Ensembl’arts: celebrating the arts through three disciplines

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This page is also available in / Cette page est également disponible en: Francais (French)

Ensembl’arts was founded in 2013. It all started with the visual artist Avery Zhao and her husband, violinist Marc Djokic. They counted many dancers and choreographers among their friends. Bringing them together creatively was only natural.

Originally called Art Crush (which remains  the name of the main concert series), the organization changed to Ensembl’arts upon its registration as a nonprofit organization with charity status in 2020.

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It is a multidisciplinary group that specializes in performances that bring together dance, visual art and classical music – with classical music playing a special role. “Definitely, music is the time factor between everything,” says Zhao, Ensembl’arts artistic director, “because in the end, we are all interpreting one piece of music together.

“For people who would like to know more about us, the video presented by the Music and Beyond Festival in Ottawa offers a good example of what we do. It features a well-known piece for solo violin, Knee Play 2 by Philip Glass, interpreted through our usual trifecta of music, dance and live painting.” 

The choice of the music – if not contingent on what a presenter has in mind or on the input of a collaborating artistic director – will be the result of ongoing research the artists have been doing. Subsequently, they will try to reflect the spirit of the composition through the use of different materials or tools, and through specific painting techniques and choreography. 

“My role as a live-painting artist within Ensembl’arts is to reflect the music and the choreography in live time through the technique as well as the material I use,” Zhao says. “For example, I worked on a composition that was talking about a submarine, and because of that and of the way the music was written, I chose to use material such as steel and metal. 

“Even my gestures all depend on the piece performed and what we have created for it. We are aware of our movements – not to the extent that it dictates what we are doing, but we try to see how our use of spaces or how we communicate with the other artists on stage, influences the final result.”

Ensembl’arts vows to offer something different: an equal hierarchy of arts within an organization, where each of three disciplines has equal time and equal input in the final creation. “What we do will never replace the traditional classical music concert,” Zhao says. “But it fills a certain gap in the market and it is definitely a celebration of the arts.”


This page is also available in / Cette page est également disponible en: Francais (French)


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