The Georgia Straight - - Front Page - BY ALEXAN­DER VARTY

In Mex­ico, a zócalo is a meet­ing place, of­ten a town’s cen­tral plaza, where in­hab­i­tants gather dur­ing the day to buy and sell pro­duce and other wares, en­joy a re­fresh­ing cof­fee or agua fresca,

and con­verse. Canada’s weather be­ing what it is, we don’t of­ten en­joy the same kind of amenity—or if we do, it’s purely a sea­sonal af­fair.

Never mind. The folk-in­spired dance troupe Zøgma’s mul­ti­cul­tural Sokalo, which makes its lo­cal de­but as part of the Talk­ing Stick Fes­ti­val of Indige­nous arts, of­fers a suit­ably warm and sunny place for dif­fer­ent dance tra­di­tions to meet and ex­change ideas. This year, its guests will be Van­cou­ver’s Louis Riel Métis Dancers—and for Zøgma’s artis­tic di­rec­tor, Mario Boucher, it’s a nat­u­ral fit.

“The Métis peo­ple, they have a few dances, tra­di­tional dances that I wouldn’t say re­ally come from Que­bec, but they’re re­ally sim­i­lar to things we might do in Que­bec,” he ex­plains, in a tele­phone call from his Mon­treal home. “So what we might do is cre­ate a piece where we’ll put both cul­tures to­gether, one next to the other. We might choose a dance that is re­ally sim­i­lar, and we’ll do parts of it as the Métis would do it, and parts of it like we would do it in Que­bec.

“The in­ter­est­ing thing is that they, too, are also work­ing on con­tem­po­rary dance,” he con­tin­ues. “So we might want to add some con­tem­po­rary move­ment to what we’re do­ing while we’re work­ing to­gether. But we’ll see… It’s re­ally a work in progress!” So far, Zøgma has per­formed Sokalo in coun­tries as di­verse as Ire­land and Korea, with the ever-evolv­ing piece ab­sorb­ing el­e­ments of ev­ery­where it’s been shown.

“We’ve taken our trav­els, and put them with im­ages from Mon­treal,” says Boucher, not­ing that this is a strat­egy that Zøgma has em­ployed ever since its first pro­duc­tion, 2003’s Chantier, which drew equally on the “gum­boot” dances of South African gold min­ers and the sim­i­larly per­cus­sive clog­ging styles of ru­ral Que­bec. “As you know, Mon­treal is quite a big city, but like many big ci­ties we have the Chi­nese quar­ter, the Haitian quar­ter, et cetera. So, re­ally, Sokalo is a mix­ture of things that hap­pen around us and things that have hap­pened to us while we were trav­el­ling—some­times re­ally stupid things. Like, for ex­am­ple, one day we were in Korea, in Seoul, and we were cross­ing a river, but in­stead of hav­ing a bridge, they’d put some rocks in the water so peo­ple could cross. The dancers started cross­ing, and at one point they were all in a line—like, one be­hind the other—and they started do­ing all the same move­ment. We took a pic­ture of that, and later on we said, ‘Oh, that was cool!’ and we cre­ated some chore­og­ra­phy from that move­ment.” The Louis Riel Métis Dancers’ artis­tic di­rec­tor, Yvonne Char­trand, points out that Zøgma’s all-em­brac­ing ap­proach to art-mak­ing fits well with Métis cul­ture, rooted as it is in the in­ter­min­gling of First Na­tions pop­u­la­tions with early Euro­pean im­mi­grants to North Amer­ica. And while she’s plan­ning to bring her own Métis sto­ries to Sokalo, she’ll also con­tribute Métis mu­sic, a fid­dle­based id­iom that adds “crooked” rhythms to tra­di­tional French and Irish tunes, while em­brac­ing more re­cent in­ven­tions such as the blue­grass stan­dard “Or­ange Blos­som Spe­cial”.

“Peo­ple just go wild when that song is played, us­ing a more dy­namic way of step­ping, us­ing their whole body,” she says in a sep­a­rate tele­phone in­ter­view from East Van­cou­ver. “So we’re go­ing to do an ex­change where we teach them [Zøgma’s dancers] some of those steps.”

At Talk­ing Stick, the Louis Riel Métis Dancers and their par­ent com­pany, V’ni Dansi, will also en­gage in an­other cul­tural ex­change, this time with Santa Fe–based chore­og­ra­pher Ru­lan Tan­gen: their joint project is ti­tled Michif Medicines, and looks at the sur­vival and re­newal of tra­di­tional heal­ing prac­tices among the Métis.

Michif, Char­trand ex­plains, is what the Métis peo­ple of her fa­ther’s gen­er­a­tion and be­fore called them­selves. “Like Métis, it means ‘mixed’, and it also means the peo­ple and the lan­guage,” she says. “And Ru­lan has been ex­plor­ing the idea of seeds in the con­text of our plant medicines, and our kin­ship with the Earth and the heal­ing that comes from that. So we’re go­ing to go and speak to some of the peo­ple here in the Lower Main­land, some tra­di­tional medicine peo­ple.…and then we’ll just have this ex­plo­rative, amaz­ing time work­ing to­gether, and we’ll see what we come up with! And that will be a heal­ing for our­selves and for our peo­ple.”

Zøgma and V’ni Dansi present Sokalo at the Round­house Com­mu­nity Arts and Re­cre­ation Cen­tre next Fri­day and Sun­day (Fe­bru­ary 16 and 18), as part of the Talk­ing Stick Fes­ti­val. Michif Medicines is at the Round­house on Fe­bru­ary 23, also as part of Talk­ing Stick.

Chutz­pah Fes­ti­val brings in a world of dance

When the mul­ti­dis­ci­plinary Chutz­pah Fes­ti­val whirls into ac­tion from next Thurs­day (Fe­bru­ary 15) to March 15, its dance pro­gram­ming will fea­ture cut­ting-edge con­tem­po­rary works from as far away as Italy, Bul­garia, and Is­rael. Here are the di­verse of­fer­ings, all at the Nor­man and An­nette Roth­stein The­atre, ex­cept where noted:

ROY ASSAF DANCE The Is­raeli troupe makes its Chutz­pah de­but with an all-male trio in­spired by a He­brew song about vet­er­ans’ ex­pe­ri­ences, and the yearn­ing duet Think intricate ki­netic ex­plo­rations from a chore­og­ra­pher who’s in de­mand ev­ery­where from Bat­sheva Dance Com­pany to the Royal Swedish Bal­let.

MM CON­TEM­PO­RARY DANCE COM­PANY The honed troupe from Reg­gio Emilia, Italy, in­ter­prets Mau­rice Ravel’s and Igor Stravin­sky’s Ex­pect ex­quis­ite tech­nique and con­tem­po­rary grace.

DANCE DOU­BLE BILL Jerusalem’s Ma­chol Shalem Dance House presents Ofra Edel’s with ar­rest­ing Bat­sheva alum­nus Tzvika Iskias danc­ing his jour­ney as an im­mi­grant from Ethiopia to Is­rael. It pairs with Bul­garia’s Derida Com­pany, whose is a fiery duet that looks at the more prob­lem­atic, ob­ses­sive tri­als of love.


A bold re­cast­ing of the myth­i­cal char­ac­ter, fea­tur­ing dance by New York City–based Re­becca Mar­golick and Jessie Zaritt, melds with a mul­ti­me­dia spec­ta­cle that mashes spo­ken word, live mu­sic, and video.

Cen­tre) (Fe­bru­ary 22 to 24) The Hill, The Rite of Spring. (March 10 and 11) Black La­bel, Six Years Later. (March 1 to 3) Bolero F 63.9 (March 8 to 10 at the Sco­tia­bank Dance


Above, Que­bec’s Zøgma seeks out cul­tures from around the world for melt­ing­pot shows; be­low left, Map of the Land, Map of the Stars. Bruce Bar­rett photo.

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