From Fringe to Full-Fledged: A Transformed Toronto International Dance Festival Opens

Classic Arts News   From Fringe to Full-Fledged: A Transformed Toronto International Dance Festival Opens
 
It started out as a little fringe festival; now it's a big-league event. The revamped Toronto International Dance Festival (TIDF) opened last night with a solo program by the renowned dancer/choreographer Margie Gillis.

The Toronto Star found the performance to be an auspicious launch for the new TIDF. Bruce DeMara writes in today's edition of the paper that "the Montreal native proved why she has been compared to modern dance pioneer Isadora Duncan ... Somehow, her presence and movement evoke potent emotions even as one grapples to understand her often complex and deeply personal messages."

Yet it remains to be seen, as The Globe and Mail observes, whether TIDF artistic director Michael Menegon will have successfully transformed the festival from an indie affair to a "curated, big-ticket item."

The festival has been known for the past fifteen years as fFIDA — the fringe Festival of Independent Dance Artists. The first fFIDA was presented in 1991 by Menegon and Allen Kaeja at the Winchester Street Theatre to showcase off-the-beaten-track talent.

According to the Globe, the pair wanted to offer choreographers the chance to show their work in a more relaxed setting, and the festival soon became known for eclectic programming. But, says the paper, the festival wasn't ever entirely fringe: while there was no formal curatorship, the producers required all performers to have a minimum of two years' professional experience, and that was upped to five years in 1995. Even short, late-night slots had the two-year minimum.

Entry to the festival was initially first-come, first-served, with a lottery system introduced in the third year. The system wasn't uniformly popular, says the Globe, as it was felt that the varying quality of performances wasn't helping to boost the art form. The festival began to polish its image in the mid-'90s, when its venue was also upgraded and ticket prices increased. Emerging artists will still have a chance to appear at the TIDF, however: a work by a young choreographer will open each mainstage performance.

Menegon told the Globe that the growth into a full-fledged, curated event was inevitable: "A theatre fringe is not really about art. It's about the cool energy that comes from mostly enthusiastic amateurs who get together to make a play. Dance has always been about the art and professionalism, where the quality of your work increases your chances to get a grant. TIDF is fFIDA grown up."

The new Toronto International Dance Festival runs through August 19 in Toronto's Distillery Historic District; ticket prices this year range from C$16 to C$50. Full information is available at www.tidf.org.


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