Why Short & Sweet Rules by Bry Webb (2015)
I know something about contemporary dance.
For some reason, that fact distinguishes me from a fair amount of people. Dance as performance is a thing that relatively few get to see, compared to other contemporary art forms, like documentary films on the Earth being doomed and/or messages drawn on the back windows of unwashed cars. Even the automated installations of Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller, or Claire Rojas’ subversive street abstractions, stay in place long enough for an audience to gather. Contemporary dance, due largely to the fact that it’s underfunded, misunderstood in mainstream culture, and rarely covered in media outlets with substantial circulation, is kind of hard to catch, in an era when pretty much everything comes to you.
I take no credit for knowing something about this art form. When I lived in Montreal, I met a person who had spent her life studying, contributing to, and challenging the conventions of the medium, and she took me to see many of the best, and some of the worst, performances I’ve ever seen, in a city that is unquestionably the mecca for this kind of art in Canada. Through her, I had a leg up towards catching what was really happening in contemporary dance, and feeling that it was approachable for a music-loving, music-obsessed music nerd.
One of the key events that helped me figure out what I loved about contemporary dance was the perennial celebration, Short&Sweet, invented and curated by the go-getters at Wants&Needs Danse. For one night only, Short&Sweet collects as many of the dance community’s current geniuses as possible, and asks them to do whatever they can with THREE MINUTES. Lighting, a stage, and an audience are provided, and choreographers/performers make their most concise, immediate, and/or purposefully chaotic efforts to engage and often redefine the space. It’s playful, eccentric, frantic but focused, and for people like me, it offers a window to an art form that seemed sometimes too hidden or self-contained to dive fully into. The quality and range of work that this event invites is completely inspiring. After every Short&Sweet celebration I attended, I walked away with a new awareness of what might be possible inside of three minutes. I laughed, I cried. The creative atmosphere of these proceedings stays with you for a long while.
I’m very happy that the person who introduced me to Short&Sweet, and contemporary dance at large, is introducing this completely unique event to Guelph as part of Kazoo! Fest 2015. It’s a testament to Kazoo! Fest’s role as one of the most vital arts outlets in this area. Big thanks to Guelph Dance and Katie Ewald for bringing it to us.