This article was originally published in the Winter 2023 print issue.
This article is published through our Regional Reporter Program. We acknowledge the support of the Canada Council for the Arts through the Digital Now initiative.
Usually held in the United States, the 33rd annual International Association of Blacks in Dance (IABD) Conference and Festival is coming to Toronto’s Sheraton Centre, Jan. 25-29. Presented in collaboration with dance Immersion, a Toronto-based presenter that produces and promotes dances of the African diaspora, this year’s conference is themed “Globally Connected: What Does Our Tomorrow Hold?”
The conference, first held in Philadelphia in 1988, is an opportunity for Black artists and professionals to redefine and expand conversations around Black dance forms and histories through a combination of seminars, performances and presentations. The festival will also host auditions for post-secondary programs and professional dance companies.
Vivine Scarlett, founder of dance Immersion, has been going to the IABD conference and festivals since 1998 and is a member of the board of directors. She says the annual festival creates space to network and be surrounded by dances of the African diaspora.
“We can have honest discussions about who we are, what we’re doing,” she says. “And it’s an ongoing conversation about the dances that we practise, how we practise them and what methods and systems we use to transfer information.”
The event, which gathers participants representing dance forms from the Caribbean, various regions of Africa and across the world, offers a unique opportunity to explore the theme of global connectivity. The conference will also feature American artists and founding members of the IABD such as PHILADANCO! and Lula Washington Dance Theatre.
With collaboration and inclusion as guiding principles, dance Immersion will also host a pre-conference, called “Connectively Moving Our Dance,” dedicated to highlighting and engaging in works with a Black Canadian focus. “It’s just such a pleasure to come together to discuss what we’re doing, especially those working in isolation of expressions in form, technique and training,” says Scarlett.
Addressing the pandemic, Scarlett notes that the pause allowed the conference to adopt accessible measures, including digital presentations, to involve international artists who may be prevented from in-person attendance due to cost or time constraints. Coming out of the hiatus of the past two years, however, Scarlett says she is particularly looking forward to being in person again.
“Conference and festival-goers can expect to gain new collaborators, friends, skills and points of view. They can expect to connect to important histories and discuss budding futures,” she says. “They can expect to leave full of ideas, insights and new possibilities.”
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