On the cusp

Winnipeg’s Contemporary Dancers Verge gives dance students professional experience

Since its inception four years ago, Verge has become a great way for audiences to discover up-and-coming talent from Canada’s contemporary dance scene.

A Winnipeg Contemporary Dancers (WCD) initiative, Verge is an emerging artist company and showcase designed to give senior students at the School of Contemporary Dancers professional program experience on the pro stage.

“The School of Contemporary Dancers [SCD] and myself were just looking for a way to offer some professional opportunities for dancers who were just graduating or entering the first two years of their career,” says WCD artistic director Brent Lott.

“We wanted them to have something on their resume and get a feel for how a company operates on a daily basis.”

Brianna Ferguson, Jasmine Allard, Sarah Helmer, James Thomson Kacki, Warren McClelland and Sam Penner are the six dancers performing in this year’s Verge showcase, Feb. 28 to March 2 at the Rachel Browne Theatre. They’re also University of Winnipeg students in the Bachelor of Arts Honours program through the theatre department, specializing in dance.

Lott chooses who will perform in Verge each year, an opportunity that’s a huge honour for the few dancers that make the final cut.

“I’m originally from Victoria, B.C. and I trained in every field possible,” says Ferguson, 22, who will be graduating from SCD this year.

“I did all my ballet exams, then started doing jazz and tap and hip-hop, everything under the moon. Then I met a woman named Constance Cooke who took me under her wing. She’s a brilliant contemporary choreographer who recommended I come to Winnipeg and take this program.

“The biggest thing I’ve learned is how to be open and willing to try everything while also staying safe both emotionally and physically.”

Lott adds, “and that can be a real challenge because I ask them to do some real crazy shit.”

Verge is put together over the course of five weeks and the piece that’s currently being rehearsed is still untitled as this article goes to print.

“Normally it would take 8 to 10 weeks to do a full-length work, but with Verge we mainly spend all of our time in creation mode and we show a rawer product than we would during a normal show, but a lot of people really like that and it’s quite exciting to see the piece at that point,” Lott says.

The work is estimated to be about an hour long and explores the idea of how community can come together and show support during desperate times.

“Overall, we do a lot of work with duets and there are some solos as well as others being on stage doing support group work while the solo is going on,” Ferguson says. “With the solo work everyone has a different approach to the topic we’re working with so there are a lot of different ideas and intentions.”

“With Brianna’s solo, we’re trying to metaphorically address the feeling of when you’re in a really tough time and you’re being pulled in very many different directions,” Lott says. “There’s a part of you that wants to go for help, but another part of you just doesn’t want to talk about it with anybody.”

Published in Volume 68, Number 21 of The Uniter (February 19, 2014)

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