Category Archives: improv

Autumn 2018

Here are dance groups inviting new participants this month:

Fifteen dancers are improvising, with three duets smiling in the foreground

Mixed-Abilities Dance Group: A new inclusive dance group is starting on September 20th. Mixed-abilities dance group sessions are free and are on Thursdays 1:00pm-2:00pm. The group includes people who experience disability as well as people who don’t experience disability.

Photo: two adults dancing facing each other looking down

55+ Dance Group: An inclusive, collaborative dance group, mostly 55years+ (but younger folks welcome), starts with a free introductory session September 21st. 55+ Dance Group sessions are Fridays 10:30am-11:30am at Cedar Hill Rec Dance Studio.

Photo of ten people dancing, some holding hands, some on their own, five people seated and five people standing.All Abilities Dance Group: A Monday morning all abilities dance group in collaboration with a local non-profit organization.

Invitation for ideas and suggestions: This season we will be checking in with folks through a survey about what types of sessions or groups people would like to be part of in 2019. The survey will be sent through the Dancing for Wellbeing newsletter; if you would like to sign up your email please use the contact page.

Dancing Together March 18 at 7pm

The first Dancing Together session, which is all genders, all mobilities, all ages, queer, community social dance, will be:

Saturday March 18
7:00pm-9:00pm
at Dance Victoria (2750 Quadra Street) at the back door (use the rear parking entrance on Market Street), in Lkwungen Territory.
Sliding scale $0-20.
Note: Please do not use scented products on the day of the event.
The Facebook event page is at [link: March 18 Facebook event page].

For details about accessibility and directions

Please click [link: Dancing Together page] for details about event accessibility and location.

March 18 event description:

Dancing Together brings together people with diverse genders and sexualities, people of diverse backgrounds, and people with diverse ways of moving, as well as friends, family and supportive people. Sessions are open to anyone who can 1) communicate consent (non-verbally or verbally) and 2) respect other people’s boundaries and gender identities. No previous dance experience is required.

On March 18th we will start with talking about how to respect other people’s boundaries and gender identities, such as asking for and receiving consent before engaging in contact such as holding hands, and not assuming what gender pronouns (if any) someone might use. We recognize this is a learning process and we can learn from our mistakes.

There will then be a 30 or 40-minute introductory lesson in gender-inclusive & mixed-abilities partner dance. This will include a chance to try the dance roles of inviting and responding (“leading” and “following”), ways of moving through space together (with options of moving with space between us or with contact such as holding hands), and options for spins / turns / going around each other. There is no need to come with a dance partner. After the learning time there will be a venue washroom discussion, followed by some freestyle social dance time, for practicing what we learned or free-form dancing. After dancing we will brainstorm about what types of dance we would like to try in future sessions.

Want to receive updates about sessions?

To be added to the group’s email listserv, please [link: contact us].

To join the group’s page on Facebook, please go to [link: group on Facebook].

Want to help sessions happen?

The group is looking for people to help with a variety of shared roles, which are described in this [link: invite to get involved on Saturdays]. There will be a Dancing and Planning session on March 11 from 3:30pm-5:30pm for people helping out.

Want more info about the group and other upcoming dates?

For more info, please click [link: Dancing Together page].

Dancing with Art: March 27-31

Am delighted to be facilitating a week-long intergenerational workshop at the end of March on five afternoons. Ages 9 to 70+ are welcome! Below is the description from the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria website:

Spring Camp 2017: Dancing with Art (ages 9+)

Monday, March 27 – Friday, March 31 | 1:00pm – 4:00pm

At the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria

Photo of a marionette-type of figurine with an arm raised and arm out, in front of a mixed media painting with varied colours and textures.
Photo Credit: Art Gallery of Greater Victoria

“Move in new ways! Join Joanne for a week of expressing yourself through playful dance activities and creative arts. Improv movement sessions will be held in various locations around the Gallery where inspiration will be sought from paintings, sculpture, sound, poetry, buildings and the land. Over the five days the group will also collaborate on creating a site-specific dance piece.

“All abilities are welcome and activities will be adapted to accommodate each participant. There is no wrong move, and no prior dance experience is needed!”

For the cost and registration please see the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria website.

Accessibility notes: The Dancing with Art venue is an older building, and although it has washrooms that are designated as mobility accessible, the width of the restroom doorways and turn-around space may be too narrow for some participants who use wheelchairs. There are ramps to the restrooms and to the gallery rooms. The gallery is lit by bright lighting (including fluorescent lights); it may be useful to bring a hat with a visor and/or sunglasses if you are sensitive to lighting. We will spend time in two studios that have windows , natural lighting and access to fresh air; as well as movement sessions in some gallery rooms that have no windows; and we can do some activities outdoors if it is not raining (please bring weather-appropriate clothing).
Please be in touch with Joanne if you would like any accessibility details, such as the dimensions of doorways and layout of the restrooms.

Invite to help out (and dance!) Saturdays

Dancing Together, inclusive social dance lessons for people with diverse genders, sexualities, backgrounds and ways of moving; will start this Spring! It will be on one or two Saturdays per month, with alternating start times of 3:30pm and 7:00pm, in Quadra Village in Lekwungen Homelands. For a detailed description of the sessions, please click [link: Dancing Together group overview].

Would you like to help Dancing Together sessions happen in a good way?

The group is looking for volunteers for a variety of shared roles: music, sound, “on call” team (access support/ safer spaces), movement translators, sign language teachers, co-facilitators, fundraising, social media, postering, first aid, set-up/clean-up, and zine-making.

There are options both for volunteers who want to dance and those who don’t want to dance. There may also be opportunities for people who like drawing, sewing hems, translating languages, providing informal audio description, assisting with ASL interpretation, Braille embossing, website updating and graphic design.

If you’d like to be involved, please RSVP to dancingtog@gmail.com and include the following:

1) Which is the first session date you will be attending? (Session dates are March 18 from 7:00pm-9:00pm, likely April 22 from 7:00pm-9:00pm, and more dates will be confirmed in April on [link: group page]; volunteers are asked to arrive 15 minutes before the session start time)

2) Is there a group role/s that you are interested in, or do you have experience or skills in a certain aspect that you would like to share?

Want your email added to the group’s listserv, or interested in donating to the sessions?

Please [link: contact us].

The group has started a collaborative google-document to compile favourite anti-oppressive songs for dancing, including suggesting songs of musicians with dancey music who are trans, gender variant, queer, Indigenous, people of colour, and/or living with disabilities; and discussing and/or flagging songs with lyrics that might be problematic, oppressive, and/or not trauma-informed. If you would like to contribute to the music ideas document, please be in touch.


Here is a draft description of the various roles:

*If you would like to try something you’ve never done before and would like support learning what’s involved, let a co-facilitator know at a session or by email, as we could organize skills-shares or mentoring this Spring. (:
*If you have experience in a role and would like to share what you have learned or co-mentor, let a co-facilitator know at a session or by email. (:

  • Co-facilitators: people who love dancing, have a strong understanding of consent, and are committed to learning inclusive language and practices. We’re gathering together a collective of co-facilitators that includes Indigenous people, people of colour, people living with disabilities, intersex people, and two-spirit, trans, nonbinary and/or gender-variant people. Co-facilitators might take turns, with 2-3 people co-facilitating each session. It will be a paid position, although the honourarium amount will be dependent on how many donations come in at each session.
  • Sound: people who take turns hanging out near the stereo to press play, pause, and adjust volume.
  • Music: people who collaborate or take turns creating a playlist either just for the freestyle part of sessions (30-45 minutes), or for the whole session (90 minutes), in consultation with that week’s co-facilitators. Guidelines for songs: aiming for lyrics that are consensual, anti-oppressive and friendly for all ages.
  • Fundraising team: people who help the group seek donations and write grant applications. Costs include accessibility needs (such as having bus tickets available, hiring a translator or sign language interpreter when needed, etc.), space rental, honourariums for co-facilitators and guest instructors, buying rad music that people request, printing the zine (find an organization to sponsor photocopying?), etc.
  • “On call” team (access support/ safer spaces): people who participate in sessions but are available for people to connect with if an issue comes up during a session, and who take turns being by the door.
    • The group is currently drafting safer spaces guidelines (e.g. adapting from the guidelines for Alt Pride’s All Bodies Swim and Homospun dances), and will be brainstorming protocols for situations that may arise. The “on call” team will need to decide on how to note who is “on call” (e.g. with a green heart safety pinned to the back of the “on call” people’s shirts/tops like Homospun, with green fabric tied around an arm like the Stolen Sisters Memorial March organizers, or with hankies/ fabric if we can figure out a pattern that doesn’t already have connotations?)
  • Movement translators: people who help translate dance instructions into a variety of options based on needs and abilities. During lessons a small group could hang out beside the instructors and offer examples of ways of interpreting dance steps (e.g. seated, moving an arm instead of feet, partner dancing without holding hands, etc.).
  • Sign language teachers: people who teach the group a few new signs at the beginning of each session to do with consent (“yes”, “no”, “stop”, “I’m sorry”, “is this okay?”, “do you want to hold hands?”, “awesome, thank-you”, “you’re welcome”, etc.), dancing (“fast”, “slow”, “which role?”, “you choose”, “freestyle”, etc.) and accessibility (“options”, “if sitting”, “if standing”, etc.); and who are available to support/teach co-facilitators and “on call” people signs related to their roles (“are you okay?”, “do you want support?”, etc.).
  • Social media and posters: people who, in collaboration with the group, create facebook event pages and posters, poster, handle social media, compile a list of relevant groups and calendars for sending updates to, etc.
  • First aid: people with current certification in first aid and CPR, who are available to assist if a participant has a sudden illness or injury.
  • Set-up/ clean-up: people who can arrive 20 minutes early and/or stay 15 minutes after to help move chairs and tables to/from the studio, sweeping the floor if needed, etc.
  • Zine-making team: people who like to draw, create art, compile resources, edit, summarize or do layout to create a Dancing Together zine in collaboration with co-facilitators and “on call” team, from around April – October 2017. The resource zine could include summaries about consent in dance, acknowledging the peoples of the land, pronouns, confidentiality, safer spaces, conversation starter ideas, inappropriate questions, anti-colonial gender-inclusive all-abilities dance, cultural appropriation vs. cultural exchange, and local resources for emotional support. Once it’s ready, copies of the zine will be available at sessions and can be referred to as things come up. Once the group creates a website, the resource info could go online as well.

For any questions, or to get involved, please [link: contact us].

Graceful VIRCS dancers

During February and March, I had a wonderful time moving with a group of graceful dancers at the Victoria Immigrant & Refugee Centre. We did many group improvisations together, as well as dancing in two’s; this group is amazing at moving as a collective!

From the poster for the six-week series: “Relaxing classes for the newcomers that will help you: Learn English in a fun and friendly setting, Make new friends, Stay healthy with light exercises, Relax and have fun.”

We took some photos (a few blurry) on March 24th, during the last session; participants wanted to dance with ribbons:

 

DanceAbility Day

Thank-you to Alito Alessi of DanceAbility International for a fabulous workshop on September 7th! Alito spoke about his insightful work in recent decades, presented lovely films, and facilitated a fun warm-up and activities. Much gratitude to Laura at Instruments of Change for organizing the day in Vancouver in Coast Salish Territories.

The day’s purpose was to introduce the DanceAbility Method, “which brings together people across the full spectrum of all abilities and disabilities.” The goal is “to work with all people” in “any combination of people.” I greatly appreciate Alito’s passion for creating opportunities, through improvised movement, so that “Anyone who wants to dance, can dance.” This strongly resonates with my enthusiasm for facilitating dance. Alito emphasized that “the focus is to eliminate isolation,” to “create experiences of connectedness,” and to “go everywhere together.”

Here are a few photos by Laura Barron of the workshop, of the group exploring movement in small groups, on our own and in larger groups.

(I am amused that my backside was to the camera in all three of these, although the workshop was process-oriented rather than performing – there was not a ‘front’ or audience side to the room ;-).)

Improvising from poetry

For the last day of Margie Gillis‘ marvelous master classes last week, she asked us to each bring in a short snippet of a poem and improvise to the words read out at various tempos by another dancer.

What poem would you pick, and what is a line or two that stand out for you? I would love to hear suggestions of favourite poems – every couple of months in Dancing for Wellbeing sessions we do a bit of dancing with poetry and new ideas are welcome.

Last week the only book I had on hand started with a poem by the late Irish poet John O’Donohue, Beannacht, which ends with “And so may a slow/ wind work these words/ of love around you,/ an invisible cloak/ to mind your life.”

Photos by Yvonne Chew of my improvising to the poem:

A delightful month

Photo: 7 people posing with their own a dance move
International Dance Day sidewalk party with an awesome group of dance-walkers!

It has been a delightful month of dance – thank-you to everyone who has been part of it!

From improv with a lovely group at the International Dance Day sidewalk dance party, to adventures in movement at the Dancing for Brain Health and Dancing for Wellbeing classes, to  joyful connections at day programs and seniors’ residences, and to the past week of workshops and choreographic project with Crystal Pite and Kidd Pivot dancers – I am grateful for the enlivening, interesting month.

(The Kidd Pivot company also performed in town last Wednesday: a brilliant, stunning The Tempest Replica. )

Sidewalk dance party for Dance Day April 29

On Tuesday April 29th at 6pm let’s dance in our own ways along accessible paths & sidewalks!

Image of pavement with "Let's Dance-Wander" written on itIt’s inspired by: “Dance Walking,” people grooving in music videos to Pharrell Williams’ song “Happy,” and International Dance Day (see quote at the end of this post).

We’re gathering at 6:00pm at Camosun College Lansdowne campus, at the fountain (it’s at the entrance just off of Foul Bay near the short term parking; on the Lansdowne map look for the dot  between building #2 and parking P3), in Lkwungen and W̱SÁNEĆ homelands.

If you have a portable music device then bring your favourite tunes and headphones, or there will be a little portable speaker (anyone want to compile a playlist of anti-oppressive dance tunes?). Dress for the weather and bring water. We’ll warm-up with a couple dance improvisation games then wander around the area as a mobile mini dance party, wrapping up by 6:30pm.

Want to help out?

It’d be great if you’d like to:
spread the word: share this post or the event page on Facebook,
bring a snack to share after dancing (optional),
or be a safer space volunteer for the 29th (it would be great if you’ve been in this role before or previously had a safer spaces orientation through a group like Homospun or the Anti-Violence Project).

Dance Day message

Text: I love dance. J'aime la danseBelow is Santee Smith’s (choreographer, dancer, and Artistic Director of Kaha:wi Dance Theatre) call to action, on behalf of the Canadian Dance Assembly in celebration of International Dance Day 2014:

“Let dance into your life. Call dance into your life. Breathe dance into your life. Let dance be the connection between your spirit and the living universe. Let dance be the voice of your soulful resistance, your statement of I am here, in this space, now. Let dance resonate from your ancestral memories, from your DNA extending like tendrils to future generations. Call your body forth to move, to speak a language without words. Dance your dreams and poetry. Find that place deep inside your inner landscape that longs for expression. Close your eyes and remember the heartbeat rhythm, the first music you heard in your consciousness. Be the witness to a singular body animated in time and space or to the awesomeness of a multitude moving in unity. Let dance represent your metaphor, art, ritual, ceremony and ecstatic transformation. Energize, revitalize and renew yourself through dance. Renew your bond to the rhythms of the earth. Heal yourself, be yourself and together we can dance our humanity. Transform your life … let dance into your life. Join the celebration and ceremony of life; join the dance”.
~ Santee Smith, Artistic Director – Kaha:wi Dance Theatre

Santee Smith is a mother, performer, an award-winning producer and choreographer. She is from the Kahnyen’kehàka Nation, Turtle Clan from Six Nations, Ontario. (Full bio at the CDA website.)