Concordia graduate Gabrielle Martin’s dance, The Box, has made the shortlist of an international dance competition. The Sadler’s Wells Global Dance Competition, organized by the London dance house of the same name with an international focus, is open to choreographers from around the world, who need only to submit a video of their work.
Years before this project garnered attention, Martin’s passion for performance art began in the circus at the age of 16. She started as a stilt walker and fire dancer, performing at festivals in Canada, China and for the 2006 Torino Winter Olympics. Martin branched into character animation, but the genre that stuck with her was contemporary dance.
“It’s very open, where the most experimental stuff can happen,” explained Martin, who says she started late as a contemporary dance choreographer at the age of 22.
Martin chose Concordia because of the creativity of the dance program, and because the city’s great appeal for blossoming choreographers. “Montreal is such a mecca for contemporary dance in Canada. There are a lot of opportunities for choreographers here.”
After she graduated in 2009, Martin began looking to showcase her work in order to establish herself as a choreographer first, and then a dancer.”I was newly out of school and trying every avenue to get my work seen. I found Sadler’s Wells Global Dance Competition through a Google search.”
Martin originally choreographed The Box while at Concordia for her and another dancer, Rebecca Halls. The dance is a duet that explores involuntary confinement. Two dancers, who represent two sides of the same being, are both fighting and aiding each other through the progression of the piece.
“The timing is absolutely crucial in this piece. It’s very technical,” said Martin. Because of this, she decided to remount the dance with two new dancers, which gave her an objective look at the dance, which she feels she could not have gotten as a dancer performing it herself.
The remounted version, which took 150 hours to produce, now features dancers Andrea Legg and Melina Stinson. They were chosen because of their physical similarities; both are around the same height, weight and shape and are dressed in identical costumes.
Sadler’s Wells is an annual competition anyone in the world can compete in, and anyone can be a judge and vote on the dances, which are all posted on the dance house’s website. The entire contest takes place online through video submissions, and the impersonal nature of competing online changes the game for the choreographers. “It’s certainly less nerve wracking than performing in front of a panel of judges,” said Martin.
Even 10 years ago, technology wasn’t advanced enough for this to happen. Everyone is allowed to see the other dance submissions. This gives competitors a new perspective: being able to see the other dances and learn from them couldn’t usually happen in live competitions. And not to mention that competitors get to see work from around the world. The other submissions on the shortlist come from a variety of countries like the United States, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and South Korea. Martin is the only Canadian competitor.
The competition started with around 200 choreographers. Through online voting, they were narrowed down to 10 finalists. The winners of the competition are invited on a paid trip to perform their dance live at Sadler’s Wells in London, plus prize money.
Ivan Rubio, a Concordia student in film production, is Martin’s boyfriend and director of The Box film. They started working together when Rubio started filming her dances three years ago.
He finds her choreography inspiring. “Gabrielle’s work compels me as a filmmaker. She has a natural talent working with movement.”
Rubio described The Box as two animals fighting, and wanted to show that in his film. He used lighting and shots that go from a wide angle to intimate shots of the dancers.
Rubio wanted each moment of the film to look like an animated picture and give the feeling of going through photographs in a magazine. Rubio said his director of photography, Emile Arragon, was invaluable on this project. “I think The Box is an achievement in production,” Rubio said.
For Martin, a trip to London would certainly be welcome, as well as networking with a prestigious theatre. But most importantly, winning would be an affirmation of this humble choreographer’s work. “You have to believe in your work if you’re going to do anything. But I’m surprised I made it this far,” Martin said, laughing.
To watch and vote for submissions in the Saddler’s Wells competition, visit www.globaldancecontest.com. Voting ends Nov. 3. You can also see Gabrielle Martin and Ivan Rubio’s other dance films at www.youtube.com/user/gmart14.