Daring dance hits the LSPU Hall

Karla Hayward
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On stage

Contemporary dance. Two little words that are enough to make some people cringe.

"It's so obtuse," naysayers protest. "I don't get it."

Well, do ya get rock music? Yeah? Well then maybe, just maybe, you should step outside your comfort zone one night next week, and indulge in "a dance in the shape of a rock show."

Although many people outside the industry don't realize it, amazing music and contemporary dance are inseparable. In fact, most shows have original music composed specifically for them.

Choreographer Ame Henderson

Contemporary dance. Two little words that are enough to make some people cringe.

"It's so obtuse," naysayers protest. "I don't get it."

Well, do ya get rock music? Yeah? Well then maybe, just maybe, you should step outside your comfort zone one night next week, and indulge in "a dance in the shape of a rock show."

Although many people outside the industry don't realize it, amazing music and contemporary dance are inseparable. In fact, most shows have original music composed specifically for them.

It's not so much that people are dancing to music as that the music is actually part of the movement. Often, the composer will be composing simultaneously with the choreographer.

See? Contemporary dance feels a little friendlier already, doesn't it?

But, back to the point: Neighbourhood Dance Works (NDW) wishes you to experience the enticingly entitled "/Dance/Songs/" "a dance in the shape of a rock show" by Ame Henderson.

They blatantly crib from their site, "NDW is Newfoundland and Labrador's primary source and sole presenter of professional contemporary dance." And it's certainly true. Sure, a number of dance schools have sprung up in recent years, offering "get fit and have fun" classes to young and old. But as for professional presentations, well, those were essentially unknown until NDW came along.

"(NDW) has really grown exponentially in the last five years," NDW's Robbie Thomas says.

"Previously, there was basically one annual event - which was the Festival of New Dance - but since that time we've added a full program with more presentations throughout the year, and we've expanded the Festival and put in the First Look program. We're also building partnerships with other organizations for producing and presenting work."

And that partnership building is what led them to their latest production.

"/Dance/Songs/" is being co-presented with Halifax's Live Art Dance Productions, a fortuitous match according to Thomas.

"Since we're both off the beaten track here in Atlantic Canada, we thought it would be really helpful to be partnered on some productions to help bring in the artists," she said.

Work recognized

Touted as one of Canada's "brightest new lights," Henderson is an up-and-coming choreographer who's already gaining a reputation for excellence after 2005's sold-out run of her show, "Manual for Incidence." In "/Dance/Songs/" she collaborates with Montreal-based jazz musician Eric Craven and performers Matija Ferlin, Claudia Fancello, and Chad Dembski.

Thomas best describes "/Dance/Songs/" by reading from Henderson's press materials: "Like a good rock concert, it flirts with obscenity. It can be over the top and out of control. The performers let it all out in front of the crowd. It's abandoned and joyful, intimate and tender."

In her own words, she adds, "I'm anticipating something that's really, really expressive ... It is a rather explicit show. It's very full-on, kind of out-there choreography ... I'm really hoping that, because it's a fusion of music and dance, that this will be a really appealing show to all ages."

During her visit, Henderson will engage in what's known as a "creative residency."

"She'll come in for a full week," Thomas says, "in order to set up her show and do some community outreach, as well."

Five workshops are slated, including several in conjunction with Jill Dreaddy DanceCo.

Thomas happily notes that there's another show happening this week for dance fans, too. On Friday, April 18, Montreal Danse presents "Somewhat Like You" at the Arts and Culture Centre.

Pitched to younger audiences, the show is a participation-welcome, multilayered production that explores the oft-treacherous ground between teenagers and adults.

A travelling show, its hip-hop soundtrack was actually chosen by students in the community of performance. (See more at www.montrealdanse.com or www.-artsandculturecentre.com)

"The opportunities for people to experience dance is not that frequent in St. John's - apart, obviously, from the dance schools for people who come from here," says Thomas. "And then, we end up with two on the same weekend, which is quite extraordinary. So, for anyone who really wants to 'fill their boots' with dance, they have a perfect opportunity."

And as for those skittish naysayers? Thomas simply says, "Be daring. Come down."

"/Dance/Songs/" can be seen Thursday and Saturday, April 17 and 19 at the LSPU Hall.

Tickets are $15 (Students $10). For more info on workshops, contact ndw@nfld.net.

Organizations: Halifax

Geographic location: Atlantic Canada, Newfoundland and Labrador, Montreal St. John's

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