Meet the 2020 Research Series Artists in Residence:

Emily Solstice Tait

Emily Solstice Tait is of mixed settler and Ojibway heritage, from Treaty 5 Territory, living in Treaty 1 Territory, Winnipeg, Manitoba. She is a 2019 graduate of the Professional Program at the School of Contemporary Dancers and a multidisciplinary artist with her practice crossing into theatre, devising, choreography, and stage management. Past projects include performing with Odette Heyn- Projects/Canada Day Live Ottawa & Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, WCD’s Actualize (Ming Hon) and Calibrations of Flux (Jolene Bailie), Théâtre Cercle Molière Marathon De Crèation (Miguel Fortier), Stephanie Ballard and Dancers, Sarasvati Productions, Theatre New Brunswick/ Confederation Centre for the Arts (PEI), Raven Spirit Dance & Vines Art Festival (Vancouver), Rouge-gorge/ New Dance Horizons (Regina), New Blue Emerging Dance (Toronto), and in Creando Lazos a Través de la Danza (Léon & Guanajuato, México).

Mark Dela Cruz

Mark Dela Cruz markiatsu (Mark Dela Cruz) was born into a family of farmers in barangay Osmeña of Solano, Neuva Viscaya. At the age of 8, he immigrated with his family of 4 to North End Winnipeg, Manitoba. His foundations in dance came from dance classes offered in high school and from weekly sessions with a hip-hop dance crew. After high school, he completed his Honours Degree Bachelor of Arts through the School of Contemporary Dancers. He now works with a Toronto-based charity called Outside Looking In that brings dance classes to Indigenous youth in remote First Nation communities.

Neilla Hawley

Neilla Hawley is a contemporary dance artist based in Winnipeg, Manitoba. In high school, her only plan for the future was to win the lottery at eighteen – a dream she abandoned at nineteen to become an artist. In her career thus far, she has had the opportunity to perform the works of Rachel Browne, Harold Rhéaume, Stephanie Ballard, and Jolene Bailie. Neilla has worked professionally in Québec with Le fils d’Adrien danse, in Léon & Guanajuato, México for Creando Lazos a Través de la Danza, and here in Winnipeg with Gearshifting Performance Works and Winnipeg’s Contemporary Dancers. She is a member of BOSS Dance Team, a hip-hop team that performs and trains in Winnipeg and she holds a BA Honours in Dance from The University of Winnipeg (School of Contemporary Dancers).

* Emily Solstice Tait, Mark Dela Cruz and Neilla Hawley will be collaborating during this research process.

Meryem Alaoui

Meryem Alaoui is a dancer-choreographer from Morocco, living in Toronto, Canada. Her work is often an invitation towards a softer, more contemplative and sensorial experience of dance.

A graduate of the School of Toronto Dance Theatre, she has danced for choreographers Amanda Acorn, Peggy Baker, Jennifer Dallas, Karen Kaeja, and Antony Hamilton with the company Dancemakers, among others.

Her choreographic works ‘Sand Body’ and ‘Solo (not solo) Water Study’ have been shown in Toronto, Montreal and Hamilton. She was most recently commissioned to create a solo for principal dancer Sonia Rodriguez, through the National Ballet of Canada’s CreativAction program.

She’s been studying Body-Mind Centering® since 2016, with support from the Ontario Arts Council and the Dancer Transition Resource Centre.

Sasha Amaya

Sasha Amaya works performance, installation, choreography, and direction. Trained first at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School, she holds degrees in philosophy and urban studies, and is fascinated by the ways in which space, place, history, and imagination work together. Particularly interested in the relationship between space, sound, music, movement, and dance, Sasha enjoys regular collaborations with dancers, musicians, composers, and architects. In 2020 Sasha continues to co-lead a WAC WITH ART project, as well as support the Cluster Festival for New Music + Integrated Arts through her role as a board member.

*Meryem Alaoui and Sasha Amaya will be collaborating during this research process.

Improv Score for the COVID-19 Age

In lieu of the workshop they were going to be leading in March 2020 that was canceled due to COVID-19, current Research Series artistic team Neilla Hawley, Mark Dela Cruz, and Emily Solstice Tait are sharing with the public an improv score they have put together as a part of their creative research. 

Curious?!? Give it a read below, and launch into a physical exploration!

We’ve all settled into our COVID-19 lives and, as May pulls us further and further into, we can see the end to social distancing on the horizon. This time of near (or complete, for some) isolation had us thinking about our research for the YLDE Research Series in a new light. The focus of our research as Artists-In-Residence was collaboration: radical collaboration between three artists, the space around us, and the audience. When we found ourselves no longer able to be in the same room with each other, we leaned into the isolation and imagined our work for one person. This improvisation score is what we came up with. As we anxiously await the day we can all be in the same room again, we can offer to you a way to be alone with your thoughts and your movement while connecting with what you have around you. 

This improvisational score starts consists of a solo exploration, an object collaboration, and an exploration in collaboration with the space around you. Change the rules as you need and want to. The suggested times are only suggestions. Follow where you lead. The score is a little complicated, but so was our research. We’ve provided our thoughts, suggestions, and some some bits about our research at the bottom.

Things to do before you begin:

  • Choose a room
  • Collect three objects to interact with. They should vary in their importance, uses, size, texture, and sensory impact.
  • Choose two things that held your interest today: one specific interest, one broad interest. We define a specific interest as something small that pulled your attention that day and a broad interest is a larger event/subject that you’re interested in. Ex: you noticed birds chirping outside your window this morning, and you’re particularly interested in the works of a certain fashion designer.
  • Make sure you have a timer

Solo exploration:

  • Start with your specific interest
  •  Find a comfortable position to start and set your timer for five minutes
  • Start by considering your specific interest. How does it sit in your body, how does it encourage you to move? Follow where it leads until you hear the timer
  • Take a moment to reflect on the experience
  • Set your timer for seven minutes and explore your broad interest. Afterwards, take a moment to reflect

Object collaboration:

  • Take the objects you have chosen and place them around the space
  • Your task is now to engage with one of your interests and use that as a starting point to engage with each of your objects. Effectively, you are working in collaboration with the objects
  • You have the choice of setting one fifteen minute timer in which you work with each of the objects during that period of time, or you can set the timer for three intervals of five minutes and collaborate with one object at a time
  • Find a place in the room to start, set your timer, and begin your exploration
  • Afterwards, take time to reflect

Environmental exploration:

  • Consider the entire space. The walls, the other objects in the room, the lighting.
  • How can you bring the environment into your existing collaborations? How can you collaborate with your environment via one of your interests?
  • Set your timer to fifteen minutes
  • Choose how you’d like to start, whether it be with an interest or with an object collaboration.
  • As always, take time to reflect once the improv has concluded

Our Considerations


Our research began with a question of what happens when two ideas  – in our case, two interests – are brought together. Is it possible to preserve the integrity of each interest, how do the interests impact each other, and what challenges, strategies, and discoveries do we make when we engage with each other? We found that beginnings need structure but that structure can be morphed or abandoned in real time to serve the work, that feelings of boredom and frustration are useful, valid, and can lead to deep creativity if handled with care, and that collaboration requires trust, perseverance, and hope.

Object choice:

Some examples are: a sentimental piece of furniture, a guitar, and  a package of Oreos. Some loose string, a bell, and an exercise bike.

  • Something Mark is currently exploring is revisiting specific moments in his life that conjure a certain emotion. He calls them “room memories”. You can consider this as you choose your objects if that’s what you’re into.

Solo exploration:

We have found that sometimes the chosen interest, this initial consideration, leads you nowhere interesting. Boredom here is not a failure, it is something else to be explored. How much troubleshooting and conscious decision-making did you have to do to keep yourself engaged? How far from your interest did you stray in an attempt to stay interested?

Object collaboration:

The idea here is not to continuously remain true to your interest, but to allow it to evolve to serve the collaboration. That being said, you can take moments to reconnect with yourself and with your interest – there is no expectation that your attention should always be on the collaboration. Your priorities are in flux.

If collaborating with an inanimate object seems impossible, consider what the object is: what does it do, what does it mean to you, why do you have it? Then let your interest bump up against the information you have about this object and explore their intersections. Maybe your body will become a garment that that fashion designer created and you move every time you play a note on the guitar, maybe you transition into your workout on the exercise bike because you’re bored of this shit. Whatever happens, happens. 

It’s good to remember that you and your objects cannot move in the same ways. Is this a roadblock or an opportunity?

Environmental collaboration:

Allowing your priorities to be in flux will be important here. 

Thoughts will always change – be mindful and be mindful of being mindful. This can help you minimize your adjustments as you get going so you can relax into the work. Remember that you are both following and curating ideas.

Please click the download button below for a PDF copy.