Hart House Theatre presented its 18th annual two-day Festival of Dance last Friday and Saturday nights. According to the playbill, the festival celebrates “the diversity and prosperity of the
U of T dance community”.
With Melanie Mastronardi returning as festival director for the two-day event, the show saw some thematic changes that made the night more cohesive.
Rather than focusing on the differences between the dancers and the dances, the performances were divided into five categories—passion, frolic, strength, celebration, and mystery—that illustrated a variety of emotion rather than style.
The show opened with our own UTM Dance Team performing a routine on the theme of passion. Although the team started the show with a rocky routine to Linkin Park’s “Numb” that felt underrehearsed, they later redeemed themselves, returning to the stage several times on Friday night much improved. Some of the highlights of these later performances were a solo dance by Courtney Keir inspired by the restart and shutdown sounds of Windows XP, a playful Aretha Franklin tribute, and a dance to the Black Keys’ “Gold on the Ceiling” for which the dancers showed off their gold glitter sarongs, high kicks, and even higher ponytails.
The UT Fo’Real hip-hop dance crew delighted the crowd with more than 30 different dancers on the stage and an R&B medley featuring the songs of Miguel and Chris Brown—an impressive performance given the number of people on stage. “I really thought it was a standout performance,” said audience member Matt Leung after the show.
Another standout from the night, and my personal favourite, was by Masaki Maruyama, Ryo Matsuzawa, and Narumi Joyful Sugimura of the Cast Dance Company. The soundtrack ranged from Daft Punk’s “Technologic” to “The Time of My Life” from Dirty Dancing, but did so without of any traditional music accompaniment. The trio danced through the electric mix performed solely by one their members beatboxing and throat singing. It was a highly original performance that helped the show balance the excessive high kicks, power arms, and floor rolls that can sometimes overpower a festival of this nature.
The festival organizers also allowed the show to explore the spiritual and cultural side of dance in several of the routines. This included an elegant and mesmerizing traditional Indian dance by Rugveda Gawade. The skillful dance commanded full attention and put out some intense energy to the music of Bhool Bhulaiya.
The other cultural dances included a traditional Chinese dance by Only Human Dance Collective to Tarkan’s “Kiss Kiss”, a dance by the Russian Student Association Dance Ensemble that would’ve delighted Baryshnikov, and a dance by the Egyptian Dance Academy that married belly dancing with ballet.
While all the dancers demonstrated a high level of skill, some also modelled their favourite fashion trends. This included YYZ Dance Company, whose dancers seemed delighted to wear their new Topshop-styled outfits of bomber jackets and denim, Vic Dance Company’s routine to the Black Keys, which felt like a commercial for Gap, and MY Soul Dance Crew, who stripped off their power blazers in the middle of their sultry Britney Spears routine to reveal hot shorts and hair flips—to the glee of their supporters sitting in the row in front of me.
The Friday festival night concluded with many of the performers in the different dance troupes joining each other on stage—and even the aisles of the theatre—for a final routine. The collaborative dance cemented the festival’s emphasis on community and allowed the diverse performers to get the audience moving.
“I might go home and finish my essay tonight just so I can go to tomorrow’s performance,” said Caitlin Young, leaving with a group of friends. “I really enjoyed it.”