This is the fifth and final blog post in a series aiming to provide insight to artists and cultural organizations of all types on how they might develop new and effective ways to work with the private sector.
Everyday Marvels is an innovative example of corporate arts engagement, led by Shannon Litzenberger Contemporary Dance. This new episodic performance installation based on Governor General Award-winning poet Lorna Crozier’s The Book of Marvels – A Compendium of Everyday Things will be presented as part of Toronto’s Nuit Blanche program through a unique partnership between Litzenberger, the Gardiner Museum and the Royal Bank of Canada’s employee volunteer grant program.
Sixteen miniature vignettes (or ‘marvels’) created by 8 local choreographers brought to life Crozier’s poems such as ‘chair’, ‘radiator’ and ‘flashlight’. Over 50 artists, including professional dancers and an enthusiastic team of bankers from the The RBC Bank Notes, performed over 12 hours from sunset to sunrise on October 5th, 2013.
In this video blog series, we follow the progress of the RBC employees as they work with some of Toronto’s leading contemporary dance choreographers. The Everyday Marvels video blog series has been generously supported by Culture Days and its funding partners including Canadian Heritage, Canada Council for the Arts and The J.W. McConnell Family Foundation.
I started this blog series with an article titled ‘Who Says Bankers Can’t Dance?’ After over six months of working with the dedicated team of arts-interested RBC employees, I will assure you that yes, they can dance. And they did dance, marvelously, for over 10,000 Nuit Blanche patrons who circulated through the Gardiner Museum from dusk ‘til dawn during Toronto’s Nuit Blanche event last fall. Named one of the top 15 things to see by Toronto Life and the Globe and Mail, Everyday Marvels attracted nearly double the previous year’s audience to the Gardiner Museum. Curious Nuit Blanchers stood in line for over an hour to take in the performances, and the house was still at capacity at 6:30am when the final poem was read.
It’s hard to capture the essence of the evening in words, but I will say that it was no doubt a transformation for everyone involved – the performers, the audience, the creators and collaborators. Moment after moment, those 12 hours turned a group of strangers into community.
Take a look at the video:
Weeks after the fact, I asked the RBC performers what they took away from the experience, what surprised them, what challenged them, and what was most memorable. Here’s what they said:
“I was surprised by the hidden talent we had. Once I saw the complete pieces, I understood that amateurs can do amazing things under the guidance of great choreographers. I never saw dancing the way I see it now. I learned that dance is more than choreography.” – Inez Fernandez
“The most memorable moment was when we did the ‘hands’ piece at the end. I was placed in front of my son (by chance) and he wanted to interact with us. He was very interested and involved.” –Claudie Cabas
“Looking back at the experience, it was one of the most rewarding and fulfilling moments in my life. I feel very grateful to have been a part of this process and wish to continue supporting the arts.” – David Lim
This creative ensemble of bankers has since formed a permanent dance group at RBC called ‘The Mobile Assets’. In December, they performed my work Flashlight from Everyday Marvels at the RBC Early Risers Charity Concert. Hosted at the John Basset Theatre, they stood out as a brave and unique act among the many solo and ensemble vocal acts in the show. I bet even Gord Nixon was impressed!
Stay tuned for the launch of Everyday Marvels: The Documentary in May 2014...
The Everyday Marvels video blogs series has been generously supported by Culture Days and its funding partners including Canadian Heritage, Canada Council for the Arts and The J.W. McConnell Family Foundation.
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