Dance as philosophy

Thinking through the body with Young Lungs Dance Exchange

Photo by Delf Gravert

At Winnipeg artist-run centre Young Lungs Dance Exchange, dance exists as much in the mind as in the body. Artistic director Leigh Anne Parry says the organization looks at movement-based artistic practices from all angles and supports performers in their early explorations of new works and ideas.

“Our organization exists to celebrate and value the phenomenon of dance, the language of movement, the diversity of physical human expression and to create opportunities for those who are working within and around dance to further their practice,” she says.

The cornerstone of Young Lungs is the Research Series.

“The Research Series evolved out of the efforts of a few local contemporary dancers who saw a need to insist professional dancers got paid for preliminary research work in studio and to be able to do this work without the pressure of a production three weeks away,” Parry says.

“This residency allows an artist the time to fully investigate the questions they are posing with the work they are doing.”

Participants of a Young Lungs Dance Exchange workshop led by Jennifer Essex and Harry Man.

For Parry, upcoming residents Tanja Woloshen, Deanna Peters and Kevin Fraser are using dance to investigate the body as an idea as well as an artistic instrument.

“We see the artists in residence as philosophers working with the human body as a creative medium for communication,” she says.

“They are using dance as a tool itself for thinking, for resisting and for understanding the body and its relations in time and space.”

Residents in the Research Series will receive artist fees and studio space to explore their work. They will facilitate a free workshop drawing on their research that is open to all and present their movement findings at a public showing. Their work will also be engaged with by a visual essayist and critical writer.

This spirit of curiosity and support for multidisciplinary exploration extends across Young Lungs programming, which includes an extensive series of movement-based workshops.

Young Lungs co-founder Jennifer Essex, who recently taught a workshop in collaboration with U.K. poet Harry Man, says the value of creating a conversation around dance has been with the organization since the beginning, in the days when Young Lungs was hosting improv jams between dancers and musicians.

“I think that we were looking at ways to make, and we were interested in the processes of other people and other makers,” she says.

“Working with other artists is a really great way to find other methods and learn about other ways of making and to discover different ways of talking about art and making as well.”

Upcoming Young Lungs facilitators include Freya Olafson, Aria Evans and Jeanne Randolph, offering workshops in everything from integrating technology with dance to stream-of-consciousness techniques. The workshops are meant for anyone who wants to explore new ways of approaching creative processes.

Essex says that challenging the ways dancers become accustomed to thinking and talking about the body is crucial to nurturing an evolving creative practice.

“It’s something about the language that we use,” she says.

“If we’re always using the same language, then we’re always making the same work, and if we can learn other people’s language, then we can change our perceptions and change what we’re doing.”

Visit to find out more about public showings and workshops

Published in Volume 73, Number 14 of The Uniter (January 17, 2019)

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