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Something to dance about as we emerge from the pandemic

Hitting the stage this weekend, ‘Dance Takes Berlin’ is an original contemporary dance, presented by Tara Butler, former principal dancer for Canada’s Ballet Jorgen.

Created during the pandemic, the show features pieces created by award-winning choreographers Allen Kaeja, David Earle and Nickeshia Garrick. The theme for the performance is human connection.

“It’s really four different pieces, all by different choreographers. I’m just passionate about bringing dance to this area – I feel like we need to kind of establish a stronger dance scene for the arts here,” said Butler. “My goal is to create original, diverse contemporary dance performances for our community.”

Dance Takes Berlin makes its premiere this weekend at the Registry Theatre, a performance that looks to add to the region’s thriving arts scene, says Butler.

“I’ve started an umbrella company called Dust and Soul Dance Projects and this is the premiere performance of this group. I’m trying to build an annual performance so that we always have dance as part of the theatrical scene here.”

Performers will leap onto the stage at the Registry Friday (November 5) and Saturday at 7:30 p.m., with a 50 per cent audience capacity limit to keep everyone safe as theatre companies re-emerge from the pandemic.

“It is a thriving art center here, especially now that we’re all starting to come back from the pandemic. It’s an exciting time. I think people are ready to get back into the theatre,” said Butler.

“The idea of the show really was conceived before the pandemic hit. I was hopeful that it would happen before all of that, and then everything got shut down. So, our process also changed. Normally we would have been in the studio creating and developing works, but we actually created a lot of things on Zoom. We had people dancing in their living rooms – we’re looking at these little Zoom rectangles trying to create and develop. Thankfully, artists are always thinking outside of the box. The goal was November, and I’m so glad that it’s actually happening.”

No stranger to the spotlight, Butler is a focused professional contemporary dancer, previously dancing for The National Ballet of Canada after graduating from the National Ballet School. She was the principal dancer for  Ballet Jorgen for 16 years. Previously, Bengt Jorgen created lead roles in full-length ballets for Butler, including Romeo and Juliet, Cinderella, Anastasia, Coppelia and The Nutcracker. She has performed internationally for companies such as The Hong Kong Ballet, The Ohio Ballet and Banff Festival Ballet.

She retired from classical ballet close to 10 years ago to start a family, moving to the region shortly thereafter. She continued to dance freelance as well as teach. The pandemic forced her and many other ballet dancers to hang up their pointe shoes, but she’s looking forward to putting them back on as restrictions continue to lift.

“Right now, is a really exciting time in this region because the population is growing. There’s a lot of bigger city people coming into the smaller town because it’s more affordable. And now Kitchener-Waterloo is kind of becoming this center and it has a lot of great artists here,” she said.

“There’s a lot of wonderful theatre happening. I think that it’s the process of partially educating and building our audience, so that they understand dance a little bit better and can appreciate it.”

Butler said she’s working with the Registry Theatre to develop more workshops that are open to the public, an effort to allow people to experience what dance can offer.

“I think sometimes there’s a sense of ‘I’m not sure I understand dance,’ but really, it’s a very human art form – we all use body language. Part of that is developing our workshops, and we want to do workshops for people that have no dance experience,” she explained.

“I’m really also trying to build the local talent here. So I’m doing choreographic workshops with professional dance artists so that our next generation of dancers can be developed here locally and there’s opportunity for existing professionals in this career that they can actually get work and perform here in the Waterloo Region.”

Dance Takes Berlin was funded by the Region of Waterloo Arts Fund, with Butler noting it can be hard for artists or groups to find funding to produce these types of performances.

“There’s funding out there. Arts are not always in the forefront, but I think, especially in this area, people are passionate and interested in supporting and having a thriving art scene.”

Click here for more information and tickets.

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