Choreographer Eryn Waltman Discusses Conteur & 'State of Mind'
Shalom Life sits down with Toronto choreographer, Eryn Waltman, to discuss Conteur Dance Company and 'Three To Be'
Acclaimed Toronto-based choreographer, Eryn Waltman, has been a denizen of the dance world for nearly a quarter century. She has been bestowed a myriad of accolades over the years, including the prestigious title of 2011’s “Choreographer of the Year”, by the National Committee of the American Dance Awards. In its inaugural year, Eryn is the founder and artistic director of Conteur (www.conteurdancecompany.com), a contemporary dance company.
Recently, Shalom Life was able to catch-up with Eryn for a chat
Sarah Bauder (SB): What initially drew you to the world of dance?
Eryn Waltman (EW): I enrolled in my first ballet class at the age of three, located at a small, neighborhood studio in Dundas, Ontario. I was exposed to the grace, beauty and athleticism of dance from a young age. Perhaps it was my first recital that attracted me most – it was festive and fun, but most of all we got to perform on stage and witness the joy of our parents in the audience. At first, it was the sense of accomplishment and joy that initially drew me in to this industry. After moving to a larger competitive studio, I began to study other genres of dance including modern/contemporary, lyrical, tap, acro, and hip-hop. I was eventually selected to participate at the competitive level, where I successfully performed across Ontario, and in parts of the United States. Competitive dance offered an environment that demanded discipline and hard work, but was also one in which there was a great deal of positive reinforcement from teachers, choreographers, adjudicators, and from peers with whom there was a close camaraderie. Contemporary dance provided me with the freedom to express myself creatively; it gave me a sense of self-satisfaction, inner joy, and confidence. It was this exposure that created my passion and drew me into the world of dance.
SB: Who and/or what have been influences throughout your career?
EW: I’m inspired by a number of legendary choreographers including Martha Graham, Bob Fosse, Alvin Ailey, Twyla Tharpe, and William Forsythe, to name a few -- but this was always from a distance. On a more personal level, Tiffany Mclean (a Hamilton based choreographer and teacher) perhaps had the most significant influence on me as a dancer, teacher and choreographer. As important as the technique she taught, she had a way of connecting with her dancers – encouraging them, respecting them, and bringing out the best that they could be both as dancers and as people. She was a wonderful teacher and role model, and has most definitely had a major role in getting me to where I am today. No doubt, the love of my family and the encouragement I receive from them to follow my passion, has been very supportive.
SB: This year, you founded your own company, Conteur Dance Company. Can you tell us a bit about it?
EW: Conteur is a professional dance company that incorporates modern dance movement to express ideas and commentaries on the human condition. In addition to being a professional company, I will also be launching The Academy for contemporary dance training. My focus is to offer unique and inspiring choreographic productions, alongside leading edge technical instruction to dance students. With Conteur, I aim to entertain and enlighten by exposing audiences to the beauty and intricacy of contemporary dance.
SB: What brought about Conteur’s affiliation with the charity THREE TO BE?
EW: For my first show, I wanted to contribute something positive to the community beyond the dance program itself. I learned about the THREE TO BE story and was very touched and inspired by the work of its founders, Dana and Jared Florence. I’ve seen the joy that children experience when studying dance, so there was a natural attraction to a cause that supports research initiatives for children suffering from neurological disorders. THREE TO BE has the ability to help kids all over the world, and it is an honor for me to have the ability to help raise awareness and support to this inspiring cause.
SB: In November, Conteur will be presenting “State of Mind”, to raise money to fund research into children’s neurological disorders. Could you tell our readers a bit about the production?
EW: State of Mind thematically incorporates concepts that are studied in the field of social psychology (subjects I studied during my undergraduate degree at the University of Western Ontario). It is intended to take audiences on a journey through life’s challenges and joys, by depicting the influences that impact and shape the way we behave. Traditional themes such as gender role conformity, attachment and separation, love and commitment, and the impact of one’s physical state, are among the themes that are creatively presented through modern dance movement and song.
SB: What will be next for you?
EW: I am looking forward to opening the Conteur’s Academy for Contemporary Dance Training in the fall of 2012. With Conteur, I aim to offer more opportunities for dancers past the competitive level. I want to provide a space where dancers can study movement while fostering important professional relationships in the dance industry. Conteur will continue to create new choreographic works and productions every season, with hopes to tour with them as well – hopefully one day, worldwide. I hope that Conteur becomes a major creative force in Canada that continues to grow each season, bringing education, exposure and opportunity to our dancers.