Dancing in the street

Dance Downtown aims to make dance accessible to everyone


Dust off your dancing shoes.

The Royal Winnipeg Ballet presents Dance Downtown, a free public open house and part of the national Culture Days 2013 weekend.

An indoor and outdoor event, Dance Downtown takes place on Sunday, September 29 at 1 pm inside and on the courtyards of the RWB, as well as the lawn of the Manitoba Hydro Building.

“[Culture Days is] really about celebrating what our culture sees as its roots and its heritage,” Scott Andrew, a faculty member in RWB School, says.

“We’ve got visual art and we’ve got performing art. We’ve got dance and there’s music and we tie that all together as a nation, across the board. [It’s great to see] how we like to celebrate that. I like to take part in the event just to see all the different elements all coming together in one big party so to speak.”

Don’t be fooled, it’s not just ballet happening on this hopefully sunny Sunday afternoon. The event will showcase dancers of all styles, including many ethnic dance groups, such as French, Spanish, Ukrainian and Israeli.

Of course, there will be ballet, performed by the young and the old, the professional and the not so professional.

Dance Downtown will also include a unique activity called “Paint a Dancer.” Art City will have dancers posing inside the studio for people to come and paint.

“You’re going to get closer to ballet dancers than you’d normally get at a performance because you’re going to be in their studio,” Eddie Ayoub, Art City’s artistic director, says. “It’s a real privilege to be able to access that space and get that close to the dancers in practice.

“They (the public) should expect a peaceful, reflective, quiet time in which they can observe what they see and then just put it down on paper.”

Dance Downtown hopes to make dance – an art form that is generally not seen as a recreational activity – more accessible.

You’re going to get closer to ballet dancers than you’d normally get at a performance because you’re going to be in their studio.

Eddie Ayoub, Art City artistic director and Dance Downtown participant

“The more access people have to the arts, the more they’ll understand them, whether they start making their own art or whether they appreciate art on another level,” Ayoub says.

Ayoub goes on to quote Australian author and speaker Jon Hawkes.

“The reason that everybody is super engaged in sports is because everyone understands it, because they all did it as youth. And so they understand how hard it is to throw the ball because they’ve thrown the ball.”

If you don’t think Dance Downtown is “your thing”, Andrew has some advice.

“Step outside the box... Come and just experience, not necessarily just what is perceived of ballet. You can be introduced to many different forms of dance. Just see what else is out there. Just experience what it would be like to live the life of a dancer.

“And hey, it’s free.”

Published in Volume 68, Number 4 of The Uniter (September 25, 2013)

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