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Corner Brook’s Phillip Payne part of Neighbourhood Dance Works’ project

Phillip Payne and Caroline Niklas Gordon are part of Neighbourhood Dance Works’ “The Newfoundland & Labrador Dance Project.”
Phillip Payne and Caroline Niklas Gordon are part of Neighbourhood Dance Works’ “The Newfoundland & Labrador Dance Project.”

Philip Payne pretty much considered himself retired from dancing professionally when yet another opportunity came along.

“Kind of how I got into dance was just following the flow of it. Just following where the teaching took me, where the training took me and then eventually where the opportunities took me,” said the Corner Brook ballet dancer whose home is now in Toronto.

For the next three years he’ll also be calling St. John’s home — at least on a part-time basis — as he participates in Neighbourhood Dance Works’ “The Newfoundland & Labrador Dance Project.”

The multi-genre/contemporary dance project has brought together 27 dancers, a mix of some who have left the province and those who have stayed, to develop new work that will reflect and speak to Newfoundland and Labrador. The Canada Council for the Arts is funding the project.

After dancing for the past 10 years with Ballet Jorgen Canada, Opera Atelier and the Grand Ballet Canadian Payne decided last year that it was time to retire.

“With no lament at all,” he said.

The 36-year-old said he was “stoked” to have accomplished so much since starting ballet at the age of 19.

“I look back at it and man I had so much fun.”

As he considered what to do next Payne dabbled in a bit of teaching at some dance schools around Toronto.

Teaching keeps him close to the dance community, and has pulled him out of his comfort zone. He said he’s choreographing and doing things he never thought he would.

His mom was an elementary school teacher and his sister Stephanie Payne, also an actor and a musician, is a teacher in Cow Head.

“So it’s kind of a natural progression,” said Payne, whose brother Daniel Payne is also an actor and musician.

“And I mean being a Payne, in my family I don’t know that being off the stage is ever going to be a thing.

“In some capacity I will find myself on a stage whether it’s playing music or dancing or whatever.”

Still the call to participate in the Neighbourhood Dance Works’ project came as “a total out of the blue surprise.”

Payne spent the past three weeks in St. John’s as the first phase of the project unfolded.

He’s not too sure how the entire project will play out, but said the first part was about exploring each of their stories.

“We’re really getting familiar with one another, how each of us moves and if we can find new ways to move. If we can use the inspiration inside the room and outside the room to move.”

The experience of connecting with other dances from province has been both surreal and beautiful.

“I think everyone just kind of held each others hands and dove off the deep end together.”

And there have been no hesitations as the group responds to what choreographers Christopher House and Anne Troake ask of them.

The first phase of the project wrapped up Wednesday and the next one will see the participants come together again sometime in 2018.

Other west coast dancers involved in the project

Karen Fennell

Candice Pike

Josh Murphy

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