The time is right for dancin’ in the streets

Professional dance — for some, the words conjure images of stiff ballerinas or incomprehensible gesturing. Forget all that.

Professional dance — for some, the words conjure images of stiff ballerinas or incomprehensible gesturing.

Forget all that.

Gail Lotenberg and the members of her LINK troupe are flipping the idea on its head.

They’re taking professional dance from the boxy theatre stage to the streets to explore the unexplored places in downtown Whitehorse.

And for the next three weeks, LINK will practise its form of unusual art on the riverbank, in a loading dock, in a city park, and wherever else it damn well pleases.

It will take everyday places and transforming them into something else — a grassy park turns into a theatre, a busy sidewalk into a stage.

Or, as happened in last week’s performance, the Yukon riverbank morphed into a nightclub.

Friday, as the audience watched from an abandoned kiosk at the foot of Steele, dancers in black clothes and white face popped out of the bushes and began to dance like they were in a Michael Jackson video — skulking, shaking and shimmying in step.

“It totally surprises the audience,” said Jude Wong, the local dancer and choreographer who created the piece with Lotenberg. “It’s bizarre, but in a really fun way.”

She was inspired by the spirited way people move when they’re dancing to live music, and wanted to introduce that feeling into an unconventional space.

Lotenberg calls it “site-specific dance;” it’s a genre created to be performed in a certain place.

Typically, the choreographer takes the location into account when planning the dance and there’s only one rule — the performance can’t be moved to another place without changing the movements or the meaning.

“I’m really inspired by what happens when you take movement out of the controlled environment of the theatre,” said Lotenberg, LINK’s artistic director.

“We’re bringing dance to the public, instead of the public always having to come to us.”

Lotenberg, with help from LINK’s production manager Dean Eyre, picked the sites for this year’s collection of public performances, dubbed Dancing in the Streets.

After scouring the area they ended up with a handful of forgotten and de-featured spaces clustered near the foot of Main Street.

“We ended up finding spaces that were, in some ways, invisible,” said Lotenberg as she folded her feet beneath her on the park bench.

“And we breath life into the abandoned site — we give it a purpose that it never had before.

“I want to give people a sense of the history of the place and a feeling of discovery,” she said. “Hopefully, they’ll see what they normally don’t see.

Lotenberg founded LINK in 2001with a mandate to link professional dance in the Yukon to professional dance in the rest of Canada.

But today, it has evolved — now it seeks to link artistic disciplines and ideas.

And Lotenberg, who splits her time between Whitehorse and Vancouver, invites other artists and dancers to share their experiences and interpretations.

“When I bring in a collaborative artist, and we create something together it should be something that neither one of us could have created our heads.”

So Lotenberg assembled Wong, Heather Jones and Leigha Wald to “weave dance into Whitehorse’s urban fabric.”

Leading up to each week’s performances, the troupe will be out rehearsing at different location.

This week it will be at the abandoned concrete loading ramp behind the old fire hall at Main and First Streets.

From July 10 to 14, the dancers will take on three groups of students, from youth to adult, who will create site-specific performances.

The student pieces will premiere at Teegatha Oh Zheh Park, at the end of Main Street near the clay cliffs, on July 13.

Then, on July 14, they will team up with the swinging, tap-dancing James McCullough for a double bill at Arts in the Park.

So far, the dancers have drawn small crowds to their shows.

Look for them Thursdays at 4:30 p.m. and Fridays at noon. They may be hip-hop dancing by the river or blocking pedestrian traffic in downtown crosswalks.

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