Hamilton Arts Week was launched in 2015 to celebrate local arts and culture, and increase visibility for the area’s creative industries. Spearheaded by the Hamilton Arts Council, this year’s fest runs from June 14 to 21 with dozens of events to showcase the talent and opportunity within the arts community. David Hudson, the new community engagement officer at the Arts Council, holds a special place in his heart for Hamilton Arts Week.
Hudson became a permanent resident of Canada in March 2018, and by the next month was participating in plans for Arts Week. “My experiences during Arts Week were phenomenal in terms of performance exposure, networking with the creative community, and honing my individual perspective as a choreographer and artistic director,” Hudson enthuses. “The year since has been filled with events and opportunities as a direct result of HAW.”
Around the same time, the long time dancer, choreographer, and educator established The David Hudson Dance Company. This weekend, Hudson and his company will host an Arts Week event at the Art Gallery of Hamilton called #DanceHamOnt: Works In Progress. It’s ‘part performance and part dialogue between choreographer and audience,’ with the aim of building relationships between artists and potential new audience members.
Works In Progress will feature six teams of choreographers presenting short pieces of live performance. 10–minute discussions will follow each piece with audiences able to ask questions. Along with the DHDC, participants will include Alyssa Nedich, Lisa Emmons, Mayumi Lashbrook, Cassandra Bowerman, Sarah Dowhun–Tompa, and Yugali Bharote–Bhavsa. Gabreïl Spiegelschrift will moderate the event.
Works in Progress is just one event for the #DanceHamOnt initiative, a new collective of dance and movement artists which aspires to create more performance dates as well as professional development workshops, panels, and networking. Its central aim is to raise the visibility of this sector of the arts, “beyond competitive studios and trophies.” For Hudson and #DanceHamOnt, dance is relevant, and its purpose functional beyond mere ‘aesthetic distraction.’ Dance is a mechanism for storytelling and education, and it also holds practical, tangible benefits for mental and physical wellness. Hudson is already a volunteer and advocate for mental health and addiction recovery.
His career began over two decades ago when he apprenticed at a contemporary dance company in the U.K. In 1999, he enrolled at Trinity Laban (The Laban Centre for Movement and Dance) in London. Hudson earned a BA in Contemporary Dance as well as a professional diploma in Performance, and steadily built his CV as a postsecondary dance instructor, lecturer, department head, and touring performer.
Hudson has described dance as ‘embodied connection’: “Dance, for me, is about accessing a fundamental way in which we communicate with each other,” he explains. “Through movement we are able to convey stories, ideas, and themes in a way that perhaps verbal language is insufficient or limited.” It’s a medium that moves well beyond ‘impressive athleticism’ and ‘acrobatics.’
For new or casual fans of dance, worried the event will be too ‘high brow’ or intimidating, Hudson wants to reassure. “You don’t need to know anything about how dance is created, or to have participated in dance at any level to enjoy” Works in Progress. “There will be no fancy lighting, no blackouts or stage wings, just movement and (where applicable) sound, followed by discussion,” he says. “My intention is to create an experience that is honest, exposed, and... focused on elevating the mutual appreciation of audience and performer.”
As well as being enjoyable for audience members, Hudson sees the event as a real opportunity for an artistic reality check: “I think... Hamilton Arts Week [is] an opportunity to engage brand–new audience members… [and] a great time to check: How accessible is my work?” He hopes performers and choreographers will listen and take insight from the way an audience, “quantifies dance through descriptions and questions.” It’s something David values personally, saying he will often check in with his partner, who is not a dancer, in the process of envisioning “what an audience might ask or like to know.”
When guests arrive at the AGH, the venue will itself inspire a unique experience. Hudson explains they will be able to “do away with formalities and bring audience seating around and up close to the action.”
“At this sort of proximity you might hear the occasional ‘grunt’ or see the sweat of dance artists at work,” he warns. That’s the intention. The ‘up close and personal’ vantage point will allow audience members to get special perspective and, in turn, the performers will gain from ‘breaking the fourth wall’, having a discussion with non–performers and other audience members in the creative process.
One of the great things about art, including dance, is the myriad ways it can be understood by the viewer. Says Hudson; “The interpretation of movement, and the stories that an audience are free to narrate as they witness it, makes dance the most commercially and artistically relevant ‘choose your own adventure’ I can think of.” V
Works in Progress
as part of Hamilton Arts Week
Hosted by The David Hudson Dance Company
Sunday, June 16, 4 – 6 PM
Art Gallery of Hamilton, 123 King St. West
Tickets: PWYC ($10 suggested)
Register online: form.jotform.com/91288038292261