Dances for a Small Stage: Moving Strong at 20
As I stood in the cold outside the Legion on the Drive amongst a slew of dance enthusiasts who were eagerly anticipating entry to Dances for a Small Stage – a long-running, highly lauded dance installation and part of the PuSh Festival – I concluded that it must be worth the wait and began to wonder how DFASS was able to maintain its drive after 19 successful runs.
“Momentum for the series continues to grow because it’s an informal, low-risk arts event,” commented Day Helesic, one of the Co-Artistic Producers of MovEnt, where Dances was brought to life. Helesic has been producing DFASS since its inception in 2002 and after all that time, still believes the show has true staying power, no doubt due in part to its successful sales record after having sold out all of their January shows.
Atmosphere adds another element to the continued success of DFASS, situated in the Legion’s upstairs auditorium space where tables of four are staged cabaret style, making for a wonderful opportunity to arrive with a group or make new friends who might share their own perspective on the dance routines.
For some, attending a dance performance can be a grueling task where more than an hour is often spent trying to decipher the meaning of the show because they’ve failed to see the art behind the dance. However, with DFASS, the audience is presented with a number of short pieces – through a variety of mediums – that are complex yet approachable.
“You’re bound to enjoy the majority of the choreographies,” suggests Helesic, “and if one is not to your taste, it’s over in five minutes and on to the next.”
With eight short performances split in the middle by a 15 minute intermission I was left wanting more, feeling like I was just beginning to connect with the flow of the pieces. The progression from sensual to dramatic to comedic was beautifully choreographed, even during the pieces where one might have been waiting for the “traditional” concept of dance to begin.
In addition to its artistic excellence, DFASS also brings together the talent of dancers from all over Canada, some of whom work regularly with MovEnt, making each installation even more exciting by providing an opportunity to see notable dancers in a fresh, new environment.
“This show in particular was a special event,” Helesic also highlighted, “a celebration of 20 shows in seven years and we had funding to commission a number of high profile artists . . . You rarely get to see artists like Peggy Baker, Tedd Robinson, Noam Gagnon, Tara Cheyenne Friedenberg and Wen Wei Wang in such an intimate setting.”
After the performance had finished, I found myself leaving the show curious to know more about contemporary dance, feeling like my eyes had been opened to greater possibilities within the art; and, in my opinion, this new found curiosity of mine spoke volumes about the overall success of the show.