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Danse tout-terrain, the first CanDance Exchange Project. Featuring Karine Denault’s Échine Barricade (I m mobile) and Sasha Ivanochko’s The King and Queen of Ruins.

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On October 16 and 17, 2002, Peterborough New Dance (PND) played host to Danse tout-terrain, a mixed program of dance from three provinces and a project of the CanDance Network of which PND (now Public Energy) was a member. This is my choice for the 2002 installment on the Time Machine, partly because it is a small slice of CanDance history – this was the first ever CanDance Exchange Project, a program that has continued ever since with numerous exchanges between Canadian presenters to its credit – and partly because the two works seen here, by Karine Denault and Sasha Ivanochko, have staying power as works unto themselves. Of the four works on the program these two have translated best to video and are able to stand up to the indignities of being excerpted for viewing via the small screen of the internet.

The three presenters and cities that took part in the exchange were Tangente (Montreal), New Dance Horizons (Regina) and Peterborough New Dance. In each city the local dance presenter chose an artist for the program: Tangente curator Dena Davida chose Montreal choreographer Karine Denault, NDH curator Robin Poitras chose two Regina artists to share the slot: Floyd Favel Starr and Marnie Gladwell; I chose Toronto-based artist Sasha Ivanochko. Rounding out the talent was an animateur who accompanied the program to all three cities, giving a pre-show chat and contributing program notes: Montreal-based dance journalist Philip Szporer.

What do the works have in common other than sharing a program that was presented 8 times in three cities over a span of 13 days? Both Échine Barricade (I m mobile) and The King and Queen of Ruins showed artists pursuing a clear vision with a single-minded purpose that did not allow for confusion on the part of the viewer. They are doing what great dancers do: completely giving themselves over to the demands of the movement and their visions for the work. Even if those visions – and accompanying soundscapes – are at times bleak, it does not matter; we can’t resist watching the myriad ways Denault can carve up space with arms, hands, legs, feet, hair and torso (both clothed and, in a section not seen here, unclothed); similarly, we are captivated by Ivanochko and Michael Moore showing us how many ways there are for a body to fall down under its own weight and struggle up, never knowing if the body next to yours will be a help or a hindrance.

In the end Danse tout-terrain served as a microcosm of what happens across the entire CanDance Network every day, where Canada’s best independent choreographers are encouraged to take chances and are rewarded for their efforts by appreciative audiences in Canada’s biggest and smallest cities.  

-Bill Kimball

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