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Unique residency program dances into Orillia, Opera House

You can see the dance performance live in Orillia on Oct. 15 outside the Orillia Public LIbrary as part of the Orillia Jazz Festival

The Orillia Centre for Arts + Culture has partnered with Canada’s premier dance festival, Fall For Dance North (FFDN), to host a creation residency for Natasha Powell – artistic director of Holla Jazz (Toronto). Powell is making a new jazz work, titled Together Again, with 11 students from Ryerson* University’s Dance Department at The Creative School.

Powell, with Holla Jazz company member Tereka Tyler-Davis, will train the undergraduate dancers in Vernacular Jazz while entering into an exciting world of creative process in the Gordon Lightfoot Theatre of the Orillia Opera House.

Powell notes, “I see jazz as a reflection of a cultural memory. It’s a way for communities, families, and society to interact and share stories, build relationships, and celebrate each other.”

The opportunity offered dancers a bridge from their pre-professional training to the professional realm — a gift to students who have endured a pandemic through two years of university degree training.

The Ryerson* program provides the highest standard of arts education for exceptionally talented performers and practitioners who will go on to become world class artists, leaders and global citizens.

The students were staying at Lakehead University’s Orillia campus in residence and the Orillia Centre worked with downtown restaurants — Rustica Pizza Vino, Eclectic Cafe, Picnic, Brewery Bay Food Co., and Tre Sorelle — to create a meal plan for the visiting students.

“Dancing all together in Orillia, immersed in this jazz process, has heightened my experience and taught me so much about the history and social aspect of this form,” said fourth-year dancer Sierra Kellman-Ashley. Sierra, along with cast member Monique Pascall, will also teach local high school dance and drama students while visiting our community.

Vicki St. Denys, Director of Dance at Ryerson*, was equally excited.

“We are thrilled to be collaborating with FFDN, Artist-in-Residence Natasha Powell, and the Orillia Centre for Arts + Culture on this exciting research project," said St. Denys. 

"Jazz dance has been an integral part of our dance curriculum for as long as I can recall, so creating opportunities for students to delve even deeper into the rich history of this extraordinary art form is a dream come true. We can’t wait to explore, create and share the spirit of jazz dance," St. Denys added.

“The Orillia Centre for Arts + Culture is dedicated to fostering residency programs where artists have the support they need to engage in their creative process in a deep and meaningful way,” explains Creative Director Kate Hilliard.

“The experience for visiting professionals includes an opportunity to share newly developed work with Orillia audiences. In turn, our community has the chance to engage with performance that might not travel to this region. We are delighted to bring these talented artists to Orillia to create an original work in Vernacular Jazz dance—and we can’t wait to share their talent with you!”

During the residency, Canadian filmmaker Jeremy Mimnagh has created a short documentary to capture Powell’s creative process with the dance students. With support from an Ontario Arts Council partnership grant between the Orillia Centre and Orillia Opera House, Mimnagh also worked with younger Opera House crew to pass along best camera techniques for live-streaming performance.

You can see Powell’s dance performance live in Orillia on Oct. 15, 2021 at 6 p.m. outside in the Public Library courtyard as part of the Orillia Jazz Festival right before Laila Biali opens on the main stage at 7:30 p.m.

If you can’t make it to the theatre, catch Jeremy Mimnagh’s documentary film here. Powell’s new performance also premieres at the FFDN festival in Toronto at various locations. See details here.

Follow the residency and project over the next few weeks on Facebook and Instagram:
Instagram: @orilliacentre and @ffdnorth
For further information contact: [email protected]

*The name of the university is currently under review by the Standing Strong (Mash Koh Wee Kah Pooh Win) Task Force. We respect the conversations taking place within our community about the name of the university and the history it represents to our Indigenous community members.



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