Unscripted. Unstaged. Julie-anne Saroyan.Unscripted. Unstaged. is an interview series from Laura Murray Public Relations that speaks with fascinating artists, advocates, administrators, and other individuals who keep the Canadian artistic community visible, viable, and vibrant. This week we spoke with dance producer Julie-anne Saroyan. As Artistic Producer of MovEnt since its inception in 2001, she has produced many dance events including all instalments of the MovEnt series Dances for a Small Stage in Vancouver, at the Canada Dance Festival (2006) and at The National Arts Centre in Ottawa. Julie-anne has had the pleasure of working with numerous dance artists and companies including Ballet BC, Lola Dance, Serge Bennathan, Margie Gillis, Emily Molnar, Tara Cheyenne Friedenberg and Coleman Lemieux & Compagnie, among others, and continues to tour nationally and internationally with Crystal Pite/Kidd Pivot as Stage Manager.
Q: Let’s say we run into each other at a party – how would you introduce yourself?
I get very excited about meeting new people. So in a very upbeat voice I say, “Hi, I’m Julie-anne,” – I gesture to shake their hand and give a small chuckle. At that point I notice one of two things, either the person is scared and backs away, or grasps my hand, as I have made a new friend for life!
Q: If we checked your nightstand, what books would we find you reading right now?
I love a wide variety of stuff… From “bumpy cover” murder mysteries (those bestsellers that you pick-up and can’t put down) to a book about the meaning of dreams, to Milan Kundera’s “The Unbearable Lightness of Being”.
Q: If we checked your computer, what favourite sites would be bookmarked?
CBC Arts News is my home page. I travel often and need to make sure I know what’s happening in the Canadian Arts scene.
Some my bookmarks are the Alliance for Arts and Culture in Vancouver, Google (for my schedule), Chatelaine Magazine (for the recipes, I love to cook), and of course Facebook (I love to check out what’s happening with friends).
Q: How did you come to do what you do – was there a defining moment you can tell us about?
I think there are several defining moments in ones life and career and lessons that I will never forget. But the quintessential moment in my life was when I was a student in the Dance Department at York University and two of my Professors (both incredible technique teachers and choreographers) called me to their office and told me that I was “never going to be a dancer”. BUT… they thought I needed to open my eyes and see what else was out there in the world of dance. They suggested that I take some theatre courses – Stage Management, Production Management, and Lighting Design.
The following years at York provided me with a truly unique education. Those two Professors, Holly Small and Anna Blewchamp, pushed me incredibly hard and challenged me to find and develop my own artistic voice in dance. They asked questions and demanded answers. And when I failed a Production Management course in the Theatre department, they helped me get the grade removed from my transcript.
Whenever I pass through Toronto, I like to spend a bit of time with these two women. Although I have been out of York for more years than I care to remember, I still get quizzed about various things. I keep in mind something that they taught me all those years ago. It’s all about the work. Dance has a life of its own and whether you are the choreographer, dancer, lighting designer, stage manager, or another member of the team, everyone contributes artistically in their unique manner to the show.
Q: When it comes to marketing, is there a particular campaign or a poster, advertisement, or promotion that made a significant impact or that stands out in your mind?
Several years ago I received a grant from the Canada Council to do some traveling to see a few festivals in Europe. By chance, I was passing through Amsterdam on my way to the Montpellier Dance Festival and fell across a festival called “Holland Festival”. It was a cross-over festival, which meant that it showcased Theatre, Opera, Music, and Dance – all in one festival.
I still remember the clever images and the strategy of the marketing. The posters around the city centre had a very clear format with the name and dates of the festival, but the image kept changing. There was always a scantily clad woman carrying a weapon of some sort – either a gun or a knife. The image had nothing to do with the shows that were being performed.
This campaign made me realize a few things. As a potential audience member, it was my job to seek out the various poster images around the centre, as curious as to what the next one would look like. But most importantly, it made me seek out a program and the various shows that were presented at the festival. It grabbed me and challenged me to find out what this was all about. I realized that it didn’t matter what kind of work was being presented, it was about sparking interest and challenging people to seek out information. As it turned out, the festival was incredible and I was able to see works that I had only heard about.
I saw Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker perform a solo called Once, a rarity, to an entire album of Joan Baez. I will never forget the moment where De Keersmaeker entered the stage from a door upstage, threw her shoes off, walked all the way downstage, and put a record on and started dancing. When the first side was complete she turned the record over and played the entire second side. As the piece ended and the lights came up for her bow, I realized I was weeping.
Q: Lastly, what inspires you?
Social issues – not political ones… 😉