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!

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