Dancing on the Edge

Festival of Contemporary Dance

Dancing on the Edge


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

Sponsorship Opportunity

As a longstanding platform for performance we are dedicated to Vancouver’s arts + culture.

Created in direct response to the local community’s need for a support place to perform their work,the festival has evolved into an annual event which presents on average thirty performance companies and choreographers from Vancouver and across Canada.

As we embarking on our 30th anniversary July 5-14 2018 and are looking for support from our local community.

To celebrate we are offering an opportunity to collaborate with us, including 5 levels of sponsorship.

Contact General Manager, Nina Patel – info@dancingontheedge.org


Announcing New General Manager for Dancing on the Edge Festival Society

Dancing on the Edge Festival Producer, Donna Spencer and Board President, Andrea Rabinovitch are delighted to announce the appointment of Nina Jane Patel to the new position of General Manager for festival.

“Nina will bring a fresh perspective to the festival, along with her organizational strengths and impressive management skills,” Spencer said. “Most importantly, she shares a vision of what Dancing on the Edge Festival is and could be. I look forward to working together to continue the success of our festival.”

A little about Nina:
Nina brings to Dancing on the Edge Festival knowledge of artistic dance practices and practical experience from management of companies and large scale projects. Experienced in administration, outreach, development, fundraising, producing, event management, Nina has proven success within the arts + culture sector significantly impacting the organizations she works within. Nina has demonstrated strong leadership and advocacy for the arts throughout her career and this was recently recognized when she was selected for Banff Centre for Arts + Creativity’s inaugural Cultural Leadership Program.

Like many in this field, Nina currently holds distinct roles within the Vancouver dance community and advocates for dance within the following organizations; Dancing on the Edge Festival, Ballet BC, Dancer Transition Resource Centre and Mascall Dance. Past roles involve work with Nico Can Dance (an Atomic Cartoons production aired on PBSKids + BBCKids), Winnipeg’s Contemporary Dancers, Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet, Gearshifting Dance, The Lime Project Dance Company, Artists in Healthcare, Notting Hill School of Dance, Kids Company and the National Health Service (NHS UK).

A few fun facts about Nina:
Nina has a ridiculous amount of kids – (4!), plus the dog, Mr.Duncan, and a husband in there, somewhere. Her favourite colour is orange, to look at, not to wear.

Nina has already started working towards preparation for our 30th Festival July 5-14 2018 and beyond. You can reach her at 604.689.0691 or email info@dancingontheedge.org

Please take a moment to say hello when you have the chance.

Happy New Year!


May the New Year hurry up so we can finally get past this holiday season and we can get started with our 30th Anniversary!


Moving Memories

To celebrate the 30th anniversary of Dancing on the Edge Festival, we invite you to submit your stories from past festivals.

We are looking for personal commentary or stories relating to:
– artist experiences of the festival
– audience experiences of the festival
– photographs of past festivals/people involved
Complete the form located here.
Registration for submissions opens Wednesday Dec 27, 2017. Deadline for participation is March 15, 2018

NOTICE OF Annual General Meeting 2018

Notice is hereby given of the Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the Dancing on the Edge Society to start at 6:30pm (local time) on Thursday, January 11, 2018 @ The Firehall Arts Centre | 280 East Cordova, Vancouver, BC.

Members will be asked to consider the following:

  • The audited financial statements of the Society
  • Ratification of new members
  • Introduction of Board Directors for the coming year
  • Activities for the 30th Anniversary of the Society

Please email your interest in attending info@dancingontheedge.org





A message from Andrea, President of DOTE

I love Dancing on the Edge. Back in the day when I was a dance artist, living and working in Edmonton, DOTE presented my work thus offering me an opportunity to showcase in a different city and to mingle amongst artists that I’d never met.


Fast forward a few years, and now as President of DOTE, I continue to love it, perhaps even more.


It’s 10 days of the most amazing dance, physical theatre, and live performance featuring every hybrid of multi-disciplinary physical work from the lower mainland, British Columbia, Canada and abroad.


Feeding my soul with some of the most cutting edge fascinating work as well as presenting some work that encourages heated drink-in-hand-discussion on the deck between Edges (“I hated that.” “Oh really, I loved it.”), it opens up a world of possibility where people can disagree, respect each other’s comments, and then go in and see the next show together.


Our intrepid leader, Donna Spencer, continues to program an excitingly diverse festival mixing seven mixed programs; two full shows – Oath Midnight Rain (Beijing Modern Dance Company) and No Fun (Helen Simard); four site specific works that are free or by donation, a youth engagement program led by Heather Lamoureux where people 16-24 build community while seeing shows and taking classes for free; two workshops/discussions: Dance Dialogue: Traditional Dance Meets Contemporary Dance with Natasha Bakht, Yvonne Ng, Olivia C. Davies and others and What is Dance Dramaturgy led by Donna Spencer; and Best of Dances on Screen, a screening of selected international, Canadian and local films from the Festival of Recorded Movement.


It’s a time to celebrate all that the dance arts’ community is in Canada, to greet old friends and meet new ones. And to see some kick-ass dance.




Andrea Rabinovitch

President, Board of Directors

Dancing on the Edge


Get tickets here! 

Edge Ambassador Program

This year we are delighted to introduce this program that exposes emerging dance artists in training programs to new works and connects them to the festival. Our first two ambassadors are Alejandra Miranda and Ileanna Cheladyn.
They have generously shared their reactions to the works they have experienced at the festival so far (see below).


“Dance for love” – Pina Bausch

Alejandra was born in La Paz – Bolivia, where she started studying ballet at the edge of 7. For some years, she stopped dancing until she meet Truddy Murillo and fell in love with dance, participating in the Mandala Dance School as a dance performer. The decision of becoming a professional dancer came at the edge of 19, while dancing with Truddy Murillo and Norma Quintana in Bolivia. In 2012 she went to the “Catedra de danza del Ballet Nacional de Cuba” to train ballet. The next year she started as an apprentice with Gaviota Dance Company and the Guayruru Project. The last three months of 2013 she went to train in Buenos Aires Argentina with Alfredo Gurquel, Alejandro Totto, Sergio Villalva, David Señoran, among others. She moved to Vancouver almost two years ago to continue her dance career. She just finished her first season with Lamondance and plans to join the program next year as well.


It all began in Edmonton AB where Ileanna Cheladyn was born and began tormenting her parents and family with her voracious appetite for knowledge and constant inquisitions for information. Shifting from Ukrainian dance to contemporary dance in teen-hood, Ileanna found her calling and promptly moved to Montreal after graduating high school and attended Ecole de Danse Contemporaine de Montreal. Ileanna recently moved to Vancouver to continue her contemporary dance training with Modus Operandi. Through her dance training, Ileanna has supplemented her education with a fascination of English literature, photography, writing, and producing. Ileanna is an eccentric coffee consumer and a writer of all things good and evil. Presently and in the future, Ileanna would love to work for, dance for, and support her fellow contemporary dance artists while creating her own work to add to the evolving discourse on art and dance.


By Alejandra Miranda Caballero

Last night´s program was an amazing combination of artists. After a while I finally had a chance to watch a dance show and I was transported to an indescribable moment. To all the people who were part of the performance THANK YOU for giving such a warm sensation to my heart.

Meredith Kalaman in Femme Fatale, credit Curtis Stogell

Meredith Kalaman in Femme Fatale, credit Curtis Stogell

Femme Fatales is a fantastic piece full of intense expressions while the three performers explored their inner feelings and femininity. Each one of them had a unique type of movement to express such a heavy topic. Kalaman´s choreography has diverse dynamics to rooted in the humanity of each of the performers. I just loved every moment of this piece.

Tracing Malong transported me to my own traditional roots, the dance of Tolentino was full of shapes and the exploration of this marvelous fabric. There was this image when he puts his head into the Malong and I felt so curious about the world he could be looking at. His body explored an ancient,t really grounded movement, so connected with more than the person who dances.

Just Words. The interaction of words, the voice speaking and these three characters on stage moving, brought one word to my head: certainty. The hard work, the moments of complete chaos (as described by Serge Bennathan in the piece) gave birth to love. No matter how tired and overwhelmed the artists gets the result of just moving forward in space, no matter the direction, will be the expression of the artist. The intensity of the performers, their precision and constant certainty amused my senses to a complete place of joy.


By Ileanna Cheladyn

What is a dancer to do?

There are times when I am given the well-known look of discomfort when I profess to acquaintances my love of contemporary dance and my rigour of pursuing a contemporary dance career. In those moments I work harder. I train harder, think harder, and I watch harder. I just get worked up over the discomfort of when I’ve been given a disappointing comment in regards to my passion and entire life. Thankfully, Dancing on the Edge has come at a fortuitous time for me, where the heat is unbearable and I can dictate my own schedule; crawling into a dark air conditioned theatre is just as appealing as the beautiful bodies I see on the stage in every show.

Hurtling into the last half of the festival, Dancing on the Edge has presented some amazing works. My highlights thus far include Justine A. Chamber’s Family Dinner: The Lexicon, Vanessa Goodman’s Container, and NINEEIGHT by Hong Kong Exile’s Natalie Tin Yin Gan, Milton Lim, and Remy Siu.

Perhaps it’s only human of me to find slight difficulty in writing about the work of my contemporaries, but those three pieces stabbed me so viscerally in the theatre that my will to live has been refueled… how could I deny sharing that?


Family Dinner

Family Dinner 2014 by Justine A. Chambers

Family Dinner: The Lexicon is a score derived from the dining and social gestures of guests from the research and development of Family Dinner (May 2013-February 2015). As the lights came up, the slew of comments I’ve heard about Family Dinner dripped into my mind: “Justine made a dinner, videotaped it, then made everyone re-learn the whole thing”, “It’s basically all the best dancers in the city eating”, “They’re a mirror into your own social, dining, and performance habits.”  Initially I was intrigued by the assumptions that I grew from such comments, but I’m thankful that the comments that shaped my assumptions were curt and shallow. Nothing could have prepared me for what was to unfold (other than napkins… I knew those were bound to be unfolded).

Family Dinner - image by Justine A. Chambers & Lisa Gelley

Family Dinner – image by Justine A. Chambers & Lisa Gelley

So. I sat in the Firehall theatre and I was mesmerized by each meticulous motion mimicked by each performer and echoed throughout the piece. I saw the performance-faces of talented performers struggling to casually eat a dinner while remembering which way to flip the fork, shift the plate, tilt the head. I felt like I saw myself in the way Josh Martin chewed with his hand covering his mouth, or how Lisa Gelley politely utters “sorry” when crossing her leg. I especially saw myself when Aryo Khakpour spread his legs and leaned back with satisfaction. While I’m on a roll here: Kate Franklin’s swirling of wine and rolling of eyes was a tad too close to my reality to be comfortable with, and Alison Denham’s swift shovelling of pasta and salad into her face was reminiscent of all those dinners between dance classes.

Being so enthralled in something so… well… not “dancey” was a perfect reminder that everything is dance. While the institutions of dance presentation has formed the way audiences consume and enjoy dance, I yearn for the dance works that present the body, and its movements, without pretention and without need for validating one’s flexibility. If Family Dinner: The Lexicon gives any insight into the work or process of Justine Chambers, I would hazard a guess and say that while it may not be easy, the rigour required would be fruitful.

Now to casually and swiftly change subject: Vanessa Goodman. Peter Dickinson writes: “Container ends with Goodman dancing in a single, slowly fading spot upstage… her upper body raised to the ceiling as if she is about to be transported to another world, one that is big enough to contain her outsized talents.” Yes. Her “outsized talents.” For a petite, compact woman (she stands right below my chin), she is a lanky, sinew-y, and precise monster on the stage. Ones bones may dictate size, but holy, talent and energy abounds.

Vanessa Goodman, credit Jeff Pelletier

Vanessa Goodman, credit Jeff Pelletier

Watching Container I felt a foreign feeling in my viscera. I often watch professional dancers whom I respect, Goodman being one of them, but rarely do I feel an excitement in the future of dance, art, and the performer’s career. Goodman sparked this responsive exhilaration in me that posed a friendly challenge. Not a challenge to me specifically, but to the dance world at large: how can the ephemeral art form of dance burn in your mind and be a torch bearer for the universal human desire of progress and understanding? Her stretching limbs, smiling face, and pulsating spine created a score that developed through a cyclical momentum, showing the audience both the triumphs in the failures and the devastation in the laurels. I guess I would say that I feel the excitement a peer would have towards what Goodman creates next. Obviously she and I are of different generations, separated by a multitude of years and experiences, but her welcoming demeanour shone onto the Firehall audience and warmly invited us into her odyssey.

Okay. NINEEIGHT. Firstly, a public apology to my audience neighbours because I was full-out shaking in my seat, rocking to the beat, clenching all my sphincters, and expelling some audible respiratory reactions.

Utilizing recognizable gestures and the physicality present in Stephen Chow movies, the pop culture references in NINEEIGHT (acting as an immediate and effective tool for immersion) constructed a political and cultural landscape that was horrifyingly beautiful. Human existence and civilization’s history, as I have come to understand it, is plagued with torment – our current state of globalization is intensifying inequality and the hunger for power is nearly overwhelming. NINEEIGHT provided an image of Dionysian bliss full of beautiful media, and aural intrigue to satiate my short attention span (not to mention the powerful movers on the stage – Alex Tam, Milton Lim, and Michelle Lui –  who were succinct interpreters on the stage). While my senses were being enlivened by the movement, audio, and visual media, a hint towards the reality of hidden insidious actions of over-ruling powers was brought to life. It was like the beautiful song of the siren. Natalie Tin Yin Gan provided the audience with laughter turned swiftly into discomfort when simple games turn into maniacal stabbings. Images were held an ideal length where I could see what was happening, absorb it, think about it, fill in the gaps, and start to be unnerved by what my mind came up with.

Michelle Lui, Alex Tam and Milton Lim in NINEEIGHT image by Sepehr Samimi

Michelle Lui, Alex Tam and Milton Lim in NINEEIGHT image by Sepehr Samimi

The piece finished, and I released the death grip I had on my own hands only to smash them against each other in futile effort to make a worthy clap. What seems like an unsurmountable task of combining medias in a cohesive manner, yet simultaneously communicating a history and an issue in current events with clarity and respect is what I hope to see more of… especially from Hong Kong Exile.

Now, when I cross the path of a piece of critical art, such as NINEEIGHT, or I get to experience things resembling something very close or very far from my mode of operation, such as Family Dinner: The Lexicon or Container, my attention is brought to the obstacles they mean to overcome. I see the conflicts (within their practice, their world, or our planet) they mean to define. I also begin to see the thoughts and ideas of those around me that are fighting any current manifestations and refuse for their work to be summed up by facile labels. The work presented thus far at Dancing on the Edge has provided hope that our contemporary culture is not using art for social regulation or as a means to a radical end. Dance in Vancouver (if Chambers, Goodman and Hong Kong Exile can serve as vibrant examples) is truly pushing us to an edge where we must build the path as expeditiously as we step forward. If dance rarely comes up as a subfield of “art”, then these works are not scratching out a definition for dance, but redefining what art is. Or they’re just amazing performances that are life-affirming and guide me in carving out a piece of existence; dance is great, and thankfully it can be found everywhere.

I’m looking forward to Edge 4, 5, and 6 which I’ll be checking out over the remaining days of the festival; hope to see you all there!

Choreographer Talkbacks

Shay Kuebler, credit David Cooper Workshop

Shay Kuebler, credit David Cooper Workshop

Stick around following these performances to hear choreographers discuss their work. 

July 3, 9pm EDGE 1 with Justine A. Chambers, Karissa Barry, Vanessa Goodman and Constance Cooke.   

July 5,  8pm EDGE UP with Natalie Tin Yin Gan, Naomi Brand, Thoenn Glover, Michael Kong

July 7,  7pm EDGE 2 with Alvin Erasga Tolentino, Serge Bennathan and Meredith Kalaman

July 7, 9pm EDGE 3 with Karen Jamieson and Billy Marchenski

July 8, 7pm EDGE 4 with Ziyian Kwan, Peggy Lee and Sara Coffin

July 9, 7pm EDGE 5 with Tentacle Tribe and Shay Kuebler 

July 10, 7pm EDGE 6 with Tara Cheyenne Friedenberg and Deanna Peters

All talkbacks are the Firehall Arts Centre upstairs studio and are free.


Get your festival guide!

The Dancing on the Edge guides have hit the streets and are available from the following official guide distributors:

image of guidesThe Firehall Arts Centre  – 280 East Cordova

The Dance Centre – 677 Davie

The Dance Shop – 1089 West Broadway

Duck Feet Dance – 1097 Marine Drive in North Van & 1447 Marine Drive in West Van

Live Love Dancewear – 3200 Westwood St in Port Coquitlam

Your Passport to a Dance Adventure!

Introducing the Dance Passport, your guide to a dance adventure that takes you through to streets, parks & hidden places of Vancouver! Best of all, it’s free and if you explore enough dance frontiers, you’ll earn a free ticket!
See any of the six free/by donation, site-specific shows at the festival & collect stamps along the way.

Dance Passport 3

Dusk Dances – July 9 – 11, 7pm (Portside Park)
15X AT NIGHT by Paul-André Fortier – June 27 – July 11, 10pm (Granville Island)
Steppin’ by Jeanette Kotowich – July 2 + 4, 8:30pm (Firehall Arts Centre Courtyard)
Body Talk by Wen Wei Community Dancers – July 2 + 3, 8:30pm (Firehall Arts Centre Courtyard)
M. Session by OURO Collective – July 10 + 11, 8.15pm (Firehall Arts Centre Courtyard)

Wreck Beach Butoh by Kokoro Dance – July 4, 1:30pm + July 5, 2:10pm (Foot of Trail #4)

SEE SHOWS & Get three stamps from each location and you’ll earn a free ticket! You can grab a Dance Passport and register at any venue to start collecting stamps.

Conditions: You must register with a festival volunteer at the first venue you visit. Passports with three stamps can ONLY be redeemed for a free ticket IN PERSON at the Firehall Arts Centre Box Office (280 East Cordova) and tickets are subject to availability. There is a limited of one passport per person, not transferable.

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