One of the dancing Denham sisters returns to the Coast to perform a solo that will appear in an original show, INK, at the Heritage Playhouse on July 31. Alison Denham, who studied dance on the Coast with prima ballerina Lois Smith, moved to Vancouver to study under the Arts Umbrella and has since sought a career in Toronto. She is now in her third season with Dancemakers. Older sister Katherine remains on the Coast to perform, teach dance and run the KaliJo dance projects this summer.
"We're six years apart, but we both have the same interests," says Alison.
The two sisters will reunite in a dance duet for the Sechelt Family Arts Festival next weekend. For their duet, performed at the new, free festival, they will dance an original piece, Reverie, choreographed by Alison and originally designed as a solo. Prior to this family performance, Alison will be part of a unique Sunshine Coast Dance Society-sponsored residency program and pre-professional dance intensive at the Heritage Playhouse in Gibsons that runs all this week from Monday to Saturday. Three professional dancers will rehearse a new original piece by Toronto's Andrea Nann called INK which she opened recently to full houses at Vancouver's Dancing on the Edge Festival. Nann drew the story from her ancestry after a relative taught her Chinese ink painting. In the original performance, the relative, Wayne Ngan, appears on stage to paint throughout the performance. For the Coast show, artist Dean Schutz will perform that role. This cross pollination of mediums - mixing musicians or the visual arts with a dance performance - is what excites audiences today and they will have a chance to see that creative process in action towards the end of the residency. The dancers offer a free working rehearsal performance on Friday, July 30, from 2 to 3 p.m. at the Heritage Playhouse. Anyone can attend. "It's good for non-dancers to come and ask questions," Alison says. "It makes it less of a secret. Dance can be so abstract, and this is a chance to find out why it is like it is."
Nann is no stranger to the Coast; her father lives here and she has spent many summers at Porpoise Bay. As a choreographer and director of Dreamwalker Productions in Toronto, Nann has collaborated with poets, authors and musicians to create a variety of dances.
Included with the performance of INK will be two solos, one from Kate Holden, a graduate of the Toronto Dance Theatre, and an original work from Alison. Her dance, Swim, in which she performs in a bathing suit and cap against a watery backdrop, was created for a Toronto festival last summer from her desire to "to bring something refreshing in nature into an urban environment."
Swim was inspired by her own experiences with her grandmother who was so fond of the water. Some of Alison's movements were worked out in the ocean while she was studying dance in Parksville; they may be easy in the water, more difficult on land. The piece is performed to original music by Montreal composer David Drury. The one evening performance of INK takes place on Saturday, July 31, at 7:30 p.m. Tickets for $15 for adults, $12 for students, are available at local bookstores.