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Making Dance

Expert Advice

Considering a career in dance? Get expert advice from the professionals.

ArtsAlive.ca Dance is proud to present video taped interviews with some of Canada's and the world's most talented dance artists.

To watch or read the complete interviews with each of these artists (and others!) visit the Mediatheque

Karen Kain

Artistic Director: National Ballet of Canada
What advice would you give emerging dancers?

Karen: I would say be really clear and really honest with yourself about your abilities and trust people to give you really honest feedback. Trust people that are experienced and who know dance. There are just so many aspects of the profession that are difficult, even with talent and training. You have to go into dance with your eyes open and if you do then you won't be angry and bitter when it's over too soon. And, you won't be angry and bitter when you're not rich and famous.

I think that dance is a calling for the people who do it professionally. And if it isn't, then it's too hard a life. But if it is your calling, it's just the best! It's a great, great thing to be a dancer.

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Jérôme Bel

Artistic Director, Jérôme Bel
What advice would do you have for young dance artists?

Jérôme: I don't really have any advice because I'm still a new artist myself. I don't want to be a pontificating elder. Still, I'd suggest they go to see every possible show. I think that when you are doing this kind of work, you should know what everybody else is doing, even if you don't like it or you see something that's truly awful. Sometimes I find really bad shows are more helpful than really wonderful ones, because I tell myself that I don't want to do the same thing and I ask myself why. Then I can place myself in relation to my colleagues' choices and thereby gradually define my own artistic goals. You're always making comparisons and it's very helpful, even though it can be depressing: you can come out of a theatre and think you're going to stop doing theatre because it's not happening and it's useless. Despite all that, I think you have to see everything in order to learn.

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Nova Bhattacharya

Dancer and choreographer
What advice would you give to an emerging dancer who wants to pursue a career in dance?

Nova: Consider the balance of the universe, as I call it. Just understand that there are going to be incredible joys and incredible highs and incredible performance moments. But there will also be disappointments and devastating losses of opportunity. You have to take it all in stride. If you want to be a dancer then you have to follow your heart and be a dancer.

What advice have you got for new audiences to dance?

Nova: I think it would be great if people approached dance as an art form the same way they approach music. You hear people say, "I like pop but I don't like country," or "I like classical but I don't like jazz." But, you don't often hear someone that goes to a honkey-tonk show and doesn't like it then decide, "That's it! I hate all music. I'm never listening to music again for the rest of my life." For some reason people do that with dance. They'll go to one dance show or hear people that went to one dance show that they didn't like or that they didn't "ge" and they'll sigh and say, "I don't like dance. I don't get it. I'm just not going."

I would just encourage people to see that just as there are many different forms of music, there are also many different forms of dance. There are many different dance artists and just because you didn't like one show it doesn't mean that you won't like the next one. I would like audiences to be more open minded about the range and diversity of work that's out there.

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Marc Boivin

Dancer
What advice do you have for someone interested in a career in dance?

Marc: Try to figure out where are your passion and your drive are for doing. If it's in a very deep place and you think it can carry you forward then really nurture it. Let it push you forward. At the same time keep a sort of a cold mind, sort of a reasonable mind so that when you dive into this big part of you that supports you in doing it. You will need that.

What advice can you give to boys beginning to dance?

Marc: I have advice for boys who first to come to dance. Dance is so much about being physical in the world. It's about being everything that you are, in a way that relates physically to things, whether it's in a soft or hard or wild or calm or crazy way or whatever! That is what dance is. I would invite all boys to just to come to dance and play with it. Just take a chance.

As far as advice for the boys who are in dance I would say to try not to be seduced by the amazing chance that you will have because there are so few boys and so many girls in the field. Stay somewhat level headed to still see the craft in it and the work involved, because you will be so charmed all along the career.

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Peter Boneham

Artistic Director, Le Groupe Dance Lab
What advice would you give emerging dance artists?

Peter: "Why?" That would be the first thing I would ask them. "Why do you want to do this?" Because it's an awful world. Some of the greatest modern dance artists that I know are making $20,000.00 a year. There is no security. So, in them I would have to find the passion. And without the passion, ask "Why are you doing this?" And I would really have to see that passion because dancers come to me all of the time and ask, "Can I be a dancer?" And, I mean, I can't tell you that. You have to tell me that. Because if you want to be a dancer, you're going to be a dancer.

I look for the intelligence of the person and the grasp that they have on what the life [of professional dance] means to them and it has to mean practically everything at one point. So, my advice would be to try to always be positive but to always get artists to look at the world they want to embrace and to have them make sure that it's the world they want to be in. And then I push like hell to help them!

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Ric Brown

Dancer
What advice would you give to a young dancer wanting to pursue a career in dance?

Ric: Do it. And believe in yourself. It's not easy. It's not easy at all. You never know if you'll get hired or if there's another job. But if you believe in yourself and work hard it will happen.

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Celia Franca

Founding Artistic Director of the National Ballet of Canada
What advice would you give to emerging ballet dancers?

Celia: Don't do it [she laughs]! It's a very hard life. It's very demanding physically and emotionally. It's time consuming. You live dance, you breathe dance, you sleep dance. Unless you really are in love with ballet don't do it.

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Jean Grand-Maître

What advice would you have for an emerging dance artist?

Jean: An emerging dance artist, actor, whoever has to first work very very hard through their whole career. It's all about working hard, working harder than you ever thought you could work, and pushing yourself past any limit you thought you could have set for yourself. And then being very humble. Being very self-critical. And listening and learning, and being able to see the big picture of your art from. Not just you as a dancer, or what the ballet, what you're doing, but what the dance is about. Historically, how does it position itself? Sociologically, how does it position itself, within society? what is your responsibility as an artist today? what are the anxieties, the dangers out there? What are we going to tell them? How can we push people into very deep introspective thought, into a lot of reflection, to provoke new ideas? you have to be very compassionate, very very compassionate about the human being and the human condition. Often wanting to speak to the lower class, to the people who are challenged, than to the more bourgeois. You have to make the unfairness of humanity, very much...people aware of what's going on in the world is not good enough, as it is. You know, 7000 children die everyday, of starvation and diseases we've cured here 100 years ago. And so, it's about being aware of that and challenging people to look at the world and trying to make it a better place. So it's, you have to be a big picture thinker if you want to be an artist, and to understand you responsibility within society.

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Christopher House

Artistic Director and Choreographer: Toronto Dance Theatre
What advice would you give an emerging choreographer?

Christopher: I can only speak from the path that I took myself, but I think that learning as much as possible, educating ones self as much as possible is probably the route to go in the long term. I think any artist has an initial pool of imagery and emotional and intellectual impulse that you begin with when you start to create. And, at a certain point you've made that statement which is often an intuitive, spontaneous statement. But if you're going to continue to dig below the surface and to make a more powerful and maybe a more universal statement you need to work very hard at both sides of your art, unless you're very luck and very unusual! One side is developing your art and your craft at expressing your ideas, and the other aspect is developing the stamina and the courage to follow through on what you believe is the truth of your vision.

What advice have you got for new dance audiences?

Christopher: For a new audience member to dance, I think that it's important to realize that by going to performances you're making an investment in future enjoyment. If you consider that it sometimes takes you a few listenings of a different kind of music in order to appreciate it, then I think you should similarly expect that the same thing is going to be necessary with dance as well, especially with more challenging works.

The main thing is to see as much as you can. And also to be careful to be seeing the best work that you can see because really strong choreography will teach you how to look at dance in a much more effective way than less advanced choreography. And this makes sense, you know, because great paintings can teach you much more about great art than something that maybe you had done yourself in grade five.

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Louise Lecavalier

Dancer
What advice have you got for a dancer wanting to pursue a career in dance?

Louise: It's hard to give advice because I would not have followed any advice when I had started dancing. I just had a feeling about things and I trusted my own feelings. I would say trust your own feelings. Work hard, but if working hard doesn't bring any pleasure then work hard somewhere else. Me, I was working really hard, but it was because I really loved it. Nobody ever forced me to do it. I just got so much out of it that it was a pleasure to do hard work.

Also, doubt everything; question things! Even question the great teachers. Take everything that you can, learn, learn learn but always doubt. Don't think that somebody has the whole truth and that you don't have it.

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Édouard Lock

Artistic Director, La La La Human Steps
Would you have any advice to give dance students?

Édouard: Probably... If someone wanted to come and see me, I'd be delighted to advise him or her. I don't think there's any general advice, applicable to all. I adapt my advice to the person I'm talking to.

Do you have any advice for audiences, young or old, who are just getting acquainted with dance?

Édouard: I think the only advice I could give would be to go see a performance and be aware of what you are experiencing or feeling. You shouldn't think that there's a particular way to act or be when you go to a dance performance. As I said earlier, audiences are self-centred; each person is looking for what interests him or her, and a performance that touches one person could leave another cold. But it's important to realize that you can't just ask the question "Do you like dance?" any more than you can ask "Do you like music?" If I go up to somebody on the street and ask whether he likes music, he will answer, "What kind of music are you talking about--what genre, what kind of composer, what instrument, what era?" But if I ask the same question about dance, most people would say yes or no, as if I'd actually asked something; whereas, in fact, I haven't. What people should be told is that they're going to see a dance performance, produced by someone and expressing the viewpoint of the choreographer and performers, and that it might please them or might not. If it pleases them, that's wonderful; if not, they should see something else. But certainly, everybody can find something in dance to enjoy. It's not possible not to.

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Tedd Robinson

Artistic Director, 10 Gates Dancing
What advice would you give to a young, aspiring choreographer?

Tedd: I work with young choreographers quite a lot and what I'm encouraging them to do is to first of all develop their own vocabulary and their own way of expressing themselves. I'm helping them to get what's in here [Tedd points to his head], out. A tendency that we all have is to see something else that works and we say, "Well, that works. I'll put it here!" But then that thing is not really coming that person. It's coming from somewhere else and that person decides, "Well, I'll just edit that in." It might be a certain vocabulary movement from class that they happen to like. But choreography is not about what you like, it's about what works and what is truly a part of you. So, most young choreographers have a tendency to be - actually, the really interesting ones - and usually in their first works, well from them we just KNOW right then that they are going to be an interesting choreographer to watch; It's when they have a real individual style of expressing themselves.