The Partnering in Dance program has been both a unique cultural partnership and development experience and an experiential learning opportunity. It formed from a shared recognition of the need to increase the supply of trained collaborative dance (mainly ballet) musicians in our province. Prior to this program, many dancers had never performed to live music and most musicians never had the experience of playing for dancers. Nothing like this had been tried before until NL’s professional dance company, Kittiwake Dance Theatre (Kittiwake) and Memorial’s School of Music (SOM) joined forces to address the need. The program has offered knowledge exchange between these two art forms, the development of skills to communicate in artistically meaningful ways, and the growth of artistic, personal, and professional connections.
Building on the partnership established in 2018, Kittiwake presented its annual Summer Dance Intensive program in August 2019 and 2020, where dancers received daily ballet training from local and visiting dance instructors while musicians from the SOM provided music accompaniment throughout the program, in a unique experiential learning arrangement. Specifically, the project activities of 2019 and 2020 included: 1) further skill development of two collaborative pianists from the 2018 cohort, 2) intense daily learning for six new pianists and two new percussionists and 3) exploration of feasibility of developing a course in dance accompaniment. These activities were outlined in the Midterm report.
The program was given a funding extension to May 2022. Despite the challenges presented by the global pandemic and the conclusion (for financial reasons) that the SOM will not introduce a dance accompaniment course, the opportunity for more young musicians to receive mentoring and practical experience in collaboration with dance was deemed important.
Between August 2021 and April 2022, and with the mentorship of Artistic Director, Martin Vallée, emerging choreographer within Kittiwake, Hannah Drover, created a new ballet piece, based on SOMs chamber orchestra’s planned study for 2021-22. Whereas previous phases of this collaboration offered mentoring for pianists and percussionists, this time, ten ensemble students, mainly strings worked with the conductor, Vernon Regehr and choreographer to gain exposure to dance accompaniment experience. The new dance work was performed by the ensemble and Kittiwake dancers in D.F. Cook Recital Hall on April 28, 2022, thereby bringing professional dancers into Memorial’s facilities once again. (Previously, professional dancers were active on Memorial’s campuses as part of the Dancer-in-Residence program)