This year the charming outdoor dance festival, Dusk Dances, celebrates 25 Years, featuring five different works in Toronto’s east end. Each piece is spread throughout Withrow Park, using the park’s amenities, like its a baseball field and hockey rink.
The 2019 festival includes work from Hanna Kiel, Meredith Thompson, Mix Mix Dance Collective, Denise Fujiwara and Yuichiro Inouo, Pulga Muchochoma & Naishi Wang.
Each choreographer creates a ten-minute site-specific piece, mostly staying within a contemporary dance style, with the exception of a work that mixes house, waacking and breaking street styles.
The evening starts with a free square dance workshop, lead by Hannah Shira-Naiman and live musical accompaniment. A large turn-out of all ages smile and dance together, before being broken up by the host of the night by Madame Beaucoup (Lisa Anne Ross). She wears a red sequin dress, long red gloves and a campy mask as she charismatically leads the audience through the festival. The audience follows her with their blankets and fold-up chairs to each new location in the park.
IMPRINT, a festival commission and world premiere, was a highlight of the night. Choreographed by Meredith Thompson, the work has a large cast of professional dancers mixed with non-professionals, ages eight to eighty. It explores the connections we have with those we have crossed paths with in life. Performers enact simple tasks such as walking or shaking as the professional performers act out beautiful solo or duet moments amongst the crowd. These, in turn, create beautiful tableaus and connections.
The most unique of the set was Follow Me by Mix Mix Dance Collective. The piece features house, waacking and some breaking dance styles. Five performers dance within a baseball field, changing from solo moments to fully synchronized choreography sections. The audience was the most vocal through this performance, clapping along without being prompted through the groovy, feel-good choreography.
The first three works of the night are light-hearted in movement quality or intention; the final work is the exception. Moving Parts, by Fujiwara Dance Invention, casts eight dancers, a full choir and band in a hockey rink. The piece takes on our polarized society. The large cast sings Mad World by Gary Jules and another song I did not recognize (with lyrics of “I don’t want to die” and “We are all human”.) An interesting shift in mood and I can appreciate the sentiment.
Although, I was even more impressed by the audience participation in this one. We were welcomed to sing with the choir through the entire performance, and many obliged.
It was nice to see such a large community of all ages engage with dance. Even though I didn’t find the selection of pieces very memorable, they are a great introduction to dance.
At the end of the performance, Founder and Festival Director was pulled on stage. The local MP presented her with a letter from Prime Minister Trudeau for her work in the arts community over the past twenty-five years. It was a beautiful ending to an overall enjoyable summer night. A great way to introduce kids and passers-by to the dance community in the city.
Photo of Michael Baboolal, Sierra Chin Sawdy, Mairi Greig, Gavin Law and Brendan Wyatt and Pat Jones in Fall by Hanna Kiel. Photo by David Wong.