October 27, 2005
Source: University of Calgary:
U of C dance students learn, teach and perform in the heart of Calgary
Pilot project links U of C and YWCA by bringing students and community members together
Kirsten Wiren is dancing her dream. Wiren is one of nine students enrolled in new University of Calgary graduate courses in dance being offered in the heart of downtown Calgary. The unique aspect of these graduate level dance courses is that the U of C students have formed a dance company and will complete the majority of their coursework in the downtown.
"There’s nothing like this in Canada," said Wiren, adding that she wanted to earn a master’s degree that combined the practical experience of being in a dance company with academic theory. "This project is unique because it allows us to work as though we’re a dance company. We’re not just stuck in a dance studio at school we’re also downtown performing in the community."
The graduate courses are part of a new Program of Dance initiative called the Urban Dance Project. Urban Dance Project also involves undergraduate students dancing and learning in the downtown, primarily at the YWCA.
In conjunction with University of Calgary Continuing Education, the Urban Dance Project is one of three U of C pilot projects designed to increase the number of students working and learning in the heart of Calgary. The other pilot projects involve the Faculties of Environmental Design and Social Work. The pilot projects are part of the University’s Urban Campus Initiative.
The Urban Campus Initiative, a Campus Calgary partnership, is the University’s plan to partner with other post secondary institutions and community organizations to increase access for students, break down barriers and boundaries of traditional learning, and strengthen the downtown core. It’s a cornerstone of the university’s $710-million capital plan. Endorsed by the university’s Board of Governors in June, the Urban Campus Initiative will play a key role in the university’s goal to enroll 7,000 additional students by 2010.
Anne Flynn, Coordinator for the Program of Dance, is excited to be involved in the development of the university’s Urban Campus. "Urban Dance Project is ready to play a leadership role in expanding upon collaborative partnerships and in creating a vibrant presence for the entire Calgary dance community."
The Urban Dance Project began in September 2005 with the start of the new graduate courses in the field of Dance Performance and Choreography and introductory undergraduate dance classes for non-majors at the YWCA. The partnership with the YWCA allows for advanced level dance training for university students and recent graduates as well as beginner level programming.
Jill Wyatt, CEO of the YWCA, is thrilled with the partnership. "I think it brings life to the East Village. The program is contributing to the development of a dynamic and broad representation of people. Plus, we have an amazing dance studio that is not being used to its full potential. I can see so many possible spin-offs from this program."
The university has contracted two choreographers from Canada and abroad and seconded two choreographers from within the Program of Dance to work with the Urban Dance Company, which is a blend of graduate students, pre-professional dancers and senior undergraduate dance majors. The first choreographer, Sharon Moore, a veteran dancer from Toronto, is excited to be involved with this unique project because she says face to face interaction with the community is essential to students’ learning. "As an artist you communicate with people, so you better know something about them. This project is a great way for dancers to build on those skills."
In addition to performing, graduate students will also be mentored in dance teaching practices. Collaborations with other community dance organizations will continue to be fostered as the pilot project expands, and additional classes including daytime offerings for senior citizens living in the East Village is planned for winter 2006.
"Not only does Urban Dance Project give our students a chance to collaborate, create and study in the heart of Calgary’s cultural district, it also gives them the opportunity to give back to the community through performing and teaching." says Anne Flynn.
Open rehearsals and viewings of contemporary dance works created by students in the Urban Dance Company will be held in various downtown locations over the next six months. The first of these showings will take place on Friday, October 28 at noon in Studio C at the YWCA, located at 320 5th Avenue SE & Macleod Trail.
This first piece by Moore is titled /Grand// //Land/ and was created during a six-week intensive process with the ensemble. It will also be shown on Thursday, October 27 at 1 pm in the Auxiliary Gym, Kinesiology Complex at the University of Calgary.
Sharon Moore, students, Anne Flynn and Jill Wyatt will be available for interviews on Thursday October 27th at 9:45 am – 10:45 am at the YWCA. There will also be a photo opportunity of the Project’s Urban Dance Company during this time.
For more information:
Contact JoAnn Reynolds
Communications Manager, Dance & Drama
Media Relations Advisor
University of Calgary, External Communications