Memorial University (St. John’s and Grenfell campuses), in partnership with Creative Gros Morne and DanceNL, offered its second Dancer-in-Residence (DIR) program in the Fall 2016 semester.
Following our very successful offering with inaugural DIR Karen Kaeja in 2014, we invited Julia Taffe, a nationally-renowned dance artist, to participate in the residency in Corner Brook, Gros Morne National Park, and St. John’s, for a total of six weeks.
Activities included: delivering lectures/workshops in courses in various departments on both Memorial campuses; consulting with local dancers/choreographers on their projects and expertise; providing outreach (workshops, lectures) with community dance groups, DanceNL and others; hosting public events related to the identified project (performance, reading, public talk, exhibit); and engaging in media outreach to benefit both the Dancer-in-Residence and Memorial. The residency also served as incubator for Taffe’s own creative work and professional artistic development, particularly at the Gros Morne site, where emphasis on artistic retreat is in line with other similar residencies through Creative Gros Morne. Taffe was able to connect with and network with a wide variety of dancers, artists, scholars, and interested members of the general public from varying demographics. Resulting activities will be preserved through archival means (DAI, MUN Archives and Special Collections) for future accessibility.
The Dancer-in-Residence program continues to:
• advance critical thinking about the arts
• round out the excellent creative arts programming we see at Memorial
• cultivate much-needed scholarly and creative discourse about and dance, practice of it, among university and artistic communities
• effect public outreach and community engagement through knowledge mobilization of the residency activities
• create an intercampus project that is of mutual benefit
• provide linkages with a number of departments (Music, HKR, Theatre, Education, etc.) to the utility of dance as a means of study
• bring a world-class artist to Newfoundland and Labrador for mutual artistic and scholarly benefit in a way that has never been achieved before
This project provided a unique opportunity to bring together members of the Memorial community on both the St. John's and Grenfell campuses in addition to dancers and other artists across the province. We built upon the connections created by the 2014 residency, and were able to create new partnerships as well. Because of Taffe’s unique background, this included the aerialist/circus community and the environmental community.
Feedback from participants indicates strong support for the DIR program, given that it gives Memorial the chance to be the only university east of Montreal to provide any kind of dance programming on its campuses, and one of the few academic dance residencies in North America (as far as we know, the only one in Canada). As with Kaeja’s 2014 residency, we are confident that results of Taffe’s 2016 residency will continue to resonate in scholarly, creative and public venues across the province.
We modeled this offering on our very successful pilot from 2014, and the committee is currently considering recommendations for how the DIR might expand in our next offering, likely in 2018. At the moment, sustained funding is a critical issue that must be addressed. At the very least we see this as an opportunity to bring an individual of high creative and scholarly standing to engage with the Memorial and the dance communities across the province, enhancing the fine dance traditions that we already see here. It is our long-term hope that this residency will plant the seed for sustained funding towards the creation and implementation of academic dance programming at Memorial. We will continue to evaluate process and outputs to continue to review and increase its utility in future offerings.