CBJ’s Summer Dance programs are as much a new experience for young choreographers as they are for young dancers. Just ask Eddie Elliott, a New Zealand native working with the Indigenous dance company Red Sky Performance who has been commissioned to choreograph for this year’s Junior Company. “It’s a learning curve,” he says, “but I find it a good challenge, I’m excited for it.”

And Eddie is no stranger to new challenges. Since his graduation from the Contemporary Dance program at New Zealand’s UNITEC University, Eddie’s dance career has been packed with one new and exciting opportunity after another. In 2016 Eddie was accepted into the prestigious Indigenous Dance Residency with the Banff Centre for the Arts, and within his first week in the program was offered a place with Red Sky Performance. But as Eddie explains, his work with the company is not just about dancing, it’s about cultural exchange.

“I wanted to see how they dance and how they would be able to interpret my movements but keep their own originality.”

Eddie in creative session with CBJ Junior Company members

“I’m here to learn more about the First Nations and also give back on what I know about my culture…I’ve been talking to people from different places that are also First Nations and we have similar customs and protocols.” Eddie is of Maori descent, and aims to bring some of his own traditions and culture to both Red Sky Performance and Canada’s Ballet Jörgen through his choreography. “Our traditional dance called the Haka is really aggressive and I want to see how I can [channel] the energy of the Haka and bring it into whatever dance we are doing.” Rather than incorporating traditional dance steps into his choreography, Eddie is instead inspired by the energy of the dance, utilizing it to create something that is truly his own. “My influences are my culture and hip-hop but there is also a contemporary foundation so there is a mix of everything… I wanted to see how they dance and how they would be able to interpret my movements but keep their own originality. I’ve been feeding the dancers tasks to see how they move and how they interpret the task.”

Even after the program is finished, Eddie won’t be slowing down, with Red Sky Performance for months of touring and performances. “I’m aligning one of my pieces that I created back in New Zealand on 2 people here in Canada. Then we [Red Sky Performance] have got a show called Miigis that is going to Jacob’s Pillow in New York. After that we come back and do a national tour, and then we go into Backbone performances and do a national tour and 10 shows in Toronto.” We wish Eddie all the best in all his projects!

You can see Eddie’s new piece at the Junior Company Showcase Performance on Friday, August 4, 5PM, at our Toronto Studios.

Learn more about Red Sky Performance and all their programs here.

Our anniversary marks 30 years of commissioning original work from young choreographers like Eddie. Please consider joining us in our 30-year birthday celebration with a gift of $30. Until July 31st, KPMG is generously partnering with us to match all gifts up to $5,000.