Emily Cooper photo Sarah Formosa (left) in a company scene from Wen Wei Dance’s Ying Yun, which debuts at Vancouver’s Scotiabank Dance Centre on Feb. 19.

White Rock-raised dancer featured in experimental work

Sarah Formosa is part of the Wen Wei Dance company for new piece Ying Yun

Sarah Formosa says she knew from the time she was three years old that being a dancer was her path in life.

Now 22, the White Rock-raised, former Spiral Dance student – a 2014 Semiahmoo Secondary grad – is carving a career for herself in Vancouver as a company dancer with several highly regarded troupes, including Judith Marcuse Projects, Vision Impure (directed by Noam Gagnon) Raven Spirit (directed by Starr Muranko), the response (directed by Amber Funk-Barton) and TWObigsteps Collective (where she works with Marissa Wong).

On Feb. 19 she will add to her growing resume of professional gigs with Ying Yun, an intensely personal choreographic project for director Wen Wei Wang and his Wen Wei Dance company, with whom she has been working since last year.

For the piece, which runs until Feb. 23 at the Scotiabank Dance Centre, (677 Davie St.) Formosa is a part of a five-member, all-female company working in close collaboration with Wang.

“I’ve been dancing from the age of three,” she said. “At such a young age, being able to find my passion was extraordinary.

“It’s amazing to be able to do what I love, especially in a city so close to where I grew up.”

She’s still close to White Rock, she said – that’s where her parents and their friends continue to live – and she still has many friends from school, with whom she makes a point of getting together two or three times a year.

“They’re all really supportive and super-excited whenever I talk about a new project.”

While dancing is her first love, Formosa said she recently registered for an acting class.

“I wanted to experience a different art form – that’s something that really interests me,” she said.

She says she feels that acting can also inform her work as a dancer.

“I find that’s the beautiful thing about acting and dancing (at the same time), it’s about bringing yourself to your dance, being in touch with yourself. I have so much training in dance that sometimes you can get stuck in the technical aspect – that’s something I like to think about.

“In my off-time I will also take a hip-hop class for fun, to get myself out of my head after rehearsing intensely for a few weeks.”

Bringing a personal element to dance is very much what her work on Ying Yun is about, Formosa said.

The piece is named for and dedicated to Wang’s mother, who passed away with ovarian cancer four years ago. It’s a work about being a young woman, in which he has given interpretive licence to his dancers in depicting his mother’s story and experience.

“Wen Wei’s mother was very involved as part of his artistic life – she always wanted to be an artist,” Formosa said. “When she was alive he felt he was living out his artistic life because she couldn’t.”

Unlike some other dance pieces, Ying Yun is very much based in bringing out the differences in the dancers, she added.

“He’s not interested in making us unified – he’s making our differences unify us, which is really amazing.

“Wen Wei is really good at pulling things out of you that you didn’t know were possible,” she said.

“He’s not trying to put any of us in a box. He’s allowing us to do and feel and helping us find ourselves.

“He pushes us beyond our comfort zones, but he’s not afraid to guide us.”

Performances are at 7 p.m. Tickets are $37 general admission, with discounts for Dance Centre and CADA members.

For tickets and information, visit wenweidance.ca

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