Spotlight on Johnny Ruth, Rocket Bakery & Festival of New Dance

Lynn Panting and Mark White – Jacob’s Ladder at Johnny Ruth.

If you strolled around downtown St. John’s this past weekend, you might’ve noticed some interesting activity happening in a couple of storefront windows.

Both Johnny Ruth and Rocket Bakery & Fresh Food on Water Street played host to performers from the 27th Festival of New Dance (FND) – an annual event from Neighbourhood Dance Works that celebrates and explores life through movement.

“Window dances are one of my favourite Festival of New Dance initiatives. They are like mini art installations that invite the public at large into a new world. It’s a bit like magic, as dances appear out of nowhere and disappear just as quickly,” says Lynn Panting, choreographer and Festival of New Dance coordinator.

“The partnerships Neighbourhood Dance Works has with Johnny Ruth and Rocket Bakery are invaluable. These relationships are integral to audience building and inspiring interest and curiosity about dance and our festival.”

On Friday night, Panting and dance partner Mark White took to the Johnny Ruth window for Jacob’s Ladder – a provocative performance that caught the attention of many inquisitive passersby.

Johnny Ruth has been a supporter of the festival, and the window dances, for a number of years. Owner/manager Kim Winsor says the lively and energetic performances help bring a vibrancy to the downtown core.

“People love live art. We do lots of things in the window – card readings, music performances when we have events,” Winsor says.

“We need a little bit more liveliness, because that’s what downtown’s all about…it’s what you’d expect to see in the heart of downtown St. John’s,” she adds.

“It’s just nice to support the dance festival. They have worked so hard…and we’re really happy to share our space.”

On Saturday night at Rocket, students with Dance Studio West in Corner Brook (Hannah Ford, Alexandra Michael, Cassidy Taylor, Olivia Brake and Mira Buckle) came together for a collaborative performance, facilitated by Candice Pike, that riveted the audience both inside the shop and outside on the sidewalk.

Like Johnny Ruth, Rocket has also been a long-time supporter of the festival. Kelly Mansell, owner/sales and marketing manager, says she’s been intrigued by these kind of performances since she was a child.

“One of my earliest memories is of walking down Yorkville Avenue in Toronto with my parents and watching go-go dancers in the windows of stores and clubs along that street. I just loved it then and I love it now! Art performed or expressed in unexpected places or on unusual ‘stages’ is, to me, what makes it exciting and the FND is great at making these sorts of ‘pop-ups’ work,” she says.

“Most of our regular customers expect something to be happening when they walk through our doors! It’s not quite a circus (ha!) but the variety of things that go on at Rocket lend a vibrant community air to the space, which I love. My next dance goal: snow dancing with speakers out on Water Street during a snowstorm!”