Many Hamiltonians first come across David Hudson through his work with the Hamilton Arts Council. Look a little closer, and the organization’s Community Engagement Officer is also a talented creator and dancer in his own right with experience spanning the globe. While he has made Hamilton his home, this has not stopped the talented creator from having his work paused as a result of COVID-19. Like many artists, 2020 has forced Hudson to pivot his creative process, find new paths, and question what could be in the future.
I sent 20 questions to David Hudson, founder of the David Hudson Dance Company. From the 20 questions, I asked him to pick and choose a minimum of 10 to answer. The unedited responses formulate the interview below.
1. What artistic project were you excited to execute this year? Did you get to do it?
There were some preliminary plans to remount ‘Ontology’ by The David Hudson Dance Company (DHDC), a contemporary dance trio that debuted in September 2019 as part of Supercrawl. The DHDC has been on a good trajectory since it’s beginning in 2018, so the plan was more advancement in getting the work in front of new audiences. Originally, I was planning activities in April. I had my wedding booked for February 2nd, with a honeymoon in Europe directly after – I am happy to report that both wedding and honeymoon took place, just in time as we arrived back from Paris on February 16th . . . we (my husband and I) were very fortunate!
2. Describe the moment you knew that something you had planned this season needed to pivot and change (or be cancelled).
I was watching things unfold intently, and there was lots reimagining and replanning happening with the arts council at that time. It became quite apparent early-on that suspending my own plans (for dance presentation) was the only clear path, and that getting on-board with that sooner would save me a lot of anxiety moving forward. On reflection, I am very grateful that no bookings or contracts were in place to complicate things.
3. We’re several months into this pandemic. How are you feeling?
I feel relaxed, in this particular moment, but the last few months have shown me how drastically that can change. Surrendering to the world as it currently is, is a temporary state – my instinct is to squirm and scrabble for a sense of control over a (frankly) uncontrollable set of circumstances. I try to be mindful that each person’s navigation of these circumstances is their own, and wishing I was doing “more” or “better” during the pandemic comes from comparing myself with others (specifically through social media). I find, at a time where we should be unified in common struggles and shared experience, I can feel as if I’m on the outside of the ‘pandemic winners’ circle. I suppose the pervasive experience has been one of ‘coming to terms with myself’ and discarding those parts of my insecurity that do not serve or inspire me.
4. Name one thing that you took for granted at the start of the year that you now miss.
Browsing (window shopping) …
5. How are you spending your time during this period of physical distancing and evolving government regulations?
It’s been busy! I have managed to stay engaged with my work at the arts council, so that has certainly kept a sense of continuity to my days at home. I am surprised how enjoyable working from home can be – I would not have considered myself the type to succeed in being disciplined enough, but it’s going great (and the dog loves it!). Being home has created lots of opportunities to build connections with other artists, and continue researching for new works. I’m a huge fan of conducting research into themes and ideas for movement, the pandemic has created lots of opportunities to go ‘down rabbit holes’, and I’ve spent more time looking at the work of other dance artists and their approaches to creating movement. The trick is finding social media feeds that aren’t overly curated, through that you can learn alot about the development of an artist’s work.
6. How have your priorities shifted over the course of this pandemic?
I recognize a need to prioritize making contact with my social circles (specifically via phone and video chat), It is important that I continue to nurture and feed my relationships with others, and not take for granted that everyone is “probably fine”. Social relationships are important, and they require work on my part.
7. Are you maintaining your practice as an artist during this time? If so, how?
Artistically much of the last few months has been in research. I am getting excited to begin creating my new work ‘Proximal’ (working title) in 2021. Proximal will explore themes of intimacy and hierarchy, and reimagine the societal norms around how we express affection to one another – I have been considering (with amusement and intrigue) how we are open and loving in our relationships towards dogs (in the absence of verbal reciprocation) and how it might look as a model for our relationships with other people. I am currently submitting grants for this project to the City Enrichment Fund (deadline November 2nd!) and Canada Council for the Arts.
I have recently returned to my local Gym (who are doing a fantastic job at keeping us safe) and I have set myself the target of returning to ‘professional dance readiness’ by April 2021 (which will coincide with my 40th birthday!). Weight gain and muscle-loss has been a real challenge, more-so the struggles of self-image that comes with that, I have given myself a pretty hard time over the way my body has changed, and I’m not sure if it’s any worse for dance artists/practitioners – but shame has made it really difficult to motivate moving forward with a constructive plan. I am very grateful for the support that I have in place.
8. What play, performance or piece of art should everyone be visiting (or revisiting) during this time?
The Hamilton Arts Week Finale Concert (June 20th) included 2 amazing performances that I still revisit on Youtube. Logan Staats featuring Layla Black is a beautiful first half, followed by Tom Wilson feat. Jesse O’Brien – the performance includes Tom Wilson quoting RuPaul, and a spine tingling rendition of the Tragically Hip’s ‘Fiddlers Green’.
9. Is there anything else that is helping you look after your wellbeing during this time?
November will mark 6 years (for me) of sobriety, and as part of my own well-being and continued recovery I utilize mediation and frequent contact with my community as vital to moving forward. I feel a tremendous sense of gratitude for the tools I have learned, especially in the face of this pandemic which has (at times) been an assault on the kind of stability I strive to create. It is amazing how the whole world has pivoted, and despite obvious challenges, there are so many services and supports available to people online – however, our job as a community is to extend our resources to the individuals and communities who cannot access or navigate digital support so easily.
10. Name a Hamilton-based artist that inspires you, and why.
I had the great pleasure of interviewing Cesar Cordoba, who is an artist in residence at the Cotton Factory. Cesar’s practice ranges from sketches, to exquisite sculptural work, and music. We sat for a while and he talked about his life in Mexico City, and the life he has today in Canada. I learned about Cesar’s process of building sculptures of animals and creatures from foraged items, and his commentary on how he feels humanity has ‘forgotten that we all come from the same earth’.
I would also love to work with Six nations singer/songwriter Lacey Hill, her approach to creating music that swathes like a dramatic landscape as the background to her immaculate and emotive vocals – I would love to spend some time with her, and perhaps envision a collaboration of original dance and music.
11. Do you think the pandemic will change the way that dance is consumed by an audience? Why/how?
I think there is plenty of space in our future for dance and movement to continue inspiring and engaging audiences. Done well, new mediums can enhance the adventure of exploring new worlds forged by the architectural representation of bodies in space. The art of dance and choreography is extraordinarily versatile as a commentator of real-world issues, a purveyor of fantastical story-telling, or the exhibitor of abstract expressionism. I feel optimistic for the future of dance, because of the vital role it plays in society. There is, however, still much work to be done in adopting models that support the consumption of professional dance. We need more alternatives to the abundance of dance offerings for ‘free’ or ‘pay-what-you’re-willing’ …. this is not sustainable and we must continue to do the ground-work for a future that will almost certainly be a hybrid of digital and in-person presentation. These technicalities are not for each person to figure-out on their own own, therefore I encourage artists to connect with their contemporaries. Be generous with sharing your experiences and discoveries, and not too bashful about the shortcomings or problems you encounter. Enduring solutions and sustainable transformation of models will only come from a well defined ‘problem’ – participate in the community conversations and connect with the umbrella organizations who are working to support your artistic practice.
Photo of David Hudson by Kendell McLeod courtesy of David Hudson