choreography / performance / workshops

Movement Workshops

Encompassing, integrating, exploring and communicating, with a fun and direct approach that builds towards spatial awareness, improvisation, choreography and the development of physical language. These movement workshops can easily lend themselves towards Dance, Circus, Opera, Theatre and more...

"Gioconda's workshop is based upon three fundamental points necessary for a dancer to thrive: reactivity, imagination and collective consciousness. Bringing the individuality and personality of each artst as the centre of creation, the class proposes a series of improvisatons which by the universality of the themes she proposes -­‐ the question of ego, of presence and of expressivity -­‐ applies as much to dancers as to circus artists, actors and singers. Revolving around the question of exchange, the workshop takes place in only 2 hours and unfolds like a pre-orchestrated performance and a formidable human and artistic adventure."

Thomas Birzan

TransFormation Danse

Rubberbandance Summer Dance Intensive

Arts Umbrella - Ballet BC Summer Dance Intensive

The Training Society of Vancouver

Yokohama Dance Intensive

Atelier de danse contemporaine - Danse à la Carte

Dutch National Ballet Academy - Summer Dance Intensive

École nationale de cirque - National Circus School

Banff Centre Opera Festival

L’École supérieure de ballet du Québec

QW4RTZ Vocal Quartet

Le Jeune Ballet du Québec

Ballet Divertimento

Northrop University

Springboard Danse Montréal

Northwest Dance Project

videos produced by Michael Slobodian



Photo by Michael Slobodian.

Not all gifted artists are also great teachers. Fortunately, at Arts Umbrella, our children get exposed to many who are both. Perhaps it’s the school’s emphasis on humility and generosity, on giving one’s all, while responding to each new challenge as an opportunity. In the studio, Gioconda Barbuto makes this all look so easy, so natural. I watched this sleek, dynamic woman with expressive hands and an unforgettably radiant smile work with a group of young dancers at last summer’s ISDI and was captivated by her ability to inspire them. The connections were palpable; I could almost see sparks in the air. Generous and intensely present, she focused her bright, intense energy on the dancers, and in turn their spirits shone out. It was only later that I, a relative newcomer to dance, discovered the extent of her rich and varied career, and her reputation as one of the most significant choreographers working in Canada today.

Gioconda Barbuto’s career has traced a path of constant growth, change, and evolution, an example of how hard work and commitment can pay off in a long, rich and varied dance career. Originally from Toronto, Gioconda danced for Les Grands Ballets Canadiens for almost 16 years, and at an age when many dancers retire, moved to Europe to dance for eight years with Nederlands Dans Theater III, where she collaborated with renowned choreographer Jiří Kylián  on a number of ground-breaking short dance films. Since the 1990s, she has received many grants, nominations and accolades for her choreography, which has been performed by companies such as Les Grands Ballets Canadiens, Ballet BC, Les Ballets Jazz de Montréal, Alberta Ballet, TU Dance, Oregon Ballet Theatre, NW Dance Project, Ballet Kelowna and more. Based in Montreal, where she shares her life with renowned dance photographer Michael Slobodian, Gioconda has taught for many esteemed dance schools, and visits AUDC regularly to choreograph and teach. Recently, I had the good fortune to interview Gioconda via email about her life in dance, and her teaching philosophy.

CS: How did your dance journey begin?

GB: My parents often told me that “I was always dancing ” …. as a young child I remember always moving to music, making up little dances and putting on performances for my family. My parents eventually enrolled me into dance classes at the age of 9, and I haven’t stopped since.

CS: How have classical ballet and contemporary dance traditions informed your work as a dance artist, and how do you see the relationship between them?

GB: I studied classical ballet and contemporary dance as a young dancer and they are both integral to the development of my career. Ballet has always been my base—informing my placement, line and a strong technique. The same kind of attention was brought to my contemporary training but there was a certain freedom in the exploration of movement that piqued my curiosity. Both dance traditions require the same honest intent and can provide a strong foundation to develop from.  The integration of classical and contemporary is broadening the view of dance, and its evolution.  I believe that the varied training I received helped me become a versatile dancer physically and mentally and also fueled my creative process.

CS: How did your choreography practice evolve?

GB: I have always made dances instinctually, in relationship to my experiences, the people I am working with and of course a vivid imagination.  I was very fortunate to have teachers and choreographers that fostered my curiosity and passion and they often encouraged my movement responses. I am so grateful to them as I am sure they gave me the tools to keep researching and developing, which led me to explore in making my own official choreographies. My very first works were created during my long career with Les Grands Ballets Canadiens and the creative research continues.  Creating is a human experience for me.  It’s constantly growing and changing and I grow from all the people I work with. They become a part of my life experiences.

 CS: What are you most proud of as a dance artist, and what have been some of your greatest challenges?

GB: I’m proud of the people I get to meet and work with as a dance artist and I am one of the lucky ones that still gets to live her dream…. I’m proud of what dance and the arts can bring to humanity. How it can inform and inspire, teach and support. There will always be challenges—I have had many and continue to—but I have learned that they also redirect me and perhaps lead me into new directions and possibilities, as long as I keep feeding my dancing spirit.

CS: How did you connect with Arts Umbrella, and what has it meant to you to work with the students here over the last several years?

 GB: Many years ago, while I was performing in Vancouver, Artemis Gordon approached me backstage to invite me to choreograph for Arts Umbrella Dance. I remember immediately feeling a very close connection with Arty and was thrilled with the opportunity to work with her and her beautiful dancers. I’ll never forget that Arty gave me complete freedom in the studio and how the receptiveness of her open-minded, talented dancers inspired me to develop new ways to express my creative process. I feel the same way each time I return.  I’m so grateful for Arty’s trust and support and for the experience I have working with her exceptional dancers.

CS: What do you most enjoy about working with younger dancers? What are the benefits to you of teaching/choreographing emerging dancers?

GB: It’s a lot of fun working with younger dancers. They teach me constantly, and their inquisitive curiosity keeps me on my toes…which is important for me in order to keep evolving and questioning the work I do.

 CS: What do you most love to do, other than dance?

GB: I love to cook and especially love to take long walks in nature.

CS: What are you most excited about right now, in terms of your dance life?

GB: That this is my life and I still get to do this!