Roger Sinha, choreographer and teacher at the School of Contemporary Dancers, Winnipeg
Since spring of ‘97, Roger Sinha flies regularly to Winnipeg where he spends two weeks creating new dance works for the students at the School of Contemporary Dancers -SCD- Professional Program. The choreographer also provides technical classes to allow students to become familiar with his unique style, a hybrid between contemporary and Indian dance, embracing the strength and speed of martial arts.
A typical day with guest choreographer Roger Sinha
10 to 11.30 AM: Indian dance vocabulary classes
Every morning is dedicated to learning the technique of the guest choreographer. For many years, Roger Sinha has been striving to define his artistic identity and get closer to his own origins and through learning Bharatanatyam, one of eight classical dances in India. In turn, he now teaches the basics of this artform to the students, emphasizing work on the mudras (precise movements of the hands and fingers), and rhythm where the dancers strike the floor with their feet. This very precise and complex technique needs to be learned separately from the choreography. The creation is rather focused on contemporary dance using the whole body, in addition to the precise hands and feet!
1 to 4 PM: Contemporary choreographic work, with Sinha’s signature style
15-20 students explore variations of routines proposed by the choreographer. This is a rare and very inspiring opportunity for him to work with a bigger number of dancers. The creative possibilities are multiplied and developed through research in the form of guided improvisation. The effects of groups, subgroups and lines are tenfold!
The work continues when the choreographer leaves
During the three-year program, the young dancers have the chance to collaborate with numerous choreographers to develop different interpretive skills. Faye Thompson, co-director of the school, is particularly fond of Bharatanatyam, encourages students to learn several dance styles, helping to broaden their horizons. Between the end of the creation with M. Sinha and the end of year presentation, Ms. Thompson takes on the role of rehearsal director and further develops the piece with the students for about a month. Over the years, 6 works have been created. Here is Bholt and a revisited version of The Rite of Spring, a ballet like no other.
A glimpse at the timeline
Sinha Danse, offering opportunities to emerging dancers
Sinha Danse multiplies its ways to keep in touch with emerging dancers. The trust relationship with the SCD is reinforced through various initiatives; choreographic creation, festivals, apprentices, and even the discovery of new talents.
The dance company
Sinha Danse collaborates regularly with two SCD graduates: Thomas Casey and Mark Medrano.
Thomas had recently moved to Montreal when Roger first met him in 1997. Since then he danced in numerous productions of the company. Even after moving to France a couple of years ago, he continued working for Sinha Danse. Last year, he was with us at a contemporary dance festival in Algeria and this year, he will make another appearance in a summer event in Longueuil, south shore of Montreal!
Roger Sinha noticed Mark Medrano’s great talent and explosive energy at the SCD in 2010. When the young dancer wanted to move to Montreal, the choreographer, sharing a similar background and South Asian origins, invited him to join Sinha Danse and he has been part of the company and local scene ever since. He has the main role, among other things, in Burning Skin, the flagship piece of the company.
The works created for students have been hosted twice by the Canada Dance Festival in Ottawa. In 2017, NAfro Dance commissioned Roger Sinha for their Moving Inspirations Festival and he has chosen to hire for this work graduating students from the SCD and offer them the opportunity for real work experience ending with a stage presentation.
Five SCD students have been apprentices at Sinha Danse since 2015, including Mark Edison De La Cruz, Emma Dal Monte, Naomi Wiebe, Samarah McRorie and Rilee Lloyd. Their apprenticeship opened up new opportunities and gave them immediate access to professional networks.
In addition to being incredibly rewarding and refreshing, for Roger Sinha the ongoing collaboration with the SCD and the students allow him to refine the teaching of his technique.
Thank you to the SCD and all other schools that have the mandate to prepare new generations to the realities of this difficult, yet inspiring art form that is dance. As for young dancers, they continue to amaze us with their incredible skills and drive!
Winnipeg, dance Pioneer in Canada
You may be wondering: Why go to Manitoba for dance? Winnipeg inaugurated Canada’s first professional ballet company in 1939, the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, while Les Grands Ballets Canadiens and the National Ballet of Canada were founded in the ‘50s.
With the emergence of a contemporary style, Winnipeg is once again at the avant-garde, hosting Winnipeg’s Contemporary Dancers – WCD. Today, the WCD shares the same building and studios with the School of Contemporary Dancers, which used to be a division of the company since 1972 with its Apprentice Program. In 1981, the Professional Program was founded by Odette Heyn and Faye Thomson and eventually became a separate entity. In 2016 they both received the Order of Canada for their extraordinary contribution to contemporary dance.
Roger Sinha became aware of the school through his commission work the WCD in 1995. In 1996 he returned to choreograph Benches and taught for the first time at the SCD. In 2012, he did Left hook right jab and other important matters, including dancer Mark Medrano who was hired by the WCD after graduating.