Performance Dance ’12: Alysa Pires

[A]lysa Pires can’t remember a time in her life when she didn’t dance. Ever since she was a child, she danced in the streets, in the grocery store, and even in the goalie nets at soccer practices. Pires always knew she was going to be a dancer, and what’s more, she knew she was going to be a choreographer. “As soon as my cousins were old enough to listen to me I had them doing ‘step touch, step clap’ at our family gatherings.” And Pires’ first official choreographic debut of her work was at a talent show in grade three.

Having come a long way since, this fourth year Ryerson Dance student is already breaking ground and carving out a name for herself in the competitive world of dance. Pires has choreographed many pieces for competitions and shows in her hometown of Victoria, B.C., and has already built a reputation for exciting work at Ryerson through the Choreographic Works showcases in 2009, 2010, and 2011. Pires will be graduating this June, and has been working hard to bridge the gap between the student and professional life by investigating and participating in as many choreographic opportunities as she can – the first of which will be the Women in Dance Showcase on October 15th, at the Toronto Centre for the Arts. This will mark the start of Pires’ jump into the professional dance world, as a group of ten Ryerson dance students perform her first piece presented independently from a school.

The piece is a continuation of a solo she choreographed a few years ago for her best friend whose mother had just passed away. Pires recounts that the piece has evolved since then and has grown just as her friend has. It is now about community, acceptance, and choosing happiness in a situation where it is hard to imagine ever being happy again. It will be a beautiful tribute to her friend and her mother, and a moving experience for the audience members at the show.

The Women in Dance showcase was established to give women in Toronto an opportunity to share their creativity with their immediate communities. In a profession where the majority of participants are women, the dance world is still largely run and dominated by men, and so the Women in Dance showcase attempts to bring our awareness to the strength and equality of women as creators, as artists, and as people in a showcase choreographed, danced, designed, and produced only by women. This year, proceeds from the show will go towards the “Because I am a Girl” foundation – a campaign that aims to fight gender inequality, promote girls’ rights, and help girls around the world out of poverty. Pires points out that dance isn’t usually an art form with the financial means to give back to the community, so she is pleased to be a part of something so unique.

Pires finds inspiration for her choreography in the smallest details, such as “a formation of people crossing the street,” and she draws from her life for ideas and images that inspire all kinds of unique movement. She has always been shy about expressing the things that are most important to her, so dance and choreography give her an outlet to express those things without saying them explicitly. It’s this kind of emotional exploration that keeps her passionate about what she does.

Pires goes on to comment on our generation’s ability to go through the motions of life without really being aware of what we are experiencing. How often do we go through our daily routines without really feeling anything? We aren’t always in tune with what is going on, and we often let life just happen to us, but as Pires points out, when you are jumping in the air, or rolling on the floor, there is a deeply physical connection to your body and to your surroundings. She chuckles at how “cheesy” it all sounds, but concludes that dancing really makes you know you are alive.

With bigger plans in the future to produce a musical written by her partner Adam Sakiyama, dance independently, and even start her own dance company after she graduates, this B.C. native has a lot of living to do. But for the time being, Pires leaves us all with a challenge: “For people who don’t watch dance or really know what it is, I would challenge them to either go out and see something, or participate for themselves. There are so many different ways to dance and to express yourself through movement, I would really challenge people to get out there and experience it.”

You can attend Alysa Pires’ choreographed show, with a cast that includes ten Ryerson Dance students. More information below:

What: Women in Dance Presents Just Dance
When: Saturday October 15th, 2pm or 7:30pm
Where: Toronto Centre for the Arts
How: Tickets can be purchased through Ticket Master

Article photo by Vaida Pociute Photography: