Janet: I arrived in Guelph having had an action-packed, intense, dynamic and, at times, intimate experience with the dance community of T.O. This was a rich time, for sure, but I was starting to feel myself get jaded, worn down a bit by the high and low of being a dancer/choreographer in the big smoke. So when I found myself in happy, open, earthy Guelph I felt a wonderful new wave of energy and positivity coming my way. I was cementing my union with my partner, becoming a mother, putting down roots.
I felt an almost immediate connection to Guelph, but was missing my former dance community!! How to have it all? How to bring the best of the T.O. dance scene to my newfound home, this place with which I was most excited to share my passion….?
By some odd fluke of happenstance, I found myself meeting Catrina who too had moved from a very vibrant dance scene in Montreal (and Europe). There began our earnest, slightly naïve, but highly passionate attempt to bring fantastic dance artists (many of whom in the beginning were my friends and peers from T.O.) to little river-lined Guelph. I was super excited to give dance artists gigs, as well as to feed Guelphites some great morsels of artistic expression through the body and through this great medium of commonality!
In the beginning we had a fantastic group of volunteers (mostly those in the community we had started to teach, to win over) and we would all meet with babies in hand in someone’s kitchen, sipping coffee and dreaming big. It was super motivating to see how much our volunteers, like us, were seeking rich artistic experiences to sweep up on the shores of Guelph. Everyone wanted to support a community that presented such artistic endeavors…. We all wanted to help foster a city for our kids, our souls, our shared sense of the need for artistic interaction and proactive expression. As a new presenter for dance, Bill Kimball in Peterborough was a big inspiration for me. He programmed interesting and edgy dance and the University-driven city seemed to follow eagerly in his presenter’s path. I saw a link between these two communities and, with Catrina’s love of experimental dance in mind too, we tried our best in those early GCDF years to go slow but to immediately present dance that was slightly challenging, risk-taking and definitely, for the most part, of a very high skill level (we maintained separate series for both emerging artists and youth performers, and continue to do so today).
We seemed to grasp immediately that if we wanted this wee festival to survive, we would need to grasp hands with other organizations, with more people, and with the greater community if possible. This element has undeniably been one of the most satisfying as well as wise moves the GCDF has made. With great support and collaboration, the GCDF has been able to take leaps, spin slowly, lunge deep……….Catrina
: And where are we leaping, spinning, lunging deep to? Where are we now and where do we go from here? These are the questions we are asking ourselves right now, planning a future direction for the festival in ways we cannot even imagine just yet. In the very beginning we dreamed that Guelph could be a place where dancers could work outside a metropolitan area (yes, this was very personal for us), where artists could create in tranquility and with less influences all around them (yes, also something we wanted for ourselves), and where we could witness the diversity of dance happening across Canada without driving an hour or more.
We really do have all that now right here in Guelph. Guelph is home to Dancetheatre David Earle, a world-renowned Order of Canada and Premier’s Awards of Excellence in the Arts recipient. Professional dancers can train with them and perform with their company. Guelph is home to Fall on Your Feet, a relatively new collective of professional dancers who all call Guelph their home and who invite the community at large to join in on their movement research and discoveries.
Young dancers are training regularly in contemporary dance through the Guelph Youth Dance training program, and the more serious young dancers get performance opportunities with a wide range of professional dancers through the Guelph Youth Dance.
And, of course, the festival itself brings artists from not only across the country but from all over the world to this wonderful city of Guelph. We may have been a bit naïve in the beginning, but hey, that quality brought us to a place where anything is possible, a place I am still very happy to be.
We are incredibly excited to continue with the dreaming and the planning and to see where this might take us over the next 10, 20 years. What are your thoughts? Do you want to be involved?