What I’ve learned – Gioconda Barbuto

Photo: Michael Slobodian

Italian-Canadian dance artist, Gioconda Barbuto, was the Commissioned Choreographer for the 2019 competition.

“My parents always said I came out dancing. I can’t stop moving when I hear music.

Music was always in the home; I grew up with it. My mother had an amazing voice, and sang Italian opera and folk songs. I didn’t start dance classes until I was nine – once a week, which was all my parents could afford – but I danced all the time.

I wouldn’t be where I am now without ballet. It is the foundation of everything I do. The work ethic, dedication, alignment: it set me up for everything.

The Genée brings me full circle. I never went into competitions, but I was RAD-trained – I did all the exams.

Making work for the Genée will be a new experience. I’ve never done this kind of commission for a competition. They want to introduce my kind of movement workshop process and introduce that contemporary way of working. We work with the task and the tools that are generated through the process. It’s huge and exciting!

Creation is a collaboration. Within the room there’s a sense of connection, a physical dialogue that brings us together. The response gets more involved, and before we know it, there’s a sense of play, of integrity and exploration.

Everyone has something to offer. It’s so important to develop a sense of trust. It empowers dancers.

I was always a dancer that choreographed. Always creating little dances. I had a curiosity. I’ve been lucky to work with so many wonderful choreographers throughout my career. I loved discovering different ways of moving, and began to search between and beyond the lines.

My long dance career has allowed me to open up, change and grow – and also go through hardship, which is what helps you move on. It’s been such a privilege – especially the people I’ve worked with.

After I left Les Grands Ballets Canadiens, and just as my choreographic career was staring to open up, I was invited to join Nederlands Dance Theatre 3 – a company for dancers over 40. Ageing wasn’t at the front of my mind. I wasn’t ready to stop at 40 – I felt amazing!

Jiri Kylian, who led NDT3, is fantastic. A brilliant mind, and a beautiful person to work with. We had a quiet, almost instinctual dialogue. Those were very special times.

Now, I want to do more creating and more workshops, sharing movement with young dancers, circus performers or opera singers. But I still love being on stage. It’s like home to me.

I’m always grateful to be busy. You just embrace it and go for it – it’s not there forever.”