Dancing in the Dusk

dusk dances signageSo I don’t really like to admit this to many people, but I am a pretty die-hard fan of televised dance shows. I am pretty sure watching ‘Solid Gold‘ as a child helped to define this personality trait. I am also certain I have watched the 80’s chick flick ‘Girls Just Want to Have Fun‘ about 40 times in my life and it never gets old. Seriously, it’s a movie about a televised dance show – pure genius! So based on my enthusiasm for dance acts, you can probably guess how excited I was to learn about the Dusk Dances festival taking place in Toronto this past weekend.

To my amazement, the Dusk Dances Festival has actually been going on for 19 years! I feel a little out of the loop for only learning about it now. The festival has been at various locations around Toronto over the years, but has recently expanded to other Canadian cities such as Vancouver, Haliburton and Ottawa. I was fortunate enough to check it out in the beautiful Withrow Park just south of the Danforth.

We arrived fairly early to the festival as we were curious to check out the free dance classes they were offering beforehand. We obviously didn’t check the schedule in great detail, because when we arrived we soon found out that the dance classes offered that day were for toddlers. It was definitely very cute watching the little ones dance, but I was slightly disappointed as a few days earlier they were hosting break dancing classes. How awesome is that? I know I am not the only one that has had some sort of secret desire to bust out some moves on a large piece of cardboard with a giant boombox blasting music in the background (Flashdance anyone?). Admit it!

As the evening progressed, I was amazed to see the amount of people that were entering the park. As people gathered their lawn chairs and picnic blankets on the grass, we were entertained by the Latin band, Café Con Pan. Shortly after the band finished, we were greeted by our host, Dan Watson, who explained to us the rules for how things were going to go down that evening. Instead of sitting in one place and having the dancers all perform on the same stage, the crowd would actually move throughout the park to witness the various performances. I was a little skeptical how they were going to move a couple of hundred people around the park, but the incredible volunteers had everything under control.

The first performance was a “dance battle” between a flamenco dancer and a jazz pianist (I am not making this up even if I tried). While it was more of a solo dance routine than a battle, it did not disappoint.

I was quite excited (and intrigued) for the 2nd performance of the evening as it was appropriately titled “1981 FM”. A trio of dancers made their entrance onto the stage by pushing an old beat-up car down the hill, where it conveniently “died” right in front of the crowd. The team then used the car as a way to tell a story through the use of the FM radio station dial. I even found myself dancing in the crowd to some of the great beats coming from the car stereo.

The third routine of the evening (and unfortunately the last one we saw as it was quite chilly and we didn’t dress appropriately for the weather conditions) was a contemporary number based on the story Alice in Wonderland. It was definitely a lot darker than the first two routines, but still had a whimsical kind of element to it. Not sure if it was the weather or the routine, but I definitely did feel a chill after that act!

After the third routine, the host invited several members of the audience (mainly children) to get up on the stage and break out their best moves to win some prizes. While we didn’t stay to see who won (or to check out the last two routines), we definitely enjoyed our time at the show and plan to return next year (maybe I will even get to break dance?). Great job to all the organizers, volunteers and especially the dancers. Bravo!



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