In the absence of the Festival of New Dance in 2020, one of the many special programs to , was a new unique virtual residency. Neighborhood Dance Works invited the FND artists to collectively activate the liminal space of this cultural pause. Through exchange within a democratized Virtual Festival Residency we nurtured a ‘virtual community’ carrying us through to 2021, when we can physically reunite with the festival artists.
NDW’s response to COVID stems from a curiosity to investigate new structures that shift away from presentation, as well as dominant digital alternatives, towards this new artist-focused process, spanning three months. In this work, we honoured the nuances that informed a specific group of artists in their everyday environments and across geographic borders. Through a series of weekly prompts, we made space for emergent conversations where ideas, daily action, contemplation, discovery, and reflection surfaced. Their topics and contents were inspired by the collective’s needs, interests and the group’s natural progression in this project. Guided and facilitated by Montréal-based artist Angie Cheng, 23 artists committed to a 12-week process where considerations and care of all participants were integral.
This Virtual Residency took place in both personal and virtual spaces (such as Jitsi, Miro, Zoom), so artists could balance their individual contributions within the collective whole. It provided space and tools so each artist could make better sense of this moment while contextualizing themselves and their peers within a greater reality of a precarious worldwide experience. The residency consisted of several phases. Phase one provided space for artists to reimagine and explore the formation of a “festival community” impacted by this pandemic. Phase two brought about an ‘outward public-facing’ aspect to this process, so we can better understand how new strategies for learning and sharing in the cultural sector. With more phases to come.
We must use this time to reflect on how we can stimulate innovations in the field, especially amid important movements like Black Lives Matter. This project allows us to consider these opportunities in the context of our city.