Thursday, March 31, 2011



So here we are: only 2 performances left for Intersection Project… As a co-founder of the project, I started to think of how the project has changed my perspectives on the city over the past few months. Toronto... I’ve lived here for two years now. And to say the truth, it is more like: one year and 8 months. So when you think about it, what do I possibly know about this city, hum?

What is it to be a dancer in Toronto?
What is it to be an artist in this city?
What is it to live here?

The next few paragraphs are quite informal: they are the story of an encounter between the city and me. And they probably contain a lot of English grammar mistakes! But I don’t mind. If I am about to share glimpses of my 2-year relationship with Toronto, it might as well reflect how French I am, don’t you think?


I moved here in 2009 to do my Master in Fine Arts at York University, with Kate Nankervis, who I did not know at all at the time. We met in a dance workshop in Montreal years ago, and she emailed me to offer me a room in her apartment when I was looking for a place in Toronto. Luckily, we became more than roommates; as most people know, we work together, create together and write grant applications together, in addition to living in the same house, sharing clothes and ear rings, etc. We became very closed friends; people started to call us the wives, just to give you an idea.

Kate has been my Toronto pillar. Before I moved here, the only thing I knew about the city was College Street and the Kensington Market, from visiting the year before. I also knew DIMBY (a fantastic project I’ll talk about later on) and the Dufferin Park. And streetcars. I was very excited about streetcars: we don’t have them in Montreal!

So: Kate knew everything one would possibly want to know about the professional dance scene here. That was of high interest to me, of course, as a dancer. Freshly graduated from a BFA in dance, she already was involved in a myriad of projects here and there. She introduced me to all of her friends. She sent me an incalculable amount of grant applications, call for artists, and call for proposals of all sorts that she thought would suit my work. I was impressed with how much she was willing to share: I don’t usually send out every single call for artists I find out about to all of my artist friends. I sometimes keep the secret for myself so that less of us apply… I know, it’s a shame. But Kate would share every single link with me, and with all of her fellow artists. That is how the emerging dance scene functions here in TO: you know something, you share it. Resources are not to be kept as secret. That is very interesting and particular in a world that is so competitive, a world in which everyone is fighting over the same grants, trying to get funding for their projects. But yes, the group of emerging dance artists I met here shares everything. They support each other so much, and they love each other so much, that they even decided to call their service organization The Toronto Dance Community Love-In. I’ll talk about them later on too, but it gives you an idea. That is the Toronto dance structure I was welcomed in. So refreshing, so powerful.

So yes: Kate literally knew the Toronto dance scene like the inside of her pocket. Probably because she is so passionate about her craft, but also because there IS a desire to share information here, and therefore everyone is aware of what is happening where and with whom. She’d say to you “Well it is no hard work for me to do all of this, it is what I love doing, it is what I work for, it is my life”, but really, when you look at the number of things she can handle in one day, you have to admit this is more than passion: this is talent, intelligence and devotion. Devotion to making the Toronto art scene a better one. Being her roommate, I got to see the Toronto emerging dance scene through the lens of her gaze, and that means in a positive, faithful and enthusiastic way.

In October 2009, I launched a new edition of my calendar for emerging artists. As an on going, annual project, I did not want to skip it for two years just because I was in Toronto. So I decided to do it with Toronto artists: Kate Nakervis, Eroca Nicols and Andrea de Keijzer. Eroca and Kate helped me organize a calendar release party for the project. The night of the party, I started to see more than glimpses of what the Toronto emerging dance scene had to offer. An impressive amount of people, who I barely knew, came to the party, bought calendars, drank and danced all night long, etc. For the occasion, we thought of organizing a series of one-minute performances. I am still, more than a year later, blown away by the extravagance, hilariousness and greatness of all of these one-minute performances. That night, dancing with these artists, watching them giving their time with generosity and asking about my projects with excitement, I knew I was witnessing something unique. I had never seen such a welcoming group of people, all fighting for the same thing. That night, I understood this was an opportunity for me to take part in something great, something important, in some way, here, in Toronto. Especially when dance artists are given less and less funding every year, when government policies are not always encouraging of the art form, when Rob Ford wins... I was delighted to encounter such courageous and inspiring people. There truly was something unique about this new generation of dance creators. They seemed to count on the power of the group to get them somewhere, as opposed to put all of their energy on individual projects. Everyone seemed to feel a part of everyone’s work in some way.

Parallel to my life with Kate, I was excited to dedicate myself to studying full-time choreography and dramaturgy for my master. Inside the MFA program, I found a family that would accompany me throughout the toughest parts of the year, when expectations started to fall apart on the academic side. So I started to discover Toronto through my classmates too: as foreigners (the six of us headed from Montreal, Ottawa, Vancouver, Edmonton, Alaska and Germany), we did not know much about the city. It was quite an exquisite and unique feeling to encounter the city together, having different reference points in Toronto, but no substantial history with it. It is like learning to play a new game when all the players are beginners: you somehow make your own rules! For Anastasia Toronto was big, huge, gigantic! For me it felt conservative and polite. And for the six of us, having to commute to York everyday was simply a pain (except for Anastasia who was living on Campus…poor Anastasias)! Because yes, really, the most of our time we would spend it at York, or traveling to/from York, far away from anything else. So in order to counter balance for the fantastic amount of time we'd spend up there at York, we did put a show together in the first 4 months of our program, and presented it downtown Toronto. We had the chance to encounter early on in our journey the very eclectic Toronto audience for dance. Our works where as diverse as you can imagine, the six of us being so different as individuals and as artists too. But I like to think of that show as such an authentic and original way to get to know a city: through the arts, through people's relationship with the arts. We received all sorts of comments on that show, some good, some less enthusiastic. But one thing remains: 6 foreigners put a show together and local artists are there to support them no matter what. How great hmm?

That being said, York is also a big part of what I will remember from Toronto. I know, the location does not really help the overall appreciation one has of TO, but it comes with it. I also got used to the whole university being closed because it snows a little. Toronto is so unprepared for snow!!! Hilarious. One thing I like about the Toronto subway: the platform might be a little narrow when you wait for the train, but when you get inside, the cars are huge! For some reason, Montreal does the opposite, where the platform is large but the cars are so small they are constantly over packed with people inside…

So, after one academic year, I still did not know much about the city itself, having spent most of my time in theatres or at York. That scared me a little when I realized that. You don’t want to live somewhere for two years without knowing anything about the city you live in...

To come in the next few days:



Saturday, March 26, 2011

Some questions about public art, By Kassandra Prus

Kassandra Prus is one of our Intersection Project performer. As an artist in the city, she is interested in the interaction between art and life, the difference or similarity between dance and pedestrian movement, the relationship artists have with their audience, and the various perspectives people have on contemporary art.

Here are some of the questions she wants to share:

What/where is the boundary between dance and pedestrian movement?
Does the line between pedestrian movement and dance shift in different settings?

Where is dance “acceptable”? Why? What does it look like?
From the things we do every day, what do we choose to show? What do we crystallize into art? Why does something make the cut to become part of a work?

Does the line between movement and dance shift when we change our perspective?
How do you “prepare” an audience for a performance? How do you surprise them? How do you break your audiences expectations?
How long can you hold a surprised audiences attention?

Does stringing together movement turn it into dance?
Why is visual rhythm so much harder to recognize than auditory rhythm when vision is our strongest sense?

And you, what do you think? How do you envision dance/art as part of the larger society?