Dancers at the heart of independent festival

Running until Aug. 21 in Toronto’s historic Distillery District, the Fringe Festival of Independent Dance Artists (fFIDA) presents a line-up of local, national and international dance artists representing the best in innovation and expression. Now in its 15th year, Canada’s largest dance celebration is bringing together more than 70 choreographers and 200 performers, including a dynamic core of York University alumni.

The festival’s signature piece is the Grande Scale Event, a two-part dance extravaganza that unfolds over three evenings in the Fermenting Cellar. The Gala, hosted by former prima ballerina Veronica Tennant, kicks off the performances on Aug.18, followed by The Event on Aug.19 & 20. Showtime on all three nights is 8pm.

One of the diverse dance groups performing at the Grande Scale Event is the Larchaud Dance Project, co-founded by York dance graduates Jennifer Robichaud (BFA ’02) and Nicole Bemister-Lardino (BFA ’02).

Right and below: Dancers from the Larchaud Dance Project

Using an adult-sized jungle gym as their toy, this dance company takes contemporary dance to new heights with the premiere of their latest work, titled Game Over. Technologically inspired, the piece brings to life one of society’s favourite amusements – the video game.

Known for their gravity-defying movement and strength-testing choreography, the dancers in the Larchaud Dance Project charge through repertoire that combines contemporary/break dance fusion with the high-flying kicks and aerials of martial arts. Performed on scaffolding, the show also features neck-bending contortions, raw physicality, playful characters, daredevil stunts and explosive combat.

Robichaud and Bemister-Lardino contribute to the arts community as dance educators, performers and emerging choreographers. Through their training, they have had the opportunity to work and study with York University dance professor and award-winning choreographer Holly Small (BFA ’77), and guest choreographers Matjash Mrowzewski and Michael Sean Marye.

Their co-performance credits include Series 8:08 Finale 2004, Moving Pictures 2003, Dusk Dances 2003, An Evening of Artistic Empowerment 2003, fFIDA 2002, York Dance Ensemble 2002 and numerous corporate events.

The other York alumni and students who are entertaining fFIDA audiences with imaginative pieces are: Gdalit-Ariella Neuman who is completing a joint degree with the National Ballet School’s Teacher Training Program, Norma Araiza (MA ’95), Roopa Cheema (BFA ’05), Jesse Dell (BFA ’03), Lucie Carmen Gregoire (BFA ’03), Meaghan Giusti (BFA ’04), Janelle Hardy who is in her second year of the masters program in dance, fourth-year dance student Sarah Lochead, Catherine Romano (BFA ’98, BEd ’99, BA ’04), first-year graduate student Heather Saum, Samara Thompson (BFA ’95, MA ’02) and Gabrielle Ward (BFA ’04).

Neuman was singled out as “new talent worth noting” by dance writer Susan Walker in The Toronto Star on Aug. 12. She performed the world premiere of Finestra in Series C on the Indie Mix Stage this past weekend. An eclectic at heart, this choreographer loves the endless possibilities of fusing diverse dance forms and music together.

Visit the fFIDA Web site for more information about the festival, including the schedule of performances and venues.