Every year, NBS Sharing Dance commissions Canadian choreographers to create a unique dance for the whole country to learn. Through in-person rehearsals, online videos and learning resources, over 60,000 people each year are engaged, giving the artists a platform to attract new and diverse audiences. It’s an opportunity that increases awareness of artists and their work, while spreading participation in – and appreciation for – dance on a truly large scale.
Take Eugene Baffoe for example. Known as GeNie in the hip hop community, he was one of four choreographers commissioned to create the NBS Sharing Dance Day choreography in 2017 to celebrate Canada’s 150th anniversary of confederation. For him, the experience of collaboratively creating choreography for thousands of Canadians was a valuable opportunity.
“Sharing Dance gave me a unique opportunity to work with different choreographers and explore movement outside of my genre. As a hip hop artist, it was incredible to see how my style could be applied to various sounds, music, and ideas – not to mention interpretations. It gave me a chance to grow outside and expand my comfort zone.”
One of Eugene’s most formative experiences with Sharing Dance came outside the studio, when he travelled with NBS to North Preston, Nova Scotia, to workshop the 2017 choreography and celebrate Sharing Dance Day 2017.
“The most meaningful experience I gained was the chance to travel and connect with the community in North Preston. A predominantly black community that has been there for over 400 years, it was surreal to be able to connect with them on a spiritual level as a person of colour myself. I will never forget the kids, the teenagers and the community leaders who are so passionate about their community and work tirelessly every day to put it on the map and in a positive light. It was an honour to be a part of that in some way.”
Eugene’s work with Sharing Dance didn’t end in 2017. He returned in 2018 to create the new Sharing Dance choreography alongside choreographer Michelle Olson, a member of the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in First Nation. Over the course of his ongoing relationship with NBS and Sharing Dance, he’s observed profound benefits both for the artists who find ways to share their work and expertise offstage, and for the communities with whom they engage.
“Art is a universal language, and it is important for everybody to experience it and understand it. If art stays on the stage behind closed doors, behind box offices and only made accessible through ticket sales, its potential to reach the masses is severely hindered. Art is at its most powerful when it is able to reach the less fortunate. Sharing Dance provides dance artists with an opportunity to connect with the people, and for that I am forever grateful.”