D.A. Hoskins has a holy horror of constrictions. He is artistic director of The Dietrich Group but remains an independent choreographer and a critic of the conformism that, in his opinion, holds sway in contemporary dance training and performance. Finding in a mingling of disciplines an excellent means of not being confined to such strictures, he has long joined forces with all sorts of artists. Among them the composer and long-time colleague Gilles Goyette and the filmmaker Nico Stagias have been involved in several projects with him including Death of a Serious Clown, a piece commissioned for senior male dancers in their fifties, members of the Old Men Dancing company. With an eye to taking more risks in choreography, in 2008 D.A. Hoskins founded The Dietrich Group, a platform for interactive exchange. Taking risks involves not only interactive exchanges among the various artists involved in a piece, but also their commitment to exposing themselves in the process, for Hoskins believes that art can only touch an audience if the work is eminently personal. It is also how an artist responds to a quest for meaning. It comes as no surprise that critics have praised his audacity and his ability to renew his aesthetics. Style, elegance, humour, sensuality and power are often terms used when describing his work.
D.A. Hoskins likes to say that he is above all a visual artist, and that dance is his preferred medium for creating worlds where interactions among artists are encouraged and where artistic persity finds expression. If his initial impetus was towards visual art, it was because dance was not available in the small town where he grew up in northern Ontario. He was 16 when he saw his first ballet and he soon set off to study dance in Toronto. He became a professional dancer with the Toronto Dance Theater, but after breaking an ankle in rehearsal focused on choreography, and it wasn’t long before the visual artist resurfaced.
Inspired by new media, conceptual art and video, he incorporates visual projections, texts and voice into his work. While highly theatrical, his pieces are not meant to be dance or theatre, but rather a metaphorical transformation of reality that unfolds by means of distinctive stage devices. In Portrait, for example, which was presented at the Festival TransAmériques in 2010, the stage space is not clearly defined and there is no real distinction between the stage and the backstage area, echoing the artist’s openness to all sorts of influences, like a blank page to be filled in without worrying about straying beyond the edges of the page. He is exploring multiple sources of inspiration. The screen on which the videos are projected dominates the space, making it as a third performer, and the interactions between the dancers and the onscreen images are extremely effective, just one example of his keen visual sense. The female dancer in de Portrait, Danielle Baskerville (who has been working with him for more than 10 years) says that “he choreographs like someone sculpting energy... I have to find a way to make those steps be energy” to be sure that she renders the movement in all its complexity.