Like many prominent cities with a large population of immigrants, Vancouver has attracted some experimental performances. One of the organizers of the Vancouver International Dance Festival, Barbara Bourget, has kindly agreed to give an interview for the Roundhouse blog. Barbara & Jay Hirabayashi have been part of the Kokoro Dance Company since 1986, and on March 8-28 this year they are going to share another amazing program of dance performances, celebrating the 15th season of the Vancouver International Dance Festival.
Q: Hi Barbara, can you please tell us how it all started?
In year 1999, we started a butoh festival. Jay and I are both part of the Kokoro Dance Company. Vancouver is a bit off the track, so we thought we should start an international dance festival that would include various genres of dance. We are proud that we’ve lasted 15 years, it’s really hard to do that. We have had a great partnership with the Roundhouse as the festival partner for about 12 years. They’ve been extremely supportive.
Q: How long does the festival last and which would be your top one or two recommendations for must-see performances?
It varies year to year, depending on our resources. This year we are producing in the Roundhouse for three weekends, there are two shows per night (Thursday to Sunday). All shows are must-see. Everybody should buy a pass, it is a great way to participate and it costs only $98. And there are actually free shows with a $3 membership. People should not be afraid of going and see something which is a little bit different. There is so much beauty in the moving human body, whatever the context or whatever the textures are, the dynamics. And there is something really essential about that experience that shared between human beings. It’s not something you can necessarily talk about. But when you see a performance that is really moving, you know that somehow you’ve been changed, you see things in a different way, and it allows you to answer a question or open up your realm of experience.
Q: Am I right in understanding that your specialty is contemporary/modern dance? In other countries there is a particular genre of dance called ‘contemporary’, ‘modern’ dance, in fact, they use those terms as borrowed English words, however I assume these words sound a bit different in English-speaking countries?
We’ve produced a lot of different kinds of dance: flamenco, street jazz, hip hop, jazz, ballet… So our festival is very eclectic… This year we have a major butoh company ‘Dairakudakan‘, we have an artist from Quebec who is extraordinary. And I would say, it’s hard to pin point contemporary dance, that word ‘contemporary dance’. There is not really ‘modern’ dance now because that was a particular time period. …there is a lot of more, I would say, experimental dance, which is a better term, where people are riffing on the rules and tossing out the rules, just becoming more interdisciplinary in their practice. Even neoclassical ballet has lots of experimentation in it. So it’s really hard to categorize and pinpoint what these are.
Q: Can you tell a bit more about trends in contemporary dance, its history?
In the late 19th century – early 20th century Isadora Duncan rejected the pointe shoe and the kind of codified technique of ballet and danced in the woods barefoot and wore flowing beautiful things. Then from the early 20th century into the 60s Martha Graham, Ruth St. Denis, and others began to explore different aspects of the relationship of the body, not just to the point shoe, but the floor, bare foot, to props, to issues, all sorts of things… exploring conceptual issues like Merce Cunningham and John Cage did a lot of work with chance, this idea of chance. So all these ideas revolutionize the way people thought of dance all over the world. Coming into the 60s, there was another explosion, people decided that maybe you did not need technique to dance Judson Street came in. Then all of those things have kind of morphed, that era passed but all of those influenced have moved forward. And now it is much more eclectic because there is so much more communication in the internet age. Things are moving very fast, people are changing quite rapidly. I think that experimental ideas and concepts, and interdisciplinary practice is what people are really excited these days and it’s not just one thing but many things…and collaboration, that’s really the focal point of a lot of artworks that are being made.
Q: Which of the performances through the years of the VIDF have made the biggest impression on you?
It is hard to choose… There is a wonderful butoh artist who has been to our festival a couple of times – Natsu Nakajima. We produced Lines Ballet from San Francisco twice, those performances were outstanding. Kit Johnson from the Netherlands had a beautiful performance, really strong. I respond to the work of women, because feminine is really important in my own work. I am happy when women express their power, their strength. It’s not just a man’s world, after all, I think actually, it’s a woman’s world :). About 10 years ago we produced a dance company from the US which was all dancers over the age of 60. That was so moving, that performance. So there’s been so many standout performances.
Q: Do you see any trends in dance?
As I say, you can’t put things into boxes, dance is getting very eclectic. Also there are people who are really motivated by antidance. They are not interested in moving, they are interested in concepts, in working in another way. Things are crossing over very much more could be theatrical movement, all sorts of things. Circus is coming alive and is very popular. Who is to say that that’s not dance? The forms are opening and people are taking more risks in terms of their exploration. People are influenced by so many different things now. And trends? – I just don’t follow trends.
However as far as dance TV shows go, you can’t experience the performing arts that remotely removed. People sharing the same experiences in the same room – it is very culturally important. The process of artmaking is looking for an authenticity of self that is more than self, that can reach out and many people can experience your experience translated to their experience. Television cannot possibly give you that in dance, because you can’t see the sweat, you can’t hear them breath. There is nothing like it, nothing.
Q: What would you wish for the VIDF festival in the future?
Our desire is to establish the festival so that it can continue after we are no longer here or involved in it. It would be a fantastic thing to have a legacy like that. It might change and alter depending on who was curating and running it. It is a really wonderful thing to give away to Vancouver, to audiences, artists, everybody. But you never know what is going to happen.
Q: If people want to give feedback, what is the best way to do it?
They can send an email or share on Twitter, Facebook. and phone even… people don’t phone anymore, they send a text. So they can text as well :).
Thank you very much for the interview! I wish you good luck with the festival!
More information can be found at www.VIDF.ca
By Tatiana Balashova, Roundhouse blogger. Tatiana is an aspiring writer with experience in blogging, social media and communications. She is an Argentine tango dancer and instructor, as well as a photographer and accessories designer. Tatiana is passionate about arts and dance, intercultural exchange, community building, healthy lifestyle, sustainability and green living. Follow Tatiana on her blog.