The Rigours and Joys of Touring Contemporary Dance

In the weeks until the Festival gears up, we will be featuring several GCDF dance artists here on the blog. Please join us every Monday and Thursday as we get an intimate, behind-the-scenes glimpse into the artistry, process, and experiences these talented dancers and choreographers from across the country are bringing to this year’s Guelph Contemporary Dance Festival. We encourage you to not just read their amazing stories, but to ask questions or engage in conversation about dance in our comments section below.  Get ready to Power Up!
Suzanne Miller of Montreal-based SuzanneMiller & Allan Paivio Productions wrote to us from Ramallah, Palestine, about what it’s like to tour the Middle East. Her piece, UPdown, performs at our In the Studio series on Saturday, June 2, at 4pm and 10pm.
Suzanne: On April 23rd, 2012, our company, Suzanne Miller & Allan Paivio Productions, departed from Montreal with our most recent production, UPdown, to perform in three cities (Amman, Jordan; East Jerusalem; and Ramallah, Palestine) in a network of contemporary dance festivals affiliated with the RamallahContemporary Dance Festival.  
Suzanne Miller and Karsten Kroll perform UPdown in Ramallah at the Al Kasaba Theatre. Photo by Eric Boudet.
Performing a physically intense hour-long duet, Karsten Kroll and I navigated ourselves through the spacing of three different theatres—managing to dance on sub-standard floor surfaces that added to our already challenging tour—and performed back-to-back in 3 theatres without rest. Allan Paivio (composer, sound designer) operated as our Technical Director for the first time. He was well served by the Technical Directors and their crews from the respective theatres.
I am writing this from our hotel suite—Rocky Hotel— in Ramallah.  This is our third consecutive year contributing to a rapidly growing festival. Originally, our tour included Damascus, Syria and Beirut, Lebanon—however due to the dire political situation in Syria, our engagements were cancelled and, as a result, we were re-scheduled to perform in Amman for our first time.
Performing at the Jerash-Roman site in Jordan. Photo by Allan Paivio.
In Amman, we held a workshop and met with many young dancers at the primary dance school in Jordan where students are offered classes in ballet (Royal Academy of Dancing), character dance, and traditional folkloric dance forms. Contemporary dance is relatively new to Jordan.  The festival we participated in is its fourth edition. Amman, Jordan is on the one hand more conservative—Muslim (very few woman are seen without head scarves)—yet on the other, part of global consumerism. Surely our audience was unaccustomed to witnessing the kind of gender equality expressed through UPdownwhere male/female roles are often blurred. Students in Amman were eager to learn new forms of dance, however the teachers commented that there are no professional dance companies operating in Jordan.  If dancers want to pursue their training, they must leave their homeland and train elsewhere. 
Suzanne Miller giving a workshop in Amman. Photo by Allan Paivio.
This is not the case in Ramallah. The Sareyyet Troupe for Music and Dance(under the direction of Khaled Eleyyan) benefits from international influences from the festival. Ballet C. de la B.(Belgium) has collaborated with the company in the past and during this festival held auditions for their upcoming multi-national production. As well, many of the companies that perform in Ramallah also give workshops, like the Ballet Boyz from the UK and Groupe Emile Dubois Jean-ClaudeGallottafrom France.  Our company is currently under negotiations with Sareyyet Troupefor a collaborative project scheduled in 2012-2014. 
Certainly the political situation here is fundamentally frustrating, but many people here believe that international cultural events like this help the cause of Palestinean cultural identity and statehood. RCDF(Ramallah Contemporary Dance Festival) Checkout their website:
We always feel good here. The spirit is generous despite all the problems. Our work has been embraced over the past three years and continues to create new potential for future productions. 
We look forward to performing an excerpt of UPdown in Guelph where our family and many friends and colleagues reside.
This year marks 25 years of production for Suzanne Miller and Allan Paivio Productions, with energetic collaborations in contemporary dance and music—influenced by total theatre, where all elements form an integral whole. 

1 thought on “The Rigours and Joys of Touring Contemporary Dance”

  1. Katharine Bourgon

    It must have been remarkable to perform contemporary dance in such an ancient space (re: the Jerash-Roman site in Jordan). Did that space affect your performance in any way other than being a very hard surface?

Comments are closed.

Scroll to Top