Dances for a Small Stage brings together another varied line-up of contemporary choreography

Happy hearts (and stomachs) abound at the special Valentine’s edition of Dances for a Small Stage 30 at the Ukrainian Centre on Main Street. Talking with international choreographer, Peter Chu, gives greater insight into the work and vision behind MovEnt’s productions.

Peter Chu, Dances for a Small Stage; Photo by: Levi Walker
MovEnt’s aptness for bringing together talented contemporary dancers and choreographers further solidifies Vancouver’s status as a hot bed for a wide range of contemporary and experimental dance. Photo by: Levi Walker

What would you expect from a line-up of big dance names squished onto a tiny 10 x 13 foot stage? You’ve heard good things come in small packages. Certainly, MovEnt, the Vancouver-based non-profit dance society should be congratulated for upholding this promise with its special Valentine’s edition of Dances for a Small Stage 30, performed February 13 to 15th at the Ukrainian Centre on Main Street. While speaking with choreographer, Peter Chu before opening night, he reflected that in his third return to a MovEnt production, “the [stage] actually feels smaller.”

This may be due to his repeated acquaintance with high-profile stages like Caesar’s Palace Colloseum for Celine Dion’s A New Day and the Nokia Theater, LA for the 9th and 10th seasons of So You Think You Can Dance. I asked him, what keeps bringing him back to Vancouver: “Canada has a special place in my heart. Right after [graduating from] Julliard School, I went straight to Ballet Jazz and lived in Montreal for a couple years... I went to Ballet Jazz specifically to dance with Crystal Pite.”

Crystal, Victoria native and international contemporary choreographer, has been working with Peter at her Vancouver-based contemporary dance company, Kidd Pivot, on a spring performance of The Tempest Replica at SFU Woodwards.

“I would say that I understand the Canadian concert dance world better than I do in America”, Peter says, “I’ve worked [in Vancouver] so much... I grew up living in Canada and performing here... It’s beautiful. I love coming back here. It’s my second home.”

And we’re happy to have you! MovEnt’s aptness for bringing together talented contemporary dancers and choreographers further solidifies Vancouver’s status as a hot bed for a wide range of contemporary and experimental dance.

I asked Peter what I should expect from the wide-ranging line-up, but there was no possible way he could have defined it or prepared me for it. Against the backdrop of cabaret seating and a pierogi buffet, Dances for a Small Stage 30 was truly an eclectic collaboration of contemporary, jazz, tap, and salsa performances, with pieces that were soulful and introspective, exuberant and comical, and powerful and transformative. Seven varied performances were book-ended by two of Peter’s works, with endearing characters illustrating hope and love, and demonstrating wildly intricate choreography.

“I love details”, Peter says, “I work with a lot of isolations, intricate isolations, and sometimes improvised isolations... isolations that travel... It works perfectly for this venue because it’s all about being boxed in and closed in and moving different body parts.”

Both of Peter’s works embodied that distinct, hopeful, and excited feeling we all know from love: a feeling I would compare to getting butterflies or summersaults in your stomach. Each isolation was tingling happiness, each contraction was innocent hesitation, and each contortion was suppressed excitement.

These performances might even exhibit Peter’s own feelings of excitement and hope at developing his career as a choreographer in Vancouver. For Peter, it seems that his trade is his true love, “[dancers] are so passionate about what we do. We keep on going because we love it so much. It’s so beautiful to do what you love to do.”

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