Preview: Saint John Contemporary Dance Festival

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Connection Dance Works presents the Saint John Contemporary Dance Festival, July 19-23.

Matt Carter

With site-based dance performances happening throughout the city’s uptown district, a community movement project series, workshops, discussions, an evening cabaret, and a mainstage performance at the Imperial Theatre featuring Halifax-based dance company Mocean Dance, the 2023 edition of the Saint John Contemporary Dance Festival will fill the city with movement-inspired creation over five days in July. 

With performances and workshops planned to take place at First City School of Dance and Five & Dime, this year’s festival will also feature work presented and performed in various uptown locations including Saint John’s popular Container Village where Halifax-based performers Susanne Chui and Erin Donovan will create an improvised soundscape performance on Saturday July 21, prior to venue’s evening show featuring The Jimmy Swift Band and Grand Theft Bus. 

This event is one of several pop-up performances planned throughout the week.

“Pop-up dance is one of the things we strive for with this festival,” said Connection Dance Works’ Joanna Bryson. “Programming dance in different places creates an atmosphere where people who may be unfamiliar or not expecting to see dance happening in high traffic areas for example, can stop and experience something new.”

Saturday night’s mainstage performance presented by Imperial Theatre will include two original dance pieces created by Mocean Dance: Mercurials by choreographer Lydia Zimmer, and Utawtiwow Kijinaq – Our Mother’s Road, co-choreographed by Mocean Co-Artistic Director Sara Coffin, and Eskasoni First Nation dance artist Sarah Prosper.

“We had been talking with the Imperial about how we could work together for the festival,” said Bryson. “Last year we presented our mainstage show at the Imperial with the audience together with us on stage. It was really fun.

“We have had a great partnership with the Imperial and Angela Campbell,” she said. “This year we were looking at what we could do together and as it turned out, we were both looking at this exciting double bill Mocean are currently performing. It worked out perfectly. I hope people will come out.”

Schedule at a Glance:

July 19 

Contemporary Dance Workshop | led by Chantal Baudouin with live accompaniment by percussionist Ian Gibson | First City School of Dance | 4-5:30 p.m.

Between Us Closing The Gap | featuring performer and choreographer Kelli Wray | Uptown location TBD | 7-7:30 p.m.

Les Noeuds de Gustav (excerpt) | featuring a performance by Chantal Baudouin | Uptown location TBD | 7:30-8 p.m.

July 20

The Business of Dance: A Discussion for Dance Artists in New Brunswick | a panel discussion featuring industry experts Kristina Lemieux, Saint John Contemporary Dance Festival Producer, and Joanna Bryson, Executive Director of Connection Dance Works. | Five & Dime | 5-5:45 p.m. | RSVP encouraged

Happy Hour Cabaret Social | featuring performances by Marcia Dysart, Shelby Harnish, Sarah Power, Sydney Hallett, and DJ [no] NO | Five & Dime | 6-8 p.m. 

July 21 

Container 23 (a site-based performance) | featuring dance artist Susanne Chui and musician Erin Donovan | Container Village | 6-6:30 p.m.

July 22 

Community Movement Project – Creative Movement | led by dance artist Susanne Chui with live accompaniment by Ian Gibson | First City School of Dance | 10-11:30 a.m. | Open to all experience levels and abilities

Mocean Dance | presented by Imperial Theatre | Experience two original dance pieces from this exciting Halifax company | 7:30 p.m.  

July 23

Community Movement Project – Moving in Mi’kma’ki | Led by Sarah Prosper, Eskasoni First Nation Dance with live accompaniment by Ian Gibson | Queens Square Farmers’ Market | 10-11:30 a.m. | ***Stay for a post-performance discussion from 11:30-12 p.m.***

Community Movement Project – Authentic Movement | Led by Sarah Power with live accompaniment by Ian Gibson | First City School of Dance | 12:30-2 p.m.

To learn more, purchase tickets, and explore the full festival schedule, visit the website for complete details.

About Connection Dance Works

Saint John Contemporary Dance Festival is produced by Connection Dance Works, a non-profit professional contemporary dance company in Saint John, New Brunswick. The company creates and presents work and provides opportunities for artists to share knowledge and learn from each other through the PERSPECTIVE series, the New Music, New Dance Residency, and our annual Saint John Contemporary Dance Festival.

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