The newest member of Ballet British Columbia has travelled many thousands of miles, with forays into everything from the army to street juggling, to get here. And Dario Dinuzzi couldn’t be happier to arrive.
“It’s a really busy time for us, and I know it’s going to be that way for us the whole season, because we’re doing seven or eight new creations,” the gregarious, dark-eyed 29-year-old says on a rehearsal break, sitting in an empty studio at the Dance Centre. In preparation for its season-opening show on November 18, Ballet B.C. has just come off putting together a premiere by choreographer José Navas and today is tackling a new work by artistic director Emily Molnar. “That is actually one of the reasons that made me come here, because for me, the most important thing is creating.”
In a way, Dinuzzi’s journey has taken him full circle. He started taking dance lessons at four, and spent his youth studying ballet and contemporary forms, as well as music, at a private school in the small southern Italian city of Barletta—in “the heel of the boot”, as he puts it. But at 17, he quit it all.
“Dance and music were taking so much time, I felt like I couldn’t enjoy time with my friends,” he explains.
So Dinuzzi delved into performance of a completely different kind: juggling. He busked his way around the small towns of southern Italy, having the time of his life. “It was a beautiful experience, because you perform in a different way, with contact with the audience,” he says enthusiastically.
But soon he had to face the reality of Italy’s mandatory military service. Surprisingly, though, his 16 months there weren’t entirely unpleasant. “It was an experience. If I do something, I want to do it well,” he explains. “I actually got all the licences, for bus, for ambulances, for trucks. I can drive anything.”
Oddly, it was the army that brought him back to dance. While still in the service, he’d wait till his fellow recruits had left the barracks and then dance alone in the room, following some innate urge to move.
When he finished his service, he immediately got back into dance—after a four-year hiatus—scoring his first job within six months, at Rome’s small company Astraballetto. That led to auditions, and acceptance, at Rome’s acclaimed Aterballetto, under the tutelage of Mauro Bigonzetti, from 2005 to 2008.
Dinuzzi says it was only after leaving the company that he appreciated the impact it had. “Mauro is a really special person. I get really emotional talking about it,” he says, pausing to compose himself. “He made the best come out from you. He works with a lot of improvisation; he gives you so much space. It’s so hard. You make mistakes, but you learn.”
Yet he was young, and he felt the urge to move on. The first company he chose to audition for was his dream troupe: Les Grands Ballets Canadiens, whom he’d seen in Europe. He was shocked when, one night as he was digging into a lobster dinner with his girlfriend in Italy, his cellphone rang with an invitation to Montreal.
His work at Les Grands eventually led to his gig here, after he met Emily Molnar through her friend, Montreal choreographer Gioconda Barbuto. He had been performing the company’s repertory for two years by then, and was looking for the challenges that the smaller Ballet B.C., with its mandate to reinvent itself and build new works, would give him.
“Emily has brought this really new energy to the company,” he says. “I feel like the dancers are quite happy with her, and I can feel this energy in the studio. People want to do their best for her.” And so, for Dinuzzi, a new adventure begins.
It’s hard not to make an impression when you’re dressed up like a lawn-ornament gnome or tearing off a ’50s prom gown while shaking it to Fleetwood Mac’s “Tusk”.
And that’s just what Jane Osborne and her friends at the new collective the Contingency Plan have done. They’ve been pushing themselves—as well as ideas of dance—in bold and often hilarious new directions.
“It was always about challenging ourselves and questioning the form,” Osborne says, sitting in a café after taking a dance class and making it clear that although her performances may sometimes be funny, she’s serious about the art form. “I’ve always been interested in humour in dance theatre. It was a completely new avenue for us to go down and investigate. And it’s also about, how can you give an audience a new experience?”
Along with Vanessa Goodman and Leigha Wald, Osborne is one of the founding members of the Contingency Plan, a group the pals who met at SFU’s School of Contemporary Arts formed in 2008 as a platform for creating, commissioning, and staging new work. Right out of the gates, the troupe scored a commission from its dream choreographer, Serge Bennathan. From there, Osborne has made several memorable appearances on local stages: in a hypnotic duet by Justine Chambers at Dancing on the Edge; the prom-set send-up of ’50s inhibitions, Strathcona High Class of ’56; and the outrageous High-level performance in matters involving strength, stamina and sexual drive, which found Osborne as one of two gnomes vying for the affections of Goodman’s mechanical doll.
Osborne’s dance has seen quite an evolution since her first ballet lessons as a small child in England. She immigrated to Canada at six, continuing her classical studies in Toronto. “But eventually I just realized I couldn’t do ballet—I didn’t have the right body type,” Osborne explains. “So I concentrated on theatre.”
That brought her to SFU, where she entered the interdisciplinary School of Contemporary Arts with a plan to pursue a stage career. But all that changed once she got here. A key moment was seeing Tara Cheyenne Friedenberg—who melds theatre, humour, and dance—play the role of a mermaid in the solo work The Beckoning at a Dances for a Small Stage event. “I was introduced to all the possibilities, that maybe I could do dance again,” Osborne says. The next thing she knew, she was enrolling in contemporary-dance classes at school.
Osborne graduated in 2005, immediately landing work with local choreographer Rob Kitsos, taking on an apprenticeship with Alvin Erasga Tolentino, and even hooking up with Friedenberg as a mentor. It wasn’t until a few years later that she and her friends Wald and Goodman realized they were all working toward common goals. And they also happened to click in the studio.
“We love to work together collaboratively,” Osborne says. “The three of us push each other.”¦There’s something about the fire that’s ignited when the three of us are together. Usually when I’m alone in a room [creating], there’s a lot of judgment. It’s not pretty.”
The Contingency Plan is in the midst of creating its first longer, 30-minute piece, Adhere, which it hopes to premiere next summer; a sneak peak will be presented at the SFU Woodward’s open house on September 24 and 25, and in November as part of the Eastside Culture Crawl.
Osborne will be one of five dancers in Co.ERASGA’s multimedia exploration of Vancouver’s industrial history, Shadow Machine, at W2 Storyeum October 20 to 23 and 26 to 30. In the new year, she’s headed to Europe for a few months to immerse herself in the cutting-edge styles and hybrids happening across the Atlantic. But don’t worry, dance fans: she’ll be back to perform Adhere and work on a new commission from James Gnam of the Plastic Orchid Factory. For Osborne and her colleagues, there are always new challenges to take on, boundaries to push, and impressions to make.