At SFU Woodward’s Goldcorp Centre for the Arts, the end of semester includes a number of programs that showcase student learning and development as artists at the School for the Contemporary Arts. Amongst all this programming is the student-organized show Ascension, which is entering its fourth year.
Ascension is a unique initiative that encourages students to be in involved in every part of the creative and logistical process. From the dance, to the music, to the publicity and seating arrangements, it is organized and run entirely by SFU students. The show has a $5 student price, with nighttime shows on December 11 and 12, and a matinee on the 13.
Katherine Vincent, a third-year dance student and organizer for Ascension 4, described it as “a collaborative project in a professional atmosphere that helps form connections that can be taken outside of SFU to future works and projects after graduation.”
This year’s show involves a talented group of over 30 artists. These are SCA students involved in choreography, music composition, dance, lighting design and production. The program is a result of collaboration between the Dance, Music, and Theatre Student Unions, and is supported by both the Simon Fraser Student Society and the School for the Contemporary Arts.
Vincent explained that the preparations for the show take eight months, and start in April with the initial call-out for choreographers and composers. This is followed by participant selection, and the setting of partnerships between choreographer and composer that form the basis of the process. The summer then provides time for the students to develop ideas in preparation for the fall.
During the fall, these partnerships feature a long period of back and forth work as both the music and choreography start to grow. Discussions are followed by rehearsals and music sampling, as both sides work together to ensure that both choreography and composition create a cohesive whole.
In November, lighting designers begin to develop the technical and audiovisual support for the pieces. Throughout the fall, this work is shown in monthly internal performances, during which the performers receive feedback from their peers.
It is a long process that synthesises a breadth of different disciplines at the school. Vincent explained that the production can be difficult to balance in between different classes, work and other commitments.
As the performers develop the discipline and skills to collaborate and create Ascension, the work begins to mirror the production of pieces and events in the outside world. The students rely on each other’s specific fields of study during the process, while also working with external partners outside of their cohorts. This includes not only the SCA, but also the grant funding from the SFSS, and the hiring of professional musicians to play the music composed for the show.
Ascension presents unique opportunities for students in different programs, and is important for aspiring choreographers who don’t get many opportunities to create and showcase work in a professional setting. This show is an opportunity for the students to try different ideas, working on anything from solos and duets to complex pieces involving over a dozen dancers.
The show presents an excellent opportunity to see the talent in SFU’s SCA students, and see how those students combine and foster their ideas as they develop their growing artistic practices.