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Inside the creation process with Apolonia Velasquez

Company dancer Lola Jenkins shares her experience working with commissioned artist Apolonia Velasquez on UNHUSH, a world premiere for WinterSong 2017.

From Left: Paris Forbes, Lola Jenkins, and Makenna Martinez in rehearsal for Unhush.

Working with Apolonia Velasquez has been such a great experience and is making the rest of the cast and I grow so much as a dancers. Our rehearsals are moving at a fast pace as WinterSong gets closer, and we have all been working our brains into overdrive.

The first couple of rehearsals included a lot task work, meaning Apolonia would give us a concept or idea from which to make a movement phrase, and then she would re-work it. For example, my task was to make a phrase around the idea that I was a spy that had to move around lasers in the space. She then looked at my phrase, took out certain sections, and made me repeat and reverse other parts of it. Then I had to teach my phrase to the entire cast, making sure they were dancing it with the correct intention and including all the details. This was how most of the material was made: taking our phrases, re-working them to fit Apolonia's vision for the dance, and then teaching them to the rest of the cast. Recently, each rehearsal has involved varying and sometimes changing the order of events, while still creating and learning new phrases, and piecing everything together into what will be a 12-minute dance.

One of the reasons I really like working with Apolonia is she truly includes us in the process, in that we all have a bit of our own movement and ideas in the dance. The street dance style and movement qualities are some things I've found really valuable to be learning from this process. I have always struggled with hard-hitting dances, but I feel being in this piece has helped me greatly in learning this style of movement as I continue to try to get better at it.

The cast of UNHUSH in rehearsal.

Being able to work with the phenomenal [composer and musician] Dr. Draw is a pleasure. He is such a talented musician and I know I can speak for all the dancers when I say we were all incredibly excited when we heard the music for the first time. Violin isn't what most people would think of as fitting for contemporary street dance, and this makes it really exciting to see dancers hitting all these really sharp and complex movements to the violin. Seeing Eugene Draw in rehearsal and how passionate he was watching the dance to his music invigorated the entire cast. I think his live performance [along with musical collaborator Acote] will be very special and not an event to be missed. I'm really happy that the public will see the final product of this piece because we are all working really hard and having a great time creating it!

WinterSong - dances for a sacred season runs December 8-9, 2017 at Fleck Dance Theatre. Click here for info and tickets.

Lola Jenkins is a grade 10 dance student at Etobicoke School of the Arts. Having moved through CCDT's YAP, Core, and Apprentice programs, this is her second season as a full Company member.

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