Dance Preview: Alberta Dance explodes onstage

By Chris Courtice

There’s only so much fun to go around. Calgarians are busy people, with limited free time interspersed into their hectic schedules. So when it comes to the entertainment and arts scene in Calgary, those involved are fighting for as much exposure and attention as they can get. While music and theatre have commonly dominated the Calgary entertainment industry, an underdog has been flying beneath the radar for a few decades, and has slowly been catching up to the big two. That dog is dance.

At the forefront of this growing movement is the Alberta Dance Explosions Festival of Choreography. Begun 24 years ago by Elaine Bowman, the festival brings the best and brightest Alberta choreographers together to create a virtually unrivaled event where those involved gain the ability to showcase their talents and creativity–an occurrence not so common previous to the festival’s inception.

“[Elaine Bowman’s] vision was to facilitate a need,” explains Explosion 2006 artistic programmer Bobbie Todd. “The dance community was beginning to grow 24 years ago and there were a lot of people out there who needed an opportunity to have their work presented.”

Presented by Dancers’ Studio West, Todd and others chose more than 20 choreographers from around the province to present a piece in the festival. The event runs for three weekends, each having an entirely different composition from the others. Each week’s roster has been carefully planned to allow for the maximum amount of diversity and, consequently, a more interesting experience.

“We’ve tried to make it as varied as possible,” comments Todd on the event’s lineup. “We’re mixing all the genres up. People who have never seen a dance event before will go to one show and say, ‘well that’s dance, that’s what contemporary is or that’s what hip hop is,’ when in fact it’s very broad and it changes from show to show.”

With the help of Explosions, more people may find a new interest in dance they had no idea existed, just by getting a slice of everything going around the province’s varied dance scene. Of course, if you’re an experienced dance enthusiast, there’s a little bit of everything, from contemporary and ballet to funk and hip hop for you to enjoy. In the same night you can see a piece called I Once Was A girl But Somehow Forgot To Become A woman, another called Uchiufra Caacheea and top it off with Funk in da Trunk. Clearly the festival is about as diverse as it can get, but don’t credit Explosion with this achievement in variation. The pat on the back should be reserved for someone else.

“The artists in the community making the work, they are the ones who dictate how it [the dance scene] changes,” says Todd. “Explosions is here to facilitate the community.”

This is exactly what they have done for the past 24 years. By aiding those in the dance scene, Explosions gives the necessary tools to those individuals to create the scene and help it grow out from underneath the shadow of other artistic entertainment distractions in Calgary and the rest of Alberta. Watch for Alberta Dance Explosions to continue to thrive and grow for another 24 years.

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