Joe Ink

Dates and Venue 15, 16 & 17 October 2009 | Firehall Arts Centre | Showtimes: The Strange Adventure of Myself @ 7pm; (in)habitat @ 9pm

Choreographer Joe Laughlin, Joe Ink Dance Company Dancers Chengxin Wei and Tara Dyberg

Reviewer Michael Pink

This is a piece that truly highlights the physicality of dance and the interesting correlation between movement and the environment.

Set during Homelessness Week in Vancouver, (In) Habitat explore the weighty subjects of security, home, sanctuary and the environment. These are also themes closely connected to the pressing issue of homelessness, which no one who traverses the downtown core or city in general can ignore.

This dance work by Laughlin is also a departure from many works in that it is a form of political dance – exploring and commenting upon relevant social issues. These are not normally covered in the dance milieu.

Wei was a fitting choice for the male role. He is a very strong, powerful and graceful dancer. He has the rare ability to project both masculinity and delicacy and is gifted with excellent technique owing to his rigorous dance training in China.

Wei was a professional dancer of note in China before emigrating to Canada. As both a dancer and choreographer, he is well rounded creatively and understands both sides of the dance world.

Dyberg is a very expressive dancer who was able to combine sound technique with the movement required for this challenging piece.

She has performed with Les Ballets Jazz de Montreal and performed internationally with the company from 2003-2007.

Alice Mansell did a splendid job creating the visual artistry for the performance.

The idea of shelter, a basic fundamental human need, is an intriguing topic for a ballet. The work was presented very well and garnered hearty applause from the large crowd in attendance.

An Interview with Chengxin Wei

Reviewer Michael Pink

Chengxin Wei is a multi talented Canadian dancer and choreographer. Born in Dalian, China, he moved to Vancouver several years ago and is co-founder of Moving Dragon Dance company and a former ballet dancer with Ballet BC. His latest dance performance is the Joe Ink Dance company production of (in) Habitat, which explores our sense of place in the world and issues of home, environment and sanctuary. Wei is also a devoted ambassador of Chinese traditional dance and ballet and works with impressive creative results to bridge the dance gap between China and the West.

MP: Tell Review Vancouver about your teaching work?

CW: Currently I am teaching Chinese classical dance for boys. In China, we don’t put the boys and girls in the same class because the dance roles are different and they move differently. Chinese dance is borrowed from Peking Opera and the male and female roles are so different.

MP: Describe the creative process of the current dance work, (in) Habitat.

CW: Joe Laughlin, head of Joe Ink Dance and choreographer of this piece knows me well. He knows what I can do. At first the idea was for a solo then the decision was taken to have a duet. Actually, for most choreographers, they have an idea of what they want and work out the details and artistry with the dancers in the studio during rehearsals.

MP: Is the choreographer collaborating closely with the dancers.

CW: It depends on the choreographer. Dancers usually contribute ideas but the choreographer is the director. Some are hard to discuss ideas with but Joe is very good and open to ideas. For this piece, we did about two months in total of intense rehearsal.

MP: As an artist and choreographer yourself, what did you feel about this story?

CW: This story is about two people who start to discover civilization together. They start with gathering sticks and at the end, it is about how technology can destroy part of humanity. This piece had some challenges because part of the dancing, like gathering the sticks, seemed more like acting than dancing. We are not trained as actors but there is always a balance in dance and ballet.

MP: What is next on your dance horizon?

CW: I have been invited by Edam Dance to perform in mid December in Vancouver. Peter Bingham is the choreographer. The work features two male dancers and explores a new style of dance called Contact which started in the 1970s and is very physical. Then in May 2010 I will be in Toronto with the CanAsian dance festival. This is a work that our dance company, Moving Dragon, will present.

© 2009 Michael Pink