Whatever the age, whatever the mood, the 21st edition of the Festival of New Dance, presented by Neighbourhood Dance Works, will have something of interest for everyone.
“Contemporary dance is many things and people will sometimes say I won’t like it or I won’t understand it,” says Calla Lachance, Neighbourhood Dance Works’ executive director.
But that’s not always the case.
“This festival is a collection of artists who all bring us a different look at what contemporary dance can be,” she says.
The festival runs Oct. 11 to 16 and features dance pieces that are physically challenging, down to earth, poetic, abstract and fun.
One of the festival’s highlights takes place during the gala opening at the LSPU Hall, when Canadian artist Margie Gillis performs “Voyages into the Interior Landscapes.”
During her 36-year career, Gillis has performed all over the world.
“She’s bringing three pieces of her repertoire to the festival and each one has a different flavour and is really dynamic,” Lachance says. “It’s the first time she’s been here in St. John’s. Dancers can often have a short career and I think it’s a testament to her dedication. She very intuitive, her dancing really reflects who she is as a mature artist.”
Gillis will also host a workshop (open to all ages and levels), Dancing From The Inside Out, Wednesday, Oct. 12.
The gala night curtain rises with two local works from Sarah Joy Stoker and emerging choreographer Lynn Panting.
Lachance describes Panting’s piece as a fun and lively colourful character piece.
“It involves dancers and non dancers, the youngest is nine years old and there are older members of community as well.”
Sarah Joy Stoker presents her latest work with local musician Lori Clarke.
“She’s also been working with Anne Troake — three people who’ve been associated with Neighbourhood Dance Works for many years.
Some of the shows are geared especially toward family audiences.
Friday and Saturday, Oct. 14 and 15, a company from Montreal, Cas Public will perform “Variations S,” a work about how youth deals with peer pressure and their relationships with other youth, (LSPU Hall).
“They’re a really energetic young company. Anyone interested in ‘Dancing with the Stars’ and seeing that kind of extreme physicality, this piece really delivers that. You get a sense of that kind of dynamic that teenagers and youth might relate to and adults too.
“With about 10 dancers, it’s really exciting to see a company of that size at the hall. The proximity in the theatre is going to make it even more exciting.”
MAX Dancers, Dance Studio East and Soul Step Crew, all local studio dancers, will raise the curtain Friday and Saturday nights.
“These are really talented kids, with an exciting repertoire, interesting choreography — a really tight group,” says Lachance. “They’re stoked about being in the show and we’re really happy they’re going to be involved.”
Some members of the audience might recognize Corpus, the dance company behind the YTV show “4 Square.”
Corpus presents the comical “Flock of Flyers” and “Les Moutons” at Atlantic Place on Friday and at the Avalon Mall, Saturday and Sunday. The free event starts at noon.
“They literally are just going to be like sheep on the loose at the Avalon Mall,” Lachance says, describing Les Moutons. “We have built a corral that’s a sheep’s pen. Once they do their thing through the mall then they end up in this sheep’s pen. The engage a lot with the kids, but anybody will enjoy watching this piece.”
Lachance suggests the show is convenient for anyone who is just in town for the afternoon. “It doesn’t cost anything and they wouldn’t have to go down to the Hall if they can’t squeeze it into their schedule.”
Corpus will also hold two workshops on Thursday, Oct. 13.
“There’s a really beautiful program on Wednesday, Oct. 12 with an artist from Montreal (Jacques Poulin-Denis) and a duet (Claudia Moore and Dan Wild) from Toronto,” Lachance says.
“Jacques is a dynamic artist. It’s a comical piece. He converses with the audience a lot and he has an incredible presence on stage.”
The dancer lost part of his left leg in a car accident and wears a prosthetic limb.
“But it hasn’t stopped him at all from pursuing a career in dance. He’s a very inventive, original, thoughtful person to watch on stage.”
Moore and Wild portray a couple struggling through a relationship.
“The duet is extremely heartfelt, poignant, beautiful dancing.”
Thursday’s offering is a full eclectic work by Susannah Hood: “Hum (Shudder).” Lachance says the piece will appeal to people more familiar with dance.
“It’s very experimental, avant-garde, a dark work, that explores the life of Francis Bacon, a visual artist. This work really stands alone as a strong portrait of the artist.”
Performed as a trio, it’s not just one artist dancing about the life of Francis Bacon, she adds.
Two solo artists, Catherine Wright of St. John’s and Natasha Torres-Garner, Winnipeg, will do two shorter programs back to back at Canon Wood Hall, Military Road, Friday and Saturday.
“If you go to the 6 o’clock show you can still make it to the evening show.”
An unusual mixed media installation work, “The Bather,” will be set up at the Second Space at the Hall Thursday, starting in the afternoon.
Lachance explains: “It involves special technical equipment that allows the viewer to interact with a video projection (of a naked bather) using a glove you put on your hand. You can actually touch the video and the video will respond to your touch when you wear this device.”
Schedules for the week are available at Neighbourhood Dance Works’ website.
Lachance says audiences should check out the website and see what might appeal to them.
“If you’re drawn to something, come see it because it could challenge your perception of what contemporary dance means to you. It’s not just one thing.”