Toronto International Dance Festival a festival of curated dance from Toronto, Canada and the world, from Tuesday (August 8) to August 19, various times. Presented by fFIDA at the Distillery District (55 Mill). $24-$32, stu $16-$22, opening Margie Gillis show $40, passes $190-$250. 416-504-7529, 416-866-8666, www.artsboxoffice.ca, www.ffida.org. Rating: NNNNN
Michael Menegon is thrilled about trying out his dance fest's new acronym.
On paper, the Toronto International Dance Festival reads as TIDF.
"Tid-iff?" I try out, half-joking.
"How about Tidy-eff?" he says, smiling.
Could catch on, but it doesn't quite have the ring of the fest's predecessor, fFIDA, aka the fringe Festival of Independent Dance Artists.
Still, there's something subconsciously soothing about that word "tidy." Menegon wants to clean up a festival whose reputation has suffered because of that fringe label, which meant many performances were chosen by lottery.
In the past, you often had to sit through one or two duds to witness a good dance piece. No longer.
"The word "fringe' isn't relevant to what we're doing now," explains Menegon, co-founder of fFIDA and TIDF's artistic director. "Previously, we didn't know what was coming. We had a show description maybe. Now I have either seen the pieces or have a video or am directly involved in getting the works created."
Not surprising, then, that the festival's lineup is the strongest in memory, a solid mix of dance stars (Margie Gillis, Peggy Baker), should-be-better-knowns (D. A. Hoskins) and intriguing pairings (Dancetheatre David Earle and the Penderecki String Quartet).
The fest's programs are also easier to navigate. In past years, you had to literally wade through the alphabet to find a show you wanted to see.
"I think one year there was a program labelled QQ," laughs Menegon.
Now, apart from a series of bigger-profile events (and the closing weekend Grande Scale Events, a holdover from recent fFIDAs), there are three programs of mixed dance, each show preceded by work from an emerging artist.
"Those new artists are chosen by us, and it's a continuation of an important element from the past," says Menegon. "Think of it like an opening act at a rock concert."
That concert metaphor isn't far off. This year's festival ranges further than any other in its mix of music and movement.
Flamboyant art scene electro-punks Kids on TV (featuring dancer John Caffery) help shake up the fest's closing-night show, and jazz legend David "Fathead" Newman performs at a night devoted to jazz music and dance.
As for discoveries, Menegon's excited about Chicago's all-female Breakbone DanceCO.
"I showed a video of them to my 19-year-old niece and her boyfriend, who had never seen dance," he says. "They were blown away after the first minute. There's rock, video, beautiful imagery and nine women who throw themselves around. For me as a curator, it's this year's gem."
And if you don't like the idea of being confined indoors during the summer, there are always the site-specific shows, which draw huge crowds around the fest's Distillery District digs.
Menegon's favourite outdoor pick is Meredith Wrede's A Sighting, which begins somewhere inconspicuous and then takes you other places.
"I don't want to give the surprise away, but it's like when you dangle a $100 bill from a string on the top of a building and everyone stops and follows it," says Menegon.
Not a bad metaphor for the hopes of the newly minted festival itself.