Monday, April 4, 2011



DIMBY. What is that? Dance In My Backyard. A fantastic event produced by Lady Janitor/Eroca Nicols. It happens at the end of the summer, in a gorgeous backyard close to Dufferin Park. People sitting on colourful blankets, trees decorated with Christmas lights, a live DJ and a collection of dance pieces created or adapted for this beautiful backyard. So unexpected, so refreshing! Most people I know don’t think of Toronto as a city in which such unusual and funky things happen. People (especially the ones coming from out of the city) tend to see Toronto as this gigantic financial centre, with lights, cars, buses, noise, business people, etc. Well, we better open our minds to another version of Toronto. DIMBY has been happening in August for a few years now, and it is sold out pretty much every performance night. People just love it. And so did I…

About a week before moving in Toronto, I was performing with the DIMBY crew for the first time as a member of the Montreal-based company Les Imprudanses, invited for the occasion. Four performers from Les Imprudanses were encountering Toronto performers for the show. That, too, was a very cool way to encounter the city right before moving in: I got to dance and improvise in front of a Toronto audience with the people that would become by new Toronto dance colleagues. The following year, I worked again with Eroca on DIMBY, and performed as part of Made to Order, a crazy improvised dance piece for which audience members order the dance they want to see right before the show. The group of professional dancers gathered by Eroca improvises these dances for them the same night. Yes, it is pretty cool indeed.

I find DIMBY to be an amazing Toronto event for many reasons. It totally seduces me because of the accessible and casual setting the magic backyard offers. Really, even if you are not a huge fan of dance shows, sitting in this backyard is an experience in itself, as it totally makes you forget about the noise, buildings and craziness of the city. The architecture of a city also encompasses secret places like this backyard, in which unexpected events like DIMBY happen, where the interaction between artists and audience members are highlighted by an intimate setting. After experiencing DIMBY, I found Toronto to be a very surprising city to live in, a very hybrid place, much more nuanced than the reputation it has.

Every city should have a DIMBY. And from the media coverage DIMBY received in 2010, I could tell how Toronto needs more of this: unpretentious yet great projects that remind you there are small paradises inside the city. Maybe this is one interesting way to think of art, whether it is public art or art inside museums and theatres: a window on secret paradises, a way to reveal hidden beauty in the city, or a way to enhance what is already visible to our eye… Art is not disconnected from what we experience in our everyday life: it draws from it, merges into it and allows us to extract new meanings from it.

In PART ONE of this Toronto portrait, I wrote a little about the Toronto Dance Community Love-In. In short, the Love-In offers contemporary dancers the professional training that, they felt, was missing in the city. So every month, they bring in international artists and teachers to provide the dance milieu with a diverse and rich approach to movement and dance training. The Love-In also gathers every month for discussing all sorts of projects and ideals they wish for, from the sustainability of the art form through funding to the sharing of resources between established artists and the emerging generation of creators.

Last fall, the co-founders of the Love-In, Amanda Acorn and Eroca Nicols (yes, I seem to be talking about Eroca all the time, but often, people who are committed to their milieu are involved in several projects…) asked Kate, Meryem Alaoui, and myself to help them structure the organization and create templates for the administrative tasks related to the Love-In. My help to them ended up being very specific and limited, as I was totally overwhelmed with school (yes, I do tend to forget I am here to study full-time…), but meeting with them, trying to figure out what the organization needed and how we could make its functioning efficient, I felt I was part of something important. These ladies do meet at 7am in the morning for discussing crucial issues for their dance community!!! That is a lot of LOVE, I’d say. I believe the Love-In is establishing not only a different type of training for professional dancers than what used to be offered in the city, but also a different way to envision the dance milieu. They promote the sharing of resources, the explosion of dance genres within the contemporary field, and the power of the group. I am excited and curious to see how the Love-In will change Toronto in ten years from now… I think a city can be changed from the inside, moulded by its citizens and artists.

Of course, since I am close to the people administrating the Love-In, I do think they are great. But I also think they are part of a greater movement, part of a group of people wanting Toronto to get richer and more diverse, open and safe. As Kate and I started to do the Intersection Project performances, as the G20 shook everyone’s sense of belonging to their city, as Rob Ford got elected, I did realized many people had the desire to envision Toronto as a place where art and business can co-exist, a place where citizens are considered, a place that is created from the inside by its people. Art, or dance, is only a small seed reflecting that reality…

To come in PART THREE (and the last one!):

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