National Dance Week 2012


National Dance Week descends on Vancouver by Jessica Werb on Apr 17, 2012



(L-R) Ziyian Kwan and Jane Osborne will perform at Sunset Beach Park as a part of Vancouver’s first National Dance Week.

Don’t be surprised if, in the next few days, you find yourself confronted with lithesome bodies moving in strange and compelling ways: the inaugural National Dance Week starts Sunday (April 22), and with site-specific works as well as stage performances scheduled, Vancouverites are about to experience acts of dance when they may least expect it.

In a partnership with the Vancouver Biennale, dance artists will be interacting with public sculptures around the city in daily performances. Look for tap-dance improv by Danny Nielsen at the Walking Figures sculpture outside the Broadway/City Hall Canada Line station on Monday (April 23) at noon; flamenco by Flamenco Rosario at the Echoes piece at Kits Beach on Wednesday (April 25) at 10 a.m.; and a romance for two brides performed at the artwork Engagement, in Sunset Beach Park, enacted by Ziyian Kwan and Jane Osborne on Tuesday (April 24) at 11 a.m.

Kwan, has, until recently, been working primarily as a dancer. But over the past year, she has been experimenting with the creation of her own work—and next week will see her appear in two site-specific works, in addition to a performance in the Dance Centre lobby next Sunday (April 29) on International Dance Day.

When it comes to because the world is round, the work being performed April 24 at Engagement—a Dennis Oppenheimer sculpture resembling two engagement rings—Kwan, in conversation at a Main Street coffee shop near her home, says she plans to “work with the concepts of intimacy in space”. She elaborates: “The rings are so giant, and there’s the whole backdrop of the mountains and oceans. There’s so much spaciousness, and yet it’s going to be my challenge to show intimacy and engagement between two people.”

She adds that when she was first presented with the opportunity to create a work for the site, she had not fully absorbed the meaning behind the sculpture.

“My instinctual response was, ‘Oh, I’ll do a ceremony for two brides,’” she recalls. “I didn’t even think, cognitively, that it’s two diamonds, and consequently it’s a same-sex marriage for two women. Obviously art has a way of entering your psyche.”

While that work, still in development, will have Kwan interacting with another dancer, her other Biennale-inspired work will have her sharing the spotlight with performance partners of quite another ilk: almost two dozen seven- and eight-year-olds.

On April 25, Kwan will join 21 Grade 2 and 3 French Immersion students from Henry Hudson Elementary School for echoes. It will be performed at Echoes in Kitsilano Beach Park, a sculpture by Michel Goulet featuring a series of steel chairs engraved with script. The students will sing an original song, with gestures, while Kwan gives a mostly improvised performance.

“I’m just going to follow the cue of the kids,” she explains, “because they’re so amazing. My inclination is to stay very, very fluid. I’d like to just be a lens, almost, to facilitate seeing them more.”

Kwan will step into the fore, however, on April 29, when, as her blond-wigged alter-ego akaSuzi, she’ll perform throwing coins squeezing soy, an interactive work in which she’ll give I Ching readings to passersby through word and song, assisted by dancer Anne Cooper.

Kwan, whose father is an I Ching scholar, is the first to acknowledge the irreverent work is “totally crazy”. And while the piece is a lighthearted take on the Chinese fortune-telling art, she says she has her father’s blessing: “It took him awhile to wrap his head around it, and then he was like, ‘Oh good! Very good idea!’”

It’s an exclamation that is likely to be repeated many times by Vancouverites over the coming week.