Sion Irwin-Childs (here with Elizabeth Morris) adds some major moves to D2D.
Ever wanted to be one of those snarky judges from So You Think Can Dance? Thanks to Sion Irwin-Childs, now you can.
The artistic director of the Dance 2 Danse Festival has programmed something called Dance Duels for the fest's inaugural edition. And here's the fun part: the audience gets to vote on who continues on.
"There are two series, Black and Blue, the colour of bruises, get it?" says the playful and energetic dancer, choreographer and producer. "The audience gets a sheet with a box next to each act. Half the artists will continue on to the second part of the show, while the other half will go home."
There's also a Best Of Black And Blue show at the end of the festival.
The initial dancers include everyone from flamenco dancer Anjelica Scannura to stand-up comic Winston Spear, who's lately taken to dancing onstage. There have been a lot of changes to the lineup, with some artists losing their nerve.
"Some senior dancers haven't wanted to enter because they were maybe scared of being usurped by some twerp who just graduated from dance school," says Irwin-Childs.
The festival won't all be competitive, however.
The director calls the D2D Diverge/Diverse lineup the festival's entrée, "your traditional Sunday night dinner." It includes well-known fare such as Ballet Jorgen Canada (where Irwin-Childs currently teaches), Tracey Norman and Lucy Rupert.
In the D2D DLX series, he's tried to reflect the diversity of the dance community, including Jeffrey Chan's contemporary Chinese movement as well as forms like butoh and hip-hop.
Irwin-Childs is no stranger to programming and curating dance. He's run the eclectic Eros Cabaret night at the Rivoli for five years now, and one such show kicked off the festival on August 18.
He's also aware that dance festivals are dying out - in the country and city. The fringe Festival of Independent Dance Artists (fFIDA) disbanded a few years ago. Irwin-Childs performed there several times and says he's learned a few lessons.
"There will never be two shows happening simultaneously, and I'm not setting my performers up to have half-empty houses," he says, pointing out that he won't stack a program with out-of-town artists who might not have local support.
Even though the festival didn't get grants from the Ontario or Toronto Arts Councils, Irwin-Childs says he wants it to become an annual event.
"I've built a self-sustaining festival model that can propel itself forward," he says. "I'm trying to make sure that ticket sales are good. If anybody won't be paid at the end, it'll be me."