Profile: Julia Sauvé
by Jane Ledwell
Julia Sauvé has a “glow” about her, and it lights up in black light. The dancer, choreographer, and teacher is founder of Luminosity Black Light Theatre, the only black light performing company in the Maritimes. Julia is working with a cast ranging in ages from 10 to 16 to create The Mermaid and the Droplets at The Guild.
“With black light, you have a lot in your imagination, and you never really know what it will look like until the dress rehearsal,” she enthuses. “That’s the magic of black light: You’re not seeing the whole body. What you’re seeing is what’s been decided to light up. There are no labels, in terms of ‘this person has more experience than this person’ or ‘this person has a different body type than that person.’”
After a New York-youth filled with energetic movement (“I was a very active child—always running around, very physical,” Julia recalls), Julia was a dancer first, but branched out early into teaching and choreography. She moved to PEI in 1980, to co-found and co-direct the Montage Dance Company. Then, twenty-five years ago this year, she and Peggy Reddin co-founded dance umbrella, a vital force in teaching and promoting dance in PEI.
“If you want to live an artist’s life you have to be versatile,” Julia says. “When you’re in your kitchen making all this [choreography] up, it’s very personal. But it may be for 15 or 70 or 17 or 5 people to interpret. When you sit in the audience and they are performing the choreography, it’s theirs, and they are having this gift exchange with the audience. It’s very moving,” she says.
A key question in the arts for Julia is, “How does one give back?” With performers, she says, “You keep developing what they do so that they can be the best they can be. And when you see that happen—it’s the best thing… They get the opportunity to create, and it shouldn’t be diminished, that.”
Julia’s adventures in black light came about through an ArtsSmarts program with West Royalty school. After creating a black-light show of The Great Kapok Tree with 65 grade fours, she says, “I had an a-ha moment—I’ve always loved creating community with dance and theatre.” She realized, “I could do my own company, and do black light.” Her Luminosity company put on productions of The Great Kapok Tree for two summers.
Luminosity’s environmental themes are important: The Mermaid and the Droplets dramatizes the water cycle. Water is, to Julia, “a life force that is in us and all around us. Water has no sense of itself. It just is. It doesn’t sit still, but it has no idea it’s going to flood Alberta. It’s people that have to change. Water cannot change its own nature.” The story of water is told through “cute, friendly characters, but the message is vital: “This is your dance through the world,” she says. “I want people to fall in love with water, to create that reverence for water.”
She says, “I see my performers as environmental activists, as social activists.” In the arts, she emphasizes, “You have to be okay with the fact that things are going to change.”
Julia is moved by the privilege of teaching, whether at dance umbrella or Holland College School of Performing Arts. “You are trying out all your creativity for your students as you teach,” she says. “It’s space, time, and energy—which is what all movement is, and dance is one part of it…” Performing “creates a community that has a common goal. The growth you see, the evolution you see in a period of time you are together, it’s amazing.”
“I say to students that so often you have to allow room for yourself and your piece to evolve.” While she is still growing and evolving in her art, Julia reflects, “I think I will look back on life and feel fortunate. I’m a people person, and I get to work with such talented people. Then,” she smiles, “it’s on to the next show—whatever that is.”