Bynh Ho has danced his way around the world, and he has school administrators in Surrey to thank.
The former Surrey resident, 27, graduated from North Surrey Secondary a decade ago, before he made the leap to study dance at the famed Julliard School of performing arts in New York City.
The Now-Leader caught up with Ho earlier this month as he rehearsed for Company 605’s performance of Loop, Lull at Vancouver’s PuSh International Performing Arts Festival, which starts Jan. 17 and continues until Feb. 3.
Ho credits those in the Surrey public school system for allowing him to pursue his dream as a professional dancer, by giving him the flexibility to train during class time.
“In my graduating year, I was actually doing a lot of school through correspondence in a program, I think it was called Surrey Connect,” Ho explained. “And in Surrey Connect and at North Surrey, they did a really amazing job of being able to accommodate sort of the track I was on, and what I was up to, to make something like Julliard possible. So I really appreciate being able to have people be accommodating and flexible like that. With my high school experience, a lot of counsellors, a lot of teachers really helped make this all possible for me.”
In recent years Surrey Connect has morphed into Surrey Schools’ online/distance education program SAIL, or Surrey Academy of Innovative Learning.
“At the time,” Ho continued, “it was a lot to ask of the teachers and counsellors, and maybe these days it’s a bit more common for students to do what I did. There was a lot of negotiating that had to happen for them to allow me to go to school for, like, a fraction of my day, but I’m so thankful because it allowed me to get the kind of training that I needed to move on to bigger opportunities, ones I might not have had otherwise.”
Ho recently returned home, in Gastown, from a December tour of Germany with Vancouver-based Company 605, which will premiere Loop, Lull at the PuSh festival on Monday night (Jan. 21, 7 p.m.), with additional performances on Jan. 22, 28 and 29. The show’s venue is the Scotiabank Dance Centre on Granville Street, where Ho and others have created the piece in recent weeks.
“It’s a bit of a luxury to have a technical residency at the dance centre, in the actual theatre space where we’ll be premiering the piece in,” Ho noted. “It’s nice to have the time to get more familiar with the space, more comfortable, to build these things on the spot.”
This year's PuSh Festival program features 26 critically acclaimed works from different artistic disciplines, with inspiration drawn from the sacred to the profane. We are proud to present these works at venues across #Vancouver this January. https://t.co/xBFG3u7MvH
— PuSh Festival (@PuShFestival) November 15, 2018
In a bio, Company 605 says it is “dedicated to forging new ground in dance. Fusing contemporary and urban approaches to the art form, the group stresses collaboration, rigorous physicality and, above all, the exploration of movement and ideas in balance.”
The ensemble has toured more than 30 cities across Canada and “made waves” in Europe, Central America, Australia and the U.S.
Loop, Lull, meanwhile, is described as a “hypnotic” work featuring five dancers, including Ho, “each trapped in their own loop of motion and gesture. They change their movements in response to each other, while at the same time manipulating the space around them with lighting, music and ambient noise. Gradually the performers merge, attempting increasingly complex feats, and with these interactions come new rules, new restrictions, new compromises.
“By the time the dancers are moving as a group, their multiple obligations – to the lighting, to the sound loops and to each other – are so demanding that they’re working at the brink of impossibility. They may even collapse. In this performance, all is laid bare for the spectator: the audience witnesses a process without an endpoint, sharing the space, the energy and the danger with the performers. This sense of transparency and community is essential to the meaning of Loop, Lull, which hides behind no narrative except bodies and movement in constant negotiation. It’s about people coping with change together, and all the beauty, vulnerability and risk that entails.”
In an interview on Jan. 8, Ho said the piece was still coming together.
“Very much so,” he said, “and, in a way, that may be surprising for someone to hear, but I really believe that up until the premiere, we’re going to be sort of developing the work, and this work in particular will continue to take shape the more it’s performed.”
Ho, who makes a living as a dancer, says he feels “really privileged” to be able to support himself doing what he loves, and is content to live in Vancouver, at least for the time being.
“My mentality growing up was to move away one day, but actually what I’m finding out now is, after spending some time working abroad, I felt a need to come home. And when I came home I wasn’t necessarily sure what to expect, since I had spent some time away from the Vancouver dance community. But now, with a bit of time and getting to know what’s going on in this city, it’s actually quite a vibrant scene, and I really appreciate the work that’s being put out here. I didn’t necessarily expect it, but I’m discovering that it’s worth it to invest in where I come from, and that I don’t necessarily need to be elsewhere to have a particular kind of dance career.”
Company 605’s Loop, Lull is among six world-premieres staged during the three-week PuSh festival, which promises to mark its 15th anniversary with a “mesmerizing program of radical theatre, innovative dance and experimental music,” showcasing 26 works from 24 companies from 13 countries. More details are posted at pushfestival.ca, or call 604-449-6000.