Dancing on the Edge – Building connection through dance, artistry and culture

In its 35th year and working on building back after the pandemic, the Dancing on the Edge Festival returns with all its creativity, collaboration and innovative choreography from July 6 to July 15. As Canada’s longest running professional dance festival, it emerges with a range of cutting-edge works focusing on themes such as identity, ancestry, heritage, home, solitude and control, among others.

“People want to create work that grounds them, that we can learn from. For example, in Home l a n d – two artists talk about what home is and what it means to them, the connection to home. Where do we belong? Who we are? How do we fit into society? It is evident it is the right time for this piece,” says festival director Donna Spencer.

According to Spencer, their mandate is to bring new contemporary dance to audiences and increasing appreciation, understanding and enjoyment.

“We want to bring work that stimulates and takes risks. Artists need to take risks. We are trying to walk the line between [what audiences are ready for and what artists are creating],” she says. “We want to believe in the work, and when we see the potential of the artist, we want to say, ‘let’s support that artist.’”

Challenging audience and creators– a festival for introspection and appreciation

Ecdysis | Soft Palate is a double bill showcasing the interdisciplinary collaboration of Vancouver based choreographer Emmalena Fredriksson, costume designer Alaia Hamer and lighting designer Kyla Gardiner. | hoto by Luciana-Freire-DAnunciacao.

In learning how the festival is cultivated and curated, Spencer mentions that over 100 applications were received when there was a call for proposals.

“We look at the quality of the work – which is fabulous – it has gotten so much stronger than 35 years ago. It is challenging to review the artists’ work, and the hardest part is making the selections from emerging artists – letters of references are called for from professional choreographers,” she says. “I also have a network of people in Canada that I can draw upon for input about the artists’ work. We want to stimulate audiences’ minds. The audience should be interested, entertained and intrigued.”

Spencer highlights the intent and importance of the festival in encouraging new work and those creators and choreographers that have longevity in the career to still be entertaining audiences.

“The beautiful part of contemporary dance is that it can transcend difference. Kinetically, we feel movement when we watch it, communicating and connecting to you. In one of the choreographer talks, Paul-Andre Fortier comments, ‘we don’t expect you to understand why a movement is chosen – but ask you to sit back and take it in – to feel what they see on stage.’ Some people find it boring or say, ‘I don’t get it,’ but you can,” says Spencer. “You just have to open yourself, sit in it and appreciate the work. It is something that can transcend cultural differences, and, with the festival’s work, we aim to be inclusive.”

Choreographer Isabelle Kirouac’ s Meta/Fauna, in which two shapeshifting creatures evolve in their ephemeral habitat. | Photo by Delia Brett.

In reviewing the schedule, one can see the diversity and range of the performances, from not only the intersection of different types of performance art and dance but even to the inclusion of individuals with hearing challenges and other abilities.

“There are not only race/gender issues but other challenges. We are inclusive, showing strong work that entertains and makes people think,” Spencer comments.

There are a range of performances available from creators such as Joe Laughlin, who participated in the first festival in 1988, and new emerging works – both full length performances and the Edge 1-6 series.

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