On August 16, 2021, we officially welcomed Sasha Ivanochko as she stepped into the role of Artistic Director.
In this new era for the School, she brings impactful new ideas and passion to our community. Her robust dance career as a performer, choreographer, educator, and advocate for dancers will undoubtedly influence inspiring change, and we are thrilled to have her on board. We asked Sasha some questions to get to know her as we begin this exciting new chapter with her as our leader.
“As much as dance is a performance art form, for me it is also a visual one. I turn to visual arts/culture for aesthetic and intellectual stimulation, and to support the theoretical lens through which I experience and consider dance” she says when speaking about her biggest inspirations. “As a teacher, and a human, for grounding and inspiration, I frequently turn to the writings of bell hooks, an outspoken American author, professor, feminist and social activist. Her view of teaching is that it is collaborative, non-discriminatory, and ought to enable critical thought processes toward the goals of self-actualization and freedom. What is outstanding and transformative about her philosophy is that it is anchored in a belief in possibility.”
Sasha beautifully describes dance as “acts of life.” When asked about her favourite aspect of working with dancers in the community, she says “it is important to remember that, as a bodily art form, dance is life. Dancers’ movement just is and disappears as soon as it takes form; dancers are the simultaneous embodied states of becoming and going. As a teacher, performer, choreographer, and as an audience member, I’ve been exceptionally lucky to have witnessed and participated in many ‘acts of life’.”
Sasha has made many fond memories as a dance professional. So many, in fact, that when asked her favourite memory from working and being involved in dance, she says “There are too many wonderful moments to choose from! But overall, the energetic exchange that happens between dancing bodies has become essential fuel for my health and well-being. Without fail, being in the studio with others buoys my spirit and ignites my imagination.”
As a graduate of the School, Sasha’s role as Artistic Director feels like a full circle moment. She says that she felt inspired to accept the position because “on a practical level, I felt I had the right skill set and for the job, and that my profile and values mapped well onto what the School put forth in its call. And I’m a graduate of the School, so there is that feeling of completing a cycle as I return to it after a rather nomadic career. But to be honest, the decision to accept the role is based on my own need to be useful, and to apply myself to something that is larger than myself. I’m the best and happiest person I can be when I’m deeply and meaningfully engaged.”
Sasha has big plans for the future of the School. “The School has an ethical responsibility to educate emerging artists about the artistic continuum they are part of, and to provide them with relevant tools and information to effectively enter the workforce. And these are extraordinary times to be alive.” she says. “The world is on fire. Climate catastrophe is now. We are in the middle of a global pandemic that is altering the way we interact with one another and gather. Race, gender and all intersections of identity politics are at the fore of our collective consciousness and daily living. Whether acting in collaboration or as individuals, the work of the Contemporary dance artist is predicated upon attaining competency with creative and expressive processes and methodologies and understanding how to use them to communicate with the world.”
The program Sasha envisions “prepares students for this work. The studio-based and academic courses provide multiple entry points through which students develop and integrate current physical and creative techniques, and critical reflection. My vision recognizes an institution’s foundational and influential role in its local and broader community, and the programming also acts as a point of exchange, networking and research. By engaging and connecting the students with local and international practicing artists/teachers, we foster a dynamic flow of new ideas and technologies, supporting the evolution of the field at large.”
She continues: “Historically, the School is known for developing beautiful, strong technicians and for its dedication to particular Modern dance lineages that have substantially informed the foundation of the Toronto dance scene. Future programming gratefully acknowledges this, but will promote the current continuum of creators from a variety of rich lineages, and Contemporary movement systems that promote adaptiveness and discernment. Alongside technical skill building, the creative aspects of the curriculum — composition, interdisciplinary creation, improvisation, and theory— will be given more value and weight.”
“First year courses will emphasize awareness before aesthetics. Second year students will be regularly challenged to test out and apply new knowledge and expand their tool kits. Third year courses will be less didactic and more dialogic, and instruction will evolve to more of an advisory and mentorship function. I’m eager to develop opportunities for students to connect to the professional world through residencies and exchanges.”
“Thank you for welcoming me to the School! I look forward to connecting with you all in the coming months!”
We are delighted to welcome Sasha, and look forward to a bright future at The School of Toronto Dance Theatre!
More about the Artistic Director:
Sasha Ivanochko is a performer, choreographer and educator with 30 years professional experience in the field of Contemporary dance. She is the founder of Ivanochko in Company, an ad hoc company dedicated to the production and presentation of her own work. From 2018- 2021, she was the artistic director of Dancers’ Studio West, a resource and production organization dedicated to the evolution of Contemporary choreographic practices in Alberta.
Sasha first developed her powerful physicality competing for ten years on the Canadian National Gymnastics Team. At the age of 14 she began training in Ballet and Modern dance at the Etobicoke School for the Performing Arts, and in 1991 she graduated from The School of Toronto Dance Theatre. She has an MFA Interdisciplinary Studies from Simon Fraser University. A virtuosic and multi-talented interpreter, she performed in the works of many outstanding choreographers, including Michael Trent, Peter Chin, Susie Burpee & Linnea Swan, Toru Shimazaki, Denise Fujiwara, DA Hoskins, Peggy Baker, Tedd Robinson, with Citadel & Compagnie, and for nine seasons with Toronto Dance Theatre.
Sasha made her choreographic debut in 1997, and since then has created a body of work renowned for its dramatic physicality, unflinchingly candid performances and detailed craftsmanship. Alongside her choreographies for Ivanochko in Company, she has been commissioned by Toronto Dance Theatre, Winnipeg’s Contemporary Dancers, Via Salzburg, TILT sound+motion, Toronto’s Crazyfish Collective and independent artists Jillian Peever (Toronto), Helen Husak (Calgary), and Naoko Murakoshi (Kobe, Japan). Sasha’s work has been presented by the International Theatre Festival of Santo Domingo (Dominican Republic), the Dance Meeting (Nagoya, Japan), The 2007 IETM (Montréal), The Canada Dance Festival (Ottawa), The Fluid Festival (Calgary), The Guelph Contemporary Dance Festival (Guelph), Dancing on the Edge (Vancouver), New Dance Horizons (Regina), Dancers’ Studio West (Calgary), DanceWorks (Toronto), The Festival of New Dance (St. John’s), Tangente (Montréal), Mile Zero Dance (Edmonton), La petite scène (Québec), Studio 303 (Montréal), Quartiers Danses (Montréal), Public Energy (Peterborough), the School of Contemporary Arts, Goldcorp Centre for the Arts (Vancouver) and at the visiBle festival (Los Angeles).
An educator since 1996, Sasha has developed a training methodology that is specific to the demands of her choreography. The class supports participants developing a kinetic and interpretive understanding of her movement vocabulary, but as well encourages a broader range of skills that has applications towards many performance avenues. Sasha has taught at multiple conservatories and universities across Canada, including The School of Toronto Dance Theatre, École de danse contemporaine de Montréal, The Ottawa School of Dance, The School of Contemporary Dancers (Winnipeg), Modus Operandi (Vancouver), The School of Alberta Ballet (Calgary) and The University of Calgary. She has guested at Ballet Mannheim (Mannheim, Germany), Kobe Jogakuen University (Kobe, Japan), and Simon Fraser University (Vancouver.
A passionate advocate for the health and status of artists and the position of the milieu in greater culture, Sasha served as Chair of the Canadian Alliance of Dance Artists, East Chapter, from 2006-2009 and Chair of the Independent Standing Council with the Canadian Dance Assembly from 2009-2011.
Throughout her career, her artistic contribution to the Canadian dance milieu has been acknowledged through a variety of awards and bursaries. Sasha is the recipient of the 2007 K.M. Hunter Award, a two-time recipient of the Chalmers Family Fellowship, and the first recipient of The Kathryn Ash Award dispersed by the School of Toronto Dance Theatre. In 2006, Sasha was profiled in the Bravo Channel Documentary Freedom Series. Her MFA research was awarded the Joseph Armand Bombardier Canada Graduate-Masters Award and her work as an administrator has been acknowledged with the 2020 John Hobday Award in Arts Management.