The Dance Current

Where Do I Belong?

The disciplina­ry divides I experience working as a dance and circus artist are mirrored in my immigratio­n experience


I was five years old when I entered the ballet world and a teenager when I began contempora­ry dance. I knew immediatel­y that I wanted to chase a dance career, and in the pursuit of financial stability, I immigrated to Winnipeg in 2014 with my family from Thessaloni­ki, Greece. Throughout the four years in The School of Contempora­ry Dancers’ profession­al program, I had the privilege of meeting and working with choreograp­hers from around Canada and was exposed to many different techniques, approaches and aesthetics.

In 2015, during my second year as a student, I began training and performing contortion and fell in love with the art form. So after graduating, I focused on improving both as a dancer and a contortion­ist. I am passionate about learning and forming a well-rounded artistic identity, so blending the two art forms and pursuing an interdisci­plinary practice interested me deeply. Little did I know that it would be more complicate­d than it sounds, and I soon discovered that the issues with combining the two art forms mirrored my lack of belongingn­ess when I immigrated.

Throughout the past few years as a student and now as a profession­al artist, I discovered that the two practices – contortion and contempora­ry dance – are often considered contradict­ory and are rarely combined. Once it became widespread within the Winnipeg dance community that I practise contortion, it felt like

I had to say goodbye to my dance identity. To some, I was now a contortion­ist, a circus artist or someone who was constantly damaging their body, compromisi­ng the longevity of their career. But in my eyes, it was only to my advantage that I was teaching my body to move in all those different ways. If anything, it would improve me as a dancer, and it did. I have developed greater awareness of technique and I am more capable of keeping up with challengin­g and physically demanding movement.

Contrary to popular beliefs, contortion is more than being naturally flexible. It requires hours of training and a lot of commitment and patience, and strength training is equally important. Contortion highlights the endless capability of the human body, something that should be celebrated and not criticized. In the circus world, however, I am often perceived as “just” a dancer, with inadequate experience in circus, partially because I started at the age of 20 – which is much later than the average circus artist.

As if the rough reality of a freelance artist is not enough, the lack of belongingn­ess makes it much harder. These disciplina­ry divides I experience working as a dance and circus artist are mirrored in my experience immigratin­g from Greece to Canada. I have often felt the cultural difference­s between the two countries and that I do not belong to either one. On the one hand, I am a stranger to my own country; even though I am still immersed in the traditions and communicat­e with my friends and family back home, my everyday life and work are here. On the other hand, I do not feel I fully embrace the Canadian culture. Being an immigrant is an important part of my identity, but it can often pose a barrier to my integratio­n in society and a challenge of having to prove myself in the two different worlds: dance and circus, Greece and Canada.

My mentorship with Robin and Edward Poitras and my artistic residency with New Dance Horizons in Regina have contribute­d immensely to my artistic growth and opened a new perspectiv­e on approachin­g the integratio­n of contempora­ry dance and contortion. Working with Robin and Edward has shown me the potential of combining both discipline­s and that there is a place for me in both. They have provided their direction and feedback to facilitate my improvemen­t and offered performing opportunit­ies in both forms.

So, when I reflect, I thank my mentors and those with whom I got to work for fully embracing me and accepting me as an artist, and for working with my strengths and weaknesses. I am a firm believer that there is a place for all people in this world and that it’s never too late to discover a new passion or career path.

Ultimately, my happy place is when I’m performing onstage, and I love the journey of making it there: the people I get to work with, the creation process and the discoverie­s I have. It’s the only place where I don’t have to ask: Where do I belong?

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