“I’m very interested in the collaboration of this yearly new work created specifically for the Dance Performance Graduating Class. This confidence in my instinctual direction has led to more creative freedom for the dancers.”
Derek Sangster is the Associate Director of George Brown Dance and has created works for YTV, CBC, CMT, MuchMusic, the Stratford Festival, and Canada’s Ballet Jörgen. His contemporary ballet, Good Mourning, premiered to sold-out houses at Toronto’s Betty Oliphant Theatre in March 2012. Each year, Derek creates a new work for the graduating class of GBD’s Dance Performance Program to perform in the annual production, Unleashed. In this interview, Derek talks about his development as a choreographer, the impact of Unleashed on GBD students, and how a recent trip to Berlin inspired his creation for Unleashed 2019.
How have you developed as a choreographer over the years?
I find that as the years go by, and the more experiences I endure, I have become much more secure in both my beliefs and creative endeavours. I find I am now able to relinquish the tight hold I once had on my creative thoughts and choices. I’m very interested in the collaboration of this yearly new work created specifically for the Dance Performance Graduating Class. This confidence in my instinctual direction has led to more creative freedom for the dancers. Allowance for carefully curated phrasing, thoughts and ideas has really alleviated some of my own choreographic insecurities. This is greatly different from the “me” of years past – and I’m really embracing it!
“Unleashed is a culmination of a year dedicated to hard work, pushed boundaries, and creative input. I am always filled with joy watching the cast of Unleashed year after year.”
How have you observed the impact of Unleashed on GBD students over the years?
Unleashed, and the new works it produces, is always a highlight of the GBD school year. The entirety of the experience — auditions, hours of creation with faculty and guest artists, the technical and staging aspects, and final performance — are all so valuable for our students. Unleashed is a culmination of a year dedicated to hard work, pushed boundaries, and creative input. I am always filled with joy watching the cast of Unleashed year after year. I am equally proud to be visited by so many alumni in support of both the performance and the program they graduated from. There’s no better feeling than when they come home, if even for a short visit.
What can you share about your creation for Unleashed 2019?
My new work this year is based on recent time spent in Berlin. I explored the city for a few days, ending up at the East Side Gallery. Along with my own personal historical fascination, the pulse of the city transported me back to the sense of NYC in the early 90s. The idea of the intersection of people, time and events in my own life resurfaced as the old divided Berlin gave way to the developing city it has evolved into and continues to become. It was beautiful yet heartbreaking, inspirational yet respectful of its past, and it forced me to see things with both eyes wide open for the first time in a very long time. I am truly appreciative for my time spent in Berlin and look forward to many more adventures.
Derek Sangster’s new creation features the following GBD dancers:
See them in UNLEASHED 2019 at Toronto’s Betty Oliphant Theatre on April 5 & 6. Order your tickets here.
Written by Victoria Campbell Windle, CBJ Communications Contributor.
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