Digidance launches with Canadian premiere of Crystal Pite’s Body and Soul

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Photo courtesy of Julien Benhamou.

Body and Soul | Crystal Pite for the Paris Opera Ballet | Digidance | Streaming online only in Canada | February 17 – 23, 2021

A group of Canadian dance presenters has come together in response to COVID-19 to form Digidance, a new initiative that will present Canadian dance on the virtual stage. As presenters that often work together to build Canadian tours for both Canadian and international dance companies, DanceHouse (Vancouver), Harbourfront Centre (Toronto), the National Arts Centre (Ottawa), and Danse Danse (Montreal) are joining forces to ensure that Canadian dance remains strong and continues to reach audiences during the pandemic. As an embodied medium of expression that relies on live performance, dance has suffered a great deal due to the pandemic hindering our ability to gather.

Digidance’s first presentation is Crystal Pite’s Body and Soul, filmed live at the Paris Opera Ballet’s world premiere in November 2019. The work is Pite’s second full-length creation for the company following 2016’s The Seasons’ Canon, and it continues her theme of working with a large company (36 dancers in this case) to explore conflict and human connection while working through compelling narratives on a grand scale. The choreography is also complemented by a voice-over that adds to the narrative as the work goes through various iterations.

“We now see that we can bring things to an audience that we couldn't do in person,” says Jim Smith, DanceHouse Artistic and Executive Director. “The Paris Opera ballet hardly ever tour; they're a resident company, and now we can actually bring this to our local audience through a digital format.”

The choice of Pite’s work for the first Digidance presentation, says Smith, was an easy one as Pite and the creative team represented Canada on an international stage when The Paris Opera Ballet commissioned the work for their 350th anniversary. “We immediately saw that this is a very Canadian story, that it was a great way to draw attention to this for a Canadian audience. It's a chance to see the Canadian experience reflected back through an international lens or through an international company.”

Smith explained that while Digidance was born out of the necessity of presenting performances virtually, the platform will continue to present works online to complement in-person shows once we are able to return to theatres.

Later this season, the next Digidance presentation will be a film of Joe, an iconic Canadian work from 1983 by Jean-Pierre Perreault. “His work had a huge impact on dance artists of today and choreographers of our time; the dancers in this work are now the people that are making work for the stage today” says Smith. “This is something that we couldn't stage and put in a theatre because there isn’t a company that actually has the production in its repertoire, but there is a really great footage of it.”

Following that, says Smith, they will present an Indigenous company from Canada, but we’ll have to wait to find out more details about that. If I had to venture a guess, I might say it that company will be Dancers of Damelahamid, but we’ll have to eagerly await an announcement.

Coming up in October, DanceHouse is tentatively planning for an in-person show, but, as Smith explains, it all depends on where we are with vaccinations and COVID protocols. Either way, the return to in-person performances will be gradual and we likely won’t see full theatres for quite some time.

Digidance provides many benefits when it comes to accessibility and providing more people with the opportunity to see world-class Canadian dance: an online ticket is less costly, it doesn’t require an audience member to be in Vancouver, and the stream will be available for one week to enjoy in the comfort of our living rooms.

“We have the opportunity to have a greater impact by reaching out to more people nationally,” says Smith. “Each partner organization is situated in such a way that we can reach out to a region or to a province in a way that we couldn't historically, and we can put the work of local artists into an international or national context.”

For more details and tickets, visit www.dancehouse.ca.

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