New dances new worlds

Dancers’ Studio West gears up for this year’s Explosions festival

To go along with Calgary’s usual routine of July Stampede breakfasts and winter hockey celebrations perhaps a February ritual of seeing our city’s finest artists in movement would enrich the lives of many more Calgarians. Dancers’ Studio West has done just this showcasing emerging artists and seasoned professionals in the field of dance with the Alberta Dance Explosions Festival of Choreography.

The festival encompasses all the variations of the dance medium itself: from ballet to contemporary dance hip hop breaking African and Cuban tap jazz Flamenco contact improvisation belly dance and more. Since its beginning 24 years ago Dance Explosions has evolved to showcase everything from traditional movement to beautiful cultural and experimental works. This year’s event will highlight more than 30 choreographers. For those fortunate enough to partake in this February ritual it’s like finding a secret door (DSW’s main entrance is in a back alley) and opening it into a different world within every dance piece.

Dancer Rosanna Terracciano promises to take you into such a world in her piece (With a beauty lit) from within based on the flamenco musical form peteneras . This work has been developed from another she presented in a production last year called My Flamenco (which she co-produced with her sister Graziella). Hearing her description of (With a beauty lit) already defies the expectations one might have of flamenco dancing. Yes there is a guitarist David Matyas who has played for Terracciano before. However rather than having a traditional vocalist cellist Erin Beach fills the role. Terracciano notes how emotional and moving the sound of the cello is: “The first time we practised I got so emotionally involved I cried” she says. The real mystery of the piece however might be the silence of her feet — Flamenco is renowned for its fast rhythms and fast-stamping dancers (Terracianno has brought her own board to dance on at past Explosions for this purpose). Here her choreography and performance (with partial choreography by Rocío and Matilde Coral) gives us another side to the art form she has studied numerous times in Spain.

Dancer Danny Nielsen melds art forms in a number that includes an exploration of both tap and the rhythms of spoken word (the movement and the words are by Nielsen). The piece called Organic includes movement to the musical strains of Rahsaan Patterson. Nielsen studied and works with Calgary tap artist Lisa La Touche. His association with her led him to be a principal dancer and a teacher at MADD Rhythms Canada (a dance company she founded). Nielsen has also danced with MADD Rhythms in Chicago and wanted Organic to be neither a typical tap nor spoken-word piece but a work that came from within himself.

Then there’s In Pieces a contemporary dance number that developed between two artists in a process that involved editing throwing away and returning to ideas that happen in a creative collaboration. Hilary Maxwell and Jennifer Jaspar perform as both choreographers and dancers. “It has been an interesting process being both a dancer and a choreographer” Jaspar says. “We started out with improvisation. We would videotape it then watch it and take the things that we liked and push them further. We started off with something completely different from what it is” Jaspar says. Maxwell notes that they initially worked from a few images and returned to those images later on in the choreographic process. One of the images they were drawn to was on the cover of a book by Paulo Coelho ( The Witch of Portobello ). “It’s this girl sort of folded in half” Maxwell explains. They started improvising from this image and then left it for awhile when they felt stuck. “We always come back to that image” Maxwell says.

This year’s Explosions will be receiving national recognition: a group of Canadian dance presenters CanDance is coming to Calgary to see Decidedly Jazz Danceworks’ show wowandflutter as well as a night of Explosions including a performance of A Story of Reconstruction (February 8 part of Aftershocks ) by Calgary contemporary dance artist Helen Husak. “I think that’s pretty exciting for Alberta so they’ll be able to see what we have to offer” Maxwell says.

Alberta Dance Explosions Festival of Choreography takes place each weekend (February 7 to 9 14 to 15 and 21 to 23) at Dancers’ Studio West (2007 10 Ave. S.W. back alley entrance). For more information call 244-0950.