Kara Friesen in "Wanted”;
photo credit: Lacy Doherty at Noble
A prolific dancer, Kara Friesen of Halifax is “interested in finding out how our city can dance together.”
Friesen recently started a blog, Halifax Dance Seen, to inform locals of all things dance, whether they have no experience as a spectator/performer or are long time, professional dancers.
In this Q&A, Friesen opens up about her love for dance, the city’s scene and how you can connect with it via her blog.
Tell us a little bit about yourself…
KF: Originally from Wolfville Nova Scotia, I've danced from a very young age at various commitment levels and trained in various dance genres. I moved to Montreal at a young age and trained intensely in ballet and eventually graduated from Concordia with a BFA in contemporary dance. I was involved in a non profit dance company called SBDC that used dance as a tool to nurture the community around them, especially causes for women. Since I've moved back to Halifax, I engrossed myself in the lively dance scene here involved with Votive Dance company in quite a few productions. I'm a very social creature so my life outside of dance involves connecting with people in my day job as a server and keeping connected with my friends around Canada, going on excursions whenever I can to see them. I love adventure so any trip I can take to broaden my view of the world I will jump right into it.
What inspired you to start Halifax Dance Seen?
KF: Halifax Dance Seen is a way to connect the population of Halifax with any dance related events happening in the city. Whether it's the latest EDM event (electronic dance music) or professional dance productions, I don't want people to miss out on all the dance fun to be had right here in our vibrant city. Halifax is a great place to grow as an artist and experiment however some performers feel the need to reach out to other provinces with audiences more readily exposed to dance. I believe Haligonians are very supportive of the arts but may not be as aware of the awesome performances happening outside of their own circle of friends. This is a way to shed a spotlight on these initiatives to bolster a culture of dance viewing like we've never seen before.
What types of dance-related things do you and would you like to share/promote via the site?
KF: My favourite thing about the dance blog is being able to write about current performances and give my own perspective on the various shows happening in our city. Many times people are hesitant to attend a show as they don't really know what to expect. My writing bridges the gap between the production' s own marketing initiatives and creates an accessibility for audiences that may not experience these types of shows on a regular basis. This way they can make an educated decision on whether this show would be one they may enjoy beyond the posters they see around town.
What does EDM mean?
KF: Electronic dance music is a happening scene among the young generation, however it is being carried forth by the ahem, older-ish generation like me who enjoy getting together with friends and getting down to this high energy newer music phenomenon. HELM fest happened for the first time in August this past summer and while it was a hit, I felt like part of Halifax missed out. For me the EDM scene connects people from all walks of life who just love dancing to electronic music while agreeing upon the understanding that everyone at the event has a right to express their true selves in a high energy, accepting environment.
What's the best dance show you've been to in the last while?
KF: The best dance show I've seen lately was my boyfriend's recent impromptu dance in the kitchen involving much hip shaking and his ever so charming grin....I kid, I kid.
Seriously though, Live Art Dance Productions showcased some of Halifax's most talented performers in last year's season. This was a truly exciting event featuring The Woods, Mocean and Rhonda Baker. All very unique chapters, each piece brought a sense of passion and human connection.
The Woods, our main hip hop group in Halifax, showed off their mastery of synchronicity, choreographic discourse and artistic flexibility through their integration of urban style hip hop and contemporary movement. Mocean danced a beautiful piece choreographed by Sara Coffin involving a huge projection that reflected the movements of the dancers on stage. I questioned my sense of time. Was all of this happening in real time where the choreography was being reproduced by this huge piece of technology or was it a prearranged choreographic choice to dance with a set movement?
Rhonda Baker is always a joy to watch as she works relentlessly to master the precise nuances that so move me as a dancer and viewer. Her solo was so very human as she played out the actions, desires, obstacles and pursuits that a woman goes through in her every day personal moments.
What excited me about this show is that there were many prominent figures from different corners of the Halifax dance community fearlessly engaged together in a production with many in attendance. I love watching these dancers performing and then being able to congratulate them on Monday in technique class.
“What excited me about this show is that there were many prominent figures from different corners of the Halifax dance community fearlessly engaged together in a production with many in attendance.”
What's the most fulfilling dance experience you've had recently?
KF: [In January] I attended the opening of Windsor's new community venue called the Cedar Centre. The building is an old renovated furniture factory boasting exposed brick, and wall-to-wall windows. The centre values health for their community and includes a café, walls of oil paintings, sculptures displayed throughout the space and, my most favourite thing, three absolutely breathtaking dance studios with sliding doors that can be transformed from rehearsal space to performance venue. My good friend Kathleen Doherty, artistic director of Votive Dance invited me to perform alongside her as guest artists. The audience was very receptive and the event was just so comfortable and inviting. The space really is like a cozy blanket that wraps you up and brings a smile to your face.
For those not familiar with dance, whether as a participant or a spectator, what are they missing?
KF: The connection you get from attending dance performances is unlike others in that you get your own time to sit and just be. Rarely is there a moment in this day and age when you are able to unplug and become a spectator of real time events unfolding. Dance touches a place in humans; connecting to their physicality rather than rationality. So by letting yourself sink into a performance, you can access a part of you that may have been dormant for a while. The part of you that feels rather than thinks, senses rather than knows. An absence of text and linear storyline allows the viewer to include their own experiences as the body recognizes cues from the dancers inspiring old memories of wordless experiences.
“Dance touches a place in humans; connecting to their physicality rather than rationality. So by letting yourself sink into a performance, you can access a part of you that may have been dormant for a while.”
Are you looking for people to contact you with story ideas, events, personal dance experiences, etc for your blog?
KF: I get so excited when people tell me their latest dance experience! As an enthusiast, it is one of my favourite ways to connect to other people and although I am not blind to the other ways to connect, I believe letting loose on the dance floor can just flood a relationship with a friend, partner, family member, with those expressions that don't necessarily merit words.
I would love to hear from people attending a dance show for the first time, or who don't dance but enjoy watching dance. I have my own appreciations of these types of performances as a dancer myself, but when people who don't regularly attend a dance class tell me about an event that moved them, or intrigued them, or even that they disliked, I just love getting their perspective on it. Dancers dance because they love it, however I think dance can be so useful as a tool to connect human beings with other human beings whether they do a little jig in the kitchen or watch a revered artist delve into a psychologically inspired contemporary movement piece.
Is there anything you would like to add?
KF: Everyone can dance in their own way; I'm interested in finding out how our city can dance together.
Check out Halifax Dance Seen: www.halifaxdanceseen.com