THE LARCHAUD PROJECT performing at the TORONTO INTERNATIONAL DANCE FESTIVAL in the Distillery District (55 Mill), Saturday (August 19) in the Urban Matinee program (noon and 2 pm) and the Closing Night Gala program (9 pm). $10-$25. 416-866-8666, www.tidf.org. Rating: NNNNN
Think it's hard for young per- forming artists to get foot in the door of the dance scene? Consider the women from the Larchaud Project.
Like a lot of hopefuls, Jennifer Robichaud and Nicole Bemister-Lardino premiered their first work in the site-specific series of the dance fest formerly known as fFIDA.
The piece a mix of breakdancing and tango, all performed on a cardboard stage was a big hit with critics and audiences. Their inaugural 2004 performance was so popular that they've been invited back to the festival (now called the Toronto International Dance Festival) every year since.
"The festival has given us opportunities that wouldn't have come up otherwise," says Robichaud on the phone a couple of weeks before her company's one-two punch at TIDF.
Part of the final weekend's Urban Matinees program as well as the big closing-night gala, their prominence is an obvious attempt by TIDF to attract a different sort of dance crowd.
"We looked at the contemporary dance scene and felt we wanted to do something different, something that challenged us and spoke to us," explains Robichaud, who's trained in jazz, tap, ballet and modern.
"We like to take street dance to the stage and bring concert dance to the street."
This summer, the troupe's performing an excerpt from a work called Pandora's Box.
"We're presenting it with a toy box, and the dancers play dolls. It's been fun imagining the kinds of evils and ills in today's society that might pop out of the box," she laughs. "We're mixing in ballroom dancing to create a sense of elegance."
They're also revisiting the idea of a live video game, a motif explored in a previous piece, Game Over.
This one is called Ice World and involves an evil ice queen whom the characters have to battle while negotiating an adult-sized jungle gym.
Ice World includes live video feeds and is interactive, with the performers emerging from the audience. An earlier version played at Nathan Phillips Square during last winter's WinterCity Fest.
"The characters in the game have evolved," says Robichaud. "We're trying for something a little more audience-friendly, to give it a stronger through-line."
Doesn't it freak her out to be so close to the audience?
"Actually, it's amazing," she chuckles. "There's nothing like it. You're actually involving people rather than letting them be merely spectators."