Choreographer – Teacher – Producer
My passion for dance and the performing arts began as far back as singing the solo at my kindergarten pageant; gymnastics and “creative movement” in junior high; and the high school musical Oklahoma; led to Janice Luey’s School of Dance; which led to Garden City Productions the local musical theatre group. There I worked with Broadway and International class director/choreographers Peter Hamilton and Alan Lund.
By seventeen I had matriculated to TMU (formerly Ryerson) in Toronto doing their intensive ballet and pedagogical training program. Instructors included ballet royalty Glen Gilmour and Florentina Lojekova, and I even landed super work in a Canadian National Ballet production of Romeo and Juliet; playing a guard being set-dressing during a Karen Kain solo, and later one of six guards carrying Celia Franca off stage as Lady Capulet in a dramatic fit of madness.
Early on I changed my major to musical theatre and began self-managed training; vocal coaches and dance classes at George Randolf and Bonnie Sandison studios, and learning on the job. I worked solidly for over a decade, securing contracts for dance captain, lead dancer, supporting cast, chorus, and/or choreographer in Toronto, and regional theatres working with noted choreographers, directors, musical-directors including: Tony Lloyd, Ron Ulrich, Kimberley Timlock, Jim Saare, Frank Ruffo, Pat Dawson, Doug Balfour, Garth Lambert, Allan Coffin, Michael Mulroney. Some highlights from that time are: six months in Tokyo at a nightclub dancing three shows a night, six nights a week; playing Rolf Gruber in a summer stock production of The Sound of Music, three Fruit Cocktail productions, reoccurring contracts at Huron Country Playhouse, Sudbury Theatre Centre, Showplace Dinner Theatre, and Winnipeg’s Rainbow Stage.
My passion for modern dance was revived while working with Paul Ibey who self-produced three full-evening dramatic dance works starring me. There was Teleney, based on a scandalous novel assumed to have been ghost written by Oscar Wilde; Aesthetes and Decadents, a dance theatre work exploring the Mozart Salieri rivalry; and, Lolita, a dramatic dance work on themes from Vladimir Nabokov’s classic novel of the same name.
“Kevin lives to dance!” – Barbara Bourget. Relocating to Vancouver I began an intensive training period with Barbara Bourget and Jay Hirabayashi and performing for eight years in their butoh/modern dance company, Kokoro. Inspired to create ourselves, Thomas Anfield and I founded Butoh-a-Go-Go, and decades later have three appearances in Moscow, a half dozen BC appearances in festivals: VIDF, DOTE, and Romp! and over twenty works in repertoire under our belt. I have also had the honour and pleasure of dancing, training, studying under Judith Garay in her company, Dancers Dancing: in Robyn Allan’s Vancouver Dance Theatre; and the Whitehorse company LINK Dance.
Around the time Thomas Anfield and I were forming Butoh-a-Go-Go I started my own modern dance class at the studio at the centre of the Vancouver dance scene, Harbour Dance Centre. It is through teaching I have learned my creative engine is in the studio, preferably with other artists, and I have been gifted with an abundance of teaching and choreography opportunities over the years.
The bulk of my teaching has been: Harbour Dance Centre – seven years of a non-stop high-energy Friday evening intermediate level modern dance class, two years of an all levels low-key core-strengthening floor-work heavy early morning movement class, and three years of an all levels Friday morning movement for adults class; Coal Harbour Community Centre – five years of an all levels Wednesday morning creative movement for adults class, and most recently a Tuesday and Thursday for all levels morning creative movement for adults. For the early morning class I did a somewhat standardized but customized class structure focusing on grounding and core strengthening, with gentle movement and meditative imagery to motivate and inspire.
Currently ‘standard’ modern or creative movement class is structured to warm-up, train and develop creativity. Beginning by gently animating and activating the body with movement and breath in-sync. I often demonstrate qigong and yoga exercises along-side of plié, tendu, dégagé and battement; with the ultimate goal of warming the body, and focussing the mind. My own personal style is a blend of ballet for basic alignment and core training; modern and contemporary for expression and aesthetics; with butoh for grounding and subtext. Also in teacher/trainer mode I am always assessing the artists for technique, alignment, tracking, and proper deportment, often adding general verbal reminders or motivators like, reach with your arms, feel the water running down your back, top of your head reaching for the ceiling, your mind like no cloud sky, etc… I love using imagery and see how it can affect the way people move and focusses the mind.
When teaching an all-levels drop-in class I always read the room and teach accordingly. Especially with this demographic, I want to engage and challenge while keeping it within reach and physical limits. I also always include in my pre-class announcement, “If I ask you to do anything that hurts, don’t do it. Do nothing, or stretch until the next exercise.” For my ninety minute class I would look at structuring like this: warm-up section; technique exercises; add core strength elements like sit-ups or some flow yoga; add cardio elements like across the floor or centre jumping; a centre exercise like a grande rond de jambe adage or short adage choreography. At this stage the class should be fully warm and time wise aiming for somewhere around 45 – 60 minute mark. Then teach some choreography adjusting the complexity level according to the class level. I currently have about a dozen set choreographies for this purpose, and have been known to create and embellish in the moment. Usually two or one per class is sufficient. At the end of a class I try to save a few minutes at the end to do a kind of modern révérence with butoh influences. When working with more advanced dancers the complexity level of exercises and choreography would be dialled up accordingly. And ongoing I endeavour to introduce exercises or choreographic elements from inspirational pioneers like Martha Graham, Isadora Duncan and Merce Cunningham.
“Life is a dance!” – Kevin Bergsma. I am a dance artist. Always dancing and thinking choreographically, I am obsessed with gesture, and movement in space, and the space in-between. How music and musicality is in everything and how groups and groupings become so much more than the sum of their parts. A group of dance artists in space is powerful. My body of choreography is largely esoteric and avant-garde, but explores lighter themes, or lighter sides of darker themes and has been appreciated by audiences and artists abroad. My Baba Yaga choreography includes a live vocal score which includes grunts and snorts while exploring the solitary and absurd existence of this mythical witch; Quandom Magick, three sorcerers dance a portal to other realities. This was the first time I produced the soundtrack, along with the costumes, make-up, lighting. Since I have produced, overseen, created and designed all aspects and elements required for a full evening presentation. With my early works and those after, my tendency to build on the dancers trying to draw out or reveal something personal and vulnerable allowing an audience the option of connecting more deeply. Most recently, Triptych performed by Continuum succeeded in connecting with audiences. A number of guests made it a point to let me know how very moved they were by the dance, and closing night a dancer said to me and the others in the company that the experience had reignited her love and passion of dance and performance.
With creating comes producing and co-producing. These experiences and all the other times I have been on a professional stage has garnered me a substantial education to successfully develop effective relationships with technical directors,
lighting designers, stage managers, stage hands, dressers, front of house managers, festival managers, and all matter of a live event production team. At some venues I have had to do some of their functions so have a good working knowledge and understanding of their roles along with a high regard, respect and reliance on their expertise.
Over the years during and in-between creative projects I also worked at Culinary Capers Catering. Initially as an Event Server, then Event Supervisor, then IT Systems Administrator, then Operations Manager, then Executive Assistant, then Event Planner, then General Manager, and lastly Special Projects in Development.
For six years in the role of Event Planner I demonstrated an expertise level at event creation, production and management. I excelled at sourcing and utilizing industry software and tools to communicate with clients, vendors and within our organization, generate estimates, produce floor plans, event staffing management, reports, budget tracking, all which then allow me to better focus on the creative aspects. I successfully planned hundreds of events from dinners for two to plated sit-down dinners, with entertainment and presentations for 600. Involvement was beginning to end – from client consult, to detailed proposals, signed contracts, payment schedules, deadlines, event execution and right through to final billing. Highlights include: Beijing 2008 dozens of formal events for international diplomatic delegations from 8 to 120 during six month contract with BC Secretariat, and again at the 2010 Olympics the exclusive Event Planner for BC Secretariat at the Vancouver Art Gallery.