Canada’s Ethan Colangelo finalist at the 2019 Copenhagen International Choreography Competition

Originally from Toronto, Canada, Ethan Colangelo has made a name for himself around the world as an industry leading choreographer and dancer. For the last four years, he has been in New York City attending the world renowned Julliard School of Dance. It was at Julliard where his love for dance turned into a formidable career, as he realized his passion for choreography, and even took home the Hector Zaraspe Prize for Choreographic Promise, a prize awarded to one choreographer at Julliard every year based on their choreographic abilities that have been shown throughout the 4 year tenure.

Choreography and creation is my biggest passion and the reason is that there are no guidelines or limits as to what one can create, the endless opportunity to manifest and physicalize an idea is constantly exciting and fresh. I saw the work of Crystal Pite around the age of 18 and I knew that this was exactly what I wanted to do. To be able to effectively communicate an idea or concept to audiences through physicality was such an exciting idea to me. Furthermore, music is also a huge passion of mine and being able to create movement inspired by notes or sounds is something I find to be highly intriguing,” he said.

Colangelo has had a lot to celebrate throughout his career. He has presented work at the Lincoln Center as a part of the Historical Performance Collaboration and at the Baryshnikov Arts Center as a part of the Cunningham Centennial. He was the Assistant Choreographer and Movement Director for Trevor Daniel’s viral music video ‘Falling’ and is a full-time dancer in BODYTRAFFIC, a contemporary dance company in Los Angeles. 

Colangelo is always very busy working on many illustrious projects, but the highlight of his career occurred last summer when he was selected as a finalist at the 11th annual Copenhagen International Choreography Competition. The Copenhagen International Choreography Competition (CICC) is a platform to discover and promote emerging contemporary choreographers. Since their founding in 2008, the CICC has been an annual event attracting talent from around the world, as well as becoming one of the most recognized choreography competitions in Europe. Exposure from CICC showcases has launched the careers of many talented artists, including Colangelo’s.

“I wanted to compete at the Copenhagen International Choreography Competition because it is the most prestigious choreography competition for contemporary concert works in the world. I had seen choreographers that are idols of mine such as Bryan Arias and Roy Assaf win the competition years before and it made me want to be a part of the competition intensely. I also really wanted the opportunity to present my work outside of North America and being able to do it in Europe, which is the center for concert dance in the world, was such a gift,” he said. “I also was very passionate about the work that I created. It was previously performed twice but I felt that its life wasn’t over and needed to be shared further.”

The competition was Colangelo’s first time presenting his work in Europe, and what a debut it was. Only nine finalists were selected out of the hundreds that applied, making it a distinguished honor in the dance industry. He was one of the youngest choreographers ever selected for the competition at only 20 years old, and the only one from North America. When the director contacted him personally to let him know he had been accepted, it was one of the most memorable moments of Colangelo’s life.

“I am so proud to have participated in this competition. It gave me the ability to present my work on a stage seen by some of the biggest presenters and directors in Europe. It was also a huge honor to have the dancers that I did, that are three of the strongest male dancers in the community. It is also just a great addition in terms of experience and how these kinds of competitions operate. It has really opened up a world of possibilities having this on my resume, as directors and other professionals take my work much more seriously,” he said.

The entire experience, from preparation to performance, was amazing for Colangelo. The original work had a different cast, so over the course of a month before the competition he used three new dancers, Clark Griffin, Barry Gans, and Mason Manning, and they learned the work together, while also adapting it so it would better fit their dancing styles. 

The piece is called ‘Familial Discourse’ and deals with the strain and commentary upon a young man’s troubled relationship with his father and brother. Colangelo and his dancers spent time asking how they could better communicate these ideas effectively and not just solely focus on making the dancing impressive, but rather have the concept be as clear as possible. Colangelo credits the experience to vastly changing how he approaches his work as both a creator and a dancer in the best way possible.  

“Older choreographers with incredible amounts of talent and knowledge to witness were the greatest things about this competition. The level of talent as a whole was such a beautiful thing to experience. Presenting work on such a prestigious stage was also a huge honor and has really helped put my name on the map and allow directors to see my work more. We were also able to work one on one with a lighting designer and stage manager to get the exact environment that we wanted onstage for the work. This is rare in competitions to have so it was awesome to be able to have the time to incorporate things such as lighting,” he said.

Being a part of the CICC made last year quite exciting for Colangelo, but he has a lot of plans in the future that he is greatly looking forward to. He has been selected as an emerging choreographer for Springboard Danse Montréal, a nonprofit organization that connects leading contemporary companies, choreographers, and dancers (ages 21 and up) in a dynamic artistic ecosystem. The 3-week festival in Montréal cultivates a shared language of professionalism that values the creative process and connection above all else. Springboard is recognized worldwide as a destination for career development. Since the organization’s inception in 2001, Springboard has curated artists from over 40 countries, and directly connected more than 500 dancers to paid jobs. He also has been commissioned to create new work for Whim Whim in Seattle, a top innovative contemporary dance company in America, and a commission with the National Ballet of Canada. Undoubtedly, he is at the top of his game.

Photo by Lee Gumbs

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