Coaching for Dance Artists 2018 Cohort

In 2018, we announced the first cohort of the Professional Development for Dance Artists from Indigenous and Racialized Communities program.

This pilot project offered assistance to artists from Ontario and Quebec who identify with Indigenous or racialized communities. Inspired by the success of Jouer dehors,and guided by Barbara Kaneratonni Diabo and Lee Bolton, the project’s aim was to develop the artists’ dance production skills.


Meet the Artists

Aïcha Bastien-N’Diaye 

Ivanie Aubin-Malo (chorégraphe indépendant)



Artist Bois

Andrea Peña (choégraphe indépendante)

Originally from Bogota, Colombia, Andrea Peña is a multidisciplinary artist whose creative practice transverses the fields of choreography and design. Founded in 2014, Andrea Peña & Artists is recognized within Canada and internationally for her creation of critical, alternative and spatial universes that rupture our notions of a sensible humanity and engage in deep encounters of vulnerability between the physical body and the self. Peña has been recently highlighted with the 2018 Banff Arts Center’s Clifford E. Lee Canadian Choreography award, for her conceptual and highly rigorous creations.


Nova Bhattacharya (Nova Dance)

Nova Bhattacharya is a ground-breaking choreographer with an emotionally charged, body of work.  Using bharatnatyam as a baseline, she crafts vivid images that invite the viewer on a journey of the heart and mind.  Integrating improvised movement and gesture, she is inventing a language that needs no translation.  Her critically acclaimed works have been presented across Canada, in Germany, India and Japan.  The Founding Artistic Director of Nova Dance, she is the recipient of multiple awards and nominations for outstanding artistic achievement as well as contributions to community.  The company creates opportunities for artists; connects audience of all ages and backgrounds to the visceral experience that dance offers; and propagates partnerships that bridge communities, currently collaborating with Citadel + Compagnie, The Theatre Centre and TO Live.  Nova has been commissioned to create work for leading dance and theatre companies including The Canada Dance Festival, Dancemakers, Toronto Dance Theatre, Cahoots Theatre and Tarragon Theatre.  Her new work Svāhā will premiere in Toronto in 2022 featuring a cast of 75 dancers and musicians.


Artist Works

Andrea Peña (choégraphe indépendante)

6.58 : Manifesto

6.58 Dancers

6.58 presents an unusual, sensual, and rhythmic exploration of artificiality within our contemporary society, as three disarticulated Tableaux. 5 dancers in conversation with the hegemony of a machine, opera singer, and DJ, encounter artifice as a seductive force that wraps our experiences, interactions and notion of a future human.


Untitled I

Untitled I Dancer

Untitled I, is an intriguing and magnetizing solo which explores the vulnerable human as a force of resilience and repetition, where body and individual surrenders and is transformed by alterations in its experience. A vulnerable, silent and harmonic repetition after repetition, the half-nude body creates an atmosphere of ever changing phases; phases of which the audience patiently observes for the resilience of the dancer to prevail. With its carefully nurtured humanity and intentionality, Untitled clears space and time to make way for experience.


Untitled I + III

Untitled  I + III explores the vulnerable human as a force of resilience. Through a choreographic repetition, the body and individual surrender and are transformed. The performers, bare and unadorned as the stage on which they stand, strenuously commit to undertake ever changing phases of repetition. A complete abandonment of three men towards to vulnerability, the work pierces beyond performance to reveal an unfolding transformation of resilience for both audience and performers. With its carefully nurtured humanity, Untitled I + III clears space and time to make way for experience.

“The human does not exist prior to repetition, but is designed  by it. The human is the product, not the origin of repetition,” Catherine Malbou, Superhumanity. 


Nova Bhattacharya (Nova Dance)

Decoding Bharatnatyam

Decoding Bharatnatyam dancers

Decoding Bharatnatyam showcases the work of Nova Bhattacharya and her passion for riffing off of classical Indian bharatnatyam technique to stunning effect. Beginning with a shared ritual of namaskaram with the audience and proceeding through three dances to share her unending adoration for the multi-disciplinary form. Broken Lines (2016), a duet for Neena Jayarajan and Atri Nundy is ‘a radical work that pulls apart notions of power, tradition and ritual’; Alaap (2013) for Lucy Rupert is a thoughtfully crafted meditation on the creation of the universe; and Calm Abiding (2006), is the celebrated solo for Bhattacharya commissioned from Venezuelan born, Montreal choreographer José Navas.


Infinite Storms

Infinite Storms dancers

Performed by five women, (bharatnatyam and modern trained dancers) it has been described as “bharatnatyam Frida Kahlo” in reference to the way it asks the audience to sit with images of pain, proposing it as a metaphor for the state of our world, and then offers hope that we can be resilient through strength, community and compassion.



Nova Dance - Svaha group photo

An epic pagent of dance, chant and ritual. Cast of 15, augmented by a body-choir to be developed through residency in local communities. 

Toronto, TO Live (Premiere); Vancouver Dancehouse, SFU, Indian Summer Music Festival - currently under discussion for 2022 dates.


Natasha Powell (Holla Jazz)


Floor'd dancers

FLOOR’D is a soulful and propulsive performance of dance, live music, and raw energy, all in the spirit of jazz. FLOOR’D draws inspiration from Katrina Hazard-Gordon’s renowned book, Jookin: The Rise of Social Dance Formations in African-American Culture. The work showcases the dynamics, relationships, and interactions of dancing bodies inspired by the arena of jook houses and how these bodies compose music - jazz and the blues. Dances in the jook included the Charleston, the shimmy, the snake hips, the funky butt, the twist, the slow drag, the black bottom, the fish tail, and the grind and more.


Aria Evans (Go To Company/Political Movement)

In the Abyss

In the Abyss dancers

Conceived from the question “what do all humans have in common?” and using the scientific fact and beautiful metaphor that we are all made of stardust, In The Abyss looks at the inescapable connections between the galaxies beyond us and our earth bound lives. Set on a rooftop with projections of the night sky and original music by up and coming composer Babak Taghinia, In The Abyssgrapples at how to live with purpose and find meaning in the journey with honest explorations of loneliness, our search for connection as well as light-hearted, humorous observation. In The Abyss makes the connection that we need both darkness and stars, beauty and pain, to fully appreciate where we all intersect.


Aïcha Bastien-N’Diaye 


KHA' dancer

KHA’ is a word in the Huron-Wendat language that means “here”. Strength, resilience and vulnerability. This solo choreographed and performed by Aïcha Bastien-N’Diaye suggests a striking amalgam of movement and words. Her work carries a clear and current message: cultural diversity is a strength. This piece draws its inspiration from resemblance rather than differences. A powerful relationship between traditional African gestures, Indigenous, and urban dancing intertwined with a contemporary approach. Waves leading to stillness, and tremors transferring into the ground. A sole body moving through space, a pair of moccasins, a voice and percussion. Drenched in darkness, sections subtlety interlock. This short work is sure to keep both the public and the performer “here”.


Ivanie Aubin-Maloe (chorégraphe indépendant)


MULA dancer

Mula means going deep in Wolastoqewi, Maliseet language. Ivanie’s flesh is inhabited by a recurring dream that haunted her youth. With the intensity of a loud, howling cry, a male voice would speak out of the darkness: “You will never go away.” This powerful memory keeps her grounded, guiding her towards her Maliseet roots, dance, integrity and truth. On this journey that is akin to a dream yet grounded in reality, the eagle’s piercing eyes find the pathway and the bear is the nurturing mother. From within Ivanie’s body, something fights fiercely to break through to light: the butterfly must crack open her cocoon.



Photos (from top to bottom) by: Romi G Benneli, Dahlia Katz, Tamara Romanchuk, Ed Hanley, Aria Evans, Romaine Lorraine, Myriam Baril-Tessier, Justine Latour, Ed Hanley, David Wong, and Bobby Leon


Project partners: CanDanceLa danse sur les routes du Québec, and Ontario Presents

This project made possible by: The Québec-Ontario cultural exchange program (the Government of Quebec and the Government of Ontario) and the Conseil des arts de Montréal.