Arts & Entertainment
2 min

Young hip-hop dancer says Queer Arts Festival a ‘safe haven’

Proximity: Remix explores queer youth expression through dance

A group of youth are participating in a two-week intensive workshop led by dance company MACHiNENOiSY. They’ll present their work at the Vancouver Queer Arts Festival on Aug 4, 2015. Credit: Chris Randle

For Delia Brett and her creative partner Daelik of the contemporary dance company MACHiNENOiSY, who are mentoring six youth in their dance project Proximity: Remix at this year’s Queer Arts Festival, it’s all about giving back to the community.

“I identify as gay and have been interested for a long time about how I could support LGBTQ youth,” Daelik says. “When I proposed the idea to Delia she came onboard immediately and we conceived the project together.”

A combination of dance, theatre and multimedia, the piece is being created and performed by the youth, aged 15 to 23, during a two-week intensive process that will highlight the personalities of the those involved.

“It uses the natural skills and abilities of the youth performers who do not necessarily have any formal dance training,” Brett says.

Two of the youth participating in Proximity are 19-year-old Hannah Jackson and 15-year-old Logan Juaninicotena-Heal.

For Jackson, performing in Proximity is not only a complement to her class work as a dance major at Simon Fraser University, but also a realization of her wish to see more young people featured in the festival.

“I’m interested in becoming a professional dance choreographer, and exploring queer issues is one the main influences in my studies,” Jackson says.

“This is a unique opportunity to engage with the Queer Arts Festival that can sometimes be very sexualized, which I, and other young people, don’t always relate to,” she adds.

Juaninicotena-Heal, a competitive hip-hop dancer, is using his involvement as a coming out of sorts.

“I just came out as bisexual to my family, and when I’m here with the other LGBTQ youth, I’m not as hidden as when I am when I am in public because I’m not scared,” he says. “It is a safe haven, but I also love how much we learn about so many different dance styles and get to implement our own ideas.”

The technology used during the show comes courtesy of new media artist Sammy Chien, who will marry devices such as an Xbox Kinect, Wii controller and iPad with the dance.

“As a new media artist I am able to create innovative platforms that haven’t been done in the past using technology,” Chien says. “I’ve been involved in a lot of film work, but there is such a linearity to film and when I encounter performance art it opens a whole new process that is organic and fluid.”