Canada Dance Festival

The first Canada Dance Festival (CDF) took place in 1987 in Ottawa. Since the festival the following year, it has been presented biennially in June. Large and small companies and independent artists from across Canada are celebrated as the festival takes the pulse of dance creation in Canada.

Canada Dance Festival

The first Canada Dance Festival (CDF) took place in 1987 in Ottawa. Since the festival the following year, it has been presented biennially in June. Large and small companies and independent artists from across Canada are celebrated as the festival takes the pulse of dance creation in Canada.

Early Years

Initiated by dance producer Yvon St. Onge (NATIONAL ARTS CENTRE), Monique Michaud and Barbara Laskin (CANADA COUNCIL), and Gordon Pearson (THEATRE BALLET OF CANADA), the Canada Dance Festival was created in part to replace the dance showcases that occurred during the annual conferences of the disintegrated Dance in Canada Association (DICA). Some of the spirit of the marathon DICA conference showcases carried over into the first CDF event, with 500 artists in 50 performances. The second year was consciously more streamlined, announcing a program of the "cream of the crop" of Canadian dance talent. The program was decidedly abundant; Les Grands Ballets Canadiens, Toronto Dance Theatre, Royal Winnipeg Ballet, Jean Pierre Perrault, Winnipeg Contemporary Dancers, Montreal Danse, O Vertigo Danse, Le Groupe de la Place Royale, Decidedly Jazz, and Theatre Ballet were only some of the bigger names on the 1998 program bill alongside smaller companies and independent artists.

Co-produced by the National Arts Centre (NAC), the first 2 years of the CDF were programmed by Mark Hammond assisted by Cathy Levy, who took over as festival artistic producer for the 3rd edition and worked with NAC dance producer Jack Udashkin. In 2000 Brian Webb accepted the festival leadership role; the position went to Jeanne Holmes in 2012.

Activities

The Canada Dance Festival's main base is the NAC and its theatres, although the festival regularly borrows other venues and occupies outdoor stages and sites, such as a hockey arena for Dancemakers' "Geography" in 1988, and the NAC rooftop terraces for Kenneth Emig's untitled work in 2008.

New work is commissioned for every festival and parallel activities often take the form of conferences, meetings, workshops, pre- or post-show discussions, and special programs for emerging artists. In 2000 the festival produced the short film A Very Dangerous Pastime: A Devastatingly Simple Dance Guide, and in 2002 it launched an anthology of essays on dance called The Responsive Body: The Language of Contemporary Dance, published in collaboration with the Banff Press.

Dance Advance

A smaller event programmed on the odd years began in 1997. Dance Advance offered a showcase of professional and pre-professional local talent in free concerts. In the mid 2000s the odd-year events became themed standalone events. The 2007 Hip Hop 360 event brought break-boys and -girls from across the country together to showcase their talent and nurture a national community.

Funding

Financial constraints have been an ongoing concern, particularly dramatic in 1996 when the City of Ottawa cut the festival's support from $50 000 to $35 000 and the regional government refused to fund it at all. In 2004 the CDF's programming was trimmed again, reportedly due to reduced private-sector support.

While modest in size compared to its early years, Canada Dance Festival's artistic producer Jeanne Holmes has drawn upon a board-initiated national consultation process to help invigorate the festival.

Suggested Reading

Carol Anderson, Chasing the Tale of Contemporary Dance, Parts 1 and 2 (1999, 2002 ) and; Brian Webb, ed, The Responsive Body: A Language of Contemporary Dance (2002)