A wide variety of dance styles were represented, including Irish, Indian, musical theatre, hip-hop, contemporary, and salsa, for a total of twenty-one acts in a night, from fourteen companies.
Given the University of Toronto’s reputation as a place where everybody studies too much, the festival proves that we’re also capable of getting high-marks in wild gyrations. The outpouring of talent that's here seems to be enormous; seemingly ordinary students must live a double life, as students by day and dancers by nite, to paraphrase the motto of one of the independent troupes.
It's clear that the performers have been practicing throughout the winter. The Greenfire Academy of Irish dance were repeat performers and a crowd favourite, doing steps and kicks made all the more perfect by the bobble of wildly-curly stage wigs. Shak Haq, probably the closest thing the U of T has to an impresario, continued his project of freeing the campus of the lingering traces of its Victorian past, and his second dance – assisted by two other dancers from the UC Follies Theatre Company – was the most humorous of the night, a documentary of the bodily comedy of a love triangle – without any yelling or drunk texts.
The Varsity Blues Pom Team brought their extreme athleticism and coordination to the stage, and only got better as the night wore on. Independent dancer Krista Mitchnick, with two extremely physical contemporary dances, demonstrated the full vertigo to a soul. The all-male OG Crew, the final dancers of the night, inspired in the audience, both women and men alike, something like a wild cauldron of lust. My mom, who was in attendance, thought their ribaldry was pitch perfect. I think they were her favourite. And independent dancers Parneeta Singh, who performed a Punjabi bhangra, and the later Bollywood dance performed by Rugveda Gawade, drew on centuries-old styles to great effect.
While the dancers are at different levels of experience, often even within in the same troupe, to this non-dancer it all seemed equally impossible. One of the best parts of the show - and of the art of dance in general - is that so much is understood and yet nothing is spoken.
In dance, emotions whirl by as evocations, visions no sooner seen and felt than vanishing to a memory of a human presence. The night was a complete inspiration, and haunts me still. I’ve read that the coming of springtime induces organisms to commit acts which, in any other season, would be foreign to them. Suddenly, I too want to dance.
The 17th annual U of T Festival of Dance ran from March 23 to March 24. It was directed by Melanie Mastronardi.