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FOCUS: Porch View Dances returns (May/June 2023)

August 8th, 2023 · No Comments

12th annual Seaton Village event runs Aug. 9 to 13 

Choreographed by Karen & Allen Kaeja, dancers Jim and Owen Adams perform during 2018’s iteration of PVD: Real People Dancing. COURTESY 2018_PVD_SV PHOTOGRAPHY

By Hailey Alexander

Kaeja d’Dance returns to Seaton Village in full swing for their 12th annual Porch View Dances (PVD): Real People Dancing in Real Spaces from Aug. 9 to 13. Angela Poon, communications manager at Murray Paterson Marketing Group, described the event as a “90-minute walking and wheeling tour” with pay-as-you-wish ticket prices. 

Co-artistic director of Kaeja d’Dance, Karen Kaeja, said her creation is “somewhat reminiscent of the professional choreographer’s aesthetic with infiltrations of the everyday folk they work with,” and is performed in a creative and fun way—dancing. The festival starts on London Street, north of Bloor Street W. between Euclid and Palmerston avenues. The event begins every day at 7 p.m., from Aug. 9 to 12, and at 2 p.m. on Aug. 13.

Karen Kaeja founded PVD with the intention of taking dance from theatres to the streets in a “celebration of movement and community.” She said this concept came to mind as she dreamed of her neighbours’ stories flowing from the front doors of their homes onto porches, lawns, and into the streets. 

She says she envisioned local choreographers collaborating with residents and participants to create dances that expressed their unique life narratives. 

She then refined her vision with the help of co-artistic director and partner, Allen Kaeja. 

Their first festival launched in 2012 and has since returned to the Seaton Village community every year.

The PVD experience turns everyday people, many of whom have never danced before, into “creators, storytellers, and performers.” 

Neighbourhood residents dance for an ever-changing audience that moves from place to place, and they use their homes as stages. The traditional tour then concludes in a “flock landing” at Vermont Square Park where people of all ages and mobility levels are invited to participate in the dance. This culmination aims to “bridge the gap between professional art and the general public,” said Karen. With engagement from hundreds of participants every year, Kaeja d’Dance continues to spread the message that “art is for everyone, anywhere and everywhere.”

Along with its productions in Seaton Village, PVD has travelled across Ontario. In 2015 and 2016, they partnered with the Canada Dance Festival in Ottawa. In 2016 and 2017, they partnered with the Registry Theatre and shared their concept in Kitchener. In 2017, they partnered with Lakeshore Arts and took to Etobicoke with PVD Long Branch. In  following two years, Lakeshore Arts produced PVD New Toronto and PVD Mimico

In 2020 and 2021, PVD retreated to a virtual experience and the festival gained international attention online. PVD returned to the streets in 2022 with PVD: Discovery Walk in a blend of live and virtual performances. In 2023 there will be even more in-person action as people continue to recover from the pandemic. The tour in August features four new dances along with three dance vignettes in unexpected places. Karen explained that these vignettes hold the artistic space of each creator and are performed by professionally trained dancers. Each year, three vignettes are featured at the festival. “This year we’ve hired an incredible dance artist, Matt ‘Snoopy’ Cuff,” she mentioned. Matt will perform in his carefully crafted Vogue dance style. 

PVD focuses on a diverse team of creators by broadening their community and highlighting underrepresented identities. Karen believes diversity has always been a natural part of their company, and their fFIDA -Fringe Festival in 1991 was the first of its kind in Canada. “Back then, we were marginalized. We were not funded,” Allen said. This festival was one of the first to invite dance artists of all practices and ages and is now recognized as Canada’s largest international dance festival. Allen said that the idea of diversity was never in their minds because “for us, it was all about community.”

PVD has received several awards and recognition over the years, including the Canadian Dance Alliance (CDA) COMMUNITY Award and the King East Neighborhood Association’s Arts and Culture Award in Kitchener. 

On the opening night of their 8th annual festival in 2019, the City of Toronto honoured PVD by renaming a Seaton Village laneway after them. Porch View Dances Lane is located off London Street between Euclid and Manning avenues, north of Bloor.


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