Since 2002, Small Stage has taken dance to pubs, clubs, lounges, and even a Ukrainian community hall on perogie night.
But just in time for the Dancing on the Edge festival, the company known for using unconventional stages is taking it to the streets. As part of the fest, it’s presenting a series at Granville Island’s outdoor Chain + Forge venue, under the Granville Street Bridge; elsewhere over the month of July, it will hold pop-up performances at Robson Street on Canada Day, then hit Robson Square on Wednesdays at noon and Bute Plaza on Saturdays at 7 p.m.
It’s a big change for the company once known as Dances for a Small Stage. “I don’t want to draw people in to what I’m doing. I want to go out. It’s my rebellious side,” creative producer Julie-anne Saroyan says with a laugh, speaking to the Straight from Barcelona, where she says she’s drawing fresh inspiration from a city where open-air performance is much more prevalent than here. “Everybody’s doing shows in a bar now—and that’s great! They can do that, and I’m going to reach farther.
“What could happen if we kept going out and grabbing new people who really don’t go out to see dance? And to see it live.”
Other than its outdoor setting and potential new audiences, the Granville Island series works largely from the same format that has made Small Stage a force for so many years. The mixed programs will feature five- to seven-minute pieces by artists with diverse dance and cultural styles—think tap, hip-hop, contemporary, and flamenco.
On the Chain + Forge stage each noonhour, look for Ashley Sweett’s Sweett Moves and Natasha Gorrie’s Diamonds in the Rough—both companies that fearlessly mash forms. Sweett has performed for everyone from Hey Ocean to the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics. “She reminds me of the early days of Twyla Tharpe,” says Saroyan.
Meanwhile, Gorrie has danced in music videos for names like DJ Tiesto and Lady Sovereign, and her all-female Diamonds crew mixes hip-hop, funk, and freestyle. Elsewhere, watch for Andrea Flamenco and LINES Ballet–trained Sarah Formosa.
These are names you probably haven’t seen on local stages—which is exactly the point, according to Saroyan. “This is really emerging talent,” she says. “There’s so much richness that we’re just not seeing in the dance world, and highlighting that has always been what I’ve done for all these years.” It’s just that now, her discoveries will be dancing in the streets.
Dancing on the Edge presents the Small Stage Summer Series at Granville Island’s Chain + Forge performance area at noon next Thursday to Sunday (July 5 to 8).