MenInDance (DATA Manuel Roque photocredit Marilene Bastien)

During the 2014-15 season, New Dance Horizons is doing a residency at the University of Regina. It’s a great opportunity to interact with students and staff — not just in Fine Arts, but in related disciplines such as Kinesiology and Arts Education, and the broader university community.

Class visits, workshops and performances are three components of the residency. The highlight of the year, though, is the Men In Dance festival which runs at the university — with one off-site performance at Village RV (more on that later) from January 5-18.

“When we approached the university they were super keen to partner with us for the season, and in particular Men In Dance,” says NDH artistic director Robin Poitras.

Poitras says she was inspired to mount the festival after seeing Sylvain Emard’s Ce N’est Pas La Fin Du Monde (It’s Not The End Of The World) which features seven male dancers. “I hadn’t read the program yet, and I remember thinking it’s all men in this piece — that’s unusual.

“You see solos and duets by men, but I hadn’t seen a full piece for years,” she adds. “And reflecting on it, I thought, it would be interesting to do a festival of men’s work. Then the idea just sort of disappeared. Then I saw the work again, and the next day I saw Manuel Roque who dances in his company do a solo called Data. It was an extraordinary piece, and I went up to him right after and said ‘I’m interested in showing this, what’s your availability?’ ‘Well, I’m dancing for Sylvain Emard,’ he replied. I was already looking at him, so the festival started to build.”

The final determining factor, says Poitras, “was whether there was a strong enough contingent of male work in the province because I didn’t want to do something if it didn’t resonate here. I knew it did to a degree with FADA Dance, and Youth Ballet have had all-male dance classes. And with First Nations it’s huge. You go to a powwow, you see men’s traditional dance and men’s fancy dance.”

You can find more on the festival on the NDH website. It gets going Jan. 5 when Peter Trosztmer and Jeremy Gordoneer start construction on a large installation made out of packing tape at Fifth Parallel Gallery. Then later in the week they’ll do durational performances there. There’s also an evening devoted to Saskatchewan dance with a program packed with premiers. Emard’s company and Roque [pictured above in a still from Data] are both dancing, and Mexican artist Lukas Avendaño is performing I Am Not A Man I Am A Butterfly.

Oh yeah, there’s the Village RV show too. Since the festival has a huge gender component to it, it’s an intriguing venue. You could do a master’s thesis on the ambiguous space men occupy in the dance world, after all. Classical ballet is a perfect example. It’s traditionally been very gendered, with princely male dancers lifting and carrying petite ballerinas.

“But that’s changing,” says Poitras. “With Ballet Trockadero, the company’s all men. In contemporary dance, you see every size and shape of dancer, and women lift men. Louise Lecavalier, when she was with La La La Human Steps, started throwing herself and flying in the air. So she was taking the female role further than had been seen. But she would also lift men. She wasn’t the first woman to do that, but it changed the [dynamic] for a lot of us.”

Still, there’s plenty of stereotypes associated with men and dance (outside of social dance, that is, where a man’s ability to “cut a rug” is generally admired). Veteran Canadian dancer Bill Coleman is doing the Village RV show. “The reason for that is that Bill’s piece is inspired by Winnebagos,” says Poitras. “When he first came from the U.K. [with his family 30 years ago] they’d never seen this road trip, camping culture before. The piece was conceived with that in mind, and we thought it would be fun to do it there.”

Again, Men In Dance goes Jan. 5-18. For adults, tickets are $25 per performance, while a festival pass is $100. For students and seniors, it’s $20 per show or $80 for a pass. And you can find more info here.