A multi-year outdoor dance experiment concluded with performances and a roundtable discussion Oct. 22 at the Haliburton School of Art + Design’s main hall.

In 2021, seven dancers arrived at the Haliburton Sculpture Forest to dance without a schedule, incorporating the outdoor environment and works of art into their practise.

The project, titled ‘Re-emergence, Re-engagement and Re-connection,’ was hosted by Dance Happens Here Haliburton. Upside Brown Production Services was hired to film the project, and debuted a short film about the dancers’ experiences during the event.

“The whole idea was they had been spending most of this time alone, and not having community dance,” said sculpture forest curator and DH3 chairperson Jim Blake. He said the organization wanted to provide space for artists to re-emerge and re-engage with prior work after two long years of COVID shutdowns.

“This is our opportunity for re-connection,” he added, introducing the Oct. 22 event. “For them to re-connect with the community.”

The Throwdown Collective, a contemporary dance company that previously performed in Haliburton during two residencies at the sculpture forest, invited other dancers to join them in the forest.

“For me, it was really about reflection. Re-engaging with my work, my ideas, and coming back to ideas we had started a few years before the pandemic,” said Mairéad Filgate, of The Throwdown Collective, during the panel discussion.

She said the experience showed her how important community is in dance.

“What we do needs people, and we need to share that,” she said.

After the video’s premiere, the seven dancers performed.

The Throwdown Collective (Zhenya Cerneacov, Filgate and Brodie Stevenson) performed Liminal, the trio swaying into abstracted movements in the personas of backup dancers. brian solomon took to the stage for Thunderbird’s Transformation while Phylicia Browne-Charles explored a routine based on Pablo Neruda’s Forms poem.

Noriko Yamamoto did The Crane while Maddie Friel performed to Leonard Cohen’s Famous Blue Raincoat.

The artists all mentioned how the project emphasized community and the importance of dance’s communal nature.

“We’re totally wired to be in community,” said solomon. “It’s a part of our evolution… there’s a ritual in dance that’s incredible, about immersing yourself and joking and primarily exchanging ideas. That’s massive, that’s always been the role of the artist in society, arts and philosophy.”