PROARTEDANZA choreography by Roberto Campanella, Robert Glumbek and Matjash Mrozewski. Presented by ProArteDanza at the Premiere Dance Theatre (207 Queens Quay West). Runs to Saturday (October 6), Thursday-Saturday 8 pm. $15-$38. 416-973-4000, www.proartedanza.com. Rating: NNNNN
At a time when many dance companies are scaling back their programs and pruning their budgets, ProArteDanza is doing the exact opposite. And it's paying off.
Now in its fourth season, the company with the elegant Italianate name has carved out a spot for itself in Toronto's ever-shifting dance scene. If you've gone to any of their sold-out shows, you've witnessed the diversity of their crowds as well as that onstage. Ballet? Modern? ProArteDanza doesn't discriminate.
"The audience is incredibly mixed," says artistic director and former National Ballet of Canada soloist Roberto Campanella. "When I came to Canada 15 years ago, the worlds of ballet and modern were so divided. And they still are, to a degree. But here, people who might only go to ballet come see us and get introduced to a great modern dancer. And modern dance lovers get to see ballet artists. I think we're generating audiences for both groups."
Campanella's got a point. It's a thrill to see National dancers like Guillaume Càté and Heather Ogden perform on an intimate stage and on the same bill as modern dancers like Kate Franklin and Kate Holden. Somehow labels - and preconceptions - disappear. So do egos.
"Ego is not part of ProArteDanza," smiles Campanella, drinking an espresso at a Distillery District café.
"It's about the work," adds Robert Glumbek, the company's associate artist and a frequent dancer and choreographer on ProArte bills. "It's a collaboration. It's not about who does what or who's better. It's about the movement."
The two guys with the similar first name - both straight, classically trained in Europe - make a charming working couple. Their thoughts, delivered in contrasting accents, are refreshing to encounter in the still WASP-centric milieu of Canadian dance companies.
"I think we're defined more by what we're not as opposed to what we are," says Campanella. "We are not a ballet company. We are not a modern dance company. Sure, we occasionally feature works where the dancers put on pointe shoes, but we don't do Swan Lake or Giselle."
This year's lineup, their first performed at the Premiere Dance Theatre, includes many premieres and remounts, including Glumbek's Alpha Phemale, performed by a group of 10 female dancers.
"It's my tribute to women," he explains. "I look at what's happened to women in the last 20 or 30 years, where women used to be and how much they've achieved and who they are right now. That was the starting point."
Why the focus on women? "I was brought up by a single mother, and she was such a strong woman. I wanted to show women and their beauty, their strength and their sensuality."
"It's clear to me," adds Campanella, "that there's an emotional journey of a woman or the women. Robert goes from a group scene of community to this intense introverted solo into a more lighthearted third movement."
What's so exciting about ProArte's shows is how well-produced they are. Campanella has a good eye for choreographic and dance talent. This year's third choreographer is former National dancer Matjash Mrozewski, whose star has risen a lot in the international scene and who makes a rare return to performing in one of his own works.
"It's hard to define yourself as a producer," says Campanella, who's looking forward to touring with the company next season to Japan and several Canadian cities.
"It's more about having an artistic vision and trying to make it happen. Then it all goes together."
Glumbek laughs. "The producer is usually looking to make money, whereas the artistic director says, 'Who cares about the money?'"
"Well, we've never lost money," says Campanella, jokingly knocking his head for luck. "You just need to keep the standards high. We'll never compromise on those."
Additional Interview Audio Clips
Campanella on the use of live musicians at this year's show:
Campanella on the company's name: