“ More, more please! Do it again!”
The Toronto International Dance Festival has grown from humble beginnings to become a repeating and memorable feature of the Toronto’s annual Arts Scene. Due to the energy and vision of its Managing Director, Mary Ashok, all this has happened within three years of the organization’s inception. This year’s December evening of celebatory dance, presented a medley of affirmative multicultural examples, was infused with life-affirming energy. My husband, not normally much of an arts fan, expressed his reaction with a few simple words: “ More, more please! Do it again!” Each of the 15 distinct examples that came to the stage worked with the others to provide an amazing multicultural smorgesboard that was outstanding for its professional choreography and technical execution. But more importantly, each presentation was bouyed by a spirit of joy and uplift. Taken together, all fifteen of these geographically wide-ranging and culturally diverse dance performances seemed to fuse as one to make a unifying statement: “Dance is the hidden language of the human soul.”
This amazing TDIF show presented dance as a universal poetic urge through which culturally specific forms of rhythm and movement can be yoked together. Each form expresses a specific pride in local heritage, while at the same time conveying a universal yearing that there be understanding and respect shown for each unique expression within that vast variety. The dancer is an artist, a craftsperson whose message reaches all who care to watch. All the rhythmns and movements of dance share a common voice which cries out: We are diverse and yet we are one! There are a near-infinate number of ways ways the human body form can be linked to diverse beats, jumps, and twists, plus specific styles of adorment. Yet, in this Harbour Front show, all these bodies seemed to speak as one. At this important event dancers from around the world joined to convey a message begging for harmony but also for individual admiration. What better way to spread hope in the face of the dark politics of division that is defining our time?
1) Rise of the Phoenix, by the Chinese Collective Arts Association
This was a very suitable opening piece, full of beauty and of intricate, well executed manoeuvres. The Phoenix dance conveyed the sense of a beautiful bird rising from the ashes, while the colours of the costumes created a stunning effect that was further emphasized by the dancers’ swirling scarves. The Phoenix and Dragon together symbolize the perfect harmony of yin and yang, just as the many bodies in this dance seemed almost weightless. The eight females and sole male dancer left the audience with a new hope: perhaps still more joy lay ahead?
Here is a survey of the program’s many jewels, the the order of their appearance: