This past Saturday I got a glimpse into the future of dance and oh boy is it ever good.
For one brilliant hour in the afternoon, only a few blocks away from the bustling crowds at Westfest, the normally quiet residential streets of Westboro turned into a dance playground. Porch View Dances, which took place on the last day of the Canada Dance Festival, is possibly one of the best dance works I have ever seen. Conceived by Karen Kaeja and further developed by Allen Kaeja of Toronto-based Kaeja d’Dance, this pay-what-you-can show converts neighbourhoods into wonderful venues for the performing arts.
The idea for the piece is both simple and revolutionary: Combine professional choreographers with regular families, and then have the families perform a routine on their lawn, driveway or porch. The artistic tour begins at a house, and then travels to other locations in the neighbourhood to take in a series of dance vignettes. The result is not only an incredibly innovate way to see dance, but is also an excellent means to become intimately connected to a neighbourhood.
If you were not able to take in Saturday’s show don’t worry, as the organisers of the Canada Dance Festival have promised to bring it back next year for the 2016 festival. As for those who did see this artistic gem, I am pretty confident that you will be inspired to come back again next year.
I took in the show with my family after spending a few hours at Westfest. One of the things that really amazed me about this show — and there were many great elements — was the impact that it had on young children.
My four-year-old daughter, who has no preconceived notions about dance, was mesmerized by the performance. For her, watching a family dance on their lawn while blowing bubbles, or listening to performers ring bells while hidden in a hedge, or observing a dancer climb a tree as part of a very clever routine, made perfect sense.
For me, as a longtime fan of dance, I was riveted by how this performance reinvented what dance could be. For my daughter, however, and probably for many other children, this innovation was a mere starting point in their understanding of movement-based art. Who knows if a future ballerina or choreographer was born on Saturday after seeing at such a young age what a dance show can be.
The Canada Dance Festival is trying to bring dance performances into new and innovative spaces. This show accomplished this goal and more. By erasing the dividing line between audience and performer, by converting everyday residential corners into innovate stages, and by demonstrating how dance can truly be a grassroots phenomena, this performance deserves nothing but praise.