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Emily Spearing, mindyourmind volunteer and dancer / instructor at Jo Read School of Dance, was featured in Flume, a dance choregraphed by David Norsworthy, a choregrapher in his 3rd year at the Juilliard School, working towards his BFA in the Dance Division. Emily interviewed David about his love of dance, choregraphy and how dance promotes positive mental health.
David has had the opportunity to train and tour with the Canadian Contemporary Dance Theatre, performing in works by Sidra Bell, Colin Connor and Robert Glumbek. He has also performed with Helix Dance Project (Linda Garneau) and the OIP Dance Company (Danny Davalos and Luther Brown) and can be seen in Disney's "Life With Derek" and an episode of "Degrassi: The Next Generation". Over the past few years, he has had the honour of performing the works of some of North America's most celebrated choreographers including David Earle, Danny Grossman, Paul Taylor and Jose Limon. In August 2010, David performed with Camille A. Brown and Dancers at the Joyce Theater in New York City. He will be reappearing on the Joyce stage in January in CABD’s 2012 New York season.
One of David's major choreographic project was titled "Moon-blind and Unravelled" (July 2009), a full length, five show production mounted in Toronto. David is the founder of FRESH Dance Intensive, a dance workshop that is taught by emerging choreographers. David has taught a master class for the performers of Billy Elliot on Broadway in NYC and co-ran an arts camp at a school for impoverished youth in Tanzania, Africa through the student-initiated Arusha Arts Initiative. David is always excited to learn and discover. He enjoys sharing his irrepressible inclination for movement and expression with others that are equally as passionate about dance, art and life.
Why is dancing important to you?
It gives me time to think and to reflect. It also gives me freedom. The best thing about art is that there are no wrong answers. When dancing, one can never fail- how fabulous is that?
What inspired you to begin dancing?
Something niggling inside - an impulse to move my body that everyday activity and gym class couldn't satisfy. My mom's decision to enroll me in a summer dance camp. Riverdance. Micheal Jackson. Cirque du Soleil videos. A girl's floor routine set to music that I witnessed while I was training as an artistic gymnast. Boys didn't perform their floor routines to music- how unfair!
What made you decide to start Fresh Dance Intensive?
A desire to teach and share. A realization that the dance world lacks opportunities for young choreographers. A passion for honest, ego-free dancing... new, contemporary artistic ideas.... and practical technical information.
Who has had the biggest influence on your dancing so far and why?
A few. Allain Lupien (my first teacher) because his passion for dancing gave him never-ending energy and care that I still admire to this day. Danny Davalos (a hip hop teacher) because he taught me how to be groovy and how to use a plié (even though he didn't call it that). Gywn Mackenzie and Miranda Rix-Hayes (my peers) because they were my role models as I discovered the world of modern dance which incorporated subtly and fierce physicality into one dynamic phenomenon. Jill Johnson (a choreographer and teacher) because she taught me how to understand creative impulses through dance improvisation. Ernesta Corvino (the most brilliant ballet teacher in the world) because she taught me that ballet is a simple matter of science (anatomy and physics) and that I could use ballet as a tool to help me gain mobility and stability that could be used in all kinds of dance. I could go on and on... sometimes I feel like I am a collage of influences. A little bit of this person here and little bit of that person there...
Your movement and choreography seems both unusual and ‘natural’ at the same time. Would you agree or disagree and why or why not?
To follow the same line of logic, if I am a fusion of the people that have influenced me, I am no more than an accumulation of my own experiences. In that case, I suppose that my movement is (and should be) different that someone else's movement because we all have a different set of experiences. Would I agree? I'm not sure. 'Unusual' and 'natural' are both states of mind. Something that is unusual or strange is made natural by further exploration. How you see it depends on how closely you have examined the thing in question.
What dance project/ adventure or job are you most proud of?
Volunteer-teaching movement classes in Tanzania with the student-initiated Arusha Arts Initiative at the Umoja Youth Empowerment Center (a school for youth who have had to drop out of government-run schools because of poverty). After two weeks of classes in dance, drama and music, our students had their first experience performing on stage. Offering these students an opportunity to stand up in front of an audience and showcase their new skills (that they had learned in such a short amount of time) gave them confidence and teamwork skills that they need to finish their education and create change in their community. For me, it proved the value of arts education- especially the value of dance education because the art form can transcend language barriers with ease.
What inspires your choreography?
Movement patterns and tasks found in everyday life. Physical limitations (and pushing beyond them). Unavoidable necessities in movement (my arm twists and eventually must un-twist... I jump and eventually must land... I plie and eventually must straighten my legs)- movement puzzles that 'solve' themselves. Other people's choreography.
Can you tell us about your process when working with dancers on a new piece of choreography? What is the inspiration behind Flume?
I start by getting to know my dancers. Then, I brainstorm ideas and images that I then endeavour to translate into movement and dance. Sometimes this results in simple movement that can be performed by individual dancers or by a group in unison, other times it results in group behaviour or partner-work where each dancer has a unique and important role inside the big picture. Once I have a collection of material, I create a structure- which is sometimes dictated by the music (as it was in Flume) and sometimes created without music in mind (according to energy levels and/or a specific plot line). Flume is inspired by the dancers and their dynamic as a group. In addition, it explores the idea of vanity v.s. humanity and how far we can stray from our honest human nature when distracted by the superfluous trivialities of everyday life- a theme that interested me at the time the piece was created.
What would you say is your biggest accomplishment as a dancer?
Hopefully the things I have yet to accomplish.
What are your future goals?
To dance. To help others realize their individuality, their power and their full potential. To help make dance accessible to everyone. To help prove the power and importance of the arts.
How do you balance your school life with running workshops, doing shows and all the other things you take apart in?
I work. I play. And whenever possible, I try to do both at the same time. When I am doing work that makes me think "I wish I was doing something else right now"-- I have to spend the same amount of time doing something I LOVE to make up for it (which is not always as productive- i.e. watching Criminal Minds or eating ice cream). So... I try my best to fill my schedule with projects that are productive but also meaningful and fulfilling. If I can eliminate the "I wish I was doing something else right now" thought- I don't have to spend time 'making up' for the fun I didn't have. Work and play can be synonymous.
How does dance promote good mental health?
Dance promotes good mental health because it is fluid, interpretive, immeasurable and non-quantitative. Dancing is about sensations and therefore cannot ever be labelled 'right' or 'wrong'. As a result, dancing is not about doing something the way someone else does something (and comparing yourself to that person) but rather listening to your own impulses and doing something the way YOU want to do it. In this way, dancing keeps you in touch with yourself. It teaches you how to listen to yourself, how to express yourself and therefore also how to understand others.
What are your words to live by?
"He who cannot dance blames the floor." (Proverb)