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Choreographing partnership

August 28th, 2015 · No Comments

Porch View Dances bridges art and audience

By Axile Gerona

Local porches will come alive with dance once again this summer, when Porch View Dances returns for the fourth year to Seaton Village.

“From Aug. 19 to 23, choreographies by real-life professional dance couples Karen Kaeja and Allen Kaeja, Michael Caldwell and Louis Laberge-Côté, and Ofilio Sinbadinho and Apolonia Velasque will be showcased through the stories of participating families told along the streets of Seaton Village,” says publicist Sue Edworthy.

In Porch View Dances, mounted by Kaeja d’Dance, a contemporary dance company, the audience meets at 84 London St. and then promenades from porch to porch to witness stories unfold through dance. The unusual performances also unite professional dancers with amateurs and “non-dancers” alike, many of whom are families and couples who live in the neighbourhood.

Working with inexperienced “non-dancers” brings its own set of challenges.

“As dancers and artists, we are used to working six hours straight in the studio, but that doesn’t happen with the families,” explains producer Jaclyn Rodrigues. “The breaks are very frequent, and choreographers go over the movements a lot. It’s about learning how to adapt and working differently. Families get to see how artists work, while artists see how real, everyday people work.”

It’s a collaboration in which the choreographers draw inspiration and direction straight from the houses and shared stories of the participating families. Also, notes Rodrigues, “the hours spent rehearsing create time for the families to come together and be together in this really special project”.

New this year is “The Wedding Brigade”, choreographed by Karen Kaeja. Featuring “everyday women”, some as young as 10, the female performers – single, divorced, married, never been married, some on their second marriage – all wear white.

“Some of the women are wearing their own wedding dresses. The idea is to show the western culture of wearing a white wedding dress and all the weird baggage that comes with that,” says Rodrigues. Not just an opportunity to comment “on relationships and the stories of women”, developing the piece itself created a space for these women to share and listen to each other’s stories.

Other pieces celebrate the stories of a neighbourhood and engage “real people, in real time, in real spaces”. And in sticking with tradition, the performances will conclude with “Flock Landing”, the finale in Vermont Square Park in which audience members – irrespective of dance skill or experience – are encouraged to participate.

Meant to bridge professional art with the general public, Porch View Dances is designed to be audience-inclusive and encourage spectators to be active participants in the creation of art through dance.

That theme of inclusivity permeates more than just the performances themselves. Porch View Dances depends on volunteers for its success, and it’s not uncommon for entire families to donate their time to the arts enterprise. The volunteers, who manage audiences as large as 400 people per performance, work together as they control transit by making sure the Porch View Dances route is accessible and car free. They also ensure that spectators move smoothly from site to site and successfully follow the flow of the performances in the neighbourhood.

“Events like Porch View Dances are unique and uplifting. Not only do they serve to edify the residents of our? ?neighbourhood, but they inspire and promote community engagement,” says Elden Freeman, president of Freeman Real Estate, which sponsors the event.

After four years, Porch View Dances has become a summer tradition for many Seaton Village families, and has attracted acclaim from the dance community.

The Canadian Dance Assembly has presented Porch View Dances with the I Love Dance Community Award, and nominated it for the I Love Dance Innovation Award.

Join the Porch View Dances as dancers, volunteers, and families celebrate love, partnership, family, and neighbourhood through dance from Seaton Village porches later this month.

Porch View Dances runs Aug. 19 to 23. Performances start at 7 p.m., 4 p.m. on Aug. 23, and are pay what you can.

For further information, or to volunteer, please email outreach@kaeja. org or visit

Tags: Annex · Arts · People