CreativAction Supports Canadian Dance Talent

by Caroline Dickie
March 25, 2024

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Arrthami Siva-Kuruvinth in rehearsal. Photo by Karolina Kuras.

A strong and supportive local dance community benefits all artists in the ecosystem, regardless of movement language or type of organization. As the largest dance company in the country, The National Ballet of Canada is committed to sharing its resources with fellow artists and developing Canadian choreographic talent. CreativAction is an expression of this commitment – an umbrella term for related community-centric initiatives led by Robert Binet, Director of Artist Development Programmes and Choreographic Associate. Open Space, a CreativAction programme, provides over 2,000 hours of free studio space at The Walter Carsen Centre to independent choreographers for one to two-week periods each season.

For Arrthami Siva-Kuruvinth, access to the National Ballet’s studios has supported her creation of an original Bharatanatyam piece combining narratives from South Asian mythology with concern for the climate crisis. “The Open Space programme has been pivotal in my choreographic development,” she says. “Studio space and sound equipment are indispensable resources for any artist hoping to produce comprehensive work. The uninterrupted hours have been a sanctuary for me and have not only facilitated physical choreography but also enabled me to compose original music and rhythmic sequences (jathis) that form the backbone of my work.”  

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Arrthami Siva-Kuruvinth in rehearsal. Photo by Karolina Kuras.

This year, CreativAction added a new initiative that sees selected works developed through Open Space move from the studio to the stage in an annual performance series called the Citadel Spring Mix. The initiative runs jointly with Citadel + Compagnie, an organization within Toronto’s Regent Park community devoted to the creation, curation and cultivation of contemporary dance. Running from April 2 to 14, 2024, the Citadel Spring Mix will present new works by Toronto artists alongside established works by Montreal-based artists at The Citadel: Ross Centre for Dance.

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Dancers in rehearsal for New Work by Samantha Sutherland. Photo by Karolina Kuras.

Among the featured choreographers is Samantha Sutherland, an Indigenous contemporary artist who will debut her first ensemble work, naⱡa. “I love the element of exchange that comes with participating in Open Space,” she says. “We get the chance to meet new artists working in many different dance styles and take time to share and exchange if desired. As someone working on a new piece, receiving feedback and hearing the thoughts of other artists across disciplines is extremely valuable to my process.”

Joining Samantha on the Citadel programme is Sofi Gudiño, Founder of Inamorata Dance Collective and a specialist in flamenco and contemporary dance. Sofi has also found Open Space to be a valuable support for their creativity. “Open Space is providing me with meaningful time to work in the studio on an exciting contemporary flamenco solo with my collaborators – Sound Designer Sofia Fly, Stylist and Costume Designer Joseph Quezal and Costume Designer Rita Benz. Inspired by the mating dances of male birds in Mexico and the golden era drag queens across the West, we are creating a celebratory flamenco drag king to (playfully) ruffle feathers.”

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Dancers in rehearsal for New Work by Samantha Sutherland. Photo by Karolina Kuras.

The range of talent Open Space now supports is central to the programme’s larger ambition to foster an eclectic community of Canadian dance artists who are not only aware of one another, but also actively engaging in joint projects and even sharing the stage. As Arrthami observes, “Toronto’s dance scene is rich with diversely trained artists. Despite varying styles, dance serves as a universal language, with movements in one form resonating across others. The community’s deep appreciation for this diversity is heartening and affirms the impact and value of the art we create.”

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