“Almost Like a Volcano”: Lynn Panting on The Festival of New Dance’s 28th Year

The Festival of New Dance runs from September 24th - October 7th in St. John’s

Neighbourhood Dance Works launches their 28th annual Festival of New Dance in St. John’s this September. The two-week long festival will take place in multiple venues and will include a full slate of workshops, discussion forums and performances.   

“As a Festival we’re presenting dance, but we’re also presenting stories, ideas, points of view, politics, ways of producing and modes of interpreting,” Festival of New Dance’s Coordinator Director, Lynn Panting, said about this year’s line up. 

Panting says one of the advantages of being a mature Festival is that the organization is able to build on past programing. For example, at this year’s Festival, Roger Sinha will be performing a remount of his critically acclaimed 1992 piece Burning Skin, which he performed in St. John’s at the Festival of New Dance more than twenty years ago. 

“The Festival’s longevity allows us to develop deeper relationships and also to dig into some deeper conversations,” Panting said. “We can ask things like, what does it mean to bring an artist back now as a mid-career or senior artist? What does it mean to remount a piece so many years later?” 

Burning Skin was inspired by Hanif Kureishi’s autobiography The Rainbow Sign, a book that deeply resonated with Sinha and caused him to reflect on the racism and violence he experienced during his youth in Saskatchewan. On Sinha’s company’s website a brief description of the remount evokes the discrimination and violence people of colour are faced with in the current political climate, emphasizing that the themes Burning Skin explores continue to be relevant today. 

The remount of the show will incorporate Sinha’s award-winning rap video “Haters ‘n Baiters: The Culture Collision”, which he wrote, directed and produced in 2010. Like Burning Skin, the rap is based on Sinha’s experience of growing up as someone with Indian and Armenian heritage in a predominately white environment. 

Panting is also excited about a number of local choreographers who will be presenting new work at this year’s Festival, including Catherine Wright whose piece Devil’s Purse will share the evening with Burning Skin. The title Devil’s Purse is a reference to delicate cases that contain skate fish eggs, the cases sometimes wash up on Newfoundland beaches and dry into brittle treasures. Wright’s father, visual artist Don Wright, made a series of sculptures based on these ocean artifacts in the early seventies. Wright’s performance will look at what the objects have come to represent for her – a contradiction of containment and loss. 

Panting urges people to check out the full festival schedule to see which events in the huge, diverse program speak to them and take in as many as possible. 

“The atmosphere at the Festival is electric, there is so much to see and so much to do and there’s just a bubbling energy,” Panting said. “We have a real mix of emerging and seasoned artists and with everyone all in one place; it’s almost like a volcano – you know the baking soda and the vinegar – it’s just exploding with potential and inspiration.” 

The Festival of New Dance runs from September 24th – October 7th in St. John’s for more information about programming visit www.neighbourhooddanceworks.com.

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