Yvonne Coutts, Ottawa’s very own star of the modern dance world is jumping leaps and bounds and bringing Ottawa Dance Directive (or “ODD“, as it is affectionately known) to both the Local and National Stage. Now in its sixth year of operati, there is certainly nothing strange about the stellar reviews and commendations from many critics and peers in her field. Yvonne is the 2015 recipient of the Ottawa Arts Council Mid-Career Artist Award, has been nominated multiple times for the Ontario Arts Council K.M. Hunter Award, and was the winner of the prestigious Bonnie Bird North American Choreographic Award from the Laban Centre in the UK.
Each piece Yvonne commits to is choreographically designed, composed and intended to deliver a unique message. Her works are always thought to be inspirational, sometimes to entertain or bring joy but more but often are intended to break silences, deliver messages and even to startle the audience. Yvonne has passionately devoted over 30 years of her life to the stage, embracing and challenging the dancing arts scene. She has danced for companies such as Le Groupe Dance Lab and Cas Public on stages in both Canada and the Europe.
While modern dance itself remains a somewhat specialized faculty and in turn has a limited following, Ottawa Dance Directive is forging new audiences and bringing this exciting performance style into new light.
Over the course of two years, OLH has had the privilege of supporting and promoting this truly fantastic dance troupe and seeing them in action several times. We support the arts and understand the importance of art on thriving culture. Cutting edge creativity helps weave the fabric of healthy and growing societies and Yvonne is all about that. We caught Yvonne in the studio here in the Capital at Arts Courts, sitting still just long enough to give us this following interview.
OLH: Simple question. Why Dance? What brought you to it?
Yvonne: Dance came to me through Hula! I never took a ballet class until I was 17 years old when I went to Grant MacEwan College in Edmonton to study choreography. Brian Webb was my teacher and mentor and he had a profound influence on the way I looked at dance. I came to Ottawa in 1988 to study at Le Groupe de la Place Royale with Peter Boneham.
Contemporary Dance is a remarkable art form. It has the potential to touch and engage people with the simplest of gestures placed in the perfect place on a stage. I love the poetics of contemporary dance.
OLH: How about the Ottawa Dance Directive? How did come about?
Yvonne: Ottawa Dance Directive was founded by Sylvie Desrosiers, Lana Morton, Natasha Bakht, and myself in 2010. The studios and black box theatre on the second floor of Arts Court had recently become vacant due to the closing of Le Groupe Dance Lab. The space was retrofitted for dance and Sylvie Desrosiers was determined to keep it alive for dancers in Ottawa. Our collective worked for several months to establish an arts organization with a hybrid and inclusive structure that could benefit the community as a whole.
OLH: Running any Company has its challenges. The dance world is perceived as the most challenging “business” of the art world by many. What are the road blocks you must face? Tell us a little about both Trials and Tribulations?
Yvonne: ODD has been highly successful in developing partnerships in order to scale up its activity level and create greater collaboration in the community. The most challenging aspect of running ODD is limited human resources coupled with instability in revenue sources. ODD’s board has been instrumental in grounding the organization in sound practices when times are tough.
OLH: Is Ottawa different to operate in than other large Canadian cities?
Yvonne: Ottawa is a dynamic city and the cultural sector is growing vibrantly. It is through partnerships, lasting partnerships between businesses and the arts that a place like ODD can really shine its magic on the community. Artists have a way of looking at the world that gives a special meaning to simple everyday things. It also elevates us out of our everyday to reveal new possibilities for living. Businesses and philanthropists are like blood for a dance company. It keeps us moving!
OLH: What’s on the Roster this year?
Yvonne: NOTE *We are currently finishing our first season brochure which we will issue as a PDF for our website and I could send you the link for this-would have images and dates embedded etc.
OLH: If you were to send a message to aspiring artists, who are considering a career in any venue but unaware of the challenges, what would it be?
Yvonne: Listen to your heart –take risks- and always stay true to your own path.
Interested in checking out a performance? Click the link below for all the details about this Ottawa Dance Directive Season:
Photo: Étienne Ranger, La Presse