Michael Caldwell, Choreographer, 2008
The Choreographic Marathon is a unique and challenging professional development activity for choreographers, in Toronto.
I participated in the Marathon many years ago, as I was working on ‘Chanson D’Éve’ - a commissioned solo for opera vocalist, Patricia Ruggles, in collaboration with visual artist, Seth Ruggles Hiler. This was an opportunity for me to explore my movement ideas with two dancers, in a concentrated amount of time.
The intensity of focus is key to the success of the Marathon. With 26+ hours of choreographic work, I was able to delve deeply into my research. There is a certain clarity that arrives when you are tired and exhausted, and all of the pressures and obstacles simply melt away, leaving the essence of your work. I made some very important discoveries and un-coveries about my artistic practice as a choreographer, which eventually led to the final solo performance of this solo in New York City. The influence of the Marathon is still relevant in my practice and resonates in my current choreographic work.
The rigorous structure of the Marathon also encourages and challenges - pushing each choreographer in different ways. The diligence of the outside mentors and the many moments of sharing and communicating were quite valuable to me. It was a
kind of provocation that I initially resisted, then accepted, and finally, enjoyed.
The Choreographic Marathon stands apart from many other training opportunities, in that it values intensity and provocation as thematic underpinnings for professional choreographic development. It acknowledges a different way of learning and understanding, that is incredibly valuable to the dance milieu.
I would definitely participate in a future Choreographic Marathon, as either a choreographer or dancer. I urge others to do so.
Janina Kowalski, Creation Intern, 2008
I hope that your holiday was enjoyable and restful. I just want to tell you that I am grateful for the opportunity to be part of one of your projects, and to see such talented dancers and choreographers at work.
It gave me great insight into how dance is made and will help in my studies of theatre here at UCDP.
Andrew Tay, Choreographer and dancers, 2008
Company: Wants and Needs Danse Montreal
My group and I just wanted to thank you again for organizing the marathon. We were able to take big steps in terms of choreographic content and the interpretation/performance of the work in a short amount of time and at the same time it was fun for us, two things which don’t always go hand in hand. I think the fact that we did not have time to stop so much definitely kept our focus (along with the fact of not leaving the workspace for such an extended period of time).
Some ideas that remain in our minds from the marathon is the idea of focus and how much I saw it affected both my work and the other groups movement ideas. Also the idea of the dancers watching the choreographer for how they are executing and explaining movement instead of just trying to copy it is an idea that my dancers say will illuminate their work method in the future.
Please pass this word of thanks to both Takako and Jessica. Both of whom had really precise and interesting observations for both the dancers and myself.
Thanks again and please let us know if you’re ever in Montreal
Lucia Daisog, Dancer, 2008
My experience at the Choreographic Marathon was marvelous. I learned so much about movement and process, and especially my own brain/body tendencies. I have already incorporated much of what I discovered in Toronto into my current training and creation-thought process (i.e. I am constantly challenging myself to be specific, not vague with my goals and observations; I’m looking at time and space on new enlightening planes of motion; I am working to be a more grounded body and a more consistent mover; etc).
What I am trying to say is, thank you for all the time and effort and words you put into this project. I am so grateful to have been able to pounce on the opportunity when I did, and I would love for our paths to cross in the future. If you have a mailing list, please add me!
Thank you again for all of your patience and thanks too for a fabulous Toronto movement experience.
Ida Meftahi, Choreographer, 2010
Vashton Dance Company
Joining the 2010 choreographic marathon as the sole participant outside of the ‘western’ contemporary dance genre that year, I found the process as nurturing and invigorating.
Maxine Heppner’s interdisciplinary approach to performance truly transcends the boundaries of style and culture.
The piece developed at the marathon was staged in February 2011 at University of Toronto’s FOOT (Festival of Original Theatre), and is being re-worked into a longer version in 2012.
Claire French, Choreographer, 2010
In December 2010, I finally participated in Maxine Heppner’s Choreographic Marathon. This had been a goal of mine for several years. I received a grant from BC Arts council allowing three dancers from Vancouver to attend the marathon with me. I also received a personal Canada Council Travel Grant.
The marathon experience was rewarding in many ways. I was able to explore my research in a critically and creatively engaging process. I have enjoyed many choreographic programs/ /workshops/intensives. I also run one in Vancouver. The Choreographic Marathon was such a unique and valuable experience. I appreciated the opportunity to bring my own dancers and work my own way. Maxine’s ability to help me dig into ideas, and her willingness to share her strong opinions and deep insight both challenged and supported my own drive and vision. Maxine quickly identified how I chose to work, and her comments and mentorship were specific to my needs. It was expected that I set goals for each creative session – I welcomed the responsibility. The level of dialogue was inspiring, motivating and energizing – helping to fortify my collaborations with my dancers, which is an integral part of my process.
I witnessed Maxine and her colleagues identify the needs of each of the five choreographers – drawing out the idiosyncratic artistry in each creative process. The marathon set-up allowed for opportunities to learn through actions and dialogue – and furthermore to learn from Maxine, her dancers, and fellow participants. The doors were wide open for critical response. The depth of the critical dialogue allowed for my perspective to be identified, clarified, and challenged. This constantly influenced the act of creating, helping to deepen my experience and get to the core of an idea, a thought, a move, a desire.
It was an extremely intense process and there was a lot of support to make this as productive and creative as possible. I was particularly grateful for and appreciative of the assistant and video documenter assigned to our team. Their support in the room helped me focus on my role as a choreographer – where I could prioritize engaging with the dancers over documenting the process. This marathon enriched my studio experience and has given me confidence to delve deeper and closer to my physical ideas.The research will for part of a full-length production premiering in Vancouver in 2012.
Sky Fairchild-Waller, Dancer, 2010
In December 2010, I participated as a performer in the work Tracey Norman was workshopping in Maxine Heppner’s Choreographic Marathon. As a performer who is also a creator, I entered this process with a fairly developed set of creative preferences/inclination/biases in terms of process and development. In my process, time is huge. It can take months and months to formulate, construct, refine an inevitably drastically change the work that I do (performance and video installation). What was interesting and incredibly challenging about this process was that the element of time was not only limited, but almost non-existent. 26.2 hours: that’s it. While it was certainly a source of anxiety, it was also a significant motivator. I found myself working harder (literally as well as metaphorically) to solve creative problems, conceptual schisms and physical logistics. As the first of the two days advanced (we had been working for around 12hours) the exhaustion provided more of an insightful vantage rather than a hindrance. My body felt differently, moved differently; I saw differently, my partner (the work is a duet), the choreographer, and other dancers (who we interfaced with through many informal showings every couple hours or so). My ability to intellectualize my experience was muted, and everything was thus brought to the fore.
Throughout the experience, Maxine was persistent, inquisitive, and demanding in the best of ways. This was a challenge and she was the orchestrator, in charge of insuring that we rose to the occasion, generously and safely. What I admired most about Maxine’s approach to leading this experience was her conviction. It’s not easy trying to communicate with body-based artists who are a couple moments of stillness away from collapsing into a deep rewarding sleep. I can recall one instance in particular where she came into our studio at around midnight to observe where we were at. Without hesitation, she called us out; we weren’t progressing, we were stuck, and not in a bad way, but in a way that perhaps neglected to consider the other choices we had available to us, and the time restraint we had to work with. With her infinite patience and careful consideration, she told us what she wanted us to do. We didn’t understand. She said it again, without a hint of frustration. Still, we missed it. It took her saying 7 variations of the same request before we were able to understand what we needed to do. In the end (and after having performed a much altered version of the work thanks to this very advice and persistence), what she offered was exactly what we needed. She could tell. She cared enough to not let it go and chalk it up to difficult performers or contextual constraints. She didn’t stop until she was satisfied that we were going in the best direction we could be. She wanted this experience to be as rewarding as possible. For that I am extremely grateful.
Tracey Norman, Choreographer, 2010
I am writing to express my recommendation for Maxine Heppner’s Choreographic Marathon. I’ve known Maxine casually for a number of years, but this was my first working with her in a creative context. I brought a work I had previously developed in a first phase of creative process to her Choreographic Marathon this past December 2010. Through my experience I was able to re-envision the possibilities of the work. And I have since worked further on the piece, with intriguing results.
As an artist, it can be a common experience to articulate a need to experiment or remain open to consistently finding new ways of working or looking at making work. Through my experience with Maxine and the talented and generous assistance from monitors Susan Lee, Jessica Runge and Takako Segawa, I found a variety of strategies for Actually cracking open the piece, re-working material and developing new material to construct the beginning of a new work.
The Choreographic Marathon is a unique idea. It appears that the premise naturally draws in artists who are interested in intensive practice. Maxine set up the weekend with a discussion on choreographic principles. I have been a practicing choreographer for a number of years and recently completed my MFA in choreography. With lots of focus on crafting under my belt, I was impressed by Maxine’s fresh and individual take on choreography. She set up the principles in a different way than I’ve seen approached by other established artists and asked questions that I will take with me in to my future projects. Those questions include: “what is the world you are creating?” and “what is possible in this world?” She gave examples like perhaps this is a world where things are at 90 degree angles or the floor is made of sponge.
The weekend provided me with a chance to watch other artists practice their craft in close proximity. The other artists varied from very emerging to established artists. Sitting somewhere in the middle of this range, it was interesting for me to see how Maxine, Susan, Jessica and Takako worked with the artists at our individual levels and pinpointed the areas for each of us that deserved our focus at that point in time. The intensive weekend was also an excellent chance for me to bond with my own cast, other artists who I work with often and artists who I met for the first time. The act of bringing together different choreographers and their interpreters in such close quarters, creates a certain tension that naturally fuels the work.
An incredible amount of feedback is exchanged in this process. Some of which I was able to put into action right away and even more that I used in the subsequent process for the work and will continue to use in my other projects. This feedback is applicable in both the choreographic and interpretive sense. I was left with fertile ground on which to continue building my choreography.
I highly recommend the Choreographic Marathon.
Jannine Saarinen, Choreographer, 2010
To me the Choreographic Marathon was not just about leaning new tools for choreography, nor was it about looking at a finished piece in order to critique it, but was instead an opportunity to honestly examine my own creative process.
The intense nature of the Marathon made it impossible for me to hide behind my usual safety nets and allowed me to determine both my strengths and weaknesses. The mentors and peers were there to challenge and support me and Maxine was willing to look at me as an individual and assess my personal needs.
Two months later, when I had had more time to process the large amount of information that came out of the weekend, Maxine and I had a follow-up session during which she was willing to spend as much time with me as was needed.
Without the unique format that the marathon offers I would never have been able to gain this new insight into my work – I am incredibly grateful to have attended the marathon.
Lisa Weiler, Choreographer, 2010
I have known Maxine Heppner for the past 4 years, as a mentor to me as an establishing choreographer and then in the Choreographic Marathon. During this period I worked very closely with her in workshops, masters classes and on various assignments. As a result I have become very familiar with Heppner as a dance expert, teacher, interpreter and mentor.
Heppner has demonstrated time and time again that she is an exceptional communicator and gifted teacher. She is a highly dedicated professional who is a dynamic, powerful and possessing the gift of being able to make complex concepts understandable and who knows how to motivate an establishing choreographer to strive for excellence. She is also a humble and approachable person who loves to share her extensive knowledge of dance with others.
Under her tutelage I have been motivated to strive for and achieve exceptionally high standards in terms of dance composition and creative process. In our work together she has provided me outstanding mentorship and encouraged me to meet creative challenges that I never before thought possible.
It is with sincere conviction that I enthusiastically recommend establishing choreographers to apply for and participate in the mentorships or Choreographic Marathon opportunities provided by Maxine Heppner.
Lisa Weiler, B.Mus, B.Ed, MA dance
Alida Nyquist-Schultz, Dance Artist, 2012
for Good Women Dance Collective
I, Alida Nyquist-Schultz, had the pleasure of participating in the Choreographic Marathon, offered by Across Oceans, from December 17th to 19th, 2012. I took part in the form of an interpreter with the Good Women Dance Collective, which is a contemporary dance collective based in Edmonton, Alberta. Over the course of the three days Good Women collective artist Alison Kause created a work-in-progress on the other artists of Good Women; myself, Ainsley Hillyard, and Kate Stashko.
I benefitted from many aspects of the Choreographic Marathon, including its unique format of a condensed rehearsal period, the frequent feedback sessions involving all the artists, and the work-in-progress showing at the end of the process.
For all the collective artists of Good Women, it was the first time we had rehearsed for as many hours straight as we did in the Choreographic Marathon. Each us of agreed that it allowed us to achieve a heightened level of focus on what we were creating that we had not experienced before. It also allowed us to investigate the concept Alison was exploring more deeply than if we were doing shorter, more spread out rehearsals (which was how we were usually used to rehearsing).
Maxine Heppner has devised a very effective program and is a skilled leader and mentor. The frequent feedback sessions that were built into the Choreographic Marathon were a very effective method of providing a critical dialogue that resulted in helping each choreographer to generate a successful work-in-progress. Mentors came into rehearsal sessions for direct interaction. In the group feedback sessions all artists involved in the marathon shared what they had accomplished in the previous rehearsal period and together we discussed elements of artist’s choreography that were or were not working. Because feedback was given in a very frequent and thorough manner, it became very easy to track each choreographer’s progress and method of creation, because you would see the choreographer receive feedback, select which elements to respond to, and then at the next feedback session we would see the results. As an interpreter this helped me to understand Alison’s creative process and the goals that she was aiming to achieve before the showing at the end of the process.
Finally, the opportunity to perform the work-in-progress was a great opportunity for the choreographer to step back and see the big picture of what they had developed over the course of the marathon. From the work that we presented at the showing, Alison went on to create Shatterstate – a twenty minute work that premiered in Edmonton and went on to be toured at the Winnipeg and Toronto Fringe Festivals.
The Choreographic Marathon was a valuable opportunity for the artists of the Good Women Dance Collective to gain artistic skills as chorographers, to learn how to work effectively through an intensive rehearsal period, and how to have a critical dialogue that moves the process forward. The experience resulted in the creation of a critically acclaimed work that was well received by audiences across Canada, and has had a lasting affect on how our collective creates work. For example, it taught us the merit of having longer rehearsal periods, and now we aim to rehearse for 4 to 5 hours at a time in order to ensure that we can properly investigate the material we are creating.
As an emerging dancer and choreographer I would highly recommend the Choreographic Marathon to other artists and view it as a valuable, enriching, and unique experience.
Nadege Blackhall, Dancer, 2012
Simcoe Contemporary Dancers
Participating in Choreographic Marathon as a dancer was one of the most challenging things I have done as a performing artist. I think it is an amazing way to submerge oneself in the choreographic process. I made unexpected discoveries about myself and those who were daring enough to go through the journey with me. I was surprised at how deep within myself I went and at how intense the bonds I created with the other artists were.
You have three days, three days to accomplish what usually happens over many months of rehearsal. Three days is short in comparison to a year, but they were the longest three days of my life. I would not trade those days for anything. On the first night I was unsure of what I was getting myself into, especially as we went home to sleep in our own beds. The second day I was optimistic, eager to start. By the third day I wanted to escape to a bath and a warm bed. I surprised myself by how much stamina I have, not to mention patience, not just patience with others, also how much patience I had to have with myself and with my limitations. I find it difficult to express how much value there is in this unique process, partly because there is so much value and partly because a lot of it has become a blur of exhaustion and emotion. I think the physical drain is obvious as a dancer. I do not think the emotional turmoil is as obvious. I was prepared for my physical limitations. I was not for what my emotional ones would be or the effect they would have on me long after. By going through this process I realized the emotional subtleties that come with choreography that I have previously overlooked.
I would participate again in a heartbeat. I would love to apply as a choreographer should the opportunity present itself.
Yui Ugai, Creators' Assistant, 2012
I participated in the Choreographic Marathon in 2012 as a Choreographers Assistant and Dancer. I would like to share some of my impressions.
I think The Choreographic Marathon’s process of 3 full days and nights to enrich each choreography was such a precious time for everyone. It is very rare to have intensive uninterrupted time to create a dance piece. Continuous work allowed for creative flow and development of ideas and also for the technical understanding for creation of new material. We usually have a rehearsal for 2 hours to 6hours, but not continuously for 27 hours! A 27 hours rehearsal or creation sounds very crazy, but as time went by, I felt we actually needed this long time to make a idea more developed with dancers, choreographic assistant, and for the mentors (dramaturges) feedback and support to choreographers and dancers.
There were so many things to learn from the process, people and space. The Across Oceans artistic director, Maxine Heppner knows how to recognize what each group is creating and how to assist them ways to see and work to make the piece develop. The team is well coordinated so all choreographers and dancers get the support that they need. The schedule of doing studio work, then showing, then into the studio again, meant that we could immediately understand what we were doing, make developments, and again see through our own and through others’ viewpoints.
Living in Toronto for the past 4 years, I have not found any where else in Toronto, nor in England nor in Japan, where we can experiment and talk and dig deeply with a dance piece continuously for 3 days with choreographers, dancers and dramaturges (mentors). This intensive time made it possible to quickly share ideas, try them and receive feedback, leading to more meaningful creation for choreographer and dancer, finally to test in workshop performance with an audience.
It was also very valuable to have artists from different cities so that we get different approaches. (In this one it was Ontario (Barrie and Toronto), Alberta (Edmonton), and Quebec (Baie Comeau and Montreal.)
The Choreographic Marathon is artistically very productive. I recommend that it continue to be produced. It is very valuable.
Sarah Lochhead, Artistic Director/Choreographer, 2012
Simcoe Contemporary Dancers
In Fall 2012, we had the opportunity to be part of Across Oceans’ Choreographic Marathon. It was a very useful learning experience both for myself, as a choreographer, and for the emerging dance artists involved as performers. We used the time to help gain insight from the experienced artists of Across Oceans on a new work for our company repertoire.
After our participation, we continued to rehearse and develop the piece based on the skills we had begun to develop in the immersive intensive process of the marathon. This resulted in the creation of a trio entitled “It goes without me.”
The piece was presented as a work in progress at the MacLaren Art Centre in Barrie ON in February 2013 as part of city’s annual Winterfest festival and premiered as part of our full-length show, Departure, in May 2013 at the Mady Centre for the Performing Arts in Barrie. The show was funded by the OAC and the City of Barrie and had five performances – a run that was 72% sold. It also included a collaboration with local artist Robin Luoma on the costume design. We plan on remounting it in the coming season.
The Choreographic Marathon was an invaluable experience in bringing this work to fruition. The dedicated condensed period of time helped to focus the creation process without the interruption of everyday life and allowed for time to truly follow a line of inspiration through to its natural conclusion. The experience was challenging and helped all of us involved in the process to reflect on our own biases, challenges and strengths inside a creation process. I would recommend participation in this program to choreographers looking for a chance to be challenged and an opportunity to grow.
Nika Stein, Choreographer, 2012
My last project, Autour d’eau, where I collaborated with a group of 18 ethnically divers women (CC Artists & Community Collaborations program), has allowed me to explore in movement, myths rituals and symbolic representations concerning water from many cultures. Consequently I wanted to deepen the investigation of guiding dancers through intent by working with professional dancers of diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds practicing various dance techniques. I was looking for different ways to approach this endeavour when I came across the Choreographic Marathon as a good opportunity to collaborate with a musician Fabiola Ugarte and dancer Deepali Lindblom. (During the process one of the program’s assistants, Yui Ugai, joined the process as a 3rd interpreter also adding her Japanese background into the mix.)
From the beginning I felt very welcomed, reassured and taken care of. I got the message quickly that I could concentrate on artistic work for 3 days and all practical needs would be taken care of. Thus we got to work since the structure was very clear and supportive. The fact that every 3-hour studio session had mentorship built in and was follow by group feedback was helpful.
I really appreciate Maxine Heppner’s intercultural experience with dance. She is warm and supportive, yet professional. She is able to project a sense of neutrality where one does not sense her aesthetic preferences. This helps her to facilitate the creative process of each choreographer. I found her also very available. On a few occasions after the intensive was over, when I needed feedback from her feedback quickly and when I needed a reference letter, she found time in her busy schedule. I also am very impressed with Maxine as an organizer and a leader. I love the team she put together as facilitators of this intensive. They are all very competent, diverse, and a real pleasure to work with.
I think the CM is just a fantastic project. As a choreographer sometimes something more extraordinary is necessary than weekly rehearsals to move through creative difficulties. The CM is that extraordinary context that allowed me to concentrate all of my body and mind creatively. A month after the program everything fell into place in my head like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. I was able to clarify exactly the kind of structure I need to bring my project to life. As a result I was able to apply for an appropriate grant and produce the work.
I wish Choreographic Marathon good luck with all of my heart. May they organize choregraphic intensives year after year, all over Canada and the world!
Fabiola Ugarte Kopanski, Composer, 2012
A qui de droit, Bonjour.
J’ai participé en 20l2 au Marathon Chorégraphique organisé par l’organisation < Across Oceans > à Toronto.
Je suis allée comme musicienne accompagnant la danseuse professionnelle Nika Stein avec qui on travaillait dans un projet de collaboration entre danse et musique en direct.
Durant mon séjour au Marathon j’ai appris certaines dynamiques de la danse contemporaine. Aussi, cette occasion m’a permis d’expérimenter pour la première fois la composition en direct pour la danse et d’avoir de la rétroaction des artistes d’un autre médium que le mien.
J’ai grandement apprécié mon expérience. Veuillez agréer mes plus sincères salutations.
Holly Small, Choreographer, 2016
I am writing in support of Maxine Heppner’s Choreographic Marathon, an event I’ve been aware of for many years. This past May I had the opportunity to participate as a choreographer. I worked on two solos— Jigsaw, for a seasoned professional dancer, the superb Jessica Runge, and a drowning, for a wonderful emerging professional, Oriah Wiersma — accomplishing as much in a weekend as I have in a similar number of rehearsal hours protracted over several weeks.
The marathon was a challenging and rewarding three-day experience starting early in the mornings and stretching late into the nights, with worktimes strategically punctuated by informal showings and feedback sessions, and concluding with an open showing on the final day. The format of the marathon was flexible and responsive, allowing for private worktime as well as sensitive and insightful feedback sessions and discussion with Maxine and her diverse cohort of mentor/facilitators whose expertise embraced various forms of dance, physical theatre, voice, clown, writing, etc.
The ratio of mentors to creators was beyond excellent. In one rehearsal, I found myself in animated discussion with two mentors about some aspect of my choreography, while another worked directly with my dancer on interpretation, and a fourth documented the process on video. It felt as if everyone had a stake in my work, as if everyone cared about the outcome.
In my long career as an independent choreographer, this is a singularly rare and valuable experience.
Like the mentor/facilitators, the choreographers and dancers were richly diverse in experience and background, ranging in age from 20 to 63 and working in dance forms including contemporary, modern, urban, afro-caribbean and street dance. The structure of the marathon and the skilled leadership of Maxine Heppner quickly fostered the development of a community of artists supporting and contributing to each creative process with both critical and constructive input.
The Choreographic Marathon has the potential to support the creative development of many dance artists at different stages of their careers.
Professor Emeritus, Department of Dance
School of the Arts, Media, Performance and Design
York University, Toronto, Canada
Kate Alsterlund (Agent Lynx), Choreographer, 2016
In May of 2016 I attended the Choreographic Marathon in Toronto. This was my first experience at this event and I was blown away by what a powerful experience it was for me. First off I really appreciated Maxine Heppner's continued encouragement to participate. Maxine made great efforts for it to be affordable and realistic for me to participate. Her and her team were extremely open minded, welcoming, insightful, and genuinely cared about helping all the participants.
I really appreciated how a DIVERSE group of participants was encouraged to participate in this event and there was no hierarchical preference of 'Western' dance traditions (ie: ballet, modern, contemporary).
I studied Contemporary Dance at University but the bulk of my dancing life and experience has been spent in a deep involvement with the Street Dance world, particularly the world of Breaking or B-girling. In many other contemporary dance contexts I have felt a distinct prejudice and discrimination based on my style of dance being a street style but refreshingly I felt nothing like that at the Marathon. To the contrary I was encouraged and validated for bringing a unique movement perspective. In fact, I can say that the support and encouragement I received at the Marathon was the most positive and inclusive that I've received in my whole career and I left feeling deeply inspired and motivated to continue creating work. Whereas in the past encountering prejudice, discouragement and ignorance about my dance form from the contemporary world has discouraged me from creating work.
The intensive format of the Marathon was challenging but in a very good way. It helped me realize the magnitude of work, discipline and personal investment it takes to create meaningful dance works. This was an important reference point for me. Much of my dancing life gets spent teaching or hustling from one job to another trying to make ends meet and survive. My creation time is often at the end of the day or in the last hours after all the other work has been done. It was important for me to understand the space and time that I would need to set aside and plan for in order to make quality dance works. This was a great reality check for me and allowed me a clearer vision of the planning that I would need to do in order to reach my choreographic goals. It also was a great luxury not to have to think about anything else. Maxine and her team made it Ef. SY for us all to just focus on One thing: our creation. In today's world that is very hard to do ·and I appreciated the relief of not having to think about food, shelter and money for 30 hours so that I could just think about creating work.
When all those other things were stripped away and I was alone in the studio it helped me see my own baggage and mental blocks that were creating barriers to my working process. With the help of the CM mentors I saw how I could get through these blocks and continue on with my process.
I also really appreciated the group feedback sessions where we watched the other creators work and showed our own work. Because I've been very used to working alone I had resistance to this at first but over the process of the marathon I realized how valuable this was. I realized the importance of feedback and through watching the progress of the others and hearing their feedback I was also learning. This helped me to be less self-oriented and realize how I could gain knowledge from a group creative process. Maxine and her team were always very patient and open minded throughout the process and I really appreciated the feedback and the forum that they offered me.
I whole-heartedly recommend this experience to every dance artist. It is accessible to emerging as well as established artists of all domains of dance. I would most definitely participate in the experience again.
I extend an enormous thank you to Maxine and all of her highly skilled and intuitive team of mentors. The CM2016 experience really gave me the encouragement and support to take the next step forward in my career.
Kate Alsterlund, agent Lynx, T.A.T
Jamie Valin, Choreographer-Interpreter, 2016
The Choreographic Marathon 2016 was a perfect way to re-ignite my practice here in Toronto. It was the first designated time I had as a solo dance artist returning to the city after living and working in BC for four years.
The marathon gave me a timeframe and an intensity that helped me rediscover my choreographic voice apart from all the contemporary dance classes I had been training in. I felt aware and able to focus on my needs and ideas while generating new material with purpose.
Although the event only lasted three days; I had a lot of time for trial and error. I experimented with different phrases and combinations of the same material, I generated new material by associating themes in a trickle down affect and I changed the studio landscape every couple of hours with props like clothing, and shopping carts to better understand my priorities without getting set in any particular way too soon.
Overall the experience was extremely unique and brought light to how I make decisions.
I feel the program is most successful because of the number of facilitators involved. The collective gave a variety of insights to work with as well as energy and reason to continue working throughout the long hours. Talking about a work and generating strong insight is very difficult to do as a person who works alone. The Choreographic Marathon gave me the ability to hear from others while simultaneously working on my solo material.
Amanda Benn, Choreographer, 2016
To whom it may concern:
My Choreographic Marathon experience in 2016 was beyond my expectations.
The package of hospitality, the mix in culture (including my Afro-Caribbean roots), the organization and solitude made things so comfortable at a time of vulnerability.
I'm so proud to have been apart of this marathon.
The growth and improvement that I experienced in just 30hrs was drastic.It was emotional to leave knowing that this sort of support is lacking in my choreographic life. Yet I continue to practice and with my newfound confidence I am able to apply for funding and showcase my work.
I am thankful and grateful for this workshop, strongly recommend to others and hope to able to do it again.
Kalabante, Southshore Dance Ensemble, West Can Folk Performing Co
Susan Wolf, Creator, 2017
Last spring I had the privilege of participating in Across Oceans' Choreographic Marathon. This three day intensive immersion into my work was an incredible experience for me as an emerging choreographer. It was all the more valuable because there are few choreographic training scenarios available to folks like myself, over 35 and coming to choreography from an interdisciplinary arts background.
The Choreographic Marathon allowed for a condensed time of intense research in a well-equipped studio with an engaged peer group, ample feedback from experience professionals, and presentation opportunities for the work-in process throughout the three days. The supportive and focused environment allowed me to probe with a greater openness and transparency my creative process, weaknesses, and strengths. I left knowing better what I need to work on and with more clues around how to work.
The most unique and nourishing feature of the program was the participation of the artist-mentors. The mentors and Maxine would meet as a group after each presentation session and discuss what might benefit each participant at that very moment and which mentor might be the best fit. This meant a completely tailored approach for each of us based on our immediate needs. For instance, while my peer might need a silent pair of outside eyes, I might be in need of coaching in a particular physical method. It was a remarkable experience to have the mentors watch and support my studio working process in such a sensitive and specific way. Each mentor offered a different approach, suggestions, and methods to help me to dig-in, refine, define, and re-imagine my work. I wish that my ongoing practice could include such invested outside eyes. The additional benefit of the mentor system is that I now have a network of professionals who are familiar with me, my work and my working methods. I have grown my dance community exponentially.
Lo Bil, Creator-Performer, 2017
The Marathon offered me a chance to learn more about what I am doing from a Choreographic point-of-view and how the knowledge of the dance community can transcend disciplinary development of new work. My conversations with Maxine especially were invaluable. She is able to give really detailed feedback from her field, I would not have had such detailed attention from a choreographer as I don't work in dance - my discipline is Performance Art, within the Visual Arts. But I work with body-based forms and I need access to ways of understanding how to articulate aspects of working with a body in a composition. "The Marathon gave me also access to a variety of choreographic approaches from various mentors. I also had an opportunity to try to explain how my work functions to dancers. This was illustrative to me - both in how I work differently and also ways to develop my work. "It was challenging. It is always good to be challenged. There was a community of people ready to watch and give detailed feedback on my piece in its development. I was surprised that the dancers were interested in my work. I saw them working very athletically with virtuosity. My work is opposite in many ways, but they found interesting aspects in my work. It was a cross-disciplinary exchange in this way and has been invaluable in my recent residency at Harbourfront’s HATCH.
Nina Milanovski, Creation Assistant, 2017
I served as a "creation assistant" to the mentors, interning for The Choreographic Marathon in May of 2017. This was my first time being involved with the Choreographic Marathon but ever since one of my professors told our composition class about the opportunity I was instantly enamored. Being cooped up in a studio for 24 hours seemed like the studio sleepover dreams II had as a young dancer coming true. Little did I know that it would far exceed my expectations and become a fundamental part of my growth as an artist.
When I first arrived at the Pia Bouman School I started talking to the dancers and choreographers, excited about their projects but unsure of what to expect. When Maxine told me that I would be following around the mentors for most of the day I was equal parts fascinated and intimidated, but it quickly faded as I realized the mentors were lovely, kind and inclusive artists who were invested in the process. It was through following them from studio to studio that I got to know their process and their outlook.
Over the weekend I served as a jack of all trades type by noting the mentors' observations of pieces, assisting Maxine Heppner with various tasks and assisting the mentors in any way possible. An exciting opportunity was having a seat at the table with all the mentors as they discussed the pieces in depth and shared their expert critical opinions. By having a seat at the table I was able to have firsthand experience of how professional artists talked about work and in our off time I was able to ask them questions to further understand their perspectives.
After the first few showings, I saw the process that the choreographers were going through and the progress they were making. I started to see the beauty in this intense structure of working and I observed the obstacles then the breakthroughs. I witnessed a group of diverse artists with completely different goals come together for the same purpose, to stick with “it” whatever “it” was. I feel as though the support of the mentors and Maxine Heppner’s frank but illuminating observations played a huge role in the breakthroughs made that weekend.
In our time out of studio, there were opportunities to get to know the other artists. I have fond memories of making dinner for all the hard working artists and we all sat around our makeshift dinner table and spoke about the most impactful performance we had ever watched. It was a beautiful experience to get to know these artists of all different ages, backgrounds and walks of life.
Through these experiences I learned a lot about being observant and critical about choreography but moreover I learned a lot about myself as an artist. Through the indirect and direct guidance of the mentors I was able to learn how to form critiques and in turn help other artists. These experiences have gone on to help me not only with my coursework in composition at York University but with my artistry. Through my experience as an intern I was inspired to create, curate, dance and I would be glad to do it again or recommend the experience.
Tammy MacLeod, Creator-Performer, 2017
During the choreographic marathon weekend I had visits from mentors usually at each work period. These visits included questions regarding my process, questions about what I wanted to create and discrepancies there in. I was articulating my creative process out loud. These discussions required a kind of meta- focus. My lens often widened or narrowed depending the dissection of what I was working on. Further, the dialogue drove into my own ‘walls’ that impeded my choreographic development both literally in the work and more broadly in terms of habits/routines.
Liam Ellington, Choreographer, 2017
I was uncertain of what to anticipate going into this choreographic workshop as I am quite new to the field of choreography but over the course of the three days I spent learning from Maxine and the other mentors I gained something important to my craft which on my own would have taken a longer time.
Working with mentors enabled me to look past my biases and defaults when it came to creating movement and access it coming from a more critical place. Our mentors challenged us in order to strengthen us. There is a certain vulnerability that comes with creating a work and to have someone see it as it is being formed is a very important thing. Therefore I think it is important to that the outside eye be experience and intellectual. This results in a mentor who is aware and can therefore adjust their methods according to different individuals.
The Choreographic Marathon mentors were all this and more. My work this year is already in a better place.
A few more Observations from Earlier Sessions
“Maxine teaches with passion, integrity, intelligence- authentic, bold and in tune with her time.“
Jen Goodwin, Toronto, Canada
“A memorable stimulating experience that has left a deep impression.”
Lee Mun Wah, Singapore
I was a student of yours’ at Concordia University a gazillion years ago. I loved your classes so much as your depth of knowledge was met with a really grounded playfulness and creativity. I also loved how you brought so many influences and experiences into class with you and because of this, really helped to expand my perspectives on dance and culture in general. I would very much like to find out how to apply to the Choreographic Marathon, as I would love again to learn from you, especially in this mentorship way.
I am dancing and mostly choreographing now back in Edmonton, after having lived and worked in New York for a long while, and just returning from Europe.
My current work deals a lot with perception, creating movement and expression that plays between the realms of the thinking self and the body’s way of knowing. I think the Choreographer’s marathon’s process would help to push me out of normal patterns and limits, exhausting what i “know,” creating new kinds of emptiness, so that creative “newness” can enter and inform the dance in an invigorating way- it sounds so exciting! It would be such a great opportunity to be able to go directly into an intense choreographic process, as I will probably have lots of inspiration to contend with!
So, thank you for your time, and thank you so much for still doing what you do!
With much admiration,
Kathy Ochoa, Edmonton, Canada
“Out of our usual framework, you allowed me to break free of pressures I had felt previously and had repressed, pushing us to focus on creative capacities.”
Lys Stevens, Studio 303, Montreal, Canada
“Inspiration and full dedication, the practice was rich in complexity and creativity.”
Renata Soutter, Propeller Dance, Ottawa, Canada
“Challenges movement awareness, opens possibilities and new layers to work on, combine, construct or deconstruct. It feels like the motion is inexhaustible in resources & possibilities.”
Snjezana Premus, Federacija Ljubljana, Slovenia
“Maxine’s process and understanding of movement is at a high theoretical level that also is profoundly human. Her methods first intrigued me and now have actually changed the way that I perform. She has managed to develop a practice that integrates both intuition and intelligence: Content & meaning translated into impulse, control of physical energy, and three-dimensional space. The result is dance that is more detailed, more grounded, more substantial, more sensual, more human. She has led me to dance right to my nerve endings – exhilarating! “
Sephanic Dance Art Theatre, Japan / Canada
“A rare person, teacher & choreographer: precious to the development of the art form”.
Mariela Nestora, Yelp!, Athens, Greece