CANASIAN INTERNATIONAL DANCE FESTIVAL From Thursday to Saturday (May 1 to 3), 7 and 9 pm. Enwave Theatre (231 Queens Quay West). Three programs, $20-$25 each, discounts for seeing two or three programs. 416-973-4000. www.canasiandancefestival.com. Rating: NNNNN
Denise Fujiwara remembers a time when Asian dance artists occupied the fringes of the scene, performing in community centres or for targeted cultural groups. Now they’re on mainstages and playing to all kinds of people.
“The audiences are young, old, white, beige, really hard to peg,” says Fujiwara.
That change owes a lot to the CanAsian Dance Festival, where Fujiwara is artistic director. The festival celebrates its 10th anniversary this week with a thrilling lineup of shows featuring past fest faves like Peter Chin and Hari Krishnan, as well as hot Vancouver choreographer Wen Wei Wang.
“Think of this as a best-of show,” says Fujiwara, on the phone a week before the fest goes up. “We’re including new work by choreographers we’ve presented in the past as well as some works we simply wanted to see again.”
Every dance form contains a tension between adherence to tradition and invention.
But that’s especially pressing for an artist working with Asian dance forms like India’s Bharatanatyam.
“Tradition is always changing,” says Fujiwara. “I think the most vital work has a foundation in the traditional but adds innovation and takes it further.”
One of the highlights of the fest is a piece that Fujiwara’s CanAsian programming colleagues added: a remount of Fujiwara’s own Sumida River, a butoh-inspired play based on a 15th-century Japanese Noh play.
If you haven’t seen it, you need to go, and if you have you likely already own a ticket. It’s rumoured to be the last time Fujiwara will perform the much-toured show in Toronto.
“It’s like a good wine, it improves upon age, gaining complexity and resonance,” she says. “I shudder to think about how I performed it the first year, back in 1994. I’ve learned so much about it.”
“There’s a Japanese aesthetic quality that we don’t even have a word for in English,” she says. “It’s called ‘ma,’ which means ‘the space between.’ It’s the ability to expand and contract time and space. It’s not a concept you find in much Western contemporary dance.”