By Maggie McPhee
What: Vancouver International Dance Festival
Where: Vancouver Playhouse, The Roundhouse, and KW Production Studio
When: March 4 to 30
The Vancouver International Dance Festival returns this month for its 19th year. The festival celebrates contemporary dance with equal focus on international, Canadian, and BC artists. BeatRoute spoke with program director Barbara Bourget, a Vancouver-raised dancer who founded the festival with Jay Hirabayashi nearly two decades ago.
“We’ve been growing every year,” Bourget says of the festival, over the phone. “I don’t think we’re going to grow any bigger. It’s a lot of work, but it’s joyful work. We love dance. It’s our life and calling. To be able to introduce Vancouver audiences to new things and to different points of view in the dance world has been really rewarding.”
VIDF performances take place in venues around the city — Vancouver Playhouse, The Roundhouse, and KW Production Studio — over three weeks, in addition to free workshops and talkback sessions. “There’s something for everybody,” Bourget says. “We really try to focus on the kind of greater wealth that’s in the dance milieu.”
Festivalgoers can see everything from Buto, a dance form hailing from Japan to contemporary dance inspired by the Indigenous Paiwan people in Taiwan to intimate expressions performed by local choreographers. Bourget says they make an effort to showcase Indigenous artists every year. In fact, their mission statement reads: “We are cognizant of the challenges facing artists that are marginalized because of societal and cultural biases, including those that discriminate against artists from ethno-cultural and Aboriginal heritages, as well as artists with challenging perspectives on sexual identity and gender. Our programming reflects these concerns.”
Kelly McInnes’ piece, Shiny, is another highlight — a multidisciplinary “exploration of women’s bodies and how they’re represented in our culture.” She sewed her costumes from pictures cut out of magazines.
Beyond the festival’s value as a platform for cultural exchange, Bourget exalts dance as “the most beautiful art form and the most ethereal.” Western culture, she argues, has warped the body into something “mystical,” either an object of fantasy or something to inspire shame. But with dance, the body is front and center, communicating beyond words through “dynamic image” and moving people in ways that escape intellectualization.
“You can’t even grasp it, you can’t take hold of it,” Bourget says. “It’s so constantly appearing and disappearing. That’s the forces of nature and the forces of the world [coming] through the body.”dance