Arts & CultureCampus & CityCultural Affairs

Dancing in the Park ONLINE highlights Canadian dance films

Because of the pandemic, Dancing in the Park has gone online. However, this has not dampened their spirits and their impressive display of diverse curators.

Dancing in the Park ONLINE 2021 is a virtual festival presented by Toy Guns Dance Theatre. It will be showcased for free on YouTube from September 16 to 19. Each performance will be aired live at 7 p.m. MDT and then be available to watch for a period of 24 hours afterwards. The festival will feature a variety of dances, short films, and performances that are presented in a multitude of different mediums.

There will be 4 programs with different curators assigned to each one:

The Gateway reached out to interview Katherine Semchuk, a curator who programmed and co-directed the festival alongside Tia Ashley Kushniruk. Jake W Hastey, the artistic director for Dancing in the Park, invited Semchuk and Kushniruk to help him plan the festival this year.

Dancing in the Park was started in 2015 by Jake W Hastey. Semchuk explained that due to the pandemic last year, the festival transitioned to a “virtual iteration” for the first time. 

“What’s really cool about coming online is that we’ve shifted from Jake’s platform: an idea which [usually] just included Toy Guns Dance Theatre doing a performance, then some swing classes, and then one or two extra performances to a platform that can kind of hold space for people all over this country,” Semchuk said.

When asked what the planning process for Dancing in the Park was like, Semchuk enthused that it was “pretty exciting.”

Hastey, Kushniruk, and Semchuk wanted to involve more voices from across Canada in the curation process of the festival since they would be receiving film applications from all over Canada. Tamar Tabori from Vancouver, Chenise Mitchell from Toronto, and Michael Baboolal from Montreal were invited to be curators of the festival alongside Semchuk and Kushniruk.

Dancing in the Park received 134 film applications for consideration. That selection of films was narrowed down to the 16 films that will be showcased during the festival.

“We really wanted to be able to present emerging voices,” Semchuk said. “And for dance and choreography right now, [there’s] an interesting fine line because a lot of dance artists are having to pivot from the normalcy of being in prosceniums or on stages to pivoting their work into a different medium, which is film.” 

“We actually have artists that are kind of on different levels of [emergence] from all over the place because they’re emerging in a different medium, which is film. So one of the things that was really important for us was to basically present people… not just from one place, so not just from Edmonton, but also from different parts of this country,” Semchuk added. 

Semchuk emphasized that there was “a lot of thought that went into the curation and it was really based on the curator for each program.” 

Dancing in the Park did not go into planning the festival with a theme in mind, but Semchuk thinks “each program has a through line because of the curator who was responsible for it.”

Semchuk explained there are ways patrons of the festival can show support for their favourite performances. 

“If people enjoy the programs and want to show their support to the artist, the best way they can do that is follow the artists on Instagram or Facebook, visit their websites, and then donate to Toy Guns so we can continue to program next year, involve more artists, and [pay] artists more money for their work,” Semchuk said. 

Links to the artist’s social media will be posted in the live chat for each film while live streamed. There will also be a post-show talkback for each program.

More information on Dancing in the Park or Toy Guns Dance Theatre can be found at Toy Guns Dance Theatre’s website or Toy Guns Dance Theatre’s Instagram page.

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