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September 2020: Virginia Duivenvoorden
Q&A with Virginia Duivenvoorden, founder of Imagery Exercise.
How would you describe Virginia Duivenvoorden in a sentence?
Virginia Duivenvoorden is a work in progress.
You have Virginia Duivenvoorden Dance Projects and you also operate under the name Imagery Exercise. How would you describe Imagery Exercise in a sentence?
Imagery Exercise is the name of my website and a movement methodology.
What was your artistic path that led you to building your company?
I grew up in Vancouver’s dance community. My father is from Ireland and my mother from England. They arrived in Vancouver with me at aged one along with my two older brothers. Dance always captured my attention, along with singing and acting. Arts Umbrella, under the direction of Erica Pinsky, helped guide me toward a professional career in contemporary dance. Sadly, mobility problems and injuries in my thirties forced me to “retire” completely from dance. Life took an entirely different focus for nearly a decade. Only five years ago, I was still certain that dancing again was impossible. To my amazement, I soon realized that dance was reviving in me and to be part of my healing. I started with the website in 2017 as an online launching point for this new direction. Bodwell High School, and Artstarts provided some initial teaching opportunities and professional development. Residencies in North Vancouver supported my performance practice, research and new choreography. As opposed to building a company, I centered on building relationships and working with creative organizations I could align with like Crossmaneuver, NVRC, The Dance Centre and currently the new PHT Creative Hub Co-operative in North Vancouver.
What inspires the work you create?
Visual imagery is foundational to my dance practice both previously and now since my recovery. From the moving 3D images of performances to the framed visual images we create for the camera, it is multi-faceted. Visualizing imagery in dance invites movement that is richly layered and could be improvised, scored or choreographed. Equally, I am inspired by the simple joy of dancing again. It is a positive experience of overcoming challenges that fills me with hope.
What inspires your teaching?
The individuals I teach inspire me. Each person has a one of a kind movement fingerprint to express. Students learn ways to expand their everyday experiences by incorporating movement, imagination and the arts into their personal perspective.
Are there people who have influenced and continue to influence your artistic trajectory?
Absolutely yes! From my own mother who got me started to many beloved teachers over the years, I am deeply influenced. The recent passing of Elder Grandma Margaret Harris was heartbreaking for me as for many others in our dance community. She welcomed me as her grandchild (nôsisim) and guided me on a path that led me to deepen my spiritual journey. Her daughter, Margaret Grenier, is the artistic director of the company Dancers of Damelahamid. There was a transformative time I had working with the company as guest artist. This connection continues as we love and support each other as family and as artists. I am grateful that Karen Jamieson brought us together through her long-time collaboration with the family. As a KJDC member, I was also part of Karen’s site-specific work, Passage, a piece that still resonates through to this day. One more to mention, is Mary Fulkerson. She sadly also passed away recently. Mary co-founded the European Dance Development Centre (EDDC) which later cultivated and inspired the Master of Choreography Program at ArtEZ, Arnhem. Everything I do is impacted by my time in Arnhem at EDDC. I learned through being fully immersed in the environment of experimentation Mary provided.
What are the core values of your work in three words?
Imagine, Dance, Create
Do you have an individual daily practice?
Daily, it is breathwork. I can do this regardless of my pain levels or circumstances. I will also often work with the five basic exercises from Zen Imagery Exercises by Shizuto Masunaga. The exercises use imagery to visualize the energy of meridian lines in 26 exercises using shapes of alphabet letters.
What is coming up for you this season and how have you adjusted your programming?
This coming season, I am working with dance, video and installation art. My current project consists of developing the pandemic movement phrases choreographed during the shutdown, shooting and editing video footage for video, developing the visuals for the installation and performance events. This fall, the work will be part of the Digital Dance micro commissions here at the Dance Centre. In April, there will be a live and broadcast event at the Presentation House Theatre. The adjustments have been to focus on solo work, to experiment more with installation art, to stretch myself with new media and connect collaboratively. The project helps me to reflect and respond to some of the heartbreaking circumstances that I am in or I that am witnessing. In this time of change, I am learning to be quieter and hopefully a better listener.
What would you say is currently the biggest benefit of being a Dance Centre member?
During 2020, we have all faced varying degrees of fear, shock, anger, grief and isolation. Only working at home or outside, my dance practice was diminishing. I found shelter at the Dance Centre. Being here connects me to my past, present and future. I benefit not only from the creative environment but the challenge of living up to a legacy that is worth leaving behind. Right now, it is a refuge from the storm. It may be a dramatic image but one that is very real to me.
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Photos: Brooke McAllister – Brooka Photographic