dI Community Corner

From October 21-23, 2022, dance Immersion hosted the Legacy Series: Jazz Dance Symposium. On the first night we watched the extraordinary documentary entitled “Everything Remains Raw: A Historical Perspective on Hip Hop Danceby E. Moncell Durden. The documentary was incredible and deeply informative on the different types of dances from African American and Latinx people that changed the dance landscape of the United States. The weekend program inspired many conversations including one among some colleagues led by Nicole Inica Hamilton of Turn Out Radio, about the room’s thoughts on the history of our dances, and the complexities of codification, regulation and syllabus notations.

Even the way in which we learn, consume and engage in dance keeps evolving. We have moved away from learning from our elders in the villages, our peers on the street corners, friends and strangers at the clubs, basement parties, sessions at the community centers, family bbqs. For many, these have been replaced by dance studio lessons and/or learning through social media platforms to engage and learn movement. We often heavily rely on dance studios or social media to engage and learn movement. 

Over time certain dance styles have changed or disappeared into the abyss. When we first started this community conversation corner, we talked about the importance of preserving our cultures and our customs through dance, which inspired me to think about the concept of codification. 

Could codification be the answer to keeping our dance styles alive in their purest forms?

Codification is described as the process of naming certain movements or steps and setting the physical technique of the latter (Keyes, 2018). 

My understanding of this definition is that the dance form would stay in its original form, remain constant, and also that artists engaging in the dance form would know the names of the movements, their meaning and its history. 

Although, in theory, this seems wonderful, I cannot help but wonder if this process is feasible or advisable when we refer to street or traditional styles. 

Key questions include:

If a style derives from an individual’s self-expression, lifestyle, cultural or spiritual practice, can we codify it? 

If we were to begin to codify certain dance forms, how would we go about ensuring their authenticity?

How do we ensure the individual still has the freedom to explore their natural body in movement?  

How do we begin to codify a dance that has been modified throughout the years?

Can we codify some African Diasporic dances but not all?

Finally, what would be the process to begin coding?


In our upcoming November-December 2022 Instagram Live series – in partnership with Turn Out Radio, we will work with artists to explore these questions. 

And please submit your own thoughts in the comments below.  If you have thoughts that you would rather not share publicly, please email me at info@danceimmersion.ca.

~ Zahra


Originally posted in the International Association of Blacks in Dance (IABD) “Keepers of the Flame” Newsletter in 2022.

Toronto, Ontario has a population of over 2.5 million people and is the most populated city in the country of Canada. Toronto is made up of many diverse expressions that carry dynamic vibrations from around the world connecting us instantly to each other. With such a wide variety of people, dance Immersion welcomes the IABD conference & festival to join us for the 3rd time as we re-connect and establish lasting relationships amongst our international communities. 
Today we are able to be globally connected through live and digital means better and faster than ever before utilizing the many opportunities to converse from our own environments, discuss our different techniques, relish in our similarities, while sharing resources, ideas and solutions that move us forward as a collective whole.  

Connecting our dances allows for an interactive flow of dialogue, movement sharing and viewing of work, that creates synergy amongst artists in a variety of ways that enhances our knowledge about each other. Embracing a deeper understanding of different artistic expressions helps to move forward the development of plans and strategies that strengthen and motivate communities to rebuild in a live and digital world.  

What lies before us is a global opening to connect, network, strengthen and enhance each other’s voices within a system that builds our own working infrastructure. Creative forces have always and continue to allow us to persevere seeking ways to elevate the work we do despite the many attempts to disrupt, silence, destroy and eliminate our history. Working outside of one’s own country broadens the scope, education and experiences that is gained through exchanges, presentations, residencies, consultations and more. All of this establishes global networks and relationships that are essential to maintaining and growing different platforms amongst each other. Connections offer expansion of our outreach that explore ways to improve and develop self and our movements within the global ecology and economy.   

The pandemic gave us time to dig deep, engage, create and develop art from within one’s own perspective, while at the same time, discovering that there is a whole world of skilled individuals ready to connect. As each of us continues to grow and strengthen our respective entities, as people of African ancestry, how do we bring back together that which has been forcibly torn apart? The 2020 IABD conference & festival in Philadelphia provided us with a glimpse of the kind of energy that we can manifest when we all come together to build multifaceted relationships.  

Connecting and learning from each other helps to rebuild the historic contributions, distinct practices, and future visions of dance artists within our global communities. We must remain conscious in how we include each other from an international perspective, it is through conversations and initiatives that offer a wide range of knowledge that supports sharing that benefits all. Global networks and connections bring profound experiences that impact foundational exchanges that evolve work inside the context of our chosen practices. As we broaden and expand our networks, development of structures that support what we do must grow simultaneously, investigations around systems that connect, link, share and elevate who we are and what we do, must be continuous.  Symposiums, forums, prototypes, blueprints and more have and will continue to be tried, worked, and reworked as we forge ahead in a community where we are able to share, allowing each other to shift within milieus that define oneself amongst like minded people and practices.
Global networking creates additional challenges but is important in fostering a true development of artists from the African Diaspora who continuously work amongst the inequities within the cultural sector.  We stand on the shoulders of those ancestors whose global work shared our stories and expressions in extremely challenging times. Their work continues to influence many as we honour the legacy they left behind for us to follow.

Let’s forge into the universal language of our art form, networking and sourcing information that nurtures and builds who we are. The goal is to erase old concepts while re-imagining a wider understanding that shifts pre-defined perspectives, stereotypes and popular images we subliminally gravitate towards in the belief that it is the only way.  

All journeys in art, no matter its discipline or genre, are formed, inspired, developed and created from its environmental landscape, geographical location, traditions and histories, that shape not only art but the very core of human existence. Globally Connected moves our dance in a manner that allows for informing and being informed about each other’s surroundings and prospective. Connecting on a global scale, assists each other to develop partnerships in a synergy that brings reciprocal understanding of each other’s mission, mandate and financial competency for continuance. 

dance Immersion looks forward to connecting with you in January: Conference & Festival Website 


Vivine Scarlett
dance Immersion Founder & Executive Director
International Association of Blacks in Dance (IABD) Board Member

On January 27, 2021, dance Immersion’s Curator & Program Director Timea Wharton-Suri spoke on Turnout Radio CIUT 89.5 FM about our programs and services for dancers. Also on the broadcast were Robert Sauvey of Dance Umbrella of Ontario and Amy Hampton of Dance Ontario Association.

Hosted by Nicole Inica Hamilton, the program helped highlight the ways in which dance Immersion, Dance Ontario and Dance Umbrella assist dancers throughout their careers.


You can listen to the full broadcast here at this link. Timea begins to speak about dance Immersion at around 35:00.

Click here:  Dance Organizations that Serve You


You can also browse our PROGRAMS and ABOUT pages for detailed information on what dance Immersion provides dance artists, dance lovers, and audiences.


Turn Out Radio is an innovative, and engaging talk show which presents the latest in dance news within the national and international spectrum of current events.  A fresh and lively program, Turn Out Radio broadcasts live every Wednesday at 9:00 a.m EST, and can be heard on CIUT 89.5 FM, Bell Fibe TV, Rogers Cable TV, TuneIn Radio, and Podcast platforms. www.turnoutradio.com

dance Immersion Gratitude Blog

By Timea Wharton-Suri

At the end of 2020, an exceptional year of challenge and change, I am reflecting on dance Immersion’s year.

Shock, fear, hope, strength, questioning, challenging, calling out, calling in, coming together, standing apart: 2020.

I am grateful to have been invited to join the dance Immersion team in the fall. This organization, once again, demonstrated its resilience through significant challenges.

Founder Vivine Scarlett was working in Ghana when COVID-19 hit and had to remain there for six additional months before she could get home. Working with Nicole Hamilton here at home base in Toronto, they planned and re-planned, continued connecting with communities around the world to devise artistic projects, worked with the IABD to postpone the Toronto conference, and kept dance Immersion afloat. They supported community members and one another.

We said good-bye to incredible team member Cassandra Belafonte who helped build and sustain dance Immersion over the past decade. The organization also said hello to Zahra Badua, Jillian Greyson, and me.

We have plans to continue connecting with you through the new Bantaba series, and with livestream presentations and outdoor events in the summer. And we continue to dream for the 21-22 season.

I am so grateful for the dance Immersion community and for this strength in my professional life. And I am figuring out how I want to proceed in my personal life as the New Year approaches.

With so much uncertainty still facing us heading into 2021, perhaps instead of trying to make resolutions that I may not be able to live up to because of external circumstances, I can, instead, ask myself a few questions and let the answers guide me forward:

What is the most important lesson I learned this year?

What am I thankful for this year?

What challenges did I overcome?

What did I do for my physical and mental health?

Was there anything left unfinished that I would like to complete?

I’m sure there are many important questions to reflect on, but I will start there.



We at dance Immersion are so thankful for you.

Whether you spoke out, sat up, peacefully paused, kept going, hung on, just survived, or thrived – you made it through. And we did it together.

All the best to you for healthy, peaceful 2021.



Vivine Scarlett

Note: This article was published in a book of essays taken from the CONFIGURATIONS IN MONTRÉAL: PERFORMANCE CURATION AND COMMUNITIES OF COLOUR event, conducted in 2017. Canadian and American performance curators, artists, and scholars gathered in Montréal June 1 and 2, 2017 to share work, develop resources, and build strategies for supporting performance in, for and by Black, Indigenous and communities of colour in Canada and the United States. 

Configurations in Motion: Performance Curation for Communities of Colour

By Vivine Scarlett

dance Immersion is an organization based in Toronto, Canada, founded in 1994 by myself, Vivine Scarlett, a former dance artist drawn to all kinds of styles and expressions. The organization was established to address the lack of presentation from dance artists of the African Diaspora who create work from their own dance experiences and related environment. The African Diaspora refers to the communities that are descended from the historic  movement of peoples from the continent of Africa, who were forcibly dispersed throughout the world.

The organization had its beginnings under the tutelage of DanceWorks and Dance Ontario along with Dance Umbrella of Ontario and was further assisted as an umbrella program of Canadian Artists Network: Black Artists In Action (CAN:BAIA).

Originally founded to provide a platform where local and national artists of African descent could showcase work, it became apparent after 3 years of programming that the community was in need of more resources that provided:

  • additional skill development within the dance styles they practiced
  • connection to institutions that offer information and technical training
  • collaborative initiatives with like minded people and practices within their genre
  • programming for children and youth

dance Immersion now includes local, national and international artists in programs that consist of:

  • Showcase Presentations
  • In-Studio Presentations
  • Workshop Series
  • Youth Arts Programs (YAP)
  • Forums

Our programming is designed to feed each other in a circular system where each program nourishes the other. We provide a nurturing and supportive environment for dance artists to work and explore diverse styles and expressions. The organization is committed to actively seeking out, supporting and presenting the artistic product of dance to the broader community.

A Board of Directors governs the organization and its day to day operations is administered by a team that consists of three people:

  • Curator
  • Program Director
  • Events Administrator/YAP Coordinator (PT)

The organization contracts professional services for specific activities involved in carrying out its various programs. A dedicated pool of volunteers assist with particular assignments for our activities.

As a curator sourcing and researching artists who practice contemporary work within a European context are easily found and identified but it continues to be a challenge locating dance artists who practice styles outside of the main stream. These artists are rarely found through national festivals or in larger venues. Such artists have to be sourced differently  usually through research that includes connections to community based outlets where they practice their work.

Once identified it becomes a process of introduction and relationship building:

  • assessing where they are in their practice
  • finding out what their needs are
  • where do they want to take the art
  • what desire, and resources do they have to progress their art

Our work at dance Immersion has become far more than just adhering to mandate, mission protocol and procedures but often dealing with deeper issues that have impacted artists and the effects of being pre categorized by racial identity instead of self identification. This  repeated pattern has frustrated, diverted and depressed many searching in the world of dance, creating a feeling of being sidelined and excluded. It is important that we as an organization empower, inform and introduce the artists we serve to the myriad of resources and opportunities that currently exist.

dance Immersion works to strengthen our organizations connections and partnerships in a synergy that brings a reciprocal understanding of each other’s mission, mandate and financial competency for continuance. We are members of: Dance Ontario, CanDance Network (Canada’s national network supporting the creation and distribution of contemporary dance.), Cultural Pluralism in the Arts Movement Ontario (CPAMO), and the International Association of Blacks in Dance (IABD). Through relationships within this network, dance Immersion has been able to promote and advocate for dance artists of African descent in a number of different ways.

As a member of the CanDance Network, we have had some success in connecting with other Canadian presenters but the challenge has been promoting artists of African Descent, whose work is not understood within a European contemporary dance definition. Our efforts remain to initiate relationship building, possibly through collaborative initiatives, tour links or workshops. Presenters often refer artists of African descent to our organization, which we are grateful for the connection, but there is usually no other attempt by that presenter to continue a relationship with the artist referred. Work is readily accepted if it looks, and feels European but these works often fit a single view and not reflective of the promoted multicultural mosaic of Canada. The usual justification is that the work is not contemporary enough or does not fit into that organizations mandate.

We have had greater success with international organizations where there have been able to embark on exchanges of presentations, instructors, consultations and more. Organizations like the IABD (International Association of Blacks in Dance), ADAD (Association of Dance of the African Diaspora) now One Dance UK, Big Mission in the UK and various other international artists/companies whom we continue to work with to provide a wide range of experiences and knowledge sharing that informs the work.

It is within this international network that we have been able to connect artists in a profound way, to a foundation of experiences that evolves artists work inside the context of their dance practice. This has become an important part of how we have begun to address some of our community needs on a global platform where artists can define themselves amongst like minded people and practices that inform mind, body and soul. This is done through methods that bring about an empowering confidence and understanding of the work being created by artists from the African Diaspora.

As a multifaceted organization, we consistently witness work, proposals, and support materials, that are in need of further development; along with guidance and mentorship in order for ideas and initiatives to reach their fruition. The support that offers administration, networking and resources has been a missing link which has delayed growth and contribution of a healthy arts ecology within our community. This community includes practitioners, teachers, and administrators, where many of those practicing do not have the adequate knowledge, resources, connections or sufficient funds to address organizational/individual challenges.

In 2015 we underwent an exercise with consultant Mercy Nabirye from then (ADAD) in the UK, that included focus groups with members from Toronto’s African Canadian dance community about issues lacking within the milieu. This gave us incredible insight into what resources was needed to support the community at this time. The priority issues we chose to address were the need for additional workshops, forums and symposiums dedicated to advancing the knowledge, appreciation, and practice for organizations/artists of the African Diaspora who continuously work amongst the inequities within the cultural sector.

dance Immersion‘s pilot initiatives strive to address the need for services that support knowledge sharing, administration and mentorship. Initiatives all work separately yet still functioning within our existing programming that delivers diverse experiences. Although the projects main focus is dance, content provides transferable information that will be marketed to multidisciplinary participants.

There is so much more about ourselves that we have not investigated instead exerting a lot of blood, sweat, tears and energy trying to be included on many fronts. All journeys in art (no matter its genre) are formed, inspired, developed and created from its environmental landscape, geographical location, traditions and histories, that shape not only art but the very core of human existence.

By cultivating a fertile ground for creating multi-layered initiatives, we define our own diverse work and continue to build on the legacy of our artistic expressions. The importance of developing the art form with organizations that include, support, and build skills, benefits in establishing an overall sector that inspires the future and longevity of who we are and the art forms we practice.

Yes global networking creates additional challenges and is a very expensive venture that requires more resources BUT every time we get bogged down in the reality of it all, we are inspired remembering we stand on the shoulders of those who have come before us. Those ancestors whose global work shared our stories and expressions in extremely challenging times. Their work continues to influence many as we honour the legacy of; Pearl Primus, Len Gibson, Eleo Pomare, Dindi Lidge, Rex Nettleford, Baba Chuck Davis, Dr. Sherrill Berryman Johnson,   just to name a few.

dance Immersion moves forward incorporating a West African practice where “Art is not separated but seen as a whole” and it is with this concept that we forge into the universal language of our art form, networking and sourcing information that nurtures and builds communities. Our goal is to erase old concepts and reimagine a wider understanding and change to the pre-defined perspectives, stereotypes and popular images we currently see and subliminally gravitate towards in the belief that it is the only way. This path we have chosen widely supports others who continue to advocate for our inclusivity. We honour the work of these soldiers who continue to make sure that our art does not become invisible in the world of “visible minorities”. We will work with all, as we continue to define and develop within the global community building relationships, connections and resources that feed, strengthen and bring together an artistic movement that is truly sourced from its origin.

dance Immersion

Check out this throwback video of Founder Vivine Scarlett giving an overview of dance Immersion! What was her vision when she founded the organization?