I’ve posted here before about my sister’s amazing dance festival. She lives in Guelph, which is a small city about 45 minutes outside Toronto. Catrina’s background was in contemporary dance, a dance form I think you’re probably all at least somewhat familiar with (thanks, in part, to shows like So You Think You Can Dance—my fave guilty pleasure). Before that, she was a dancer-choreographer who traveled the world with some prestigious Montreal dance companies. But she fell in love and married and found herself happily settled in Guelph. Fourteen years ago, she and a friend and fellow dancer decided to found a dance festival that would bring contemporary dance artists from around the country (or the world, for that matter) to the intimate setting of their adopted city. It would be a way to bring dance to the locals, as well as giving performers a chance to work outside a major metropolitan city. They knew it might not be easy; they didn’t care. And so the Guelph Contemporary Dance Festival was born!
|Janet and Catrina (how cute are they?)|
Catrina and Janet have nurtured and built an amazing celebration of dance. It's been so successful, in fact, that it developed beyond the Festival to a year-round hub of all things dance-related: camps, workshops, fundraisers, one-off performances, etc, etc. But the Festival! Oh, the Festival. It is now four days of some of the best contemporary dance artists in the country performing all over the city: in the natural theatre of the park; in the concrete jungle of City Square; in studios so small you can see the dancers’ sweat; and on the traditional stage. You become immersed in this walking adventure of dance, moving from locale to locale to watch the artistry.
|Karen Kaeja Bird's Eye View. Photo by Anuta Skrypnychenko.|
|Wants&Needs Danse performing Chorus Two. Photo by Celia Spenard-Ko.|
|Zata Omm Dance Projects performing Bodhi Tree Duet. Photo by David Hou.|
If you’ve experienced performance like this before then you know what I mean when I say it is moving beyond words. The pure expression of emotion—whether angry, sad, twisted, questioning, joyful, serene—plays through you like your own body is up there moving, or as if the energy of the dancer’s body is keyed into your own and powers it from this higher, connected source. I mean, all dance can do this, but there is something about seeing it in a person who is a mere few feet away and who is conveying their story in a way you have probably never seen before. There is something to the surprise of that.
If you’re in the area, I highly recommend checking it out. You can find all the info here.
If you’re not, let me tell you another reason why I’m sharing this story. For the last several months, I have gone outside my comfort zone and taken on the role of the Festival PR. When their usual PR person went on mat leave and in a serendipitous moment wherein I expressed an interest in this kind of work and my sister a need for someone to do it, we just looked at each other and realized that it would be stupid (and kinda rude to Serendipity) to ignore it. After all, it wasn’t a full-time job, it might only be for this year, and it would teach me many invaluable lessons.
And what an adventure it’s been.
What am I most proud of? Probably the blog that I conceived and started, that I now oversee, organizing the contributors, mostly dancers, giving them a showcase, and inviting them to translate their movement into words (which they do remarkably well!).
I have absolutely loved being part of this unique and special organization: it is inspired, supportive, curious and creative. I have loved (for the most part) the work that I need to do for them. I have loved seeing a dynamic venture from the inside and bringing my own ideas and thoughts to them.
But—and this is only a mild “but”, a truthful “but”—I am also a perfectionist, especially when it comes to my own work, and there have been many moments along the way of doubt and fear. Doubt that I could do it, fear that I would forget something vital. This is the last week before the weekend of performances, so trust me when I say the heart is pumping and the mind is whirring. I am, on the one hand, confident, on the other, insecure. Angel/Devil are having their way with me. And if I feel like this, I can’t imagine how my sister and her company partner must have felt over the years as they developed a nascent idea into a full-fledged extravaganza.
So I am here to confirm once again that if you want to try something new, go for it, go on that adventure (and tell us about it!), and don’t be held back by stupid insecurities and fears. On Friday I will head down to Guelph, my work mostly done (well, except for the fun meeting of people), and maybe the whirring will slow down a bit and I can soak up the sheer beauty of this magical weekend. That’s when my heart will slow down and fill up the way it always does when I see something truly AWE-some.
Deb: Barbara, you have poured your heart and soul into this and I know what it has meant to you. I also know very well your professional ethic and how goal-oriented you are. But more than that, I am sure of your heart commitment in every single thing you do. I cannot believe I have never experienced this. Next year I am going!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!