One of the more mobile art forms returns to Withrow Park this year, the home stage for the Dusk Dances Festival.
In its 19th year, the festival showcases all forms of dance, from contemporary to traditional Indian, and runs from July 30 to August 4. This year it will feature four dances that run nightly at 7 p.m.
“It’s very different to create and perform outside than it is in a theatre,” said festival organizer Sylvie Bouchard. “In the park you compete with noises and with a lot of visual things that happen around you so it’s a very different experience for the audience and for the dancers.”
Bouchard came up with the idea while sitting in the park in 1993, wanting to bring dance out of the theatre and into a more accessible arena for the public.
“I thought that in a public park there are people there already,” said Bouchard who commissions choreographers and dancers from different styles of dance each year to give a well-rounded demonstration of dance.
Dusk Dances goes on tours around the province and the country, but Bouchard considers Withrow Park to be the home stage of the festival.
“It’s where we belong. It’s where people are very supportive of us and want us to be there,” said Bouchard who noted Withrow Park has had up to 800 spectators for the festival in the past.
Each evening works as a tour around the park, fully utilizing its fixtures, trees, playgrounds, and pathways. A host – this year Dan Watson – brings the spectators from dance to dance across the park.
“It’s a lot of people given that we make them sit down, get up, walk to the next site, sit down, get up, walk to the next site, sit down five times – its pretty good,” said Bouchard.
This year, the tour will include a piece by local Riverdale choreographer Susie Burpee that involves an outdoor boxing ring set up between trees in the park and a dance battle between dancers Yvonne Ng and Robert Glumbek from Tiger Princess Dance Projects.
“They’re exceptional,” said Burpee who lives at Jones Avenue and Gerrard Street. “It’s really nice to do something that I can tell my neighbours to come on down to and they can walk up the street.”
“It’s a good way to get to know a community,” said Burpee who notes the performances are a great way for people to get to know an art form they might not be familiar with.
“It’s a really good high calibre of artistry in a very natural environment and it invites the public in to experience and enjoy dance,” said Carmen Romero who is performing a flamenco dance to live piano at the festival.
The Riverdale community will also get to enjoy a performance involving a 1985 Chevette by the Throwdown Collective.
“Myself and my two creative partners are creating a new piece on a car, in a car and around a car,” said Brodie Stevenson of the collective. Stevenson both works and lives in Cabbagetown, and has been performing at Withrow Park since 2007.
“There’s usually a lot of people compared to other parks that we perform in,” said Stevenson. “It’s quite exciting but it’s also slightly intimidating when you see that many people walking towards you in the park and there’s kids and dogs and strollers.”
The Throwdown Collective is using the car as the finale in a trio of dances for Dusk Dances involving large live props – including a couch and some giant wooden boxes.