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2018 Festival of New Dance concludes

Dancers Louise Moyes and Karen Fennell perform in the middle of Young Street. Some neighbourhood residents watched the action in the street from their open windows.
Dancers Louise Moyes and Karen Fennell perform in the middle of Young Street. Some neighbourhood residents watched the action in the street from their open windows. - Contributed

The 2018 Festival of New Dance concluded in the capital city on Sunday, after eight consecutive jam-packed days of captivating performances, engaging workshops and high-stakes auctions for locally made pie.

Attendees took home a lot more than pie from the festival, which brought local and Canadian artists together to present brilliant and unforgettable works of art for dedicated audiences.

With nearly 20 unique performances at various locations, I managed to squeeze in five shows – “Telemetry” by Shay Kuebler/Radical System Art, “Burning Skin” by Sinha Danse, “Devil's Purse” by Catherine Wright, on Oct. 1-2, and “Mozongi” by Compagnie Danse Nyata Nyata, and “Long’s Hill: I Live(d) Here” by Louise Moyse this past weekend.

Travelling to Newfoundland via Montréal, Compagnie Danse Nyata Nyata, under the direction of artistic director Zab Maboungou, delivered a worldly and otherworldly performance at the LSPU Hall on Friday night.

The show, “Mozongi,” began slowly, with dual musicians playing a trio of congas, a type of African drum. Starting off slowly, the percussive tempo accelerated as five dancers entered the stage.

Performing upright and horizontal, the dancers used all available space, joining the musicians by creating percussion with their feet and hands. Humming, chanting and clapping throughout, their bodies followed the rhythm of the drums, a mix of synchronized and wholly unique moves leaving me transfixed, and in awe of this performance, unlike anything else I have ever seen in St. John’s.

I would continue to be awed the next day, at Louise Moyes’ “Long’s Hill: I Live(d) Here,” a walking tour being filmed for an in-progress docu-dance.

We started at 53 Long’s Hill, moving through the home of a local resident and into a backyard, where dancers Ryan Davis and Karen Fennell began performing a lighthearted dance, frolicking in the grass. From a balcony nearby, another neighbour began playing accordion, providing a soundtrack for the show. I’m already in awe of this show – so warm, friendly and strangely hospitable to a group of strangers, who are mostly strangers to one another.

As we moved through Tessier Park, onto Tessier Place, up Carter’s Hill, down Young Street, through an alleyway, and back onto Long’s Hill, our group resembled a small parade.

We listened intently to anecdotes about the area – the residents of yesteryear, the fire of 1992, the businesses that have come and gone, and the present-day sociopolitical landscape and economic climate of the neighbourhood.

Winding around the area, we listened to excerpts from the works of neighbourhood authors Lisa Moore and Michael Winter via wireless speaker, as well as soundscapes of Long’s Hill throughout the seasons.

In addition to numerous pieces by Moyes, Davis and Fennell, local artists Kim White and Lee Saunders performed unique and insightful dance pieces, encouraging the audience to engage with the material. Local orator Dave Paddon also recited a piece about his time on Long’s Hill.

Though it is a short road, Long’s Hill has a lengthy and colourful history, and Louise Moyes is going above and beyond in serving and preserving her neighbourhood by encapsulating a small but grand piece of local lore by combining community spirit and dance – undeniably the highlight of the 2018 Festival of New Dance.

I’m already excited for next year.

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