Talking with the Bad Girl of Dance

Words by Anna Piszczkiewicz, Photos by Sian Richards

Dancer, educator, producer and founding artistic director of The Chimera Project, Malgorzata Nowacka, is considered the “bad girl” of the Canadian contemporary dance world.

The Polish-born, Toronto-based choreographer has garnered accolades for her works, which fuse raw athleticism with dark, gritty themes. Innovative, intense and introspective, Nowacka’s creations push dancers to their limits and confront audiences with provocative questions about human nature.

Founded in 1999, the company’s repertoire includes original works created by Nowacka and choreography for the most prestigious dance festivals in Canada.

It also includes educational programming (which involves the annual Fresh Blood festival that showcases up-and-coming choreographers), a new youth company Company B in partnership with Ballet Jörgen Canada and George Brown College, along with workshops and creation residencies.

The Calm Before

Nowacka’s latest production, The Calm Before…, explores fear through a mix of theatre and contemporary and urban dance. It features some of the city’s finest dance artists including Anisa Tejpar, Tyler Gledhill, Brendan Wyatt and Lee “Lethal” Pham and the new kid on the block, Jenny Lee.

Here’s our Q&A with the “bad girl” of dance:

What does a typical day look like?

I start my day with ballet class, usually with Ballet Jörgen Canada. Then, I have rehearsals – often multiple ones, for different projects. My day starts at 9 a.m. and ends at 10 p.m., including weekends. Sometimes I find a 4-hour break somewhere. Then, I have administrative work to take care of, so really the day ends at midnight or later.

How does your body feel?

My body feels great actually. With so many years of experience behind me I finally learned how to warm-up and take care of it in times of stress. It involves eating good food, taking nutritional supplements and applying ice on any body part that is swollen – right away.

Your latest work, The Calm Before…, is about fear. Can you tell me more? 

It’s about accessing the primal part in our human self to confront our lurking fears in order to find a way out. Everyone is looking for some form of an “out” – a way to solve their life in some way.

You added a new hip-hop element by including Lee “Lethal” Pham, a B-boy from the Supernaturalz crew. What does he bring to this production?

Lee “Lethal” Pham brings a new technique and vocabulary. He is a very sweet person, and he makes rehearsals somehow sunnier.

Why the need for collaboration? Is it simply about pushing yourself? 

Collaboration fuels growth, which is necessary. I also have a need to explore new things that are fascinating – it’s not very intriguing to re-create the same thing repeatedly. New exploration is necessary to push things forward.

What do you love about contemporary dance? 

What I love about dance is how it connects to the visceral, spiritual essential human aspects that live in our bones. Contemporary dance is about pushing boundaries and exploration. That is fascinating.

To someone who hasn’t seen a contemporary dance piece, why should they come out to see The Calm Before…?

Because it will stir you in surprising ways, it has a full spectrum of intensity – it will wake up ideas and thoughts and desires and needs because it’s theatre, and that is what it’s meant to do. Also, it’s athletic and what the performers are doing is just stunning. People often tell me how “alive” this production made them feel.

The details:

The Chimera Project presents The Calm Before… 

The Enwave Theatre (231 Queen Quay West) as part of Harbourfront’s NextSteps

March 19 – March 25, 8 pm

March 25, 2 pm Pay What You Can

$15 – $35

Purchase tickets online here.

And, to get into the dance frame of mind check out this trailer for the Academy Award nominated documentary Pina

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