An Energetic, Multicultural Gala Evening:
Toronto’s 6th International Dance Festival
Brenda E. F. Beck
The Chinese Cultural Centre in Scarborough was host to a spectacular international dance show last Saturday evening, October 26th. The large theatre there came alive as it reverberated with the energy of more than one hundred dancers involved in Toronto’s 6th International Dance Festival, a gala event sponsored by the Dancing Damsels Inc. In my view this was the best biggest success to date for this innovative home-grown organization that has been expanding its activities year-by year.
The grand show brought together a very wide assemblage of performance styles that included nearly every major area of the world. It started with a “appetizer” celebrating a South American flamingo style featuring ladies impeccably dressed in long red, tight-fitting gowns. The graceful movements of these handsome women were accented by multiple sets of lively, flaring ruffles designed to show off multiple sets of fast-moving ankles. After that opening number, which drew everyone’s attention towards centre stage, the formal show began.
Appropriately, the first group was a native Canadian ensemble of first nation dancers who were meticulously practiced and choreographed. This group was followed by many more presentations, each featuring a distinct national tradition and associated dance heritage. In every case the costumes were magnificent. Much attention had clearly been paid to the details of the performers’ matching (and also contrasting) dance outfits, including colored feathers, shawls, umbrellas and much more. Furthermore, the energy projected towards the audience, in every dance number, was uniformly outstanding. The intricate choreography the dancers employed was professional as well.
Even more impressive was the fact that the many, many dancers on stage at any one time were always well-coordinated in their steps and gestures. It was a fun evening. There was a “vibe” at the end as the entire audience left the hall feeling uplifted. The organizers must also be congratulated for both starting and ending this entire line up of ethnic dance sequences right on time: a show that included more than fifteen separate groups that projected widely divergent styles.
Furthermore, a short but important part of the program was a description of Dancing Damsels’ growing degree of work in the wider community. Indeed, this may be the most important take away of the entire evening: this group is to be congratulated for the several initiatives they are taking to spread the culture of dance and of joyful movement to seniors right across our large urban area.
The Dancing Damsels are now engaged in leading group dance activities at a number of local senior’s centers, an idea that may turn out to be the most important legacy this innovative organization can leave behind, a creative way of making day-to-day life better and more healthful for the proud, cultural mosaic of aging residents who live in our greater metro area at large.