Nothing says accessible more enticingly than a $15 ticket to a live performance. That price point is the key to the success of Fall for Dance North, as it launches its eighth festival (September 17 to October 8) across multiple venues indoors and out, live and digital, diverse as dance can be in form and artistic origins.
Fall for Dance North (FFDN) is modelled on New York City Center’s Fall for Dance Festival, which began in 2004, and like that festival is designed to build new audiences for dance. But says FFDN artistic director Ilter Ibrahimof, the Toronto festival has developed its own identity, both commissioning new work and drawing on partnerships — this year with 13 arts organizations — to present three weeks of dance – a huge growth from the initial three-day event held in Toronto’s Meridian Hall.
This year’s festival marks a return to live performances after two years of pandemic restrictions. It’s what motivates Ibrahimof, a theatre person from his earliest awareness, growing up in Istanbul. “Wwe’re bringing people closer to these amazing performers who are magicians and athletes and superheroes. To put that dedication to performance and artistry and beauty in front of people is very exciting.”
Yet the pandemic prompted innovation for FFDN, allowing programming to expand digitally with livestream events, film, podcasts and to introduce outdoor presentations, all featured in this year’s festival.
Heirloom, the outdoor performance series inaugurated last year, launches the fest this year with a high-energy display of dance, juggling and sleight-of-hand magic entitled In Blue Rooms. Choreographers Zack Martel and Santiago Rivera both have training in circus arts and their show, performed by four accomplished Montreal jugglers and dancers, is bound to bombard the senses. Musicians Michael Bridge (accordion), Daniel Hamin Go (cello) and Brad Cherwin (clarinet) accompany the dancers live in what is described as “witty repartee between music and physical storytelling.” Heirloom plays at the First Ontario Performing Arts Centre in St. Catharines on Sept. 17, the Evergreen Brick Works in Toronto on Sept. 20, the Leacock Museum in Orillia on Sept. 22 and the Peterborough Square courtyard on September 25.
On the mainstage at Meridian Hall, from Oct. 6 to 8, the FFDN signature program Arise promises to be an exciting and eclectic feast of movement and music. Softly Losing, Softly Gaining, a commissioned piece from Toronto tap choreographer Dianne Montgomery is up first, followed by Kau Hea A Hiiaka a work based on traditional Hawaiian hula created by Honolulu artist Kaleo Trinidad. The second half of the evening leads off with a screening of Zipangu, a short film by Michael Greyeyes, accompanied by the Soundstreams’ Ensemble. The grand finale is the title work, Arise, a ballet created by Jera Wolfe, performed by 110 students from Canada’s National Ballet School.
Phoenix-based Indigenous Enterprise performs the Canadian premiere of Indigenous Liberation on Oct. 7 and 8 in the Theatre at the Creative School at Toronto Metropolitan University. Combining traditional pow-wow dancing with video, feather- and beadwork for a jubilant performance from seven Indigenous creators Indigenous Liberation aims to inspire and herald a time of reconciliation.
More dance discoveries await night owls who take in three different Night Shift programs from Sept. 29 to Oct.1 at the Citadel: Ross Centre for Dance on Parliament St. in Toronto. Produced by Citadel + Compagnie and co-presented with FFDN, Night Shift showcases nine world premieres from a diverse group of Ontario dancers.
FFDN 2021-2022 artists-in-residence Natasha Powell and Kimberley Cooper are behind three shows of jazz dance and music at the Theatre of the Creative School (Sept. 30 to Oct. 2). Powell and an all-female cast premiere Margarita, an homage to old-time chorus girls and Calgary’s Decidedly Jazz Danceworks perform Cooper’s Family of Jazz. After each show, audience members are invited to join the dancers and musicians on stage for a round of social dancing.
And there’s much more in this full-immersion dance festival. 8-Count, a short dance film series screens Sept. 23 and 24 and on Oct. 3 at Meridian Hall, FFDN presents Crystal Pite: Angels’ Atlas, a documentary film about the making of the extraordinary ballet made for the National Ballet of Canada. Union Station is the setting for The Big Social; admission is free for a lindy-hop and jazz dance workshop followed by social dancing. A lunchtime preview and background discussion of Indigenous Liberation at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts on Oct. 6 is also free.
Program details, festival packages and single tickets are available at ffdnorth.com
Photo by Bruce Zinger: Arise by Jera Wolfe