The Creative Gesture Dance Residencies: Who Should Apply + What to Expect

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Creative Gesture

This summer our Dance department is proud to offer two interesting and intensive residencies called The Creative Gesture. One is a four-week dance residency culminating in performance, the other a two-week choreographic lab with a focus on the relationship between dancers, choreographers, and composers. We caught up with Artistic Director of the Dance department, Emily Molnar, to learn more about these unique residencies, including what participants can expect, and why nurturing dancers and choreographers is vital to the future of professional dance. Learn more about the residencies and apply by March 8 

What are you trying to achieve with the Creative Gesture? What is the program all about?

It’s about creating a training platform and an opportunity for emerging and mid-career artists, where they can discuss performance and have a dialogue about what’s going on in the dance world today. It’s a place to pose questions about creative process, training and performance, and choreographic development. Dance artists who are mid-career, if they want to do professional training opportunities, often have to give up work. So, we wanted to make the training platforms accessible financially, as well. This year we’re providing almost 100% support for artists.

The program description says the Creative Gesture’s aim is to “create a rare space in the dance world.” What about this space is rare?

It’s rare because, at least in dance, there are very few opportunities for dance artists to step outside of their companies or their projects and actually focus on professional development—and do that with another group of artists. The unique thing about dance is that it requires, in most cases, more than one person in the room. It is a community-based endeavour. That’s what makes it all so incredibly costly, but also so incredibly beautiful.

How is this year’s program different from last year's?

This year we have a company environment that will mix emerging and mid-career dancers. We’ll still have topics of conversation, we’ll still be focusing on process work, on building towards a performance, but this year we have an existing work we can study. This gives us another model of questioning.

What piece will the four-week residency explore?

The piece that we chose this year is called Noetic, created by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui. Larbi is one of the most sought-after choreographers today in the contemporary dance world. He is very much at the forefront of contemporary dance. It’s also a work that lends itself to a diversity of dance artists. People can come from various backgrounds and find their voice in this work. We felt that was a really wonderful environment to attract a variety of artists from across the country. So it’s not classically-specific, you don’t have to be a modern dancer to do this. This means there is room for a diversity of trainings to come in.

Improvisation is a cornerstone of the two week lab. How can dancers use improvisation as a choreographic tool?

Most choreographers are not using a codified language anymore—they are very interested in movement invention. In order to build a new vocabulary each time they make a piece, they need to have tools. Improvisation and instant composition are phenomenal tools in guiding a choreographer toward building new approaches to their work.

Tell us more about the concept behind the Collective Composition Lab for Music and Dance.

A lot of our choreographers today, when they want to start learning how to choreograph, they’re either thrown a big commission with a company, which can be a lot of pressure, or they try to create a company and build their own projects. It’s important to the livelihood of our profession that we have some initiating opportunities for choreographers to test the ground before they’re thrown into the deep waters of a big production.

One of my focuses with the dance program is choreographic development. I am hopeful that the opportunities we program can provide dance artists across Canada a much needed centre for choreography. To practice choreography, we need dancers to play it out. One of the aspects of the Collective Composition Lab is offering choreographers a company of dancers to experiment with. 

Emily Molnar Artistic Director Dance

Artistic Director of Dance, Emily Molnar

What will the day-to-day of the four-week dance program look like?

You will have a company of 25 dancers together, and an international faculty. They will do various forms of training every morning, followed by an extensive rehearsal process of the work Noetic. There will also be evening platforms for them to share their practices, there might be artists talks, there will also be some forums for dialogue. This intensive four week program will culminate in three performances of Noetic in the Eric Harvey Theatre with full set, costume and light design as well as live music.

How about the Choreographic Lab?

The lab is again a large company of dancers together with choreographers, and four composers. There will be times where they are all together with the dancers working with the choreographers and the composers on new ideas. And then there will be times when they separate and the dancers will be working on improvisation and instant composition work, and the choreographers and composers are working intimately together on ideas.

What interests you about that dialogue between dance and music?

First of all, it’s just such a strong component to choreography. Even if a choreographer chooses to use silence, they still will be aware of the idea of the relationship to sound. A lot of choreographers do not have the luxury of being able to have a discussion with a composer. They don’t have the budget, or in some cases the contacts. There is a need to create a symbiotic relationship between these two worlds that are so strongly woven in dance, and it does take a type of learning to know how to work between them.

What is the state of contemporary dance today?

I think it’s a very exciting one. I think that dance couldn’t be more relevant. It’s live and brings in a community of people together. For a brief moment in time we are sharing a moment together—that is, we’re not on our devices. It’s about the body, and connecting us to that sensory engine. There's a sophisticated understanding of what the body can do, so the expression and knowledge that is available to us is extraordinary. I think a lot of people are moved by the art of dance, its use of space and time and expression. There seems to be public attention on dance around the world at the moment and it is exciting to see how it is bringing new audiences towards the art form. 

Who should apply to these programs?

Professional dance artists, choreographers, and composers; People that are on the brink of their careers, and people very much in their careers—this is for the professional dance artist; It’s for people who are passionate, who want to learn, who are curious about deepening their understanding of dance and choreography; Those who want to develop new points of view, who want to question, who want to learn from other people, who want that professional development platform.  It’s for the artist who cares and wants to share with a group of likeminded artists in developing their own art as well as supporting the future of dance in our country. 

Applications for The Creative Gesture: Dance Residency, and The Creative Gesture: Collective Composition Lab for Music and Dance are open until March 8, 2017.