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 about posing questions about creative process, training and performance, and choreographic development. People 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, usually, 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 actually study. What that does is gives us another model of questioning.

What piece will the four-week residency explore?

The piece that we chose this year is called Noetic. Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui 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 good environment to attract lots of different artists from across the country. So it’s not classically-specific, you don’t have to be a modern dancer to do this. There’s actually room for a diversity of trainings to come in.

Improvisation is a cornerstone of this program. 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 you toward building new vocabulary.

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 that has a lot of pressure, or they try to make a company and build their own projects. So it’s really 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, because we don’t really have a centre for choreography in this country. If you want to actually practice choreography, you can do it some degree on a piece of paper, you can do it some degree with your scores, or in your head, but you need dancers to actually play it out.

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 have a company of 25 dancers together, they will do some form of training every morning and then they will be in a rehearsal process where they’re learning the Noetic. There will also be platforms for them to share their practices, there might be artists talks, there will also be some forums for dialogue to pose some questions, but a lot of it will be around training, and then rehearsing and learning and articulating Noetic. And, of course, having three performances at the end.

How about the Choreographic Lab?

The lab is again a large group of dancers and then four choreographers, 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 have to be aware of the idea of sound and that relationship to sound. A lot of choreographers do not have that luxury of being able to have a discussion with a composer. They don’t have the networks, they don’t have the money, and it’s such a strong component of what dance is. There’s such a need to not only be able to make a piece of music, or work with someone who is making the music at the same time as they’re making the piece, but what it does is create this symbiotic relationship between these two worlds that are so strongly woven in dance. It does take a type of learning to know how to talk between those two worlds.

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, which brings in a community of people. 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. And over the years there’s been a very sophisticated understanding of what the body is able to do, so the expression and knowledge that is available to us is really taking off. I think a lot of people are looking to movement, to its use of space and time and expression. I think there’s a resurgence of dance right now around the world. I think it’s one of the art forms that’s bringing in a lot of new audiences.

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. But it’s really about that dance artist who is really hungry to learn. 

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