School of Music debuts new Ballet BC collaboration

Christopher Butterfield performs “Scenes of Thought” with Sidney Chuckas, Kiana Jung & Emily Chessa (photo: Kristy Farkas)

There’s no question the COVID era has had a devastating impact on the arts industry, but it has also provided time and space for bold new creative collaborations. One such initiative is a new campus/community project involving the School of Music, Ballet BC and Dance Victoria, which sees three teams of choreographers and dancers create a triptych of new works set to brand new music by a trio of faculty composers.

After an initial Zoom meeting in late 2021 that saw Music professors Patrick Boyle, Christopher Butterfield and Anthony Tan connect with Ballet BC’s Justin Rapaport, Livona Ellis and Zenon Zubyk (respectively), the newly formed composer/choreographer teams then set to work, with the composers working in totally different musical styles and the choreographers each assembling their own team of dancers. The resulting pieces—titled 3 x 3 x 3—debuted at an intimate public workshop at the Dance Victoria studios on March 13, moderated by Fine Arts Dean Allana Lindgren.

Justin Rappaport and Patrick Boyle (far right) watch Sophie Robinson, Dex van ter Meij & Kiana Jung in “Letting Go”

The sound of dancers dancing

Tan, who recently won the Canada Council’s 2021 Jules Léger Prize for New Chamber Music, is creating a roughly 15-minute electronic composition which samples the very sounds of the four dancers themselves as the basis for his piece titled “Multiplicity is a Liberty”.

“I’m interested in the sound of people doing things, if that makes sense: in terms of musical composition, I often work with ancillary sounds that are apart from the primary instrument and are then electronically distorted, so you can’t really tell what it is anymore,” he explains. “In dance, I’m inspired by the sounds of people dancing—their leaps, their breathing, their feet hitting the floor—so I wanted to explore that idea.”


Anna Bekirova, Sarah Pippin, Miriam Gittens & Dex van ter Meij in Anthony Tan’s “Multiplicity is a Liberty” (photo: Kristy Farkas)

Creating together

 For Ballet BC’s Ellis, this is the first time she has worked directly with any composer—let alone Butterfield, who will be performing live onstage alongside her three dancers for their 12-minute piece, “Scenes of Thought”.

“It’s interesting because combining two artistic voices can create endless possibilities—or can end in stifling both artists’ expression,” she says. “I feel grateful that Christopher has been so supportive and so open to trying everything. It has allowed me to be more clear about my direction.”

That’s a sentiment echoed by Tan in his work with choreographer Zubyk. “The challenge and joy of interdisciplinary work is very much the process,” he says. “Being a composer is a lot like being a playwright: you’re often locked away on your own until you give your piece to the musicians, and only then do you finally hear it. But this is a collaboration with both a choreographer and dancers, so they’re improvising based on ideas and the piece just organically grows. When a new piece of music is involved, there’s always a certain amount that’s unknown . . . a good deal of delayed gratification is involved.”

Ballet BC artistic director Medhi Walerski (centre) speaks with Allana Lindgren and the composer/choreographer teams

A new approach to collaboration

Ellis—who has previously only choreographed to pre-existing music—is excited by this new approach. “It has been really wonderful to get to know Christopher and his musical history,” she says. “I could listen to him talk for hours; he has such a vast knowledge of music, both in his academic and lived experience . . . . I was interested in seeing how our exchange of ideas would influence my creative vision and what kind of balance we would find. Having the sound develop after the movement has challenged me to understand rhythm, timing and punctuation in a different way, and has pushed me to explore my choreography with a different lens.”

For both Tan and Zubyk, this project offers an opportunity to break down the walls between performers, audience and the artists themselves. “It’s been interesting to do it all remotely—there’s been a lot of back and forth because we haven’t been able to get in the same room very often,” Tan says. “I’m very curious to see how it all comes together.”

Much like a campus/community Venn diagram, finding common ground is very much at the heart of this project, whether between the composers and choreographers or the presenting partners themselves.

“I’m really excited to work with Ballet BC and grateful for this opportunity,” says Tan, who has previously composed for dancers in both Calgary and Montreal. “I’m happy that an academic institution can collaborate with a professional company like this—it’s a good way to bridge the different fields.”

Visiting Artist: Jaimie Isaac

“The Eighth and Final Fire” (2021), public art installation by Jaimie Isaac (Winnipeg)

Our final Visiting Artist of the academic year is the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria’s new chief curator, Jaimie Isaac, an interdisciplinary artist and mixed-heritage member of the Sagkeeng First Nation in Treaty 1 Territory who is dedicated to decolonizing art and cultural institutions.

Join us from 7:30-9:20pm Wed, April 6 in room A162 of UVic’s Visual Arts building, or online.

Isaac is dedicated to making space for womxn, BIPOC, LGBTQ2S+ voices and decolonizing art and cultural institutions. She served as the Indigenous and Contemporary Arts at the Winnipeg Art Gallery for more than 6 years and has been in leadership positions in arts and cultural organizations as well as many independent projects. Isaac holds a degree in Art History From University of Winnipeg and a Masters of Arts from the University of British Columbia, with the thesis focus on Decolonizing Curatorial Practice.

Exhibitions curated at the Winnipeg Art Gallery include the likes of “Nahdohbii: To Draw Water” (an international curatorial collaboration triennial and symposium), “Born In Power”, “Behind Closed Doors”, “Insurgence Resurgence” (co-curated), “Vernon Ah Kee: cantchant”, “Boarder X”(national tour), “We Are On Treaty Land” and “Quiyuktchigaewin; Making Good”. During her tenure, Isaac managed touring shows and initiated many dynamic and sustained partnerships and programming.

Artistically, Isaac co-founded The Ephemerals Collective, which was long-listed for the 2017 and 2019 Sobey Art Award. Collectively and independently, she has exhibited and presented work internationally. Jaimie collaborated with an artistic team on a public sculpture at the Forks called “Nimama at South Point Path: Niizhoziibean” and collaborated on a public art project, “Cyclical Motion: Indigenous Art & Placemaking” and a solo public art work, “8th and Final Fire at the Forks” (Winnipeg, 2021).

With published work, Jaimie has contributed articles and features for Art + Wonder, C Magazine, Bordercrossings and essays for exhibition catalogues; Nahdohbii; To Draw Water, Insurgence Resurgence, Boarder X, Close Encounters: The Next 500 Years, and unsacred. Isaac has contributed in collections of writing within The Land We Are Now: Writers and Artists Unsettle the Politics of Reconciliation, West Coast Line 74 and Public 54: Indigenous Art: New Media and the Digital Journal and contributed in forthcoming publications.

In community, Jaimie was co-faculty for the Wood Land School at Plug In Summer Institute in 2016.  She is the Advisory Committee for the Manitoba Museum and is on the board of directors for Bordercrossings Magazine and Trustee for the Sobey Art Foundation. Jaimie is an honouree for Leaders of Tomorrow from the Manitoba Museum 50th Tribute Awards 2020, CBC Future 40 Finalist and the Canadian Museums Association recipient for an outstanding achievement award in exhibitions category with the Boarder X exhibition, 2021

Young Alumni Lunch & Learn Series: Finding Meaningful Work in the Arts

Everyone wants to find a relevant job after graduation, but what are the actual steps you’ll need to take to get there? How do you make connections and learn to network? How important can volunteering be to career development? What career assistance is available to you, both before and after graduation?

Bring your questions when recent Fine Arts alumni offer the inside scoop in these moderated, informal, free lunch & learn sessions on a variety of topics

“Finding Meaningful Work in the Arts” with Caroline Riedel

Find out the steps some recent grads took to get where they are—and how they applied skills they already had—in this new Fine Arts Young Alumni Lunch & Learn webinar series. 

Did you know UVic’s Coop & Career Services offers free career services for students and alumni—regardless of when you graduated? From  brushing up your resume and cover letter to mock interviews and more, the Fine Arts rep can help you find the work you want to be doing. 

An experienced arts professional, Caroline Riedel is passionate about creating job opportunities help students mobilize classroom learning into rewarding professional experiences. with UVic’s she coaches students & alumni on career development, employment prep and work search transitions.

12-1pm Friday, April 8: register here

Are You Media Ready?” with Cormac O’Brien

Regardless of your artistic discipline, you need to be able to tell your story through words and pictures—but are you ready to speak to the media? Is your social content appropriate and relevant to your practice? Do you have current and accurate information online? If you’re putting yourself out there, what’s the media going to find? Join a recent grad for this insider-look at best practices when it comes to working with the media, framing your story, creating a professional social media presence & more.

Currently social media manager with Toronto’s Six Shooter Records, Cormac O’Brien is a multifaceted Department of Writing grad who has held all sorts of jobs across multiple arts industries—including musician, journalist, editor, podcast host/creator, content creator, artist manager and graphic designer!

RESCHEDULED to 12-1pm Wed, April 13: register here


Catch up on the other sessions in this series with these recordings of our earlier presentations: 

The Human Nature of Climate Change

No question, we’ve had a tough few years: many people across BC are still grappling with the aftermath of intense winter storms and some areas continue to be impacted without reprieve. Recent historic winter rainfalls were made worse by the preceding climate events of summer 2021, when fires and droughts devastated the province. As a result, people across the province, country and the world have watched these climate events unfold and be broadcast through the lens of news media.

As Sean Holman, UVic’s Wayne Crookes Professor in Environmental and Climate Journalism, explains, climate change isn’t just the result of greenhouse gas pollution. Instead, it can be better understood as the cumulative result of the individual and collective decisions we make everyday which cause this pollution.

That means that climate change is as much a societal problem as it is an environmental problem. That societal problem is our failure to use the truth about climate change to make the kind of informed, rational, and empathetic decisions expected of us in a democracy. In other words, climate change can be understood as a post-truth apocalypse–one that could be almost impossible to avoid.

Hear more about the human dimension of the climate crisis in Holman’s keynote lecture and Q&A session, originally aired for the UVic Alumni Association’s Winterfest in February 2022.

Gain a critical eye to how human action–or inaction–on climate change is heavily influenced by the news media and how we can embrace both the truth and the democratic decision-making that is needed to turn the climate change crisis around.

Meet Shakespeare’s Women

The cast of Shakespeare’s Women (all photos by Dean Kalyan)

With the recent International Women’s Day celebrations, the final Phoenix Theatre play of our academic year—Libby Appel’s Shakespeare’s Womenseems doubly appropriate. Featuring the Bard’s most iconic leading ladies—from Hamlet‘s Ophelia to Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing and the singular likes of Juliet, Cleopatra and Lady Macbeth, these women “in all their infinite variety” are powerful, passionate, merciful, loving and beloved, desperate, mournful . . . and victorious.

Weaving together momentous scenes from 16 of Shakespeare’s most significant plays, Shakespeare’s Women shifts our gaze to revisit the familiar through the eyes of his most memorable female characters including Cordelia, Rosalind, Olivia and Viola, Isabella, Hellen, Helena, Katherine and Cleopatra. The result portrays women “in all their infinite variety”—powerful, passionate, merciful, false, gallant, loving, desperate, beloved, lonely, mournful, and victorious— reminding us that Shakespeare has gifted us with characters that are not stuck in the past, but are the heroines we still need today.

But what do these characters have to say to us today from our contemporary perspective, over 400 years later? Rather than stuck in the past, Shakespeare has gifted us with characters that are the heroines we still need today. Guest director Dean Gabourie brings his years of experience from the Stratford Festival and his passion for addressing issues of social significance with ACME Theatre to reaffirm the importance of the Bard’s plays in our time.

Go behind the story

In this short interview, UVic English professor Janelle Jenstad shares her insights about the women in Shakespeare’s plays . . . including the ones she wishes had more of a backstory and which need to sit down for a talk about their father issues!

Mo Hatch, host of the student-led Phoenix Fire podcast, also has an in-depth conversation with English’s Dr. Nancy Wright. They chat about Dr. Wright’s favourite female characters in the Bard’s plays and she spoke to the significance of seeing them come together on stage. Hatch also speaks with guest director Dean Gabourie about working on Shakespeare’s Women and what inspires and engages him as a director.

Naomi Duska portrays Nerissa from The Merchant of Venice

Watch it online

See theatre the way it works best for you! Our performances are beautifully captured by three different camera angles for a dynamic online streaming experience from the comfort of your own home. An easy one-click link is emailed to you the afternoon before your show time.

Streaming shows run Thursday, March 24 at 7pm, Friday, March 25 at 7pm and Saturday, March 26 at 3pm.

And you can read more about the $15,000 UVic & donor-funded, three-camera, 10-person streaming team need to create live theatre online in this behind-the-scenes story on the Phoenix Fire blog.

Ximena Garduño Rodríguez plays Cleopatra from Antony and Cleopatra

In the media

In this clip, CTV Vancouver Island spoke to fourth-year design student Brock Keeler about his work on Shakespeare’s Women (the story starts at 37:42). We also see a scene from As You Like It (featuring Sophia Radford and Jaswant Cridge).

“A play like this is a natural fit for a university in that it provides students, especially young women, the chance to sample a multitude of classic roles,” says this Times Colonist review. “The notion is that these diverse characters pop in and out of a nightclub with throbbing electro music. The conceit works, thanks in part due to Brock Keeler’s atmospheric design: warehouse/industrial with rusting girders.”

Describing the show as “a light, fun exploration of the Bard’s work,” this Martlet review notes that, “The enjoyment of Shakespeare’s Women comes down to the performances. It’s really about the actors handling abrupt changes in tone, as well as the back and forth their characters are put in. I would recommend it for this alone, just to see the verbal fighting the actors can get into as they bounce banter off each other.”

Tabatha Hamilton plays Lady Macbeth, from Macbeth

Shakespeare’s Women runs through to March 26 at UVic’s Phoenix Theatre, with 8pm evening performances and a 2pm Saturday matinee. Tickets range from $16-$30, with a $15-per-household streaming option