Ryerson dancers discover the world of Kudelka

The room is silent as dancers creep out onto the stage. Gentle and ethereal, they bend their knees and spread their arms, blossoming in the soft, blue light. They hold their pose.

This is Kudelka meets Ryerson Dances 2015, a dance production hosted by the Ryerson Theatre School. Ryerson dancers are in the hands of award-winning Canadian choreographer James Kudelka.

He is known for creating “abstract” pieces which challenge the dancers both mentally and physically as they prepare during the days leading up to the show.

Bethany Litner, one of the dancers, stands tall and stern, exuding a “regal presence” that matches the energy of the performance. She found that this production in particular proved to be demanding.

“Sometimes, the choreographer doesn’t give you all the information, so it’s up to you to kind of create a story or put your own personality into it,” the 22-year-old said.

The dancers train daily. In a typical day, Litner attends both her academic and her dance courses, followed by a break. She then has rehearsals in the evening. She explained how they have technique classes every day, where they practice ballet, modern and jazz. The fourth-year performance dance student also attends drop-in classes.

Putting on a performance can be exhausting, however, she finds it just as satisfying as it is tiring. “I think it just fulfills something that I’ve always wanted to do, which is express either my own work or the work of a choreographer’s.”

Image by Jeremy Mimnagh

Photo by Jeremy Mimnagh

Dayton Hill, another Ryerson dancer, also finds the work to be challenging.

“It’s not so much about your technique and your ability to stand on a stage and do a sequence of steps,” he said. “It’s more so about your ability to interpret movement.”

Hill, 22, was introduced to the world of dance on what some would call a twist of fate. He missed his course selection appointment one year in high school, and was put into a dance class. While he was apprehensive at first, he said that he quickly learned to love it.

The third-year performance dance student said the movements in Kudelka meets Ryerson Dances 2015 are not what you would see in other shows. He said that the production focuses more on stage presence and a dancer’s ability to “maintain your own world within a greater picture.”

“This abstract work is not something that I’ve done before, so it’s fascinating,” said Hill.

He hasn’t been given the context of the performance and said that the dancers go through the same sense of wonder that the audience will experience.

“You’re in the same discovery mode as them, walking along that stage,” he said.

The former National Ballet School student said that every time he steps into the theatre, he brings a new approach to the piece. While he finds the task of creating his own character daunting, he also feels that it’s helped him grow as an artist. “I bring me. That’s really all I can say. I have a story in my head, and my storyline changes every day.”

The production runs from Nov. 24 to 28.

Featured image by Aldo Tapia / CC BY 2.0