Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Feature: Curators Benjamin Kamino and Emi Forster on Dancemakers

Here we are. Here we go
by Benjamin Kamino

There is an overarching question we now undertake as we look forward to a future at Dancemakers that is — what is Dancemakers becoming?… and in order to see clearly where it is we are going we must undertake where it is we are now.

The position of dance curator is a burgeoning field for the dance sciences in Canada and was put in place at Dancemakers by Michael Trent, former Artistic Director. Now, as curators  Emi and I are open to an immense potential, namely — the potential to work both iteratively and to exist anew — because of this, we find ourselves asking the question…

What is Dancemakers? 
so what is it? really? 

Dancemakers Centre for Creation. It’s implicit in the name. Dancemakers is a centre — this is the future we want to imagine.

Of course however, the how is always more important then the what. How is Dancemakers a centre? More importantly, as an organization, how are we centring? and even more importantly: what, organizationally speaking, is an act of centring?

Can you tell I am a dancer?… postures… actions of centring… at Dancemakers we are invoking the graham contraction in a very real way.

Seriously…  actions of centring… centring gestures… movements which invite the other inward — not as an exploitation or territorialization of the other, but rather, a hospitable gesture which draws the other inward while maintaining that other’s autonomy. Whoa… too much you say? maybe baby… but it is super important for us to tread lightly. Actions of inclusion can very easily slip into the typical capitalist modus of growth where the artist is consumed rather then supported. And I think now we have landed on the tip of the iceberg, neon lights brightly flashing: SUPPORT!

It all starts from the supportive. Dancemakers’ act of centring will be to support everyone — continuous inclusion mediated by rigorous self-maintenance. An iteration perhaps of a concept brought forth from the work Voyager made this year, a collaboration between Ame Henderson, Toronto Dance Theatre and Jennifer Castle. This concept is very important for us to consider as we now articulate our posts as curators in doing. Whereas this term curator can often be reduced to the act of selection we must be wary of this dark alleyway; our true job as curators is to support everyone in our community. The act of selection is ancillary to conversations around how to support and even more importantly… when.

But we have already gone too far too fast. Before even going through these conversations of selection we need to go through processes of assessment. Where are we? What is already taking place? Not only as an organization but broadly in terms of Toronto… Ontario… Canada… oh ya the world? - not yet.

And so I say, let’s start here and where is here really? 

Well there is Series 8:08 and their ATC program. There is the Toronto Community Love-In, the Summer Love-In, Good Morning Dancers, Dance Matters, 7a11d, FADO, the intergalactic arts collective, Flowchart, WorldStage, VideoFag, 8/11, The Theatre Centre, DanceWorks, DanceUmbrella, Porchview Dances, CCDT, STDT, York University Dance Program, Ryerson University Dance Program. These are just some of the organizations that support Dance Artists in Toronto. On top of this there are companies who make dance, and of course the artists and dancers out there who are most in need of support - doing it alone… whoa!

By the way, if I missed a name up there it is because I can always be doing this job better - a sensation I hope to continue always to feel.

This is where we are now. Taking stock, looking to the city of Toronto as a very living and alive resource that needs support. At this stage in our organization, any program we put in place will be towards supporting what currently exists. To encourage the current ecology of Toronto/Ontario/Canadian/International dance to thrive and flourish beyond what it currently imagines to be possible. 

by Emi Forster

Part of this act of centring that Ben's talking about - a key part - is to become a home for dance artists. And when I say home, I mean a physical space for them, a spiritual home, a shared space of habitation, a place for their ideas to reside and grow and spring out from, a place for intense dinner table discussion and sometimes spirited disagreement, a place to chill, to sleep, to shower, to write, to give life to an idea through movement. We want to welcome everyone to this home, and if you're an artist working rigorously it's simply a question of when. 

We're going to be incubating new work over three year cycles, and hoping to maintain a dialogue between local, national and international artists, so that Toronto can reach out to the world and the world can be invited back in. As one of the many people in this city who's not from here, this is something that particularly excites me, and I'm looking forward to experiencing the gradual blossoming of this cross-pollination. 

Given that we're working in the realms of the un-made, we're necessarily curating people more than works. We're curating three Resident Artists to be building separately-together, we're curating local artists across the spectrum from emerging to established to be working alongside them, we're curating a training program of classes and workshops for the dance community and inviting a whole range of people to teach them, and we've begun reaching out to people who are already doing great things to see how we can better support them.

This is our vision for Dancemakers, what we hope the future will look like. And it all jumps off from this mind-blowingly incredible proposal of giving artists three years to work on one thing, two things, or one hundred things. What that represents for artists is the chance to take the time to investigate, play, disassemble and go off on totally different tangents than they otherwise would if they had to worry where the next development period was coming from. This model is genius, something sorely needed, and Ben and I are incredibly lucky to have inherited it.

So if we're curating people, then what? Once the people are chosen, what does our role become? We're hoping that between the two of us we can have the flexibility to be responsive and take on what's needed. That means we might  be acting as outside eyes, maintaining our conversations with the broader community, introducing new audiences to new things, facilitating conversations and questions, guiding, steering or stepping back and letting chaos reign. We might be doing all these things at once. 

And we want you to do them with us, because even if you're not one of our Resident Artists (yet), even if you're not working here (yet), even if you can't dance to save yourself (yet) you're people, and you're what we're working for. 

Dancemakers website

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