Movement That Matters

ENSEMBLE Takes Women’s Issues On-Stage

  • Photo courtesy of sbdc

A dancer’s body is an incredibly powerful mechanism.

Beyond its exceptional ability to leap, turn and stretch, this incredible collection of muscles and joints can be used to transfer knowledge to an audience on an
informative and visceral level simultaneously.

Taking that into account—that dance can be more than just art or aesthetic—the Sonia Balazovjech Dance Company is a non-profit organization that aims to use dance as an educational tool to raise awareness and funds for community organizations.

ENSEMBLE, SBDC’s first major production, seeks to use its narrative to thematically inform audiences of the struggles faced by women who are not
afforded the opportunity of an education.

The show will feature guest appearances by dancers from Macdonald High School and Collège Sainte-Anne, as well as performances from local composer David Hodges, and singer/songwriter Jeanette Arsenault.

Balazovjech’s eight-year-old daughter will also take to the stage alongside her mother in a piece in which a mother is forced to give up her daughter.

The show has been inspired by the 60 Million Girls organization, a Montreal-based charity that gets its name from the number of girls world-wide that are unable to attend primary school.

“It isn’t about feminism, it’s about breaking the poverty cycle,” explained Lyne Dépatie, a Vice-President of 60 Million Girls and strong supporter of SBDC. “There is such power in educating a girl. If you educate a mother, you guarantee that both her children—boys or girls—will be educated.”

Profits from the show’s ticket sales will be donated directly to the organization.

In addition to being SBDC’s primary liaison with the foundation, Dépatie also helps the company with all things business- and marketing-related. She takes pride in how far the dancers have come in terms of learning how to write letters for grants, asking for help and using their words, in addition to their dance, to raise awareness about the cause.

“Lyne has taught us that if you ask, you might receive,” said Balazovjech, noting that she is most certainly a better dancer than a businesswoman.
She says this production has been an educational experience for both her and her dancers; they’ve learned ways to fruitfully ask for and use the resources available to them from within the community.

“I am so proud of the support and the teamwork demonstrated by everyone involved with the company,” said Balazovjech. “Every single person here is here for exactly the right reasons.”

Currently the company’s dancers are paying volunteers who together split the costs of training and renting the practice space. Balazovjech hopes to eventually find alternative means of funding, through sponsorships or otherwise, that would allow the company members to train for free in exchange for their hard work and dedication.

Kara Friesen is currently in her last year of Concordia’s Contemporary Dance Program and is a member of SBDC.

When asked about the difficulties of juggling school, work and the company, Friesen simply shrugged, “The point is that I can go to school, and that fact alone is enough to motivate me.”

She said her involvement in the production has given her perspective on the opportunities she is privileged to as a woman living in Canada.

Friesen referenced last week’s tuition protest as an example.

“I know it’s hard, I pay for my tuition and I’m going to have a huge debt load when I graduate,” she said. “But I just couldn’t bring myself to be a part of [the demonstration], because I now know how many girls have never even come close to having the opportunities I have.”

Friesen acknowledged the challenge of portraying a reality through dance that she, as a North American female university student, has never faced—but addresses this struggle by connecting the emotions to a reality she can relate to.

Personally inspired by women’s ubiquitous ability to nurture, she focuses on striving to portray the female capability to bond and support one another with her movements.

That very bond is initially what drew Friesen into the company.

“Sonia [Balazovjech] has this ability to transfer strength as a unit, and it shows on stage,” she said. “We are all talented in our own ways, and we have been allowed to celebrate our individual strengths, together.”

Through immersing herself in the issues surrounding women and education throughout the creation of ENSEMBLE, Friesen has learned a lot.

She says the process of being part of the production has taught her that if someone is awarded an opportunity, great things can come from it—a message she hopes to transfer to the audience next Saturday.

ENSEMBLE / Nov. 19, 2:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. / Collège Sainte-Anne, Pavillon Marie-Esther, Salle Jeannine-Serres (70 12th Ave.)

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