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Dance Preview: Dancing on the Mainstage

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Since the advent of the internet, the entertainment industry's fight for your time and money has never been more of an uphill battle. While films, music and television shows can be enjoyed from the comfort of your living room, you must go outside to fully enjoy the performing arts of theatre and dance. This added element means the performing arts community faces an even stiffer challenge, one they're more than prepared to tackle.

Ready for the challenge, the University of Calgary's dance program presents Mainstage Dance '06, their annual showcase for both acclaimed dance artists and student performers. Featuring four distinctly different pieces created by acclaimed choreographers and performed by student dancers, artistic director Davida Monk is hopeful this variety translates into every audience member finding something to enjoy.

"One of the things about the Mainstage program that is consistent is that we usually choose someone with a lot of jazz background to come and make a work, usually one or two strong contemporary choreographers and usually a ballet choreographer," Monk explains. "[That] means that the program itself has already built into it a broad range of aesthetic as far as movement goes."

Originating in 1980, Mainstage is an invaluable opportunity for professional choreographers to showcase new works. In addition to this, it also offers student dancers a chance to gain experience to perform professional works before live audiences.

"On one level, it's a wonderful opportunity for our dance students to work with professional choreographers," Monk elaborates. "So it gives them a window into that professional world and the kind of demands that will be asked of them. It lets them see and be part of a creative process that results in a final work."

This year's program features a jazz piece presented by Jamie Freeman-Cormack, ballet from Sabrina Matthews, and more contemporary offerings from Darcy McGehee and Polish choreographer Wojciech Mochniej. The dances display a great array of aesthetics, movement and music, showcasing what makes dance a vibrant and exciting art form.

"It explores [and] expresses power of movement not just to tell a story like mime might, but to discover movement's potential qualities in its own terms," comments Monk. "So that our choreographers' voice as it were, in terms of the way they express their work, their aesthetic, is defined by the qualities that they hone, that they pursue, that they ask for from their dancers."

The performing arts have never had it so difficult. The development of torrenting, DVDs and other technology has made it so we hardly need to leave our homes to enjoy diverse entertainment. However, the performing arts community refuses to go down quietly, insisting on continuing to deliver great performances. After all, few people's homes are large enough to accommodate plays or dance shows and there's always the risk of breaking a lamp during the performance. It's just easier to leave your home and check out the wide variety of top-notch theatre and dance performances available.

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