◊ THE CLASS: Contact ◊
WHAT YOU NEED
Long sleeve shirt
Pants or leggings that are easy to move in
Knee pads (optional if you have knee problems)
When we first talked to Mile Zero Dance about taking a class, I was equal parts excited and terrified. I’d heard of ‘contact dance’ before but never really attempted it. Coming from a dance background I thought I’d be able to hold my own, but little did I know that not even my years of plies and sashays could soften the blow of getting knocked WAY out of my comfort zone. Mile Zero kick started in 1985, originally linked to McEwan University, and has since grown into its own company that encompasses dance, interdisciplinary work, and performance art. They actively host live performances and opportunities for artists to experiment and explore their ideas in a welcoming space. The studio itself is full of chaotic character and you can tell from the moment you walk in, it’s a space for artists of all kinds to come and create. Though this class didn’t leave us gasping for breath, it definitely fulfilled its purpose in connecting mind to body and forcing us to take time to understand how they work in partnership and to the world around us. Also, there was a HUGE test in trusting others – strangers nonetheless – which was a lil’ life reminder unto itself. Coles notes – watch out for each-other and don’t be selfish dicks. See, life reminder.
Located in the heart of Little Italy, this sweet little studio is sandwiched between a beautiful greenhouse/cafe and a quaint barber shoppe just out of reach from the downtown core. The signage outside the building is a bit covered by trees ATM and it boasts ‘Spazio Performativo’ above the door, which is a shared space among a few arts collectives in the city. So when looking up the address and more then one dance school comes up, yes, its confusing, but I promise you’re in the right place. If getting there by public transit, there are a few bus routes that take you from downtown to 95th street; walking is easy peasy and a nice 30-40 minutes from downtown, and if driving, parking can be a little tricky to find if the spaces in front of the studio are taken – your best bet is the closest neighbourhood side streets. Be careful of any parking restrictions or spots that require a parking pass though; with this class being two hours long we had to seek out a spot that didn’t have a time cap on it.
CLASS SCHEDULE + PRICE
The majority of the classes at Mile Zero run during the week and, on average, only have one class per day. There isn’t a large number of classes to take and with them only being once a week you run the risk of missing that particular style of class and having to wait a full week. On the flip side, every class is a different style which allows you to switch it up and try something new if you’re going to the studio multiple times a week. In addition to the classes, Mile Zero has a series of workshops that run throughout the year with local artists and featured artists that get brought in by the studio. The Summer 2018 schedule has yet to be released but is coming soon! Since their class schedule is petite, we give you the goods below;
- MondayContact class (7-9 pm)
- Tuesday:House/ Hip Hop class (6-7 pm)
- Butoh with Sonja Myllymaki (7-9 pm)
- WednesdayNoguchi Taiso with Gerry Morita (10-11:30 am)
- ThursdaysAuthentic Movement (10 am-12 pm)
- Kids Dance (1- 1:45 pm)
Prices for drop-in classes and memberships are super reasonable and of the lowest that we’ve seen compared to other dance studios in Edmonton – although a tad confusing. The gist is – it’s $15 for a drop-in class, or $12 for drop-in if you’re a MZD member, which only costs $15 annually and includes a bunch of other benefits like discounts at all performances and invites to backstage events. Instead of paying for the class up front and having to ‘check-in’ at a front desk, payments are handled at the end of class by the instructor. I found this format a little odd but with it being such a small class size and no other classes going on at the same time, it was pretty seamless.
- Annual membership: $15
- Drop-in for non-members: $15 pc
- Drop-in for members: $12 pc
- 10-Class Pass: $100 ($10 pc)
From the moment you walk in the door, you can tell this is an artists haven. Watering cans and wheelbarrows hang from the ceiling among the chandelier light fixtures, and paintings created by local artists line the walls. A vending machine that dispenses poetry stands at the front entrance and a large art installation made up of globes and kaleidoscopes hang in the front window. Aside from the entry way and the large dance studio that takes up half of the building, the space isn’t very big and every inch is used intentionally. The chaotic clutter and interesting decor is definitely not everyones cup of tea, but we could see how it was ideal for the artists that love a random mish-mash of things to spark their creativity. The vibe is calm and relaxed with people stretching in the lobby and others working at the central desk on their computer waiting for the class before to finish. I couldn’t help but look at the huge community board on the wall near the entrance of the studio with posters of different classes/workshops and shows that are going up in the area. A++ in my book! There isn’t a lot in terms of amenities, no showers, or lockers or any such things, so be sure to bring all of your belongings and the idea is to leave your stuff in the giant studio during class. One of my favourite things about the studio was the large abstract mural on one of the walls in the dance room. That wall is repainted each month by a different artist to display their work for the month – how cool is that?!
- Water station
- One unisex washroom
- Boot rack + coat rack
- Mini fridge and microwave (perfect if you’re running from work to a class and need to heat up a little snack!)
Richard is an Edmonton-based performer, creator, and educator working in contemporary dance, theatre, and the spaces in between. Along with a B.F.A. in Acting from the University of Alberta, he has also trained in contemporary dance and contact improvisation across North America and Europe. From the moment Richard entered the space, you could tell he has a very calming vibe about him. In a class like this that’s a bit out of my comfort zone, it was awesome having a teacher like Richard who got right in there with us, breaking down the movement and demonstrating with us to show how to do everything safely. He was always willing to answer any questions and contribute some laughs when things got a little awkward – more below. Richard is extremely knowledgeable in the style of contact dance and he shared words of wisdom throughout the class that made us feel confidant in our movement. “Dance with the body that you have now” was the first thing Richard said to us before we started class and that little piece of advice is EVERYTHING. An amazing reminder that body acceptance and self-love is king.
LEVEL OF DIFFICULTY
WAY HARD | HARD | MIDDLE OF THE ROADSIES | CHILL | HELLA CHILL
I was a little worried that a two hour class was going to kick my ass, but within moments the vibes were so chill, my nerves were put to bed. With a class size of only six dancers, we had the huge studio space to ourselves. The beginning of class started with us introducing ourselves to one another – bc we were about to get REAL friendly – and sharing our prior experience with contact dance. There were people who had years of experience and people (like myself and my girl, Brittany) who had a limited understanding as to what contact even is – so fear not beginners, everyone is welcome.
Class started by laying on the floor and re-centering our bodies… and let me tell you, after a long work day, it’s exactly what I needed. We shifted our focus to feel where our bodies were making contact with the floor, how it felt and how we could move the focus to different parts of our bodies. The class naturally flowed into us doing body rolls across the floor, but staying on the ground focusing on what parts of the body we were using to lead the movement and how we were using our breath. Then we broke into partners. I was v glad that I brought a gal pal with me so that we could work out the awkward movements as a team. Depending on how you feel about getting physical with strangers after 3.5 seconds, I suggest if you try contact for the first time, bring a friend along to figure it out together. We started rolling over each others legs and morphed it into one partner being a base on their hands and knees while the other partner found a balance point on their partners back. Thought it doesn’t seem like much of a sweat provoking workout, focusing on understanding your body and having communication with your partner was kinda tricky and really made us listen to our bodies.
The next part of the class was not for people who are protective of their personal space. The partners got mixed up and we moved into the space as a group and started mini jam sessions that lasted no longer then 30 seconds and had us constantly switching partners. All of a sudden, we were very close to the other strangers in the class and the personal bubbles were tossed out the door. It was kind of thrilling to put the trust into other people and I even had a few moments where the trust was so mutual that I could do little lifts and balances with the other members of the class. The mini jam sessions turned into bigger and longer ones where instead of everyone improvising; we could actually sit back and watch others work. This was the part of the class that I loved because it was like having a ticket to a private dance performance. After a few more jam sessions with different partners, all of a sudden, just like that, two hours flew by without me even thinking about it. The class closed with another little meeting between all of us to see how everyone was feeling and what they took from the class.
Overall, I’m handing out a full pineapple and considering this guy a Chill for Level of Difficulty. Although it wasn’t a big sweat pumper, it got my heart rate up and had me connecting to my body in ways that I hadn’t before. I would totally suggest the class to people who aren’t afraid to try something new, push themselves out of their comfort zone and spend a little extra time understanding how their body moves and grooves.
To try anything else, see Mile Zero’s contact info below:
Web: www.milezerodance.com Phone: 780.424.1573 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Instagram | Facebook | Twitter