SOINTULA—For a spot somewhat off the proverbial beaten path, Malcolm Island is developing into a serious performing arts hot spot on North Vancouver Island.
Late last summer it was a touring troupe of players from Finland who visited during the Culture Shock seminar to perform their original theatre production, Sointula.
And last weekend the town of Sointula hosted a renowned dance choreographer from New York and members of his dance company in a pair of dance performances to wrap up the two-week Chutzpah! Festival Youth Engagement Dance Residency.
Donald Sales, a veteran of Dance Theatre of Harlem and Ballet BC before going on to become an award-winning choreographer, brought three dancers from his recently formed Project 20 dance company, who worked with local youth in three communities over two weeks before presenting a pair of shows at Sointula’s F.O. Hall Saturday and Sunday.
“This actually marks the first exploration of Project 20,” Sales said when asked about his company’s history working with youth residencies. “This is our first tour, our first youth engagement, our first everything outside of Vancouver. Here in Sointula.”
For that, North Islanders can thank Mary Louise Albert, artistic managing director of the Norman Rothstein Theatre and the international Chutzpah! arts festival. The Vancouver-based Albert happens to have a second home on Malcolm Island.
“I really wanted to bring dance to this community and to the North Island,” Albert said.
The two-week residency included work with young dancers in Alert Bay and with members of Port McNeill-based Portside Academy of Performing Arts. The Project 20 dancers — Rebecca Margolick, Taylor McAuley and Katie Cassady — helped choreograph routines by both Portside Academy dancers and a pair of eager young Sointula residents with no dance experience for display in last weekend’s shows.
The event, which included a Saturday night show and a Sunday matinee, was the kind only found in a community like Sointula. The centrepiece was a half-hour performance of Project 20’s gR33N, choreographed by Sales and performed by the three company dancers, and Margolick performed the solo piece New Demon, choreographed by Sidra Bell of Sidra Bell Dance New York.
Local youth were showcased in dances by Sointula’s Molly Lash-Burrows and Bessy Prevost, and by the Portside Academy quintet of Dawn Briscoe, Estella Collins, Peri Donaghy, Chance McClendon and Aija Nelson.
Also featured were Sointula’s Stage Hogs, with a dance/music/comedy number by Carmen Burrows and Betty Carlson, “sit-down comedy” from Stephanie Rockman and Fred Middleton and a scathing spoof of Coastal Community Credit Union’s CEO and board of directors by Bruce Burrows.
“Mary Louise invited us to do all of this,” Sales said. “If it wasn’t for her, we wouldn’t be here today and wouldn’t have seen this beautiful island and the beautiful people of Alert Bay and Port McNeill. It’s all because of Chutzpah! Festival and Mary Louise.”