Report on the Second Annual CSDS/SCED Conference
The success of the second annual conference of the Society for Canadian Dance Studies (CSDS/SCED) was evident throughout three days of presentations. York University’s Graduate Programme in Dance hosted the conference in the Centre for Fine Arts from May 8 - 10, 2003. The conference’s emerging scholars theme encouraged many new dance researchers to present innovative work in the field of dance scholarship, while established scholars took the opportunity to introduce new and ongoing topics in their research.
Thursday morning’s presentations described some new initiatives in dance and the confluence of popular culture and dance. Carol Anderson introduced a collection of senior choreographers who intend to protect and preserve their works from the artistic loss that too often occurs in dance. Ann Kipling Brown outlined the new Certificate in Dance Teacher Training that is being developed at the University of Regina. Meg O’Shea described the process and scholarly outcomes of Lisa Doolittle’s new documentary dance video Dancing Bodies. Barbara Kennedy told the audience of a new approach she is using to teach folk dance to university students. Jade Boyd provided insight into the social inequalities presented in popular U.S. teen dance films. Lys Stevens examined the transformations that occur when vernacular street dancing takes to the stage.
Three workshops were offered Thursday afternoon. A writers' seminar was co-presented by The Dance Current and CSDS/SCED, and hosted by Selma Odom with guests Carol Anderson, Lata Pada and Judith Rudakoff. Kristin Harris gave both a paper on the integration of vernacular dance into traditional music performance and a class in Irish-Newfoundland step dance. The afternoon finished with a workshop by Maxine Heppner on the necessity of training the senses and skills necessary for choreographing.
Friday morning opened with presentations concerning the field of movement analysis, and the various roles involved in the creative process. Lisa Sandlos gave an intriguing account of two women behind the work of Rudolf Laban. Kate Cornell and Nadine Saxton presented an application of movement analysis as they compared the works of Christopher House to those of George Balanchine. Pamela Newell opened the floor to discussion of collaboration with her analysis of the relationships between dancer and choreographer during the creation of a dance; her research also explored the changes in language that have developed, particularly in Quebec, where the interprète has become a common playbill credit instead of "dancer". Penelope Reed Doob described the collaborative roles that contribute to John Alleyne’s Tristan and Isolde. The first half of Friday afternoon was also devoted to paper presentations, with a focus on bharatanatyam dance. Hari Krishnan identified the non-linear history of the dance form and its ability to modernize and maintain a creative edge. Margo Perun offered a theoretical analysis of Krishnan’s work owning shadows and explained the inward focus of bharatanatyam as a distinctly non-Western phenomenon. Lata Pada rounded out the panel of presenters as she related her experience creating her very personal bharatanatyam-based work Revealed by Fire (2001).
Two workshops were held Friday afternoon, followed by the annual meeting of CSDS/SCED members. Megan Andrews and Amy Bowring led a workshop-based discussion of the relationship between movement and language. Ann-Marie Williams integrated a paper on the benefits of teaching historical dance in the private studio setting with demonstrations by young dance students who attended Williams' earlier workshop in Duncan technique. Friday closed with a well-attended and enthusiastic meeting of CSDS/SCED members. The growing membership of CSDS/SCED and the associated growth of responsibilities were discussed and the advisory board and other members suggested possible paths forward.
The last day of the conference began with an appropriate nod to our historical roots. Allana Lindgren convinced the audience to consider modern dance choreographer Cynthia Barrett's 1946 works Canadiana and Eskimo Dances as respectful of her muses rather than condescending. Sarah Nixon Gasyna presented an amusing and enlightening account of two reporters who covered Mary Wigman’s appearances in Montreal in 1931 and their rivalry and discord. Élaine de Lorimier recounted the exciting life of Gina Vaubois who, throughout her long career, has influenced dance with circus acrobatics and feats of daring.
Saturday afternoon’s first three presentations were grouped into the category "Varying Approaches to Dance". Julia Nimführ has come to Canada to learn about the Québecois culture to better understand the influence it had on the work of choreographer Jean Grand-Maître. Jennifer Bolt articulated the difference between "excellence" and "perfectionism" and explained the role of these terms to dance instruction, past, present and future. An exuberant William Lau regaled attendees with the roller coaster of positive and negative aspects of presenting Chinese theatrical dance and Peking Opera in Toronto. Norma Sue Fisher-Stitt and Theresa Rowat closed the conference with an all-important look at government policy and dance. Fisher-Stitt related the hot-and-cold federal and provincial funding history of the National Ballet School, and Rowat led the audience through the maze of national institutions that do or do not house Canada’s dance heritage.
Over morning coffee and between presentations, conference attendees mingled and networked in the Fireside Lounge. The Lounge also housed a display of Canadian books on dance. The conference offered first-time author Allana Lindgren the opportunity to release her new book From Automatism to Modern Dance: Françoise Sullivan with Franziska Boas in New York, published by Dance Collection Danse Press/es.
At the close of the conference, the newly established Iris Garland Emerging Dance Scholar Award was presented to and shared by Allana Lindgren and Pamela Newell, two researchers highly deserving of the recognition.
Amy Bowring and Mary Jane Warner deserve high praise for organizing a conference saturated with strong scholarship, broad in scope and coverage. The conference was funded in part by the Canada Council for the Arts, the York University Ad Hoc Research Fund, the Graduate Programme in Dance at York University and the Society for Canadian Dance Studies/Société des études canadiennes en danse. The efforts of many volunteers, including the CSDS/SCED Advisory Board, the Peer Review Committee and York’s graduate students, helped it all run smoothly. Judging by this event’s success, current and future CSDS/SCED members can look forward to another exciting conference in 2004, tentatively set to coincide with the Canada Dance Festival in Ottawa next June.
To recap, here is a breakdown of this year's workshop and paper presentations. Thank-you to everyone for your stellar work.
New Initiatives in the Ecology of Dance I
Ann Kipling Brown
New Initiatives in the Ecology of Dance II
When Worlds Collide I: Popular Culture and Dance
Writers’ Seminar co-presented with The Dance Current
Perspectives on Movement Analysis: History and Application
Kate Cornell and Nadine Saxton
Collaboration and Creative Process: Defining Roles
Penelope Reed Doob
Tradition and Modernity: Placing Bharatanatyam in Western Artistic Practice
Historical Perspectives: The Impact of Three Women on Dance in Canada
Sarah Nixon Gasyna
Élaine de Lorimier
Varying Approaches to Dance
When Worlds Collide II: Government Policy and Dance