Serge Bennathan shares his memory of the 1988 Dancing on the Edge Festival

Serge Bennathan | 1988


1988 is one of my life’s magical years. I had recently immigrated to Canada, and after a stay in Ottawa, I decided to move to Vancouver. My English was like now, strong accent with people responding by an interrogative ’Whaaaat?’ to anything I said. I arrived financially precarious, with no access to public funding (that went naturally with the immigrant part), I knew in total one person, and yet, in this fragile and curiously powerful state, it was here, unbelievably, in this far away land, that I found my roots.

Right from my arrival, events unfold quite rapidly, there was a form of evidence, easiness, almost destiny to it. I started to meet other artists, and day after day the puzzle of my life fell into place. I met a community that has been the most generous, creatively and spiritually, that I have ever encountered: Grant Strate, Cornelius Fisher Credo, Peter Bingham, Dianne Miller, Chantal Deeble, Judith Marcuse, Jay Gower Taylor, Nancy Bryant, Louise Bentall, Lola MacLaughlin, Reid Anderson, Patti Hines, Rita Bozi, Olivia Thorvaldson, Jackie Nell and so many more…

Serge Bennathan photobyMichaelSlobodian

Choreography: Serge Bennathan | Photo: Michael Slobodian

The crystallizing moment of that year was the first edition of the Dancing on the Edge Festival, in which I presented a duet. It astonished me that you could be so new to a city and still be so accepted, that you could participate, you the foreigner, in a Festival that was profoundly rooted within the community.

This is something that I would never forget and I still say thank you to Donna Spencer for it, for her tenacity and her embrace. After that experience, my work as a choreographer started to feel unleashed, my true voice heard, as if all that I had done before, in France or in Ottawa, was the preparation to be ready for that specific moment. A lot of people that I met during the Festival that year became collaborators for the following decades.

It is difficult to encapsulate such a mystical moment of my life, but all that I have done, created, achieved from that moment until now, started right there on the stage of the Firehall Theatre, at the Dancing on the Edge Festival, with this incredible community of artists that I magically encountered.

Serge Bennathan