Snakes and bugs inspire at the Vancouver International Dance Festival

By Thalia Stopa
Back for its 15th season, Vancouver International Dance Festival is pushing the limits once again.      

Back for its 15th season, Vancouver International Dance Festival is pushing the limits once again.

VANCOUVER — “Our festival is not for the faint of heart because it has such a dynamic shift,” states co-producer Barbara Bourget. In its 15th season Bourget and husband/co-producer Jay Hirabayashi’s program is smaller but “jam-packed.”

Bourget and Hirabayashi actively investigate dance to showcase up-and-coming, risky and non-classical companies like young and edgy 605Collective, Montreal experimentalist Benoit LeChambre, and Japanese Butoh company Dairakadukan. The co-producers have personal connections to Butoh. Bourget’s affinity is in its departure from a “rigid, codified ballet technique” to a “revolutionary” image-focused, philosophical approach. “Jay is half Japanese…[T]his idea of blending…or pushing against the Eastern and Western aesthetics of dance has always been really interesting to us.” Their company, Kokoro, is inspired by Butoh principles; it’s in its 29th season and will be performing at VIDF.



Dairakadukan has been performing for forty years. Its 22 members are ages 19 to over 70. Dancer, founder and artistic director Ajaki Maro says the generational range adds richness and imagination, and is without disadvantages. At 72, Maro dances to capture the realities of aging, including its negativities like senility and depression. Mushi No Hoshi is a dance inspired by Maro’s intrigue towards the resiliency of insect life; it addresses “primordial questions to the direction in which our human [race]…is heading.”

LeChambre incorporates somatic practice into his performance, Snakeskins. His choreography utilizes “the sensation that all of the muscles and tissues around the spine are dissolving, while the spine is oscillating like a snake.” LeChambre pooled inspiration from his own “mythology” and First Nations ancestry, symbolism from dreams, and his study of trance and “secondary states.” Snakeskin challenges temporality with the unconventional addition of a pre- and post-performance. LeChambre is “under-shown” in Canada, which generally has a more conservative approach to dance programming than Europe.

The VIDF’s biggest challenge has been the advent of a full-blown digital age, making it difficult to motivate people to get out and spend time and money on performances. Bourget takes the stress in stride: “I’m an artist, so we always live on the edge of desperation and happiness.” She is confident in dance’s ability to draw new and repeat audiences because the performing arts “has its own particular resonance with people.”

“I think that it’s one of the most meaningful connections that we have as human beings…It’s not like television…it’s not like sports…We celebrate life through the performing arts, in all its various guises.”

The Vancouver International Dance Festival is happening March 8-28 at various venues around Vancouver. For more tickets and schedule information visit

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