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A Message for International Dance Day 2021

Initiated in 1982 by UNESCO, International Dance Day is marked annually on April 29 across Canada and around the world. The date commemorates the birthday of Jean-Georges Noverre (1727-1810), regarded as the founder of modern ballet. We invited Vancouver-based choreographer and dance artist Ziyian Kwan to write a special International Dance Day message:

An invitation from The Dance Centre, to write a message for International Dance Day is an honour. And I can’t help but ask, where to begin? Perhaps I can begin with the body, inside the revolutionary movement that is dance. Dance that belongs to all of us: artists, witnesses, citizens of the world.

Reflecting on the last year, I have seen and felt dance in every how and every where. In this time when it’s hard to discern what weekday flows into the next, I’ve been deeply moved by colleagues who have reached into their imaginations to experiment and share:

Living room solos that are windows into people’s lives. Outdoor duets reminding us that oceans and trees are nature’s choreography. Invocations for social justice that are ensembles of solidarity. Physical poetry created in studios, laneways, theatres, parking lots and forests. All these things – and more to come.

These artful actions inspire me to believe that it’s possible to rebuild differently, this container we call a milieu. With uncertainty as an ally, we have cultivated hope – and I think that we can call this hope-making, creative prowess. We are each of us in our own ways, dancing. And with this motion, we conjure into being, our most beautiful dreams.

This past year, we have often spoken and danced about isolation. But we have also connected with each other prolifically. Nuances of encounter have been amplified and our appetite for camaraderie has opened to new spaces of sharing. Over and over, artists have risen to support each other and we in turn, have been supported by a treasured community.

Where to end? The answer is clear. Never. What arises now more than ever, is that art is needed. Art is healing. Within this great medicine of art, there is revolutionary movement. And however we choose to experience this movement, it is vividly within us.

This dance is ours.

Happy International Dance Day!

Ziyian Kwan has worked as a dance artist on the unceded ancestral territories of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and Səl̓ílwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) First Nations, since 1988. As an interprète, she has performed close to 100 original creations by an eclectic range of choreographers on international stages, and is recipient of The Dance Centre’s Isadora Award for excellence in performance. As Artistic Director of Dumb Instrument Dance, Ziyian’s creations abstract lived experience to form collages of imagery, movement and language. Recently, Dumb Instrument opened a creative space in Vancouver called Morrow, where artists from across genres practice and share their work. Ziyian’s artistry is inspired by collaboration with luminaries in the fields of dance, music, film, theatre, literature and visual art.

 ‘ I am my heart’s dumb


The Dance Centre Presents
International Dance Day 2021
April 29, 11am-6pm PST
Free Admission

Photos: Dancers: Rianne Svelnis, Ziyian Kwan by David Cooper, Ziyian Kwan by David Cooper