Feature on: Rosemary James

From the pen of Rosemary James, who celebrates her 25th season as Toronto Dance Theatre's Rehearsal Director. Keep your eyes on this series as we feature profiles of TDT's creative team and company members in the coming weeks

From 1987 – 1992, I was a Toronto Dance Theatre company member and performed the works of founders Peter Randazzo, David Earle, Patricia Beatty, and then Resident Choreographer Christopher House. In the fall of TDT’s 1991 season I was pregnant. Still wanting to dance, I took company classes and was cast to perform James Kudelka’s Fifteen (15) Heterosexual Duets (1991) in New York at the Joyce Theatre, and in Patricia Beatty’s Mandala during the winter season of 1992. In the meantime, I watched rehearsals and coached the dancer who replaced me in the roles I could no longer perform. The choreographers asked me to write notes for them during rehearsals. Occasionally they would inquire if I had noticed other things amiss with the run-through. I often did and commented on elements such as spacing, musical phrasing, or virtuosic dancing.

Throughout my training and career as a dancer I have had an eye for detail. I closely watched my teachers Magda Lakihazi, Billyann Balay, Randazzo, Earle, and Beatty. I observed how they coached or directed the dancers during rehearsals, how they said a particular phrase, demonstrated movement, provided counts or musical phrases. I realized a similar process happened in new choreography as well as with existing repertoire.

When I was a student at The School of Toronto Dance Theatre (STDT) from 1983-1986, Balay, who was the Principal, often remounted company repertoire. Balay would carefully guide the dancer(s) through the appropriate stages of breaking down or deconstructing the movement so that the student(s) understood what needed to be corrected. I learned this extremely valuable approach for remounting choreography over time.

Through intuition, experience and practice I have developed a useful approach towards rehearsal direction and have applied it over the past twenty-five years in my work with Christopher House, his repertoire, with STDT where I am the Training and Performance Associate, and in the creation of new work with guest choreographers. The ability to direct a rehearsal requires organizational skills, several hours of preparation and patience. I believe there is something magical about restaging past choreography, delving into the choreographic
structure, the imagery, movement, and musicality. I also enjoy being a part of the creative process and watching choreographers venture into new territories with the dancers. TDT’s new initiative, Reimagining Repertoire, will take the company in both these directions.

Rarely have I missed a TDT performance. To me, it is extremely satisfying to see a piece of choreography on the stage that I have been intimately involved with through working with the dancers, choreographers, costume and lighting designers, and stage managers.

- Rosemary James, Rehearsal Director