ProArteDanza And The Quest For Choreographers

ProArteDanza (Image courtesy of PAD)

ProArteDanza Fall Season 2022, works by Chantelle Good, Syreeta Hector, Lesley Telford and Roberto Campanella, Nov 2 to 5, Fleck Dance Theatre. Tickets here.

Since 2004, ProArteDanza has been Toronto’s resident contemporary ballet company. The genre description simply means that dancers must have strong ballet technique to perform the choreography. The vocabulary and grammar of the repertoire demand a specific skill set to execute the way the steps are put together.

Since PAD is a repertoire company, it needs choreographers, but the problem is, there aren’t many dancemakers out there with ProArteDanza’s aesthetic, and that is why the company’s Fall Season 2022 is so special. The program features three new choreographic works by emerging contemporary ballet dancesmiths.

Background

One of the hallmarks of a PAD concert is the exciting and rigorous choreography it presents, but initially, there weren’t many dancers who could perform the company’s aesthetic. To that end, in 2008, the company began its Summer Intensive program, which trained dancers in contemporary ballet, and over the years, many of the dancers who have performed with PAD came out of this program.

The next step was logical — to find choreographers — but that took time and money, which PAD’s tight budget really didn’t allow.

Explains PAD artistic director Roberto Campanella, “You don’t train choreographers, rather, you let the creative juices flow. You let them play around without pressure in the rehearsal room, and that is where the pandemic turned out to be a blessing in disguise. The work stoppage gave us time to listen and learn, and make new connections. We could invest in experimentation and cultivate new talent.”

To that end, PAD hosted its first choreographic workshop called Choreolab in 2020 and invited Syreeta Hector to play, as it were, giving her some dancers and a rehearsal space. The 2022 Choreolab featured Chantelle Good, and both the works that came out of these workshops, are part of Fall Season 2022.

“I’m not one for movement for movement’s sake,” says Campanella. “I find that boring. I’m looking for choreographers who can tell me something with the steps.”

ProArteDanza (Image courtesy of PAD)
ProArteDanza (Image courtesy of PAD)

Finding new choreographers

New Brunswick-born, Toronto-based Syreeta Hector is of Mi’kmaq, African American and Acadian heritage. Campanella became aware of Hector through her acclaimed piece Black Ballerina about her not-so-happy experiences in the classical ballet world.

“I saw the work online, and she had an aesthetic I thought would work with ours,” says Campanella. “I thought she could offer something interesting because of the narrative conceptual element of the piece.”

Originally from Toronto, Chantelle Good has trained and worked in New York. She came to Campanella’s attention through her choreographic postings on social media, particularly YouTube.

“I thought she’d be a good fit because of the way she structures her choreography,” he says. “She’s not predictable, and I liked the way that she uses the body.”

What is of particular interest here is that Good’s Choreolab piece was not supposed to be part of Fall Season 2022. Adds Campanella, “We gave her two dancers to work with in the lab, and in four days she came up with a dazzling 10 minute duet that was so impressive, we had to add it to the program.”

Vancouver-based Lesley Telford was discovered, so to speak, by PAD’s associate director/resident choreographer Robert Glumbek when he created a piece for the acclaimed West Coast training centre Arts Umbrella. Telford had a work on the same program.

Says Campanella, “Robert thought she’d work well with our company because her work was straight from the contemporary ballet world. She showed us an older piece that she had set on Arts Umbrella students and we loved it. We asked her if she could rework it for professional dancers, and gave her the time in 2021.”

The pieces

Campanella describes Hector’s Beast A La Mode as very theatrical, and loves the fact that she doesn’t take herself too seriously. At the core of the work is how environment can affect how we behave, that we change all the time driven by external forces.

Good’s work is very sensual, about touch and smell, and how we preserve memories, but Tethered To Your Palms is also much more than that. Campanella says that it defies description, but could generally be seen as how the senses stay with us from people who have impacted us.

The fascination of Telford’s work Only Who Is Left is how she shows strength as we go through internal and external struggles, how we face the world. Campanella describes the piece as heroic, as Telford depicts us with all our vulnerabilities and struggles in the face of conflict.

There is a fourth piece on the program, and that is Campanella’s own Fearful Symmetries from 2016. He describes the genesis of the work as walking down Toronto’s Bay St. during rush hour, and becoming aware of people moving about him at great speed. It made him wonder where they were going, and why so fast?

The pandemic made him further reflect on the work when PAD was forced to come to a complete stop during lockdown, and he saw the work through different eyes. Whereas it was exhaustion that brought the dancers to collapse in 2016, post-pandemic, there were other forces at work.

Final words

“This is a serious, flat-out dance show in terms of movement,” says Campanella. “It’s very physical, very vigorous, very human, very vulnerable. Every piece has something to say. Our three world premieres can really speak to the audience. As well, both Syreeta and Chantelle are young women of colour, and we’re proud of that diversity.”

In other words, ProArteDanza’s Fall Season 2022 promises to deliver the exciting choreography that the company’s fans have come to expect from this audience favourite.

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Paula Citron
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