy city, but actually exudes a vibe that is creative and beautiful; yet, authentic. Toronto is replete with people full of large ideas concerning art, the environment, music, and everything in between. Most of these folks manage to own their ideas, but are not pretentious or self-serving about it. In other words, they are real and genuine creators looking to collaborate and work with other like-minded people.

Though Toronto typically has a reputation of being one of the more ‘unfriendly’ Canadian cities, its actually just the opposite. The majority of city dwellers are non-judgmental and very kind to each other. I have met so many lovely people since moving here and am struck nearly every day by how kind the average person really is. There is a level of openness and progressive discussion in this city (perhaps due to deep ties leaning to the left politically) that opens doors for a variety of topics. Any daily conversation could range from an 80 year old man about attending a drag show to discussing the future of classical music with a 20 year old woman with green hair.

I will even admit that the man bun has grown on me. It isn’t just a sign of the dreaded hipster, but has become a fashion symbol for the Toronto urban style ([note the clip in the tourism video of the older gentleman with the man bun, doesn’t he look suave?). It is important to notice that the video also includes a special focus on graffiti art in the city. To see the beautiful street art that exists in the city showcased as a tourist grab is phenomenal. It is a form of art that deserves celebration and there is a turn happening in Toronto where art is become an important avenue of expression for the city. Lastly, the video also manages to put a creative spin on the TTC with ballet dancers on the subway. This gives a more positive outlook for the subway system, and dare I say it almost makes commuting on public transit look enjoyable.

It really is incredible to see Tourism Toronto for giving other outsiders such as myself a more realistic glimpse of what this beautiful city has to offer. I am proud to live in this dirty, artsy, and fascinatingly multicultural city. It is busy, it is loud, and it is in your face. I would ask for nothing else in the years of my youth and I am astounded nearly every day by something new and fresh in this city that I just hadn’t noticed before.

What did you think of “The Views are Different here”? Let Women’s Post know in the comments below.

This might be the greatest Canadian YouTube video of all time

Backstreet’s Back circa 1999 Canada’s Wonderland

Words fail me when I think of ways to describe this. Masterpiece comes to mind. Genius. Art.

From the description of the video as told by uploader Ryan Doucette:

“So here’s the story… For those of you from Southern Ontario, it’s likely that you went to Canada’s Wonderland in Toronto during the late 90’s/early 2000’s in the Summertime. I have very fond memories of the roller coasters, waterpark and food at the amusement park. One year, I went with some friends and we came across the new video karaoke; essentially, you pay them some money and they create a blue screen video of you and your friends singing a song. They would broadcast the song, including the videos of whoever was singing at the time, on the outside of the building.They had all the hits at the time, including a number of songs by the Backstreet Boys. While I never had the guts to go in and sing something, we happened to be outside the place when this guy went in for his solo. The park staff were stunned, and my friends and I were on the ground crying with laughter! Needless to say, I wanted this video, and the staff were kind enough to oblige. I spent the rest of my spending money for the day on the VHS copy of his performance, and to this day, I still consider it money well spent. It’s been hiding in a box in my basement for years, and today, I converted it to digital. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you WTF Backstreet’s Back. Enjoy!”

While this man may not know the joy he has brought to this writer and other viewers of the video, he at least knows that he has a wicked kick and some sick moves.

Below are some of my favourie stills from the video.

 

You can follow Travis on Twitter at @TravMyers for all the latest in Backstreet Boys dance videos from over a decade ago.