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George Brown Dance Graduates Return to the Stage with Kittiwake Dance Theatre

July 20, 2021

George Brown Dance Graduates Return to the Stage with Kittiwake Dance Theatre
Stacey Birmingham Stephanie Campbell
George Brown Dance Graduates Return to the Stage with Kittiwake Dance Theatre
Stacey Birmingham Hannah Drover

GBD graduates are taking the world by storm and pursuing dance across every area of the industry.

This month, we’re catching up with GBD graduates Stephanie Campbell and Hannah Drover. Both from St. John’s, Newfoundland, and graduates of the P105 Dance Performance Program, Stephanie graduated in 2018 and Hannah in 2019. They returned home and have been working with Kittiwake Dance Theatre during the pandemic and recently returned to the stage with a tour across Newfoundland. We checked in with them about dancing through the pandemic and what it was like to be performing for a live audience once again.

“We’ve been very lucky here in Newfoundland that we’ve been able to keep dancing in the studio for the majority of the pandemic.”

George Brown Dance Graduates Return to the Stage with Kittiwake Dance Theatre
GBD Graduates Hannah Drover & Stephanie Campbel.

Q: Have you been dancing throughout the pandemic in studio? Did you have any times where you were dancing from home? What was that like?

Stephanie Campbell & Hannah Drover: We’ve been very lucky here in Newfoundland that we’ve been able to keep dancing in the studio for the majority of the pandemic. There were two lockdowns here that caused us to have to dance from home, which was certainly a challenge. We organized zoom classes and rehearsals with the hope of keeping on track to perform Alone Together which we accomplished despite the difficulties of the pandemic.

Q: You recently went on tour with Kittiwake Dance Theatre. Where did you tour to?

SC & HD: Our recent return to the stage with Kittiwake Dance Theatre was such a great experience. We performed here in St. John’s, and we toured to Newfoundland’s West Coast and Central Arts and Culture Centres in Corner Brooke, Grand-Falls, and Gander.

Q: What did you perform?

SC & HD: The show was titled Alone Together, a mixed program which included contemporary and classical works. The titular work, Alone Together, choreographed by Artistic Director Martin Vallée, consisted of several vignettes inspired by reflections and poetry from various demographics within our community on their personal experiences of the pandemic lockdowns. There were classical variations from Don Quixote and Flames of Paris. The program included a new work choreographed by Hannah, entitled Sea Change. The inspiration for this work came from the experience of how challenging times can lead to self-reflection and discovery. The final work in the show was Cello Suites, also choreographed by Martin Vallée, which included four movements from Bach’s Cello Suites.

Stephanie Campbell in Unleashed 2018 with GBD.
Edwin L. / SVPhotography.ca Stephanie Campbell Unleashed 2018: Stephanie Campbell in Unleashed 2018 with GBD.
Edwin L. / SVPhotography.ca Hannah Drover Unleashed 2018: Hannah Drover in Unleashed 2018 with GBD.

Q; What was the rehearsal process like?

SC & HD: Each of the works within the show had its own unique creation and rehearsal process. The inspiration for Alone Together came from the poetry which accompanied the music for the piece. During the creation of the work, Martin worked with each of the dancers to develop a character which embodied the spirit of the poetry, expressing the internal experiences people have gone through during COVID-19 isolation. Rehearsals for the Don Quixote and Flames of Paris variations focused on performing with freedom and joy within the parameters of such technically challenging works. Rehearsing Martin’s Cello Suitesturned our focus toward dancing cohesively as a group while challenging our ear for musicality as this work was built with a focus on the intricacies of the melody. This challenging musicality was taken to the next level when we performed the work with live music for the St. John’s show.

HD: For my own work, Sea Change, the creation and rehearsal process was a collaboration between myself and the dancers. We explored each dancer’s unique artistic voice within the movement. Closer to the performance, we worked on pushing stamina further to perform this physically demanding piece. 

Q: What was it like to tour during COVID?

SC & HD: COVID-19 definitely changed the way we toured, but the main impact it had was simply the uncertainty of whether or not we would be able to tour at all. As we prepared for the show, we were constantly aware that an outbreak of cases in the province could shut everything down on a moment’s notice. We were so fortunate that there wasn’t any such issue, and we were safe to travel.

Q: How was it to return to the stage?

SC & HD: Returning to the stage with live audiences after so long was so wonderful! The pandemic has made us distinctly aware of what a great privilege it is to be a performing artist and how lucky we are to be able to share our art with audiences. Returning to the experience of live dance after so long felt like such a great accomplishment for all of us. The artistic growth and personal development that can come with presenting a show like this feels that much more substantial when you can share it with others.

George Brown Dance is a partnership between Ballet Jörgen and George Brown College.