Over the past four decades, Neighbourhood Dance Works (NDW) has helped put dance in Newfoundland and Labrador on the national map, while shining a light on the diversity of the local dance community.
Through a diverse range of programming and projects including Garden Dances (a collaboration between NDW, Kittiwake Dance Theatre and DanceNL), the Indigenous Dancer in Residence Program (a partnership with First Light, Spirit Song Festival and the Arts & Culture Centres), and last year’s Virtual Festival Residency, NDW has also provided opportunities to both emerging and established artists, while providing an inclusive and welcoming space for performers and audience members to come together and enjoy and celebrate the craft.
This year, not only does NDW celebrate their 40th birthday, the annual Festival of New Dance (FND) is also ringing in 30 years. And while it’s been two years since the last in-person festival, FND is coming back strong with an exciting range of performances that’s sure to satisfy those who have been craving live art.
The FND kicked off on October 3 and runs until October 9, featuring compelling and provocative performances by visiting and local artists including BoucharDanse (ON) (Woman in Blue Softly Breathing), FakeKnot (BC) (HINKYPUNK), Lara Kramer (QC) (Eating Bones and Licking Bread), Lesandra Dodson (NB) (Aquarium), Andrya Duff (Here Nor There), Candice Pike and Josh Murphy (Who Knit Ya?), and more. Also on the agenda are workshops, post-show talks, a drag show, receptions and a closing party. (All venues and events are operating at reduced capacities and in compliance with public health regulations.)
We spoke with Calla Lachance, Artistic Director of NDW and FND, to reflect upon the last three decades and look ahead at what’s coming up.
Business & Arts NL: This year, the Festival of New Dance rings in three decades – congratulations! What are some of the key ingredients to your success?
Calla Lachance: Steady focus on dance as an artistic practice has been key – we are constantly asking what artists need, what supports will further their creative projects, and which collaborations can enhance the potential to bring about opportunities for research and presentation. We have also been smart to look at funding opportunities to discover where new funding can be obtained to help us grow our operational base and therefore, expand our project and presentation capacity. We’ve stayed attuned into what is happening both in the region and nationally. Partnerships have also been a key part of our success and they have expanded the reach our program endeavours.
Business & Arts NL: Since last year, the pandemic has forced many arts organizations to change course and re-imagine how to host their festivals, and other events, in different ways. Are there any lessons learned or ways of doing things that NDW/Festival of New Dance plans to carry over into this year’s festival, or other events coming up?
CL: Honestly, it is hard to sum up all the lessons, there has been so much to consider. At this particular moment, what comes to mind is this: Planning an in-person festival has been a huge gamble. We are lucky (fingers still crossed) we can actually come together, safely, and run a live event. But we still don’t know what tomorrow holds. We have to be ready to respond and adapt in the moment. We really want to execute this festival as safely as possible. We all know what to do at this point, we have to keep our “COVID Smarts” on, follow the rules and enjoy the shows! Outside the festival, we will turn our attention to a fairly large Digital Project, thanks to the Canada Council for the Arts. The focus is on the artists, to support them in a process that builds on last year’s Virtual Festival Residency with Angie Cheng and 23 festival artists.
Business & Arts NL: What are you most looking forward to regarding this year’s Festival of New Dance?
CL: The chance to see dance in a very compressed and immersive space is what I crave. Seeing dance back to back, for an entire week, is an experience we’ve all missed. There is nothing like a festival environment. Immersing oneself as an audience member, to see a curated collection of uniquely distinct choreographic environments, requires a specific kind of attention and mental stamina. This brain workout is something I desperately need at this time!
Business & Arts NL: Is there’s anything else you’d like to add?
CL: Call the Hall for all tickets (709-753-4531 ext 200). Come see a show or two, dare yourself to be differently engaged this week, step away from the familiar TV dramas, challenge yourself to see something you’ve never experienced before. The world needs us to shake things up, to gain a wider perspective. Dance can do this, and the Festival of New Dance is the perfect space to awaken the senses and be inspired.