Dancer Genevieve Johnson performs during the Crimson Coast Dance Society annual general meeting on Feb. 28. (Josef Jacobson/The News Bulletin)

Crimson Coast Dance Society marks 20th anniversary at annual general meeting

Founder Holly Bright says her group has helped grow contemporary dance in Nanaimo

Holly Bright says contemporary dance was nonexistent in Nanaimo when she moved to the city in 1992. Since then, Crimson Coast Dance Society’s founding artistic director said she’s seen it grow into a small industry that draws crowds to rival the big cities.

“Comparatively, city-to-city, Nanaimo’s attendance numbers are right on par,” Bright said.

“We’re on par with Vancouver audiences, particularly relative to population size, and nonetheless sometimes we have bigger audiences than the same show will get in Vancouver. So there’s definitely an interest.”

This year Crimson Coast marks 20 years of promoting, presenting and nurturing contemporary dance in Nanaimo. Bright said her group’s efforts have been fruitful, as contemporary dance is no longer an obscure novelty.

“Every school has contemporary dance, the Upper Island Musical Festival has a contemporary dance section … and now all the schools are inviting other artists in to come and teach from outside, so there’s this industry that’s starting,” she said.

“And to be 20 and see that our impact is that, means a lot. I know that, no matter what, there’s been an impact and that people have been touched by it.”

Crimson Coast’s anniversary was celebrated at the group’s annual general meeting at Pacific Gardens Co-housing Community on Feb. 28 with cake and a performance by dancer Genevieve Johnson.

Bright said the organization is maturing beyond its adolescent phase. She said her goal is to increase the scale of their programming by bringing in more international artists and commissioning increasingly complex performances by local artists.

“We’re just at this place where we’re no longer a teenager and we’re really looking to be an organization that continues to expand and grow rather than just do what we always do,” Bright said.

“And so in order to do that and continue on in our life we get to grow a lot of roots and a lot of branches.”

During the meeting, Bright outlined the events Crimson Coast will be presenting for the remainder of its season. She said she was particularly excited about an upcoming collaborative show featuring local dancers and the NOLA Nighthawks jazz band.

But Bright noted that Crimson Coast’s offerings are limited by its budget and in order to keep providing new platforms for local and visiting dancers, Crimson Coast needs to increase society membership and audience turnout.

Her question for potential patrons of dance is, “Are you curious?”

“There’s some really fantastic stuff that happens on the stage,” she said.

“It’s provocative and stimulating and beautiful. It’s amazing what people can do with their bodies and how innovating people are when they’re articulating an idea through the body… It’s like witnessing poetry unfolding in front of you.”

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