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sagittarius and capricorn meet again

Willem Sadler is a 19-year-old freelance artist based in Toronto, currently in his second season as a performing Guest Artist with CCDT. For this year's production of WinterSong, Willem also took on the key role of assisting with the restaging of sagittarius, meet capricorn, Rodney Diverlus' vibrant and upbeat 2021 commission in which Willem was an original cast dancer. Willem shares how his relationship to and appreciation for jazz dance and Rodney's choreography has evolved since the fall of 2021, and how the work has given Willem the opportunity to learn and grow as an emerging professional artist.

Willem Sadler, at centre in green, with the 2021/22 season artists of CCDT performing sagittarius, meet capricorn choreographed by Rodney Diverlus. Photo by David Hou.

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Rodney Diverlus’ 2021 WinterSong commission, sagittarius, meet capricorn offers a spark and an enlightened energy to the young dancers of CCDT. This work is filled with fast, sporadic, engaging and luscious movements. Its relationship to the astrological constellations and the earth-given gift of the Aurora Borealis gives the piece a feeling of disconnect from human experience and focuses more on extraterrestrial particles and elements. Dancing this piece, for lack of a better word, is an absolute blast. The energy required to perform the choreography, combined with the energy you receive from your fellow company dancers and the audience, leaves you with an unwavering feeling of satisfaction. This piece is engaging for both the viewer and the performer, which is what makes it such a joy to experience.


Creating this work throughout the fall months of 2021 was a jazz revelation for me. My dance career and training had mostly consisted of street styles, dancehall, ballet and modern. I had never considered myself someone who had a deep understanding of jazz dance. However, I learned early in this process that everything I had trained in previously had given me the tools to connect deeply with Rodney’s movement. They opened my eyes to how many transferable skills I could bring into this jazz piece. As we continued the creation I began to fall more in love with Rodney’s work and began discovering my style of jazz, which I would perform in this work. Rodney placed a lot of focus on our group dynamic throughout the choreographic process. They explored the idea that all of our characters were all heading in the same overall direction, yet we as individuals had space to pave our own paths. As a dancer I connected with this in a more literal way: by giving myself artistic freedom to interpret the movement to my desire while remaining focused on the idea that all of us onstage are alike. This forced me to build a connection with the other dancers and encouraged me to be vulnerable to accept their energies while performing this work.


Choreographer Rodney Diverlus during their fall 2021 creation process with CCDT. Film still by Kendra Epik.


Transitioning from a dancer to rehearsal director for the remount process was a switch I felt I needed as an artist. As a freelance artist in Toronto, part of my passion for dance falls in the category of teaching and rehearsal directing, so receiving this opportunity to share my passion with the CCDT dancers was a true blessing. Being a dancer in such a compacted, dense and difficult work is a big task for your mind and can result in a dancer only focusing their attention inward. To step out and switch roles has made me realize how self-focused my thoughts are when I am a dancer. Remounting this work for the 2022/23 CCDT dancers required me to step out of my inward focus and take a broader approach to this work. I had to take a critical eye to other dancers' movements and most importantly, my own! Making this transition has made me appreciate the architecture of this dance, and how Rodney cleverly filled the stage by overlapping solos and duets, and linking different sections seamlessly. The piece is made to be busy; you can look stage left and see something completely different than stage right. Being on the outside has made me realize this is choreographically one of my favourite elements of the piece.


WATCH: Willem Sadler, centre, with Assistant Rehearsal Director Steph Harkness (far right) leading the 2022/23 CCDT company dancers through movement from sagittarius, meet capricorn.


I have loved watching the CCDT dancers progress within the process of this 2022 restaging of sagittarius, meet capricorn. They have really taken it to new heights and I know it will be a big energy boost for the 34th WinterSong. I hope the viewers appreciate the individuality, the musicality and genuine energetic offerings the dancers put into the work. The entire Canadian Contemporary Dance Theatre is ecstatic to share this piece, and the dancers look forward to offering authenticity and celebration to the audience in performance. Enjoy sagittarius, meet capricorn, among the four other amazing works in this mixed bill. See you at WinterSong 2022!


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In addition to assisting with rehearsal direction for Rodney Diverlus' work, Willem Sadler takes the stage as a Guest Artist performing works by Colin Connor and Apolonia Velasquez in WinterSong - dances for a sacred season running Dec 9-11, 2022 at Fleck Dance Theatre. For details and tickets, click here.


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WATCH: sagittarius, meet capricron [trailer]

Video by Kendra Epik. Trailer edited by Natasha Poon Woo.

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