Guelph Contemporary
Dance Festival Returns

by Anna Contini

Thanks to the artistic vision of local dancers Catrina von Radecki and Janet Johnson, contemporary dance is finding a home in the city of Guelph. It all started about two years ago when the pair began organizing the Guelph Contemporary Dance Festival. Encouraged by the success of the inaugural event, held in April 1998, and heartened by growing interest in the discipline, Johnson and von Radecki have worked together to co-produce the second annual Contemporary Dance Festival taking place September 24, 25 and 26, 1999.
The three-day event offers a number of diverse series and promises an exciting mix of internationally acclaimed dancers and local artists. “Our mandate is two-fold,” says von Radecki, “we want to attract new talent to Guelph while nurturing the growth of local talent.” This year a grant from the Ontario Arts Council has enabled them to showcase artists from across North America, she explains. The festival has also received support from the Dance Umbrella of Ontario, Guelph Downtown Board of Management and Guelph Arts Council.
The line-up for the 1999 Mainstage Series includes Montreal Choreographer Marie-Pascale Belanger’s adventurous and intelligent work and Ottawa’s Anik Bouvrette, whose work has been described as “a beautifully danced gift of life.” Coming from Toronto are ch’a, an exciting quartet of Asian Canadian dancers; Peter Chin, with a multidisciplinary work which is both quirky and laced with humour; Michelle Debrouwer, a technical and intuitive performer; and Kaeja D’Dance, a kinetic company whose physically charged work has seen great success throughout Canada and beyond. Featured soloists include New York City’s Barbara Mahler with a dance of startling honesty and compelling visual flow; and Montreal’s David Pressault who will perform a work portraying torment and delight inspired by mythology.
While the Mainstage Series will be presented at the River Run Centre in the Co-operators Hall, the Site-Specific Series will take place outdoors in various locations throughout downtown Guelph. It is aimed at attracting audiences who are new to contemporary dance. The Youth Moves Series will showcase young performers and be of particular interest to families. New this year is the Workshop Series which will offer two adult and one children’s workshop led by mainstage artists. Finally, the Talk Back Series will follow the first performance of each mainstage event enabling audiences to ask questions and have a dialogue with the dancers and choreographers.
In addition to building and educating new dance audiences, von Radecki hopes that more contemporary dance talent will be attracted to Guelph. In the past, she explains, this discipline has been limited to larger metropolitan areas. But after witnessing support within the community for any modern dance they were involved with, including their classes at Guelph’s Open Space Studio, von Radecki and Johnson sensed that Guelph was ready for its own festival. Last year all the performances were practically filled to capacity.
The beauty of contemporary dance is that one can expect to see just about anything. “It incorporates many different styles and backgrounds,” says von Radecki, adding that one of the mandates this year is to feature experimental, cutting-edge works. These types of unique performances “push the boundaries and stimulate the viewer.” In essence, the festival promises something for everyone – children and adults, art lovers and dancers, locals and visitors.
Come celebrate contemporary dance in downtown Guelph!

Festival passes and tickets are available at the River Run Centre (519) 763-3000. For more information call (519) 823-8436.