A new dance festival makes its way to Toronto this fall, running from September 29 to October 1 at the 3000-seat Sony Centre for the Performing Arts. Fall for Dance North (FFDN) is an offshoot of New York City’s highly successful Fall for Dance, which celebrates its twelfth festival at the end of September.
Toronto-based dancer and choreographer Michael Caldwell is Fall for Dance North’s artistic producer. He says the festival is designed to make dance accessible. To encourage new audience members to attend, all seats cost only $10, and each program showcases a variety of professional dance companies.
“We think a lot of people get scared of dance,” he says. “It’s not like theatre, where there’s a narrative, a script. So we’re trying to find a way to introduce people to dance so that it’s not jarring to them.”
This is by no means the only dance festival currently running in Toronto. Various other festivals occur during the year — such as SummerWorks Performance Festival, Harbourfront Centre festivals, dance: made in canada/fait au Canada and more — but none in Toronto compare to the scale that FFDN has programmed over three days. It will host some of Canada’s biggest dance companies and well known troupes from around the world.
Canadian companies presenting repertoire this inaugural year include The National Ballet of Canada, Toronto Dance Theatre, Esmeralda Enrique Spanish Dance Company and Ballet BC; international companies include Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater (United States), Nrityagram (India), Atlanta Ballet (United States), DanceBrazil (Brazil) and Dorrance Dance (United States).
The program also includes two commissioned works: a First Nations hoop dance, curated and directed by Santee Smith, artistic director of Toronto’s Kaha:wi Dance Theatre, and the world premiere of a piece by Peggy Baker with Sarah Neufeld of Arcade Fire and Bell Orchestre.
In addition, the festival will host artist talks and master classes with the companies in attendance. The video displays in the Sony Centre will show a video exhibit curated by Dance Collection Danse, Canada’s national dance archives, museum and research centre. It will include photos and memorabilia from their collection. “People will see some of the history of Canadian dance,” Caldwell says.
New York City’s Fall for Dance began in 2004. Performances take place at the New York City Center over ten days with tickets for $15. According to the City Center’s website, Fall for Dance “has presented 190 companies to 275,000 newcomers and dance enthusiasts.” Ilter Ibrahimof is the artistic director for both festivals.
Will Fall for Dance North grow to the size of its counterpart in the United States? There is, of course, a mass difference in population, but the founders of this festival believe there is an appetite for dance viewing in Toronto — an appetite that will be discovered at FFDN and later fulfilled throughout the rest of the coming dance season.