Moving Real Close

SBDC Dancers Bring Their Living Room to the Studio

SBDC rehearse for their upcoming show. Photo Judy Paul
SBDC rehearse for their upcoming show. Photo Judy Paul

The story is autobiographical, the creative process inverted and the stage is, well, absent entirely.

Mid-Winter Night’s Dream, the Sonia Balazovjech Dance Company’s latest production, promises to be unlike anything they’ve ever done before.

“It’s our first [time] dancing for the sake of dance show,” said SBDC dancer and Concordia student Aryann Blondin. “It is really our story of how the company grew up, and came together.”

SBDC’s latest will be its first not to involve raising funds or awareness for a charitable organization. The three-year-old semi-professional company is a non-profit comprised of volunteer dancers trained in contemporary and classic styles, and uses movement as a means to educate and inform audiences on issues within the community.

Boycotting the Backstage

While SBDC physically narrates the story of its own personal journey as a company, they want you to be right there with them.

“We wanted to do something smaller, more intimate to let everyone get into our world a little bit more as dancers and performers,” said Sonia Balazovjech, the company’s founder and current dancer.

To establish a more visceral connection with the audience, SBDC’s venue of choice wasn’t a conventional auditorium or theatre space, but rather a loft with neither rows of seats nor a stage.

However, no stage means no backstage, either. All set and costume changes will take place live, and movement in the centre of the room will be constant throughout the 90-minute production.

“We wanted the show to be more casual rather than have us in the spotlight the whole time,” said Balazovjech. “We didn’t want to create two separate spaces.”

To make sure their audience was not only close by, but also comfy, the company members have built five separate “living rooms” within the space, using an array of furniture from their own homes.

Barstools, beanbags and couches bunched together in multiple pockets surrounding the “dance floor” aim to offer the audience a chance to experience the performance, rather than just watch it.

“We want people to not feel exposed, or like they are sitting by themselves,” explained Balazovjech. “When you are at a theatre, you go and sit by yourself and look forward, not right, or to the left or down—you just look straight ahead.

“We wanted to give people more of a circular cozy feel, rather than just looking straight on.”

Oh, and wine will be served, because, well—because.

Cameras: Brian Lapuz & Leslie Schachter
Editing: Leslie Schachter & Colin Harris

An Inverted Process

Not only did the members of SBDC transport themselves beyond their usual performance space with Mid-Winter Night’s Dream, they also completely inverted their own creative process while making it.

“Our producer created the soundtrack and then we built our choreography and concept from what he provided,” said Blondin, citing this as one of the greatest challenges in putting together the show.

Balazovjech agreed with Blondin in that this inverse fashion of choreographing to pre-determined music was difficult, but she feels it turned out to be one of the production’s greatest strengths.

“We are choreographing to stuff we would have not necessarily chosen, or started with, so it was the opposite of what we were used to,” she said. “But we would never have come up with what we have now if we’d done the reverse.”

The show is choreographed primarily by company members, but also features two pieces done by guest choreographers—So You Think You Can Dance Canada Season 4 winner Jordan Clark and Lynsey Billing of L’Académie de danse Scream.

Balazovjech says both pushed the company’s dancers into unknown territory, especially Billing’s work.

“She challenged our limits completely,” said Balazovjech. “She just pushed us to get into emotionally fuelled dance.”

Dayna Goldman, another SBDC dancer, says Billing’s piece is the hardest for her to perform
“We each have our individual stories that we are thinking about when we are doing certain pieces,” she said. “Some of them are really intense and it’s going to be challenging to do them in front of an audience.”

The narrative of Mid-Winter Night’s Dream draws from an overarching theme of transitioning forward.

“We are toying with the concepts of dark and light, and how the human spirit is continuously drawn to and in search of light,” explained Balazovjech. “It just seems to be this natural progression, that if you are in a dark place, you want to dig yourself out towards the light.”
She says this idea hit close to home with the company.

“It’s not to say we were in a horrible place, but when we were at our old studio, we felt a little repressed and unsupported,” she said.

“Then we liberated ourselves and jumped out on our own, and have found this light place where we sort of belong.”

“We wanted to do something smaller, more intimate to let everyone get into our world a little bit more as dancers and performers.” -Sonia Balazovjech, Founder of the Sonia Balazovjech Dance Company

Next Up, Love

The show’s encore will double as a launch for SBDC’s next major production, set to hit the stage February 2014.

The upcoming show will revisit the company’s signature routine of working alongside and in support of a charitable organization. This time, SBDC will work with local organization Leave Out Violence, which seeks to reduce violence in the lives of young people.

LOVE’s program is largely media-based and allows students to use art—such as photography, poetry and song—to express their feelings about being either the victims or perpetrators of violence.

While plans for the production are still preliminary, Balazovjech says its concept and narrative will draw its inspiration from the young people that participate in LOVE.

“I really want to join forces with the students,” said Balazovjech. “They have produced some incredible work already, so I’d like to translate what they are saying into dance somehow.”

Mid-Winter Night’s Dream / Jan. 31 to Feb. 2 / Canvas Montreal (870 Notre-Dame St.) / Jan. 31, 7:30 p.m. / Feb. 1 and Feb. 2, 6:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.