Arts Umbrella Dance Company students face some difficult tasks in their end of year showcase
AUDC Season Finale: Be Moved
When: May 23-25
Where: Vancouver Playhouse
Tickets: $45 adults/$35 students & seniors at artsumbrella.com/bemoved
Imagine learning a complex dance in August and having to repeat it 10 months later.
That’s one of the tasks that Arts Umbrella Dance Company students face when they present their end-of-year showcase.
“That’s part of the rigour and skill set of being a professional dancer,” said AUDC artistic director Artemis Gordon. “A choreographer might only be able to come in August for a show in May. Choreographers are busy and they’re travelling all over the world. These big companies will be premiering a piece that they did a month ago. It’s really important that dancers have that ability to bring back details and go immediately bring back into the ethos and quality of the piece as it was created.”
This year, the Arts Umbrella Dance Company’s season-ending show is called Be Moved. It will feature students performing works by a bevy of choreographers, from locals Emily Molnar, Lesley Telford and Crystal Pite to James Kudelka, former artistic director of the National Ballet of Canada (“a national treasure,” according to Gordon) and UK/Swiss talent Ihsan Rustem (who recently worked with Les Ballets Jazz de Montréal on the company’s Leonard Cohen show Dance Me).
There are so many pieces and students that each of the four showcases (three evening and one matinee) will feature different repertoires and dancers. Many of the pieces are excerpts from longer works. Others are creations being performed onstage for the first time, including the piece by Pite.
Arts Umbrella has worked with the Vancouver-based choreographer before, says Gordon. “Not only do we get to do Crystal Pite work, but we’re doing new creations. It’s also fascinating to see the way young dancers assimilate such and project ideas from such a brilliant choreographer.”
Some of the pieces will be repeated over the course of the four showcases.
The students in the Arts Umbrella program range in age from 16-24. They have either graduated from high school and dance six to eight hours a day six to seven days a week, or they’re still in high school and dance a half-day program.
Emily Molnar, artistic director of Ballet B.C., choreographed a piece for graduate students aged 17 to 21. The piece will be a series of duets.
“They’ve finished their high-school education and are focusing on their final training before embarking on their professional career,” Molnar said. “I wanted to meet them where they’re at. The piece is about being at the precipice of life, about helping them develop.”
The Arts Umbrella program is exciting for choreographers as well as students, she says.
“There are all these big names that come, but also these emerging choreographers who get to sample their work for the first time. That’s a joy, because when they start, choreographers might be working with their own body or two or three dancers. You go to Arts Umbrella and you have 20, 30, 40 dancers in a room that you can play with. For a lot of choreographers, that’s unknown.”
Whether just starting out or established, the choreographers love working with the Arts Umbrella students.
“The feedback is good enough for them to tell everyone else that this is the place they have to come to,” Gordon said. “And people keep coming back. They appreciate the work ethic and the respect and the thoughtfulness towards the work. We have the same value system, living in service to what the work is, what is the responsibility we each have as individuals to create something bigger than ourselves.
“And it’s a joyful time. The choreographers and the dancers have this incredibly intimate and profound experience in the studio. It’s an experience that stays with us for a lifetime.”