Goldring hosts sports-themed kiki ball

Ballroom battle celebrates Black and LGBTQ+ youth through dance

Goldring hosts sports-themed kiki ball

The Goldring Centre for High Performance Sport hosted a free sports-themed kiki ball on February 7, featuring several competitions where prizes could be won. The kiki scene emerged in the Black and Latino LGBTQ+ communities in 1920’s New York City, and the balls themselves feature individuals who compete before a panel of judges in various categories. The event was hosted by the U of T Sport & Rec division in partnership with the Toronto Kiki Ballroom Alliance.

The main gymnasium was turned into a celebration of a queer subculture, with loud music serenading the entire fieldhouse while all the attendants gathered around a runway. The ball featured vogue dancing — which inspired Madonna’s 1990 music video “Vogue” — and runway competitions. The first was the “Virgin Runway,” in which U of T students, who made up the majority of the competitors, were required to wear blue clothing. Contestants all walked one by one, and then in pairs, until there was only one competitor remaining.

There was also the “On the Jumbotron” event, in which contestants wore sports jerseys and served looks down the runway. People of all ages joined in, sporting the jerseys of Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Phillip Dorsett, the Toronto Maple Leafs, and the Toronto Blue Jays. This was followed by the “Best Courtside Look” category, which involved some of the most memorable looks of the evening, as contestants aimed to emulate the outfits that their favourite celebrities have donned at the courtside of NBA games. “Referee” was also a memorable category, where a handful of contestants were required to wear black-and-white stripes.

“We’re trying to engage students and the community in physical activity that maybe there’s not as much opportunity for, [students] that maybe don’t feel as safe in our spaces with the traditional physical activity that we offer,” said Robin Waley, Assistant Manager of Co-Curricular Diversity & Equity at U of T’s Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education. “So we try to reach these underserved communities and provide access to programs. Voguing is a really important form of physical activity, style of dance, culture for the Black and brown queer community.”

Kiki ball culture has been an important source of community and culture to queer people of colour, mainly occurring in nightlife scenes. When asked about the importance of these types of events on campus, Waley said, “The campus is not accessible. Let’s be real. We have a lot of work to do as a university, and if we work together, we can accomplish creating opportunities within equity, diversity, and inclusion for everybody, which is the work that we still need to do.” He said that the university still has a lot to do, but with events like this one they hope to create more equitable spaces on campus.

Before the event, there was a vogue workshop, where beginners could attend and learn the dance style. “I like seeing students here that come to the vogue classes and they’ve never done this before and their friends are here to support them,” said diversity and movement intern Sandakie Ekanayake to The Varsity. “And that’s really great to see.”

“Having this in this building is a big step forward to queering heteronormative space,” Ekanayake concluded.

CORPUS dance company presents: House Guests

The intimate performance explores the home as a site for art

CORPUS dance company presents: <em>House Guests</em>

CORPUS, a Toronto-based dance company, is celebrating its 20th anniversary with its newest show, House Guests, in which David Danzon, the company’s artistic director, invites you into his home for a site-specific dance and performative installation.

The show’s setting in Danzon’s house limits the audience to 20 people, making it a small but intimate production. The cast is comprised of five performers: Michael Caldwell, Rob Feetham, Indrit Kasapi, Jolyane Langlois, and Takako Segawa. They move throughout the house, allowing guests to roam freely and view the multiple performances occurring at the same time.

House Guests contests the boundaries of performance by relocating from a traditional theatre setting to a home. “I thought it would be an interesting challenge to bring the site-specificity of my approach to things indoors, with walls surrounding the space,” said Danzon.

Danzon bought his house 17 years ago, but because of all the travelling that he does, he chooses to sublet it. “Over the years, many people have lived in this house, and I don’t know whether to call it my house anymore because I like to think that they’ve left their fingerprints on the walls and in the air.”

The show’s performers drew inspiration from the house’s past inhabitants, spending two weeks of the creation period exploring its spaces. From there, characters began to develop, as did certain themes.

The performers are co-creators of the show, incorporating the feelings they derived from the house into inspiration for one another. “The idea was not to transform the existing spaces, but to use what was there… There was no script to begin with,” said Danzon.

Each performer found inspiration from the house’s different rooms and translated that into mediums such as dance, song, gesture, and even Japanese folk tale.

The performers use improvisation to incorporate the audience members as they move freely through the residence, causing performances to feel more intimate, as the audience feels included. Through these interactive performances, the viewer becomes a house guest.

“Ultimately I’m more interested with experiences than the dance form or the theatre form,” said Danzon. “In terms of the relationship with the audience, I always take the audience’s perspective into consideration when I create a show, and it’s the relationship to the audience that I want to investigate and I like to try to find things to twist expectations around.”

House Guests runs from November 21 to December 17.

Dance film You&Us shifts perspectives on mental health

The film was presented by U of T’s new Institute for Dance Studies

Dance film <i>You&Us</i> shifts perspectives on mental health

“Being a student is difficult and being an artist is difficult,” said choreographer Cara Spooner. That’s why it’s important for members of the U of T community to come together and discuss the intersection of arts and mental health.

On October 26 at the Helen Gardiner Phelan Playhouse, Spooner screened part of the dance film You&Us, which she worked on as the choreographer. She also discussed the creative process of making the film, whose cast includes both professional dancers and those who might never have dubbed themselves dancers at all. Spooner described her own take on what makes an artist in an interview leading up to the event: “People are artists if they say they are,” she said.

Spooner, a U of T alumna, is the Education and Training Manager at Workman Arts, a Toronto-based arts and mental health organization. Since its founding in 1987 by a former Centre for Addiction and Mental Health psychiatric nurse, Workman has grown from a theatre company of eight artists to an organization of over 280 member artists. Among Workman’s objectives are supporting artists with mental illness and addiction issues, as well as publicly exploring these issues through art.

“We also deal with artists’ identity first at Workman. Often the stigmatization around mental health and addiction is that in a lot of settings, that’s how you’re seen as. We don’t ask for diagnosis. It’s a come-as-you-are space for people who are dedicated to honing their craft and who are dedicated to working and to making art,” said Spooner.

You&Us also works to shift perspectives. Usually, an audience member is someone outside, looking in. In You&Us, filmmaker Aaron Rotenberg puts the audience at the centre of the action by filming in 360 degrees using virtual reality techniques. Shot in a series of courtyards around the Christie Pits area, it involves simple movements, like walking, that create a sense of unity among all the dancers. “With the film you don’t know who is who, and it doesn’t matter,” said Spooner. 

The movements featured in the film evolved through an improvisational process. For Spooner, “How things are made shapes what is made. You can feel in experiencing a product what the process is like.” She commented on the outcome of the collaborative process of creating You&Us — the sense of community that was created. “There’s a vulnerability in creating things together in a way that people listen to each other in physical and verbal ways… [There’s] an opening up of different ways of being in the world,” she said.

The screening of You&Us was presented by the University of Toronto’s newly formed Institute for Dance Studies, which is under the leadership of Dr. Seika Boye, a lecturer in the Centre for Drama, Theatre and Performance Studies. A research community hosted within the centre, the Institute for Dance Studies is dedicated to supporting dance-focused research across disciplines and to facilitating conversations through and about dance at U of T.

You&Us also kicked off the institute’s Dance With Me curatorial partnerships series, which focuses on partnership-based projects that work toward more equity and diversity in dance. The programming for this year includes the Focus on Dance Research Days from November 9–11 and an appearance by Jill Johnson of Harvard University early in 2018. 

From fist-pumping to dabbing: the evolution of dance in the 2010’s

Where did dabbing come from, and why is everyone on our campus' Snapchat story doing it?

From fist-pumping to dabbing: the evolution of dance in the 2010’s

Dancing and I have a weird relationship. Most of the time I assume that my dancing skills are similar to Tinashe’s, when in reality they’re more like Carlton in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Flailing my limbs in all directions, I wind up injuring those around me both physically and psychologically. For those of you wondering why everyone on our campus’ Snapchat Story is “dabbing,” we’ve compiled a brief timeline of the decade’s most popular dance moves, and how they came to be.

2010: The Year of the Fist pump

2010 was a good year for doctors and chiropractors everywhere. From the whiplash resulting from Willow Smith’s “Whip My Hair” to the pulled leg muscles of the “Stanky Legg,” 2010 marked a year of aggressive dance statements and long medical bills. Also, Jersey Shore was going through its second season, inspiring it’s audience to fist pump their way through the nightclubs. Needless to say, it was the worst of times.

2011: The Year of the Dougie

Remember the Cali Swag District? Of course you do. The short-lived rap collective was responsible for an infectious dance move called the Dougie that defined 2011. Chances are you couldn’t do it, but there was at least one student in your high school class that could pull it off surprisingly well. Nonetheless, you weren’t alone; after all, the song was titled “Teach Me How To Dougie”.

2012: The Year of Gangnam Style

YouTube views skyrocketed, parody videos ran amok, and before you knew it, everyone was singing along endlessly to K-pop artist PSY’s “Gangnam Style.” The song was undeniably catchy, to the point that everyone around you was shouting “AYYYYY SEXY LAD-AY” while riding an invisible horse. Despite the dougie-ing and fist pumping that preceded it, nothing was ever quite as ridiculous as Gangnam Style.

2013: The Year of the Harlem Shake

If it wasn’t for the Harlem Shake, the Gangnam Style dance may have never gone away. It seems as though the only thing that can put a cork in one popular dance move is another, perhaps crazier dance move. Even better, the ‘Harlem Shake’ required collaboration with others in order to pull it off. At one point, an entire Con Hall lecture participated.

2014: The Year of the Twerk

Although twerking rose to fame in 2013 when the word was added to the Oxford Dictionary, the release of Nicki Minaj’s “Anaconda” brought new meaning to the art. It was at this point that twerking not only required a low-to-the-ground stance and speedy hip movement, but allowed for other options as well, such as the infamous wall handstand.

2015: The Year of Hotline Bling

Thanks to the “Hotline Bling” dance, our cherished 6ix God crying at the club became not only acceptable, but stylish as well. Fake-calling your ex and pretending to use a tennis racket became the highest form of art.

2016: The Year of the Dab

This brings us to the Dab. After years of trendy dance moves, the Dab is nothing but another brick in the wall, and perhaps the defining move of 2016. Unlike the previous dance moves, which are awkward and difficult to muster, the Dab is perhaps the simplest dance move yet, begging the question of whether or not this actually qualifies as a dance move. As the illustration instructs: stand up straight, point your arms upwards on a diagonal axis, and look down at your feet. Congratulations, you’ve just dabbed.