The choreographer Roger Sinha is an artist of plural identities. He gradually became one of the symbolic names of the inclusive contemporary dance scene of Quebec and Canada. Based in Montreal for many years, he is known for his interdisciplinary approaches, his attachment to his mixed Indian-Armenian origins, his critical but also ironic look at societal issues.
Constantly searching for new ways of expression through dance and movement, the artist often integrates theater, spoken word, poetry and interactive technologies into his choreographic creations. Over the last few years, he has also been passionate about live music performance, electroacoustic sound processing and sound effects research in general.
Music performance has become an important part of the artistic director’s work more recently. In fact, often during his creation processes, he danced in silence: “I’m able to listen to the musicality of my own internal rhythm and my own breath to create movement. I will hear a piece of music and it will inspire me to create something, sure. It can go both ways but I don’t necessarily need music to dance.”
This connection with music evolved only a decade ago, when Roger Sinha fell under the spell of the hum of the ultimate Australian instrument, the didgeridoo. So much so that he included it in his latest piece, Out of Bark and Bones, and performed as a musician for the first time. Over time, the choreographer added other instruments to his collection – the rav drum and the djembe: “I also work quite a bit with Ableton software, which I’ve spent a few years studying. I like to say that I do some kind of sound design work” he adds.
Today, Roger Sinha admits that his passion for music is at the heart of his choreographic work. The artist has discovered a new and almost inexhaustible source of inspiration, which complements and goes hand in hand with his intense love for dance: “I play my music, I put it in a loop, then I get up and improvise for a minute or two, and then repeat that process again. That’s how I integrate music with my desire to maintain my performance capability.”
When asked if his legacy is important to him, he takes on a more serious tone: “It is crucial. It is simply that”. During his studying years at the School of Toronto Dance Theater in the 80s, there were few to no dancers of colours on stage, he recalls. “I’d like that, regardless of their origins, young dancers find the courage to tap into their roots while following the path of creativity. It doesn’t even have to be in dance, it could be anything, simply for them to own their own individuality and their uniqueness and celebrate that”.
His desire to continue performing is intertwined with his will to leave his mark. 40 years have gone by since Roger Sinha’s first appearance on stage. Embracing his own plural identity inspired him to create his first piece, Burning Skin in 1992. For those who don’t know, the young dancer was born in London and raised in Saskatchewan by his Armenian mother and Indian father. He was the only brown kid in school and because of that, he was subjected to a lot of racist insults from his classmates: “Burning Skin came from a tragedy, me being beat up everyday for weeks and months on end. I took that tragedy and shaped it, expressed it in my art”.
Today, at the age of 63, he trains his dancers in the physically demanding performance style he’s known for. Still very much present as a choreographer, Roger Sinha finds himself in the dynamic of transmitting. Although he is sometimes nostalgic about his younger years as a dancer, his artistic maturity has allowed him to find a new way to express himself: “Combining dance and music is a way for me to continue my artistic practice. This path enriches me and helps me grow.”
Also recently, the choreographer puts attention on the importance of making the dance scene more accessible to everyone. This is what motivated the creation of MoW! a show that brought together professional dancers and citizens for a flash mob of Bollywood and contemporary dance. We can dance without being professional dancers and without having the perfect technique: “I would like to invite the general public to dance, to express themselves and discover the capacities of the body. Take risks, look for your own authenticity, show the world who you are”.
Currently, Roger Sinha is working on a new project in collaboration with Damian Siqueiros, a Canadian visual artist of Mexican origin. A dance film inspired by their personal experiences during the global pandemic. 2M follows the journey of 4 characters whose lifes are disrupted by the impact of social distancing norms. The work evokes the difficulties of isolation and the journey it takes to adapt and reconnect with our psychosocial needs. Exceptional performers, virtuoso musicians, stunning costumes, outstanding camera work and much more awaiting! By taking new directions, Roger Sinha & Damian Siqueiros strive to touch our souls.