Friday, March 15, 2013

My First Dance: Sarah Lochhead

Simcoe Contemporary Dancers executive director, Sarah Lochhead, describes her first dance experience as making up actions to songs from a tape called Animals and Other Things alongside her brother, Andrew. In particular, the pair had some wicked moves to the song I'm A Galapagos, “a G-a-l-a-p-a-g-o-opagus.”

Sarah's first formal dance experience was a Saturday morning dance class, with Miss Terry, held at The Windsor Optimist Community Centre. She remembers a dance they did titled The Hat Box Dance. This dance was performed at an event called Art in the Park, on a truck that became a makeshift stage. “I don't remember any of the steps, it was 27 years ago,” recalls Lochhead, “but I remember being excited and enjoying being on stage. I never seemed to have a problem with stage fright.”

Sarah reflects upon “a pivotal moment at 13 when I knew I didn't want to be/didn't have the ‘ideal body type’ to be a ballerina, but I didn't know what the other options were.  After seeing a Margie Gillis special on CBC and also watching one of our studio alumni from Academie Ste. Cecile, Melina, dance a modern piece in recital - I fell back in love with dance.  I saw new possibilities and felt deeply that I wanted to move like that!”

It was at this time that Sarah started taking modern dance with Barb Robinson, who encouraged Sarah to audition for local opportunities with HNM Dance Company and helped make participating in Toronto Dance Theatre's summer intensive a possibility. The colleagues Lochhead worked with at HNM Dance Company influenced her to pursue dance in post-secondary education. 

It is these influences that have driven Sarah’s career in dance.  “The influence we have on one another, and our ability to open doors for each other, and help goals become attainable, is something I've always loved about being part of the dance community.  I truly appreciate that what I do in the studio has a long lineage of people working together, being influenced by one another, ideas intersecting and rebelling.  I feel overall that what has evolved most is my appreciation and respect for the process of tradition/evolution of ideas. For example, I love reading auto-biographies and writings by prominent dancers of previous generations.  We are lucky that we have these source materials as windows into their thoughts on our craft.”

If given the opportunity, Sarah would tell her younger dancing self to “always remember to explore the fun of making up dances in the living room.” She adds, “the only way in which size matters is when it comes to imagination - and bigger is better.” 

When asked what five words Sarah would use to describe dance she selected “communicative, enveloping, imaginative, exploratory,” and while she had no specific word for the last one, she found herself taking a deep breath in and exhaling a sigh of pure joy as a way to describe it.

Our region is extremely fortunate to have such a passionate dance artist to continue to teach and inspire all who come to dance with her! Thank you Sarah, for creating the Simcoe Contemporary Dancers and for extending the reach of this beautiful art!

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