HANNA KIEL (photo: Jake Ramos)

Originally from Seoul, South Korea, Dora award winner Hanna Kiel is a Guest Choreographer with the School this term, and is creating new works for our second and third year dancers. Hanna is Founder and Artistic Director of Human Body Expression (HBE), a dance company which strives to break the mold of traditional dance aesthetics to create hybrid movement forms and cultivate artistic individuality. The company is currently collaborating with DanceWorks to present Again, a piece which focuses on nine dancers with disparate lives and painful pasts as they embark on a journey towards forgiveness, and the unconditional love of a child. The work is presented as part of DanceWorks’ Moving Online digital programming, and features School graduates Bonnie Kim (1988) and Pulga Muchochoma (2009), and Core Faculty Member/Resident Choreographer Darryl C. Tracy. Because the live performance was postponed this season due to COVID-19, HBE has decided to create a full-length dance film of the work, premiering in early 2021.

Hanna first moved to Vancouver in 1996, and has presented her work there at 12 Minutes Max, Dancing on the Edge Festival, PlanB Singles and Solos Festival, and Pulse at the Scotiabank Dance Centre. In 2007, she collaborated with Yoko Ono as a dancer and choreographer at the Centre A. Since relocating to Toronto in 2008, and in addition to directing her company HBE, Hanna has continued choreographing for: Alias Dance Project, Ballet Jörgen, Canadian Contemporary Dance Theatre, Conteur Dance Academy, Dusk Dances, Kenny Pearl’s Emerging Artist Intensive, George Brown Dance, IGNITE, The National Ballet of Canada, ProArteDanza, Rosedale Heights School of the Arts, Ryerson Dances, The School of Toronto Dance Theatre, and Toronto Dance Theatre. In 2012, she won Northwest Dance Project’s Pretty Creatives international choreographic competition, and she was an E-choreographer in 2015 for Springboard Danse Montreal. She is currently a Resident Choreographer at Canada’s Ballet Jörgen.

We recently checked in with Hanna and asked her about working virtually, her choreographic process now that her work has shifted online, and her experience working with our students:

“Since COVID-19, I have created twelve different works, all through virtual processes. This transition wasn’t too challenging for me because I normally give my dancers tasks, like generating physical materials, and I direct them to further develop the movements.

I’ve learned to make the virtual process as close as possible to an in-person studio rehearsal. This seems to be more challenging for the dancers, since they don’t always have a perfect at-home setup for dancing.

That being said, my job as a choreographer is to lead dancers to use their environments, and to be more creative with what they already have available to them. For example: if the room is small, I direct them to do smaller movements like gestures, or smaller isolations. If they have a lot of furniture around them, I get them to use it as set or prop pieces. I’m also more sensitive to their stress levels, and I try my best to help them through any problems. 

One thing I noticed from this experience is that I find dancers to be more relaxed when they generate their materials. I think part of that is because they are in their own homes, or perhaps they can focus on themselves, and not what other dancers are doing around them. Students at the School are always very thoughtful and generous, even when working online – they are very patient and encouraging of each other’s work. The process so far has been extremely fun and positive. It’s always interesting to see how – although the unknown ends with lots of surprises, both good and bad –  we always find a way to make it all work.”