Michael Menegon is avoiding the "F" word. "To some people the word 'fringe' implies lowered expectations of quality," says Menegon, one of the co-founders of what was formerly known as the fringe Festival of Independent Dance Artists (fFIDA) and from this year on will be called the fFIDA International Dance Festival .
This year's event, the 13th, dispenses with the admission-by-lottery rule and is partly juried.
This should ensure a certain quality, but also, says Menegon, it should allow choreographers to create work they might not undertake elsewhere. This year, for instance, Toronto Dance Theatre's Christopher House is crafting a work for the National Ballet's Guillaume Côté . As well, the new policy allows invitations to go out to more international artists, raising the fest's profile.
Menegon says the local dance scene has changed since the fest's 1991 start.
"When it began, there were so few opportunities for independent dance artists to perform, and now we have a festival that's extremely popular. It needed to redefine itself," he says.
Other changes include shortening the fest from 20 days to 12, and a three-tiered pricing system - from $10 for the Studio series up to $15 for the Main Stage 1 series for artists with 10 or more years' experience.
Gone are those often bizarre programs that mixed dance with themes like technology and science, which often resulted in tenuous connections or forced links.
"We'll still flavour the festival in a certain way to achieve a balance," points out Menegon, who says the programmers have looked through more videos and more detailed piece descriptions than before.
Another noted problem was the fest's sprawled-out quality. This year there are still several venues, including the Winchester Street Theatre, Buddies and (new this year) the Distillery District. By 2005, says Menegon, it will all likely happen at the Distillery.
Besides these big overall changes, Menegon's also debuting his first local choreography and performance in a couple of years. He's premiering and dancing in Winter Thunder, a solo inspired by the world of mathematics.
"Look for a lot of angular work, movement that explores the concept of infinity and straight lines," says Menegon, who admits he's smarting after recently putting out his back.
"At my age," he laughs, "if you stay out of dance it gets impossible to get back in."