anya wassenberg’s blog about one of our early performances

sometimes it is rather refreshing to look back on what critics have said about your work and to see the trajectory from then to now.  i want to thank anya wassenberg for her coverage of one of our first performances and her posting in the huffington post blog.  here’s a link to that –


where we’re heading

it has been a bit of time since i last wrote here.  as the days roll on, we’re up to some new creative work and premiering some of this at performances this fall and showcases. first, it has been wonderful to expand the choreographic creation to the ‘collective’s’ treasure chest.  i’m really happy to be working on ‘salama’ with roshanak jaberi and melissa noventa.  it’s the first time i’ve worked with roshanak and the first time melissa has contributed her choreographic vision to the ‘collective’s’ work.  this piece resonates with the intimacy of these two dancers/choreographers and each time we rehearse it, the three of us get closer and closer, bridging the words to the music and movement.

then there’s the new piece with kevin a. ormsby, ‘multi-verse’, born out of my passion for thunderbolt writing to music as fast paced and intense.  with kevin’s sharp and acerbic movements, postures, bold and brash statements, the piece rockets along in a seeming defiance, with the words exclaiming the incomprehensible and the fixed.

one other piece is with amanda paixao, entitled ‘destination out’ which explores the drug dependency of jazz musicians and their flirtations with death.

these pieces are at the core of the new work we’re now engaged in and, through this, the development of another full-length production with the working title ‘destination out’ which i’m hoping will explore exits and departures from family, the physical life and entrance into spirit.  it will explore the hardships of family and the pain of spirituality in attempts to heal; it will explore black artist – musicians, writers, actors, dancers – who have worked to create and found themselves in trying circumstances in their efforts to survive an arts industry that diminishes their efforts; it will peek into how spirit rolls through our bodies and claims us either while we are breathing or afterward.

while we’re working on these, we are also returning to other performance pieces that we’ll be staging in october and then in either november or december.

stay tuned


On the uniqueness of Wind in the Leaves

in the landscape of toronto’s dance community, we occupy a unique space.  in looking at the african diasporic reach and the inter-relationships with brazilian and latino and amerindian expressions, we use various music genres. while we rely principally on contemporary improvisation (mostly in the jazz tradition), we also use western minimalism, folk and blues.  this is an interesting mix when combined with the poetry and dance.  for the dancers and choreographers, it really means taking what they know and creating in this space.  who would have thought that a colombian choreographer, olga barrios, would turn such wonders with ornette coleman’s ‘lonely woman’ or that brazilian choreographer/dancer amanda paixao would work such magic with solo acoustic guitar to such poems as ‘mumia’ and ‘daydreaming about my father’.  then there’s kevin ormsby and his brilliant dance/choreography for ensemble pieces like ‘conversation’ and solo work in ‘inner organs’.  the challenge for these dancers/choreographers is taking what they know into exploration with diverse musics.  the results, spectacular!!!!

a word on the wind in the leaves by artistic director charles c. smith

i’ve been asked several times “what is unique about the ‘wind in the leaves collective’?” this is an interesting question and, i suppose, every artist and arts’ group likely has to answer this to give some insight into the creative gifts they have and want to share. for ‘wind in the leaves collective’, i often reply that we are a performing arts group that tells stories of persons of african descent using poetry, dance, music (live and recorded) and visual imagery. our artists also come from very diverse backgrounds – italian, jewish, german, ukrainian, brazilian, latino, russian, mixed heritages and various tributaries of african descent. what brings us together are our passion for interdisciplinary work, our celebration of the african diasporic roots that course through brazilian and latino forms of expression, and the stories of the people we portray in our performance pieces – while these are of people of african descent, these stories have universal value and resonate across the many communities from which our members are from.

then, of course, there is the way in which we put our work together and the recognition that each of us has her/his own gifts which we bring to each piece we construct. while i may write the poems and choose the music to go with it, the dancers/choreographers make it come to life through their interpretive performances and the visual artists add another layer of interpretation. for our live music, each composition is created by harvey, one of our members, who works with me to understand the nuances of the words in order to find the appropriate tempo, melody, etc.

so each artist provides a creative contribution and it all comes together as one voice, like wind whistling in the leaves of trees.