Dance fest offered new works to city Valerie Alia, Special to The Daily News
Published: Thursday, December 03, 2009

Crimson Coast Dance Society and its artistic sirector, Holly Bright, hosted the 11th annual InFrinGinG Dance Festival last week. Packed with premieres, the four-day event brought dance to every corner of Nanaimo - public and private spaces, studios, theatres, library and church.

One of the high points was Holly Bright's powerful performance of a new work by Susanna Hood, Costing Not Less Than Everything. It is a poignant portrait of struggle and liberation - an awakening of body and spirit. At the beginning, the dancer crouches on the floor, like a broken bird stranded on the beach after an oil spill. All mangled limbs and angles, she struggles to escape the muck, only to collapse and crumple, again and again. Her nude and isolated form underscores the theme of vulnerability and rebirth. Alongside Catherine Thompson's score, her vocalizations evolve from fear and frustration to triumph and celebration. Tentatively, hesitantly, she explores and embraces life. And finally, she soars.

Montreal choreographer, George Stamos premiered Klok, blending live performance, video, and an electronically filtered vocal score. Butoh artist, Genevieve Johnson, showed two new works, Still Snowing and A Baroque Fear. Along with a new piece by Daina Ashbee were works by Tripod Dance Collective, James Gnam and Peter Starr; a duet by Lynne Bowen and David Duncan; and contact improvisation by Chris Wright and Imogen Whyte.

The daytime hours were filled with a rich array of workshops and roundtables. The festival closed on Sunday with a lantern procession from Maffeo Sutton Park to St. Paul's Church, where celebrants enjoyed performances, a community sound circle, and dance films.

The Daily News (Nanaimo) 2009
July 10, 2008, Nanaimo Daily News, Reviewed by: Danielle Bell

Teens and adults explored body movement through dance workshops led by a Toronto-based choreographer on her first visit of its kind to Nanaimo. Malgorzata Nowacka, artistic director with the Chimera Project, put 25 youth and adults into two workshop streams and created dance routines with participants of all skill levels. She works to "strip any misconceptions" of body movement.
"I think every single person had a different reason for coming," said Nowacka. "In dance, you have to be so free, and forget that you're a person," she said. "We start out doing very goofy things to warm up."

The three and four-day workshops wrapped up on Tuesday. Interested participants will showcase their skills at a performance at the recreation stage at Beban Park tonight, at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $15 and are available at the House of Indigo, Falconer Books and at the door. The multi-disciplinary show also features local musicians and Chimera project professional dancers.

The Body Talk project, put on by the Crimson Coast Dance Society, fused hip-hop, ballet, modern dance and more in unconventional ways to move one's body. Nowacka said her class was open to "experimental risks."

"There was so much energy and chaos in the room," said Nowacka.

Nowacka said some people in class "were remarkably aware" of their body movement. Some participants never had any type of formal dance training.

"I'm always impressed with how quickly people pick up the shape of movement," said Nowacka.
June 30, 2008, Nanaimo Bulletin , Reviewed by: Melissa Fryer

History was never this cool in high school. Nanaimo's coal mining days came to life during Whizzbang: Stoked, the culmination of three years of work by local circus arts group Ignited Passions and Crimson Coast Dance Society. The goal was to explore the emotional and physical scars left on the city after coal mining ceased to be the economy's driving force. Like author Gabriel Garcia Marquez seamlessly blends fantasy and reality, the performance brought perception to life. Pit bosses charged with keeping the rabble rousing miners in check became snarling, growling and grunting wolves. Ladies and gentlemen stood above the miners on stilts, physically separating the classes. Their wealth was personified in a gold-bedecked dancer. Snippets of history were interwoven, allowing the viewer to understand the basic idea behind the dance while opening the show to each individual's interpretation.

During video complementing the dance, historian Lynne Bowen talked of the waves of immigrants from all over the world, Scottish, British, Italian, Chinese and Croatian, who came to Nanaimo to work in the mines. Unable to speak English, they were underpaid and worked in dangerous conditions. Recordings of miners recollections, the sound of the boss whistle and images of coal-blackened miners were projected on the back of the Port Theatre. Images of children with shovels underground, explosions lighting up the sky and the haggard, worn look of the workers reminded us of the cruel working conditions in the mines.

Paul Weir and Nadia Hagen form Flam Chen, the pyrotechnic dance company that helped create Whizzbang, along with Carpetbag Brigade, stilt walkers from California. During our interview, Paul spoke of the intrinsic connection people have to fire, which harkens back to the era of cavemen when fire equalled life, cooking, light and warmth. The fire dancing was spectacular, with poi spinning, sending licks of flames out in every direction while flaming batons left light trails in the dusky night. Rapt attention followed that initial instinctual pull of the fire. But don't forget the stilt walkers. The wolf brothers weaved among spectators seated in the plaza, followed by ladies and gentlemen, dressed in period costumes, dancing the Charleston on four-foot high stilts. Flips, holds and turns looked effortless, despite the balance and strength needed to manoeuvre on tall wooden pegs.

The performance also paid homage to the many workers who will never be remembered by name because of their ethnicity. Meijuan Li played the Chinese pipa, the Jacky Li Kung Fu Group performed the Chinese Lion Dance and Tom Jones, Snuneymuxw elder, welcomed all to his people's traditional territory and performed songs during the event. The performance was truly a spectacle Nanaimo was fortunate to see. I hope to see more events like this on a regular basis in our city. Imagine walking downtown on a Friday or Saturday night and coming across a performance of stilt walking and fire dancing or another amazing form of performance art. Hopefully that's the kind of legacy left by the Cultural Capital events.

Whizzbang: Stoked continues tonight and Tuesday (July 1) in the Diana Krall Plaza, behind the Port Theatre. Gates open at 8:30 p.m. with music and video prior to the main event, which begins at dusk.
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