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Divergent Dances Peterborough by Anandam Dance Theatre

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Brandy Leary, Artistic Director of Anandam Dance Theatre and I first met over the phone in a three-way phone call with her, myself and Executive Director Bill Kimball. On the call we talked about the possibility of Anandam coming to Peterborough as a part of a Public Energy Performing Arts Residency to develop and present a new site-specific work. Brandy spoke of a work called Glacier, and at one point I gently interrupted to say – I was actually thinking about if you would be willing to re-visit or re-envision Divergent Dances? Divergent Dances for Windows and Walls was a site-specific contemporary aerial work performed at the Bata Shoe museum in 2012.

We talked about what it would mean to re-envision and re-invent Divergent Dances in Peterborough. Bill and I talked about how it was important to us that local aerial artists be present in the development and final presentation of the work and that we saw it as an opportunity for knowledge exchange between Anandam Dance Theatre and Peterborough/Nogojiwanong based artists – Thomas Vaccaro and Jennifer Elchuck.

Brandy invited interdisciplinary performance artist Nikola Steer (Toronto), and aerial artist and teacher Erin Ball (Kingston) to perform in the work. Erin had previously lost both legs below the knee and performs with and without prosthetics, and was currently mentoring visiting aerial and contemporary dance artist Ambar Violeta from Colombia, who Anandam invited to participate and perform in the residency.

After a failed attempt at securing the Ministry of Natural Resources building, the Peterborough Square Shopping Centre office tower and entranceway at the corner of George and Simcoe Streets was selected as the site. For three weeks leading up to two final performances, the artists rehearsed in Market Hall and on site at Peterborough Square, whose management and staff were extremely supportive of this unusual use of their premises. In the first evening performance they performed in the dark in the drizzling rain for a crowd of drenched but captivated audiences. In the second matinee performance young audiences started to climb on the railings and excitedly trail the artists throughout the piece. 

During the residency, Divergent Dances artists led a number of activities: open rehearsals, a curator’s corner podcast episode with Trent Radio, an artist talk at Traill College at Trent University, and an Adaptive Circus Arts Workshop for Persons with Disabilities at Market Hall – the first of its kind ever offered in Peterborough.  

Divergent Dances Peterborough was partnered with the Council for Persons with Disabilities, and was co-presented by Anandam Dance Theatre, Art Gallery of Peterborough, and Artsweek Peterborough, which made it a featured event of its 10-day program.

-Victoria Mohr-Blakeney

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