SummerWorks Lab Series 2019

Black Ballerina Program Notes

Part of the SummerWorks Lab programming – a place for exploration, experimentation, and process. In the Lab, you can experience new works in development from artists exploring new possibilities in performance.

Black Ballerina is based on my relationship to race and my experience in classical ballet. It explores the nuances within one's identity, and the unconscious ways that we try to fit in.  

I knew that I wanted to examine how the minority body is seen on stage. Additionally, I wanted to investigate how the context of white culture has influenced the relationship I have to my own blackness and indigeneity.


Within this work in progress of Black Ballerina I have a movement score which is becoming more clear with time. I would love to know what you see. Within this performance, I am also exploring the duration of each section. How do you feel about the duration of each section? Could some things happen over a longer period of time? Lastly, I am investigating the impact of music. Some of this music has been specifically created for the dance, and other pieces are familiar songs that you hear on the radio. How do you feel about the dialogue between familiar songs in combination with an original score? 

Thank you to The Stratford Festival, Canadian Stage, and Kaaitheatre Theatre in Brussels, for their future involvement in extending Black Ballerina.

Creative Team: 

Creator/Performer: Syreeta Hector 

Syreeta Hector is an independent dancer and choreographer based in Toronto. Most recently she has performed with the Danny Grossman Dance Company, and has shared the stage with the Toronto Concert Orchestra, Political Movement, and Shannon Litzenberger Dance. Upon graduating from The National Ballet School's Teacher Training Program and The School of Toronto Dance Theatre, Syreeta began her career with the company Toronto Dance Theatre (TDT) under the direction of Christopher House. Here, she had the opportunity to work with internationally known choreographers like Deborah Hay, and radio tv personalities such as Sook- Yin Lee. Through her success in both Canada Council and Ontario Council grant applications, she has attended training workshops in Vienna, Berlin, and continues to study extensively in New York City. This is Syreeta's first solo creation and she will be officially premiering the work in the Citadel Dance Mix this coming fall.  


Movement Dramaturg: Seika Boye

Seika Boye is a scholar, writer, educator and artist whose practices revolve around dance and movement. She teaches practical and lecture courses and is the Director of the research oriented Institute for Dance Studies. From 1995-2010 Seika performed and presented her choreography across Canada. She danced professionally with Ballet Creole, Electric Company Theatre, Judith Marcuse Projects, Lucie Mongraine, Sarah Febrarro and other independent choreographers. Most recently, Seika has worked as a movement dramaturg with Syreeta Hector (Black Ballerina); Deanna Bowen (The Long Doorway, 2017/Gibson Duets2019); Heidi Struass/adelheid dance (re*researchchoreographic intensive, 2018); and Djanet Sears (Adventures of Black Girl in Search of God, 2015).  Invested in movement histories and the archive, Seika’s current research explores blackness and dancing in Canada. In 2018, she curated the archival exhibition It’s About Time: Dancing Black in Canada 1900-1970 (Dance Collection Danse Gallery/ OCAD Ignite Gallery). Her publications include writing for Dance Chronicle (forthcoming), Canadian Theatre Review,, The Routledge Encyclopedia of Modernism, Performance Matters, Dance Collection Danse Magazine and The Dance Current. 

Assistant Producer: J. Adam Brown 

Over the last two decades, J. Adam has starred in 45 television shows and films, including SYFY’s “The Expanse”, ABC’s “Rookie Blue”, and Global’s “Private Eyes”. J. Adam created the 2018 IPF digital musical series HAUNTERS, currently airing on KindaTV with 500K+ views and winner of BEST ENSEMBLE at TO Webfest. J. Adam made a 22-minute broadcast featurette about Denis Villeneuve’s, ENEMY, that was featured on the homepage, and's Playlist. His short films have screened in New York, Milan, Shanghai, Toronto, and Birmingham. His most recent one, DUST, premiered at the Palm Springs International Shortfest, and is being developed into a  feature film for release in 2020.

Rehearsal Director: Rosemary James

Rosemary James was born in New York State and raised in Toronto. Following a successful career as a performer with Toronto Dance Theatre, she assumed the position of Rehearsal Director in 1992. James is the Training and Performing Associate at the School.

She has taught modern dance courses at York University and choreographed extensively for community-based arts education programs. She was the movement teacher and choreographer for the musicals Spoke, This City of Angels, and Swimming for Shore, and the Choreography Consultant for the award-winning synchronized skating team Gold Ice. In addition to being a sought-after teacher, James holds a Bachelor and Master of Arts in dance from York University.

Set Design: Wesley McKenzie

Wesley McKenzie graduated from York University in 2014 with a BFA in Theatre Production. Since graduation, he has been designing light, sound and video for theatre and opera in Toronto.Wesley works often with theatre companies such as the red light district (Lulu V2, the marquise of O—, Lulu V4) and Lester Trips (The Misunderstanding, Intangible Trappings). Wesley has also started working in Opera, having worked with the University of Toronto’s Opera Department (The Fatal Gaze) and Metro Youth Opera (The Rape of Lucretia). Wesley made his debut at Factory Theatre in March on their production of A Line in the Sand. During the summer, Wesley works as the production manager and lighting designer in residence at the Classic Theatre Festival in Perth, Ontario. Wesley’s work often explores the possibilities of technologies in theatrical situations. For Little Black Afro’s production of I was once on Fire, Wesley has made custom lighting fixtures. Wesley’s work has explored advanced video mapping, as in the red light district’s the marquise of O—, and multiple live video feeds, as in the Howland Company’s take rimbaud.

Assistant Stage Manager: Nina Milanovski 

Nina Milanovski is an emerging contemporary dance artist based in Toronto, Ontario. A graduate of the York University Dance program, Nina specialized in choreography and performance and was a member of the York Dance Ensemble for two seasons where she collaborated with artists such as Carol Anderson, Tracey Norman, and Susan Lee. A mover and creator who is curious about what happens backstage, Nina has studied lighting, sound, projection design and stage management. Nina has had the honour of presenting choreography at The Festival ‘17, Dance Matters, Nexfest and is excited to present uncoupling at Your Dance Fest in August. Looking forward, Nina plans to combine her love of performing, choreographing, producing and advocacy by creating a portfolio career as a creator and advocate for emerging artists.

Lighting Design/Stage Manager: Kiera Shaw 

Originally from Victoria, British Columbia, Kiera Shaw is a moving, thinking dance artist.  Holding a BFA in Dance Performance and Choreography from York University, she freelances as a dancer, choreographer, lighting designer, stage manager, and teacher. Select lighting design credits include: WILD/WALLED (Half Second Echo, 2017), IN THREES  (Half Second Echo, 2018), Purpose (Echo Dance Company, 2019).

Sound Editing: Megan Nadain 

Megan Nadain, a native of North Vancouver, British Columbia, is a Toronto-based dancer, choreographer and dance educator. She is a graduate of The School of Toronto Dance Theatre; while a student, she received scholarships from the School, the Hnatyshyn Foundation, and the British Columbia Arts Council. She is a company member with Dancetheatre David Earle, and has worked independently with Event Horizon Dance (Miranda Abbott), Toronto Heritage Dance, Darryl Tracy, and Typecast Dance Company (Missy Morris). In the summer of 2014, she performed with Dancetheatre David Earle in Dusseldorf, Germany, at the international tanzmesse dance festival.

As a choreographer, Nadain has had her work presented across Canada. As a dance educator, she has attended a teacher training seminar at the Martha Graham School. In addition to teaching Adult Recreational Classes at the School of TDT, she also rehearsal directs for the School. She teaches at Canadian Contemporary Dance Theatre, and directs their Core Apprentice Dance Company, as well as teaching in several high schools in the Toronto area. In her spare time she enjoys editing films, transcription and sound design projects.  


Sound Design: Xrna Music 

Growing up in Ottawa I was faced with a very perturbing, but now in retrospect powerful, dichotomy of identity. A journey which I feel encapsulates a large majority of the people of Canada. I would go to school where western philosophy and values reigned by day, and by night I was immersed in the cultural blanket of Parsi Zoroastrianism. A life of two identities.

Seeking comfort in art, I began learning to write and mix music, first on my own, and then taking an internship in a professional studio. Eventually I was approached by some of the artists working there, to engineer and produce their music. Now having shifted myself to Toronto, I have set up a production house and continue to help other artists make their dreams a reality, while also beginning to launch my own recording career under the artist moniker Xnra.

Xnra is a wayfarer. He represents the thin line between the infinitely varying perspectives of the world. He sees what we all have in common as denizens of the planet earth, in our tiny corner of the Milky way. I want my music to bring people together. People from between any of the many invisible barriers humans have raised over the years. With the dawn of our current cultural era these lines are diffusing before our very eyes. Changing Tides is meant to speed up that process so we can coalesce as a global family once and for all.


Music Playlist: "The Mimic Octopus" from Nick Baker's Weird Creatures Show/youtube, A Tribe Called Red, Kendrick Lamar, Richard Reed Parry and Nadia Sirota, and Xrna Music   

Mimic Octopus Text:  (Underwater bubbles sound) " Now as I look down I become aware of something moving in the muck and it's only when it flashes its warning colours that it reveals itself as the legendary mimic octopus. What a relief. Sensing my presence, it starts its repertoire of predator avoidance tactics. It's giving us a real floor show. Okay, now we're talking. This is it. This is the one. This is the mimic octopus. Totally different, now that I see one, to the umm wonderpus, it has got much less of the dark stuff and more stripes. And the question is, Is it gonna do what its supposed to do? Sitting motionless on the seabed it changes its colour and texture to blend in perfectly with the dark sand. It's only when it moves that your eye is drawn to it. It's not only a shape shifter, but it's a behaviour shifter as well. Which leaves me totally baffled. This is called doing the flounder, a shape the octopus takes on when moving across the seabed. Now the question you may ask yourself is what advantage of the octopus is it, to look like this fish. Now it's well known that flounders actually eat octopuses down here, so I guess if you are mimicking your predator, then your predator might not want to touch you."     

I would like give a special thanks to Susan Cash at the York University Dance Department and Laurence Lemieux at the Citadel+ Compagnie. 

The listed run time includes a 15 minute Q&A after each show.


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