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Portal Dance

Article written by Janet Johnson

Portal Dance, directed by Janet Johnson. Choreographed by Janet Johnson & collaborative dance artists

The Returned is a new contemporary dance film that seeks to understand the time and place in which we currently live, as well as the time that came before. Portal Dance dancers uncover these “fossil memories” by exploring shades of memory, forms of recovery, cellular history, individual body maps and what haunts us as humans. The Returned is curious about the cyclical nature of time and how what we see & know to be true in this moment is perhaps merely a frame within a revolving timeline that weaves but ultimately circles synthesizing us to returning atoms, molecules of memories……

The two rivers of Guelph foster, motivate and inform some of these meanderings.  Recognizing the potency of the area where they intersect as a historically rich site for Indigenous and Settler folk alike, these rivers root the dance work to Guelph and also manifest the concepts of time passing, form changing and water potentially returning after circling the earth.

Stellar, ‘locally-sourced’ dance artists Drew Berry, Lily Burpee, Julia Garlisi, Ben Harvey, Rowen Pilon-McBride, Megan Robinson and Kelly Steadman provide this abstract work with a depth of sensuous understanding, unveiling the timeless heart of humanity. Flanked by outstanding supporting artists: composers Jeff Bird & Ben Grossman, filmmakers Dawn Matheson & Jenn Norton and costume designer Dakota Burpee, The Returned is a film about where we are as a collective species, where we might have been and where we could be going. It is about fiercely looking life in the eye while connecting to the footsteps of those that existed before.

…sometime it’s enough

To lie down here on earth

Beside our long ancestral bones:

To walk across the cobble fields

Of our discarded skulls,

Each like a treasure, like a chrysalis,

Thinking: whatever left these husks

Flew off on bright wings.

(Poet Rebecca Elson)


Portal Dance's The Returned will be launched as part of Guelph Dance's festival. Thursday June 3rd. Save the date

To read and learn more about The Returned visit


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