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Post three: Mississauga Waterfront Festival and Riverside Reflections

Hello hello, we’re back for post #3!

This past week has been busy with rehearsals, a performance at the Mississauga Waterfront Festival, and a trip to Riverside Public School to teach some workshops! The piece that we presented at both MWF and Riverside school was inspired by Port Credit Mississauga, and was developed through a series of site-specific improvisations around the harbourfront. The piece had four sections based on a lighthouse, Lake Ontario, GO trains, and local cafes, bars and restaurants.

Photo by Heather Snell

At Riverside we performed for students from kindergarten to grade 7 four times throughout the day. We then taught short, interactive workshops based on the themes of our dance. I was paired with Frog in Hand's Choreographic Rehearsal Intern, Rohan to teach; we developed and delivered curriculum for kindergarten students. I absolutely loved teaching those children! I don’t get to spend a lot of time with young kids in my day-to-day life, so getting to teach 60 of them was equally exhausting and exhilarating. I found myself over-exaggerating my demonstration not only to make it clear for the students, but also to make them laugh and to keep them interested. Keep them focused and attentive demanded a lot of energy from me, but it was definitely worthwhile to see them having fun! I certainly left with an increased respect for early childhood educators. It's amazing how they maintain their energy and authority – I was exhausted after half an hour and they do it every day! It was rewarding to see kids so engaged and excited about dance; especially as contemporary dance has a reputation for being weird and inaccessible (honestly sometimes it can be). It was fulfilling to be presenting something that the kids could understand and relate to because it was about their community, and hearing whispered "wows" from the audience was gratifying and immediate feedback. Facilitating workshops after the performance helped to communicate our work – getting the students to try it themselves added a visceral level of comprehension.

Our performances at the Mississauga Waterfront Festival (MWF) were equally catered to all ages and meant to be “accessible” to a general public. We certainly got a chance to test this out – with more than 200 people present at most of our outdoor performances. We also led an interactive workshop after we performed, walking the audience through some movement based on themes from our choreography. Performing at the MWF posed an interesting challenge. The festival had metal drums, food truck smells, a rock climbing wall, and concerts throughout the day, which is a lot of stimuli for us to compete with! I think contemporary dance in a public space is beautiful and eye catching in its own right, but finding eye contact with the audience and creating and open, welcoming atmosphere in our performances and workshops was helpful in catching and maintaining people's attention. We also were all wearing bright, colourful costumes, which also was definitely helpful!

Photo by Colleen Snell

In summary, both the day we spent at Riverside and our weekend at the MWF were inspiring opportunities to engage with audiences and to share contemporary dance with new audiences. We've moved on to working full time on The Fall in preparation for the Toronto Fringe Festival (which you can find on the Toronto Fringe website) and Checkmate for Canada Day at the Mississauga Living Arts Centre.

- Clarke Blair


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