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Nina Milanovski : dancing relationships


With interpreters Victoria Gubiani, Paige Sayles

Nina Milanovski


  • Create a duet based on coupling and uncoupling with a narrative that has a beginning, middle and end.

Beginning with:

  • Duet and solo material of about 5 minutes, including simultaneous solos and duets

  • Inspiration from the novel “Tender is the Night” (F. Scott Fitzgerald)


  • To develop intimate relationship between the characters

  • To create a narrative dance- a new approach for these artists


  • Wondering how certain physical images/actions evoke particular responses in audience particularly in trying to make the story clear.

  • How can solo material turn into duet material? duet material turn into solos? (re: compositional devices for expression of intimacy and breaking apart)

Questions from mentors:

  • During the process of making the dance:

  • When to use the Narrative as a skeleton for the creation of the dance?

  • When to shelve narrative structures for a while to pay attention to the Action itself to craft the dance material?


  • See what she/each other is actually doing.

  • Know if what one is thinking about and/or wishing for, is what one is seeing.

  • Work with interpretation, composition and choreography as different aspects of the process. (note: choreography being the environment, conventions of the dance’s world, etc.)

  • Re: dance’s theme: coupling-uncoupling: recognize, within the existing material, the spirals that lead to coupling and the tension points within the spirals that could break the direction of flow and result in uncoupling.

Strategies used during CM to generate and develop material:

  • To create duet material- using chance operations: dancers offered their ideas of gestures of intimacy, improvised with them to eventually form set phrases

  • To build tension: playing with phrases of contact and pushing in different orders

  • Translating solo material into shared duet material: choreographer & dancer co-translate

  • Translating duet material into solo material: choreographer & dancer co-translate.


  • Dance expression of human relationships can be conveyed not only by dancers sharing or not sharing dance movements but also importantly through different placements of performers in the environment/performing space, proximity of gestures, timing of action, degrees of shared energetic tension, and more.

Development and Skill building:

  • Recognizing the natural duration of an action/phrase and the effects of stretching duration past its natural timeframe.

  • Manipulation of time is a factor in narrative development. Changes in speed can convey characters’ emotions. Changes in speed (of the whole piece) can convey passage of time (e.g. fast-forward in a film). Extended duration builds anticipation between the characters. Extended duration can give the audience a moment to digest what is happening. Similar with Rhythm.

  • Recognizing conventions and using them defines the inner syntax of the piece: i.e. in the Monday versions a convention existed through the extended pauses occurring several times; spiraling when moving towards or away was a convention. Careful development and use of the dance’s conventions help the creators and the audience to anticipate, flow along with, be surprised and not be confused.

General Observations:

  • When developing scenarios of human relationships (in dance) the default choice often is to direct performers’ eyes (look at each other, look away). In fact to convey human interaction the performer’s gaze must be a result of what the person is doing. “Seeing” includes sending attention out and pulling attention in. Try changing the word “see” to “sense” so that all parts of physicality will be expressive. From this expressivity will come the direction of the eyes.

A discussion point:

  • For a dance of “human relationship” (rather than “human experience”), we (audience) need a story that we can follow and characters that develop. What and how do the movement characteristics convey?

To Practice:

  • Develop a library of word cues and Practice using different word cues to examine and experiment specifically with the movement material.

  • Fine tune ability to know how each adjustment results in different information about the individual and the duet (or ensemble) and therefore our understanding of the character and/or human relationship being expressed.

  • Use both the strong organization aspects and the wonderful imagination aspects of yourselves to discover how they support each other in creative process.

What next:

  • Further craft and mould the duet for upcoming performances: Dance Matters in November 2018, IGAC Open Studio performance Feb 2019, potential film remount.

Nina Milanovski (2018, Kitchener ON) A recent graduate of York University’s Dance program, Nina specializes in choreography and performance. She danced in the York Dance Ensemble under Susan Lee, Tracey Norman and Carol Anderson, as well as performing Peggy Baker’s phaseSpace162017 as part of dance: made in canada / fait au canada festival’s Intensive Rep Series. Sink deeper and deeper and deeper 2017 marked her choreographic debut with Bloom at Dancemakers March 2017 and her self-solo, Fishbowl for New Blue Emerging Dance’s The Festival 2017. Looking forward, Nina plans to combine her love of performing, choreographing, production and advocacy by creating a portfolio career as a mover, creator, facilitator and advocate for emerging artists.


Victoria Gubiani (2018, Toronto) has performed with Human Archetype Dance Company in “C6” at Your Dance Fest and in the Toronto Fringe Festival with theatre makers “Homeland Collective”. She has worked with Tracey Norman in “Dark Night of the Soul” at Noche Oscura and in choreographic workshops under the guidance of Julia Sasso. Victoria is a graduate of York University’s Dance program. She premiered her first full-length work “Between Contact” at Dancemakers in December 2017.

Paige Sayles (2018, Calgary, AB) is a company member of High Society Cabaret. She has performed in New Blue Emerging Dance Festival, Your Dance Festival and most recently in Victoria Gubiani's "Between Contact. Before graduating York University's BFA Dance program, Paige was a company member of the York Dance Ensemble for two seasons, performing in works by Julia Sasso, Susan Lee, Carol Anderson, Michelle Silagy, Holly Small, Ashley Burton and Michael Greyeyes. She is now pursuing a career as a dance artist, scholar, burlesque performer and choreographer.

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