Thursday, July 18, 2024
July 18, 2024

Evolve Dance Collective hits ArtSpring stage

Creative dance activity is taking place for all ages on Salt Spring Island, as witnessed by the Community Dance Performance hosted by Gulf Islands Secondary School Dance program members at ArtSpring on Friday, May 31.

Another group of dancers will share the fruits of their love, labour and community in upcoming shows at ArtSpring when Evolve Dance Collective presents Creation — An Odyssey of Womanhood on Monday and Tuesday, June 17-18 at 7 p.m.

Lara Von Maydell started Evolve three years ago with Veronika McKee. Von Maydell had grown up in the dance world in Nelson, B.C., but as she reached semi-professional status she found the environment had become “toxic” and experienced some related health issues. But the desire to dance at a high level while having fun never faded, and Evolve on Salt Spring Island grew from that root.

“I really feel like there’s a lack of dance spaces where it is structured and people learn really intentional techniques, and yet it’s fun and supportive and empowering for women, specifically,” she said.

After McKee left Salt Spring, collective member Jasmin Skye stepped up to take her teaching place.

Skye started dancing at age three and continued through her teenage years. “It was my everything: my lifeline, my joy, my place to just be myself.”

But the effects of dance competitions and the constant striving for technical perfection eroded the natural joy and, like Von Maydell, prevented her from pursuing a professional career.

Skye continued moving her body through ecstatic and free-flow dance forms.

“It was really fun and I loved it, but I was craving choreography again, and a structure where other people understood the magic of choreographed dance. And I also craved it to be storytelling, I craved it to be deeper — and then I found Evolve on Instagram.”

Synchronistically, she ended up moving from Victoria to Salt Spring, and it became apparent that Evolve was everything she was looking for in a dance community and practice.

The collective’s 12 women who meet at the Salt Spring Island Multi Space have diverse backgrounds. A few have intense dance training histories, like Von Maydell and Skye, while others bring gifts and experiences from the island’s ecstatic and/or contact dance groups, or other movement arts.

Skye said, “It’s really refreshing to see all the different walks of life come into one group and be like, ‘Wow, this person moves in this way or learns in this way or expresses in this way,’ and how do we choreograph to highlight people’s gifts, and how do we involve these different aspects of each person into the story of what we’re trying to tell as well?”

They observe that it’s been interesting to see members develop storytelling with choreographed dance, which is a language they speak so fluently, while others may not have that experience.

“To me, dance is like telling a story,” said Von Maydell. “And every sequence is a sentence. But then within that sentence, each move is a word.”

She said the most potent part of Evolve is having people who joined in the first year now choreographing their own pieces with mentorship and guidance.

“Actually, most of our main pieces in the show are not by Jasmin and me this year, which is exciting.”

The June 17-18 Creation show focuses on the female hormonal cycle and women’s relationships to their bodies throughout the month, as seen through a lens of the four seasons.

“The dances explore themes that come up for women,” explained Von Maydell, “like pre-menstrual syndrome, what it is to bleed in our culture, how we were raised to talk about our periods and taboo subjects that are still kind of taboo — though maybe not so much on Salt Spring — but in the rest of the world, they kind of still are.”

“I think we use art as a way to bring these topics to life in a different way that’s not just using words,” added Skye. “There are words and poetry in the show, but there is something special about being able to dance this topic, which we feel really passionate and strongly about, because in some places in the world there are women who are still hiding their period and don’t even get to talk about it or have to stay home. So we’ve just been really lucky and blessed to be able to feel safe enough to go on stage and do this.”

One extra-special aspect of the show is that a birth piece was planned and then one of the dancers became pregnant and is now the “star” of that dance.

Among positive feedback collective members received about their initial public show called Belonging last year was that it sparked a huge range of emotions.

“That’s what we’re hoping for,” said Skye, “is that each piece can evoke an emotion in someone, and everything is going to hit differently for each person, because that’s how art works.”

“Our raw storytelling is what people are affected by, and that each dance has a very specific message,” continued Von Maydell, “and it really hits that emotional tone for the audience . . . so people often feel quite included when they come to our shows, and moved on a personal level.”

That’s in contrast to dance performances where the emphasis is on dancers’ technical abilities, they note.

All ages are welcome to the Evolve Dance Collective’s Creation show, but it does come with a parental advisory for some of the mature themes.

Tickets are on sale through the ArtSpring website and box office.

People can learn more about the group at or through their @evolvedance_collective Instagram account.

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