Vancouver International Dance Festival turns 20
I talked to Jay Hirabayashi of Vancouver’s Kokoro Dance about this year’s Festival – the 20th – to get a sneak peek into what’s in store at this always-provocative, always engaging event.
by John Endo Greenaway
The Vancouver International Dance Festival is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. What are the highlights?
We are proud of living up to our mission of supporting work by equity-seeking artists. The Canada Council for the Arts says:
Equity is a principle and process that promotes fair conditions for all persons to fully participate in society. It recognizes that while all people have the right to be treated equally, not all experience equal access to resources, opportunities or benefits. Achieving equality does not necessarily mean treating individuals or groups in the same way, but may require the use of specific measures to ensure fairness.
Equity-seeking groups are communities that face significant collective challenges in participating in society. This marginalization could be created by attitudinal, historic, social and environmental barriers based on age, ethnicity, disability, economic status, gender, nationality, race, sexual orientation and transgender status, etc. Equity-seeking groups are those that identify barriers to equal access, opportunities and resources due to disadvantage and discrimination and actively seek social justice and reparation.
In the past 20 years, we have presented 704 performances by 290 local, national, and international dance artists/companies. Of these, 183 were equity-seeking artists. As artists producing work by other artists, we have raised and returned to BC’s economy, $7,757,500, so even though we have lost money producing this festival every year, we are happy to continue doing the work that we do.
What are some of the themes in this year’s VIDF that you think our readers might be interested in?
While we don’t consciously program the VIDF thematically, somehow themes do manifest themselves. Hiromoto Ida pretends to be an old man in Birthday Present for Myself although he is ten years younger than me. Okay, maybe I’m an old man, but Hiro does do a wonderful job performing as a soon-to-be but not-quite-yet-dead 84-year-old that reflects, with humour, on the evanescence of our existence.
Olivia Shaffer’s Senescence also is a reflection, more somber, but not less loving, on her experiences caring for her dying father who had Parkinson’s disease and dementia. Her performance, by coincidence, precedes Hiro’s at the Roundhouse, so should make a provocative contrast.
Shay Kuebler / Radical System Art’s Epilogos, an examination of how moral codes are used as controls by those with power, began with Shay’s initial interest and research in bushido, the samurai code of ethics that includes integrity, respect, courage, honour, compassion, duty and honesty. This opening VIDF presentation at the Vancouver Playhouse contrasts with the closing Vancouver Playhouse performance by Kokoro Dance. The Japanese concept of wabi sabi has been integral to the work of Kokoro Dance since its inception. Wabi sabi encompasses the seven aesthetic principles of Zen philosophy: kanso — simplicity; fukinsei — asymmetry or irregularity; shibumi — beauty in the understated; shizen — naturalness without pretense; yugen — subtle grace; datsuzoku — freeness; and seijaku — tranquility. I think these are inherent in Hiro’s work too. The movement of the work is set on five different generations of women in their 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, and 60s, each with their separately arranged scores of the same material. Each has an individual journey within their group journey, much as we live our lives together in separation.
Erika Mitsuhashi, Felicia Lau, and Mahaila Patterson-O’Brien are the three talented members of Farouche, whose Here again – A collection of three scores suggests a choreographic structure not dissimilar to that of Kokoro Dance, but from a next-generation trio of young dancer/choreographers.
Another theme of issues of gender and sexual identity/orientation manifest in inDANCE’s Śiva kissed Viṣṇu and FakeKnot’s HINKYPUNK. The former is “a rare, honest, unapologetic work that subverts the heterosexual, rigid vocabulary of Bharatanatyam, by queering its expected aesthetics.” Ralph Escamillan’s HINKYPUNK is a sci-fi, glam, androgynous exploration of identity and idolatry in a mind-expanding explosion of energy.
There’s more information about these shows and more on our website: vidf.ca