When Mélanie Demers was five years old she started ballet classes, although, looking back, she doesn’t understand why. She wanted to be a writer as a kid.
“I don’t remember asking my mom to be in a ballet class,” recalls the dancer-choreographer from her home in Montreal. “My body was not the type of body that would fit the [ballet] aesthetic, so I always felt a bit inadequate.”
That all changed for Demers by the time she was 16 though, when she discovered the more inclusive aspects of contemporary dance, which allowed her to be the person that she was. Her embrace of the form eventually led her to found Montreal’s MAYDAY experimental dance company in 2007, which, according to its website, was created to explore “the powerful link between the poetical and the political”.
Demers laughs when asked to explain just exactly how her company does that.
“That’s interesting,” she replies. “You know, like when you have a label you have to justify your label. Ummm…I don’t know how I do that. I guess I try to create links between the artistic object that I create and the world. Sometimes dance can be a little bit abstract and outside of any social, historical preoccupations, and then I try to use those links. I try—for me, to my eye—to make it relevant. Like what does this art form have to say about the world?
“Because it’s a totally different thing, having to observe the world and translate it into a dance piece rather than in an essay, you know. So there is an intelligence, there is a logic, there are meanings that we can find in watching bodies move.”
With those ideas in mind, Demers set out on an artistic path that has seen her choreograph over 30 dance works and, last year, be awarded the prestigious Grand Prix de la danse de Montréal. She describes her latest piece, La Goddam Voie Lactée (The Goddamn Milky Way)—which will be performed in Vancouver from February 4 to 6 as part of the PuSh International Performing Arts Festival—as her response to the harshness of the world.
“I first started to think about this project in the summer of 2020,” she explains, “when there was a high level of tension, social tension, around Black Lives Matter and the #MeToo Movement and stuff like that. So I guess I thought: what can I do, what can I say that has any relevance to these tense times. And instead of getting very close to the human conditions—something that I do often—I just wanted to take a step back and look at the world from a very very far angle. I was thinking about Nina Simone when she was singing ‘Mississippi Goddam’, and my idea was like, ‘It’s not just Mississippi that was goddamm, it’s the whole goddamn Milky Way.’ Like we’re all under the same umbrella, we’re all doomed.”
La Goddam Voie Lactée is performed by Stacey Désilier, Frannie Holder, Chi Long, Léa Noblet Di Ziranaldi, and understudy Misheel Ganbold, who is replacing original dancer Brianna Lombardo for the local run. Demers admits that it was quite a challenge finding the ideal blend of talent for the piece.
“I am usually someone that is very loyal to the people I work with,” she points out, “but I try to make a very distinct selection of who is going to be onstage. Like who do we give light to, who is going to embody my ideals and my ideas. So yes, it’s always a little bit delicate, but I was fortunate enough to be surrounded by amazing women, talented artists, very badass performers, who dance but also sing but also act and who can also play guitar—they’re all very versatile.
“So it was hard to find them,” she adds, “but also it’s very easy to work with them. And then I like to think that selecting people that you put on stage is really, I don’t know, like a microcosm of your ideal society in a way. So we have dancers that are in their 20s, and 30s, and 40s, and 50s. It’s a very beautiful, diverse cast of people.”
As choreographer and director of La Goddam Voie Lactée, Demers doesn’t appear on stage. But you wonder if, when she sees her creation unfold, her own dance instincts might make her want to join in.
“Oh no,” she says, laughing again, “I’m quite happy now to actually leave the space and the light to other performers. I’m excited by crafting a work more than embodying it. I mean, I still love to perform, and it’s something that I will always do, but I don’t have the urge to replace a dancer. The way that I work is to really craft a role on to their personality, so people are not easily replaceable; it’s actually really hard. You cannot join in and jump in in a work like that, because I use their bodies as my personal archive, so I really go deep and find their specificities and differences and put that in perspective.”
So far in her career Demers has had her dance works shown in some 40 cities across Europe, North America, Africa, and Asia. One of the joys of her profession comes from seeing the different attitudes people have to her work from place to place.
“That’s the beauty of touring a work,” she says, “to actually submit it to another gaze, another culture that will probably analyse it under a different light. You know, there’s a big deal about touring, that it’s really prestigious and glamorous, but for me what is interesting is to actually be in contact with that friction between what I created in a small studio in Montreal and what people can receive from my perspective, and then how they can interpret it. I think that’s where lies the beauty of live art.”
La Goddam Voie Lactée will be performed at the Scotiabank Dance Centre from February 4 to 6 as part of the PuSh International Performing Arts Festival, copresented by the Dance Centre.
CATHERINE SHEPHERD: Connecting through art – Saltwire
In recent years we’ve come to understand the importance of arts and culture in our lives. Art helps us to connect with ourselves and others. It’s an excellent way to express yourself that is known to positively impact our well-being, especially for those living with dementia.
Artful Afternoon is a dementia-friendly program offered by the Alzheimer Society of Nova Scotia in partnership with the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia for people living with dementia and their care partners. Participants are encouraged to tap into their creativity and reflect with one another while being able to make their own works of art.
The sessions provide a stress-free environment of fun where everyone involved can laugh, create and connect with one another.
For many, art is completely new to them, while others find themselves reconnecting with something they’ve always loved to do. Participants take a sense of pride in their art regardless of their experience.
Participants don’t have to be in-person to enjoy an Artful Afternoon. Sessions are offered virtually on Zoom for those who live across the province to enjoy – materials needed for the session are provided. Sessions are facilitated by Alzheimer Society of Nova Scotia staff and a professional artist from the Art Gallery. It includes a guided tour of the gallery followed by an art session. Recordings of the virtual sessions are shared on our website for those who are interested at www.alzheimer.ca/ns/virtualartfulafternoon.
“It’s wonderful that we’re able to offer both in-person and virtual formats where no prior art experience is necessary,” said Calandra Kandziora, Client Services Coordinator at the Alzheimer Society of Nova Scotia.
“The relaxed environment allows participants to connect with one another and their care partners.”
The sessions include a tour of a collection at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia where artist and instructor, Lux Habrich, shares her knowledge and information.
Everyone attending feels that they are part of the group, even if they aren’t there in person. After learning about the collection, people from across the province can share and discuss.
At the end of the session, Lux provides some instruction on how participants may use the materials in art kits provided by the gallery. Many people even use the materials outside of the sessions.
“Facilitating the program for the past four years has been hugely influential for me personally,” said Lux. “Not only has it deepened my relationship with my own creative practice, but I’ve been able to witness over and over again the immense power art making and appreciation play in our overall well-being, sense of autonomy and community connectedness.”
We know that maintaining connections and trying new activities are important parts of living well with dementia. The program reduces stigma and myths by bringing together people living with dementia, care partners, staff and volunteers in a community setting.
Meaningful social activity is important for everyone, but this need is increased for people living with dementia and their care partners.
The program has received glowing reviews from its participants.
“It’s a fun activity to do with my parent. I think it’s a good opportunity for him to get out and do something different, social, and enjoyable. It gives us something to talk about as well and creates good memories for us.”
If you are hesitant about dipping your toes into the program but enjoy art, the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia offers virtual tours on their website www.artgalleryofnovascotia.ca/virtualtour.
To find out more and to register for Artful Afternoon, visit alzheimer.ca/ns/artfulafternoon or call our Infoline at 1-800-611-6345.
Catherine Shepherd is a regional co-ordinator, Cape Breton and provincial lead, first link outreach, with the Alzheimer Society of Nova Scotia.
ARTS AROUND: Summer art camps return to Port Alberni – Alberni Valley News
Looking for something fun and creative for the kids this summer?
Join Freya and Olivia, our summer leaders at the Rollin Art Centre, for eight weeks of creative summer art programs for children between the ages of 7-13.
Each week is a different medium. From drawing to painting, we will have something everyone will enjoy. It’s a great way to have fun and meet new friends while learning new techniques.
The three-day camps take place Monday to Wednesday in the morning (10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.) for ages seven to eight and afternoons (1:15 p.m. to 3:45 p.m.) for ages 9-11. The cost is $75 per week.
The Rollin Art Centre will also be offering a one-day camp on Fridays (10 a.m. to 2 p.m.) for ages 11-13. The cost is $45 per camp.
Call 250-724-3412 to register. Spaces are limited.
The Rollin Art Centre’s current art exhibit features a group of four local female artists: Sue Thomas, Jillian Mayne, Colleen Clancy and Ann McIvor. This exhibit showcases their own individualism, as the diversity of the work reflects each woman’s unique creative process and artistic expression.
From nature, to abstract, oils to watercolour, this exhibit is a lovely collection you won’t want to miss. It runs until July 22. The Rollin Art Centre is located at the corner of Eighth Avenue and Argyle Street and is open Tuesday to Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
CALL TO ARTISTS
The Rollin Art Centre will be holding a summer inspired art exhibit from July 27 to Aug. 26. We are inviting all local artists to submit up to three pieces (size depending) with their own rendition of the season of summer. All mediums are welcome.
Application forms are available at the Rollin Art Centre. The fee is $10 per submission. Deadline is July 15.
LANDSCAPES MADE EASY
Spaces are still available for this acrylic painting workshop on the terrace at the Rollin Art Centre.
On Saturday, July 16, artist Susan Schaefer will guide you through what makes a good composition while simplifying your landscape.
The workshop fee is $115 + GST. A supply list is available. Register at the Rollin Art Centre at 250-724-3412.
The Community Arts Council is holding a summer raffle at the Rollin Art Centre featuring a chair designed by Leave Her Wild Container Design. Tickets are $2 each or three for $5.
Teas on the Terrace are back at the Rollin Art Centre this summer. Tickets are now on sale.
Strawberry teas are $20 (featuring decadent strawberry shortcake) and a “high tea” is $25 (served on a two-tiered plate).
July 7 – Strawberry Tea – Folk Song Circle
July 21 – High Tea – Dennis Olsen
August 4 – Strawberry Tea – Dennis Olsen and Guy Langlois
August 18 – High Tea – Doug Gretsinger
Melissa Martin is the Arts Administrator for the Community Arts Council, at the Rollin Art Centre and writes for the Alberni Valley News. Call 250-724-3412. Email: email@example.com.
The Vancouver Art Gallery Launches New Simplified Membership and Admissions Program – Business Wire
VANCOUVER, British Columbia–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Traditional Coast Salish Lands, including the Musqueam (xwməθkwəy’əm), Squamish (Sḵwxwú7mesh Úxwumixw) and Tsleil-Waututh (səl’ilw’ətaʔɬ) Nations.
Today, the Vancouver Art Gallery announces that on July 1, 2022, it will be launching a new and simplified membership and admissions program, which will offer the public more access to more art, more often. This new program will give audiences the flexibility to enjoy the benefits that are most important to them.
The Vancouver Art Gallery’s streamlined membership program will have three levels to choose from:
- Art Opens Access, which offers unlimited visits to the Gallery for a full 12 months;
- Art Opens Ideas, which, in addition to unlimited visits to the Gallery for the next 12 months, provides a range of benefits designed to enhance your experience at the Gallery;
- Art Opens Experiences, which not only provides unlimited visits to the Gallery but allows you to enjoy a greater range of perks, including discounts on ticketed public programs and events, as well as access to a national museum reciprocal program, giving you access to museums across Canada.
Recently, the Gallery announced that all children and youth aged 18 and under will be able to visit for free over the next five years, thanks to a generous donation of $1 million from the April 1 Foundation of Vancouver. Caregivers to persons with disabilities will also continue to receive free entry. As such, general admission to the Gallery will become the single price of $29.
The Gallery continues to work with many community partners to make art accessible to all. Some examples include the Institute of Canadian Citizenship’s Canoo pass, which offers complimentary admission to new Canadian Citizens, Permanent Residents and their immediate families; Access 2 cardholders, which provides complimentary admission to a support person for people of all ages and types of permanent disabilities; and discounted admission for post-secondary students through the Gallery’s School Programs.
This summer, starting July 1, the Gallery will also be extending its hours on Thursday evenings, staying open late from 10 AM to 8 PM until September 5, 2022. These extended hours will come in addition to the Gallery’s 12 to 8 PM hours on Tuesdays and Fridays.
Founded in 1931, the Vancouver Art Gallery is known for its innovative exhibitions, extensive public programs and emphasis on advancing research on historical and contemporary art from British Columbia and around the world. As the Gallery prepares to move to a new building, planned to open in 2027, it continues to strive to make art more accessible across the province. Since November 2021, the Gallery has raised more than $20 million in private fundraising and over $29 million in federal funding to support development of the new building.
For more information on the Gallery’s new membership and admissions program, visit vanartgallery.bc.ca.
About Vancouver Art Gallery
Founded in 1931, the Vancouver Art Gallery is recognized as one of North America’s most innovative visual arts institutions. The Gallery’s adventurous exhibitions, extensive public programs, and emphasis on advancing research all focus on historical and contemporary art from British Columbia and around the world. Special attention is given to the accomplishments of Indigenous artists, as well as to those of the Asia Pacific region. The Gallery’s exhibitions also explore the impact of images in the larger sphere of visual culture, design, and architecture.
The Vancouver Art Gallery is a charitable not-for-profit organization supported by its members, individual donors, corporate funders, foundations, the City of Vancouver, the Province of British Columbia through the BC Arts Council and the Canada Council for the Arts.
The Vancouver Art Gallery is situated on the ancestral and unceded territories of the xʷməθkʷəy’əm (Musqueam), Sḵwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations, and is respectful of the Indigenous stewards of the land it occupies, whose rich cultures are fundamental to artistic life in Vancouver and the work of the Gallery. Learn more at vanartgallery.bc.ca.
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