By Jennifer Schmidt
When you see Dances ’98, you’ll be viewing not only the artistic vision of the dancers and choreographers, but the vital although often overlooked, work of those behind the scenes. They may be students, but they perform professionally.
By opening night, third and fourth-year students of the technical production program will be working like a well-oiled machine to help produce this top-notch show.
To make the production more realistic this year, the crew will be turned into a mock union to simulate the working world. T his means extra work for Georgina Brown, the production manager, who must tabulate her workers’ pretend wages at the end of the show.
Each of the five dance pieces has its own choreographer and crew. Brown is in charge of coordinating them and making sure the show is technically really.
While the dancers are on stage, Scott Kitcher will be performing his duties as technical director. I meet him, not surprisingly, in the poorly lit backstage of the Ryerson Theatre where most of his work takes place. A factual and concise kind of guy, Kitcher is perfect for running the show’s electronics and audio. Kitcher sees his work as a product and says his job is all about selling, building and marketing the show.
No one would even know about Dances ’98 without the crack team of student publicists, headed by Tina Brennan. Her office is chaotic, bombarded by incoming faxes and phone calls. People constantly flow in and out of the room.
Aside from their obvious work of publicizing the show, Brennan’s crew organizes the traditional opening night party and makes sure the ushers do their job.
Another important aspect of the technical production program is that students get to work with people from the industry. Chris Dennis has worked as a lighting designer with the National Ballet of Canada, the Shaw Festival, and has even toured seven U.S. states with Mikhail Baryshnikov’s company, the White Oak Dance Project. “I can honestly say that I love what I do,” says Dennis.
A former theatre production student, Dennis feels he’s giving something back to Ryerson by designing the lighting for Dances ’98.
But lighting wasn’t always his passion.
As he walk he recalls his early interest in architecture and set design, a passion eh probably wouldn’t have discovered if it wasn’t for the inspiration of Sholom Dolgoy, a former lighting instructor.
Dennis says the challenge of producing a lighting design for Dances ’98 was creating something that would work for each piece while remaining within budget.
Choreographer Sonya Biernath is another Ryerson alumnus returning to work on the show. She says the biggest challenge was allowing her composition to be explored by the student dancers.
“It’s an incredible challenge to bring creativity to the piece, but still maintain the integrity of [my artistic] vision,” she says.
Biernath was invited by Nadia Potts, head of the dance program, to remount her solo piece Somewhere in Between a Crossroads. The piece uses spoken word for dancers who are used to “speaking” through movement.