The Fine Art of Curating

Catrina: While much of my time as the General Manager of the festival revolves around grant-writing and securing funds to make it all possible, without doubt, my favourite time of the year is when I can put all number-crunching aside and devote myself entirely to being one of the co-artistic directors of the festival and to viewing the 80-100 applications we receive each year.

firstthingsfirst productions (Toronto) with  a view is a view is a view.  Photo by Kristy Kennedy

The GCDF posts a Call to Artists with a deadline of September 15th. We also travel across the country to view as many performances live as possible and to engage in discussions, panels, and professional development.  In fact, I wrote this post as I was on a train on my way to Montreal for the Parcours Danse Conference hosted by La Danse Sur les Route du Quebec and recently went to Calgary for the Fluid Festival and CanDance Network AGM.

Though the video-viewing and travelling to see works can be great, great fun, this time of year can also be one of the most difficult. Out of the 100 applications, only 24 artists get selected (6 for the On the Stage, 2 for the In the Studio, 4 On the Street, 4 In the Park and 8 Youth Moves series artists), we have to decline many very, very strong applications.

So how do we make our choices?

Janet and I view the submissions separately so as not to influence each other. We try to give each submission our equal time and attention. We take notes, we make scores, and we allow the work to resonate. Choosing pieces is not as simple as picking our personal favourites. We truly want to represent the national dance community. We try to choose artists from at least 3 provinces each year while also representing the local dance scene.  Our choices must represent our nation’s cultural diversity (the GCDF has represented dance from a wide range of cultural backgrounds and influences), an eclectic mix of dance styles (urban, innovative contemporary, improvisation, aerial dance, physical theatre, modern, etc…).  And the works have to work well on a mixed program (for example, three solos could feel long, but a mix of solo, duet, trio and group work becomes much more exciting). 

LINK Dance (Vancouver) with Experiments: Where Logic and Emotion Collide. Photo by Peter Eastwood.

Creating a program that incorporates as many of these criteria as possible while also ensuring the strong programming you have all come to know and trust is indeed a challenge, but something both Janet and I cherish as part of our jobs as co-artistic directors.

Janet: Curating … a joy and an utter heartbreak!  It is incredibly stimulating to see packages from across the nation (and other parts of the world) filled with powerful passion, determination, conviction and artistry.  I feel that each package is a little gift, a message from an artist, a way of looking at dance, the world.  I try hard to honour this and view packages when I am alert and will only view a few at a time before taking a break.  I often know which pieces “work” by how long they resonate in me, how often they come into my imagination, my visual musings.  
tiger princess dance projects (Toronto) bring us Cypress. Photo by Brendan Wyatt.

There are some tough parts like loving a work but not necessarily thinking it is right for this year’s festival for a number of reasons.  It is also potentially super-difficult when works come from a  personal as well as professional connection (much of the greater dance community is made up of links such as these…) … When we just don’t have the cash to bring the bevy of amazing talent that comes our way … When we are well aware that an artist or company “needs” a gig like the GCDF to grow and be reinforced for what they do.

Curating annually gives me a great sense of what’s out there at this time, what themes, movement motifs, styles are at the forefront, what artist is investigating what territory, collaboration, etc.  I feel honoured to wear such a hat and am incredibly motivated to bring to the Guelph “table” a diverse, highly skilled, challenging, heart-felt feast of dance.

Scroll to Top