National Ballet of Canada Principal Dancer Evan McKie visited Dance Collection Danse for the first time this summer. Here, he shares his thoughts on this experience and what he loves about dance history.
What brought you to DCD’s doorstep?
Dance history was my favourite class at school besides the dance itself. It was an important education and an inspirational tool for going forward onstage. I have a few vantage points with regards to Canadian dance history as a person who grew up dancing both here in Toronto and also in Europe with other Canadians. It has been important to me to understand the differences between the dance companies and troupes in this country and it inspires me to celebrate fantastic dancers and artists who lived here, passed through, danced elsewhere or all of the above. They’ve contributed so much through their work. When I returned to try making Toronto my home-base two years ago, our wardrobe coordinator at The National Ballet and another close friend of mine who is a university history professor both told me about DCD and suggested that I’d have an appreciation for elements of the collection. They were right.
What did you see and do there?
I was interested in everything. I couldn’t believe that Maud Allan’s costumes were right here in Toronto and not in London or Vienna somewhere. I met the wonderful team including Miriam and Amy who were generous with their time and opening boxes of things that they had acquired over the years. We exchanged stories about stages of the world and discussed the importance of knowing how different styles of dance took root in Canada … and when. I don’t think we can move forward unless we know what’s been … Or, at least, if we know what’s been, it greatly enhances the experience of dancing forward. And each item in the collection has a fascinating story to tell.
Describe your thoughts/reactions/emotions during the visit.
I immediately thought about friends and collaborators who’d like to visit DCD. So I have started coming back with different people and listening to their questions about each item and how it relates to part of their own history and ideas about Canada. I loved seeing Maud Allan’s section of the gallery because her story has interested me for some time and is totally unique. There are so many different sides of Maud that made her fascinating. Her relationships, new style of dancing, strict background, knowledge of music, how she dealt with celebrity, the scandals of her being “too sexual” for that era and even how she would mend her own costume between shows. Looking at the rest of the collection also left me wanting to see more. There is still so much that is yet to be discovered that relates directly to my own naive first glimpses of dance as a kid and how some of my great inspirations transmitted their passion and energy to future generations.
How does DCD's purpose/mission relate to you personally?
Well, I try to “understand” first and foremost and then “be understood” second. Dance is an extraordinary tool for doing that. I have an uncomplicated but non-stop appetite for inspiration and great stories and like to acknowledge how the hard work, sweat-stained costumes and ideas of other generations relate to my own. There is a strength of purpose in that connection and a shared love that resonates through whole eras. Dance is about what happens in the living moment but how it affects those who do it or see it or study it has unlimited effect on whole lifetimes!
Can you share any reflections you might have had since your visit?
I knew I had to offer support to this collection in any way I could. Dance has potential that we can’t always see completely until it’s happening and when I saw different parts of this collection all together in one place, I got excited thinking about different people who’d love to come in contact with what DCD has to offer. It’s not only a long-rooted interest that I have for art in this country, or the fact that my own dance career has been afforded and inspired by many of the characters highlighted in the archives; what excites me is that this is available for future generations to look at and learn from as we write the next chapters and celebrate the many powers of dance itself.
ABOUT EVAN MCKIE
Evan McKie will be performing the title role in the National Ballet of Canada’s production of Onegin on November 27, 2016 at 2 p.m. For more information, CLICK HERE .
To learn more about Mr. McKie, visit the National Ballet of Canada’s website HERE .
MIRIAM AND LAWRENCE ADAMS
In 1983, under the banner ENCORE! ENCORE!, research was begun into choreographies created by Canadian dance artists working in the 1940s and 1950s for the purposes of preserving their works through reconstruction, notation, videotape and photography. (READ MORE)
THE DCD TEAM
Get to know the dynamic individuals who are dedicated to caring for Canada's rich dance heritage and sharing its dance story with the world. From collections to programming and education to marketing and admin, our productive team packs a lot into a year. (READ MORE)
LIVING CANADIAN DANCE
DCD simply could not do what it does without the support of its team of volunteers. If you love dance, and have the time and energy, we could use your help. Whether its hands-on with the collection or front and centre at a live event, there are many ways to make a difference. Fill out the form HERE and start today!