Dialogue through dance

Jeanette Kotowich in Eloise | Photo by Daniel Paquet

Vancouver International Dance Festival will take on the city with its 2019 edition. From March 4 to March 30, dozens of celebrated artists perform in several places in Vancouver, showcasing powerful presentations from a diverse group of talented artists.

Jeanette Kotowich, a Vancouver based performer, is one of the talents that will enlighten the art scene during the VIDF where she will be presenting Eloise.

A taste of local talent

I started dancing when I was eight-years-old. As a child and a teenager, I went through different styles, from ballet to modern to contemporary dance. I knew this was my calling,” says Kotowich.

Kotowich moved to Vancouver when she was 17. She intended to further her knowledge of dancing and turn the activity into a solid independent career. After attending the Simon Fraser University Dance program, she got her bachelor of Fine Arts degree.

“I’m passionate about dancing. I don’t see performing as work; I see my life and my practice altogether. It is my vocation. It is the way I live,” says Kotowich. “My journey with dance is, and continues to be, about healing. It’s a way to pray and be connected to nature and the world around me.”

Celebrating her native ancestries

Dancing is also the way Kotowich honors her Cree Métis heritage, originally from Treaty 4 territory Saskatchewan.

“An Indigenous worldview is embedded in how I approach performing and how I move my body. Through my dance, I am able to pay tribute to indigenous practices and ideologies. It is all intertwined in the way that I perform,” explains Kotowich.

As a conceptual artist, she always works with a concept behind her creations.

“Everything that I envision relates back to a concept. It is where I start all my performances,” says Kotowich.

In order to construct her presentations, all her movements are well conceived based on her dance practices.

“I also listen to my ancestry. It guides my creations,” she adds.

Bringing her own work to the spotlight

After participating in previous editions of the Vancouver International Dance Festival as part of group performances, she is excited to perform her own material for the first time.

“I am proud to work only in the arts − that is my full-time job. I collaborate with companies, and I am also able to create and produce my own performances,” explains Kotowich. “However, this edition of the VIDF will be the first time I’m going to be presenting one of my own creations, Eloise.”

When she came up with Eloise, she had an urge to work with characters in an unusual way.

“I wanted to explore. I love to create by referencing the contemporary, connecting with people. On Eloise, I felt the need to express the lands we carry inside ourselves,” defends Kotowich. “As someone who has multiple homes – I have a Saskatchewan home and a West Coast home – I wanted to bring that to the stage.”

The artist then searched for a different medium able to embody all the nuances she has imagined.

Eloise is universal. Anyone can relate to it, for sure. It has dance, song, movement, stand up. There is something for everyone in this performance,” she says.

The power of dancing

After years working, studying and living dance, Kotowich is certain the art is able to attract multiple audiences.

“My performances carry a lineage of the places I have traveled. When I go to a new territory, a land, a nation, the work is not only done on stage but connecting with the community. I always want to have a dialogue around the rhetoric so I can infuse the performance with whatever contemporary references I learn,” says Kotowich. “Dancing is about connecting with people.

“I feel flattered to share this performance with the Vancouver International Dance Festival audience. I usually present my work in indigenous programs. Being able to share indigenous among other works is really special to me.”

For more information on the Vancouver International Dance Festival, go to www.vidf.ca.