If you’re looking for the new Josh Beamish, a good place to start is the Telus Youth Mentor Project’s on-stage debut, the first major dance event in what promises to be a scintillating 2015. And the bonus is that you’re likely to see a lot of the old Josh Beamish, too.
It’s not that Beamish, who founded MOVE: the company in 2005, is anywhere close to being a “senior artist” in the calendrical sense. But the 27-year-old dancer and choreographer is already preternaturally concerned with mentoring his juniors, as will be shown by two performances of his new A Goldberg Abbreviation, along with a separate MOVE gala featuring young artists from all over B.C.
Not surprisingly, Beamish cites his own youth as the reason why he wants to encourage the young. “I was 17 when I first started my company, and at the very beginning I received support from people who thought it was great that someone so young was trying to do something,” he tells the Straight in a Skype interview from London, England. He debuted a collaborative work with now-retired New York City Ballet star Wendy Whelan there as part of the Royal Opera House’s summer series in July, and has just completed a new piece with her. “But when it became clear that I was really trying to do something, I felt a lot of hesitance towards what I was saying having value, relative to artists who were older than me. Now that I’ve had 10 years with my company, the more I see that everyone is just creating relative to their context. What young choreographers are making is no less valuable, it’s just relative to the way they see the world.”
With A Goldberg Abbreviation, Beamish began by linking the very old to the very new. The score draws on Johann Sebastian Bach’s Goldberg Variations, from 1741, but the performers are 16 of B.C.’s most promising dance students, aged 12 to 17. And although Beamish is credited as the work’s choreographer, he and the dancers have developed the movement collaboratively.
“Every step in that piece is something that came from my body,” he explains. “But I might have said to them, like, ‘Those of you who had a competition solo from me, pair up with someone else who had a competition solo from me, and then I want you guys to remix your solos together.’ I wanted to show them how movement can constantly become something else.”
In the second half of the program, Beamish has given his dancers even more responsibility: each will present a short solo of their own devising, with the only constraint being that each piece must refer in some way to Bach. The following night’s gala is less collaborative, but it features an even larger selection of young dancers performing works choreographed for them by Beamish and his MOVE colleague Heather Dotto. With both programs, Beamish explains, the performers will be given the experience of working in a fully professional studio environment, with a rehearsal director and hands-on coaching from the choreographers.
But what’s in it for Beamish? Well, for one thing, he’s getting to pre-select MOVE’s next-generation corps. Beyond that, though, is the pleasure he finds in helping to ensure that dance in B.C. continues to grow.
“I’ve had people say things like ‘Oh, it must be so weird for you to go from working with Wendy Whelan and New York City Ballet to working with kids. It must be kind of frustrating,’ ” says Beamish, who splits his time between London, New York, and Vancouver these days. “And I’m like, ‘Are you kidding me? I love these kids. They’re some of the best dancers in the world!’ ”
MOVE: the company presents the Telus Youth Mentor Project at the Dance Centre at 8 p.m. on Saturday and 2 p.m. on Sunday (January 3 and 4). MOVE’s Gala 2015 takes place at the same venue at 8 p.m. on Sunday (January 4).