Contemporary Dance in Vancouver

Message in movement.

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Every year the Vancouver International Dance Festival (VIDF) attracts dancers from around the world, but it also offers the opportunity to showcase homegrown talent. Recently, the Roundhouse Performance Centre was packed for performances of a yet-to-be titled work by Vancouver-based Out Innerspace Dance Theatre. “It’s about exploring the relationship between ourselves and others in a confined space,” says David Raymond, the company’s co-founder.

As a genre, contemporary dance can often be hard to define and to access. The job of choreographers and performers is, at least in part, to make their work comprehensible and universal. It’s easy to create something beautiful—it’s more difficult to make the movement speak, and to have the audience leave having learned, understood, or felt something new. To accomplish this, Raymond sees a heightened emphasis on storytelling.

“[Dancers] are interested in exploring, ‘How can we get our message across, in which ways does that live inside of the choreographic practise? Through movement or patterning or repetition or all the different tools that we use, how can we construct some type of narrative line?’” he says. “I think that’s a big emphasis for a lot of contemporary dance companies in town right now, trying to figure out how you can communicate a universal story … Trying to figure out what sticks when you watch something that’s constantly moving and shifting.”

Raymond formed Out Innerspace with Tiffany Tregarthen at VIDF in 2007, so the event holds special weight for them. “It’s a great festival because it puts a lot of local dancers and choreographers in to one place,” says Raymond.

The dance landscape, in Vancouver and abroad, is a competitive one. And as each performer surely knows, there are many who wish to do what they do; so many, in fact, that it can be hard to stand out. “I think mostly what I try to think about is, ‘What am I interested in, what do I feel like I need to explore, what is it I want to say?’” Raymond explains.

Throughout the majority of Out Innerspace’s VIDF piece, the seven performers remain in constant contact with each other, pulsing around the stage as one cohesive mass. They flow through the music, constantly changing shapes and levels, pausing in position, taking a breath, and then surging into the next sequence. As the piece progresses, the dancers break apart in small snippets, using breath and facial expressions to demonstrate good versus evil, the individual versus the group. The result is a performance reflective of a company that shows exciting promise for the future of contemporary dance right here at home.

The Vancouver International Dance Festival runs until March 28, 2015. Out Innerspace begins a national tour of their piece, Me So You So Me, in Toronto on April 15, 2015.

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March 25, 2015