Hey there, time traveller! This article was published 12/11/2020 (309 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
At the end of October, Jolene Bailie was looking forward to finally presenting dance to a live audience again.
"I think there is a certain amount of graciousness and relief that we’re moving forward and we’re not at home still dancing in our kitchens and living rooms," the artistic director of Winnipeg’s Contemporary Dancers told the Free Press the day before provincial health officials announced the city was moving into code red or critical status.
The new pandemic restrictions put a halt to live performances and forced WCD to rethink its emerging artist showcase, entitled Up Close and disDancing, scheduled to launch on Nov. 4 as a kickoff for the 2020-21 season. A naturally nimble bunch, Bailie and the dancers leapt at the opportunity to film the show and present it virtually — a first for the 56-year-old modern dance company.
"We have worked on this project for seven weeks," Bailie says during a break from filming. "We want to respect our work, we want to respect our artists and we want to respect our audiences."
A link to the performance will be sent out to ticketholders on Friday at 7 p.m. and will be available until Nov. 29.
Up Close and disDancing features five students from the School of Contemporary Dancers performing three different works created and choreographed by Bailie.
The dances were selected because they allow for physical distancing between the artists; two are solos, and play with pandemic-adjacent themes, such as frustration, inner turmoil and heroism.
"The dances I’m creating now are not at all about the pandemic," Bailie says. "That question of just what it means to be a human being and what it means to have sort of vitality despite restrictions, that’s the goal to express."
Andres Felipe Jimenez Mejia, 21, moved to Winnipeg from his home in Bogota, Colombia, two years ago to join the school’s professional program. During the show, he will be performing a piece called Aspects of Alterity with two other dancers. For Jimenez Mejia, the energetic dance is about cause and effect.
"When somebody moves, I’m going to move or when I move, I move somebody else’s body," he says. "We had to manage how to keep six feet apart from each other at all times, which has been actually really fun, because it gives a lot of structure to the piece."
Learning how to dance with a mask on has been challenging, but Jimenez Mejia is grateful to be able to dance at all during the coronavirus pandemic.
"This is my first professional show in Winnipeg," he says. "I feel super excited because there are not a lot of dancers that have these opportunities right now."
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How the rest of the WCD’s season will play out remains to be seen, but Bailie is committed to keeping her art form alive and her dancers dancing.
"This pandemic could be with us a whole other year," she says. "Postponing or cancelling just is not really a good enough choice right now… I think it’s important that we find a way and do as much as we can, and do it as well as we can."
The company’s next show is set to run Dec. 3-6 and will feature new work by Métis choreographer and dancer Jera Wolfe. Bailie is working on a new dance that is set to be presented in April 2021 and the season wraps up with two solo shows by out-of-towners Linnea Swan and Sara Porter next May — although the company is prepared to pivot if travel restrictions remain in place.
Eva Wasney Arts Reporter
Eva Wasney is a reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press.