Review: Dusk Dances 2012 (Dusk Dances)

Dusk Dances offers mesmerizing performances despite a heavy downpour.

It took a downpour, plus a whistle, strict gesticulation and an order from the evening’s host to finally get the crowd gathered for Dusk Dances to pick up and leave Withrow Park. Which says it all: even bad weather can’t put a damper on this annual site-specific performance.

Now in its 18th year, but new to me, the five-day dance spectacular begins fairly innocuously. We arrived at the park, not quite sure where to go, but followed our ears, which was, as one spectator put it, “like the Pied Piper pulling us all in.”

Growing by the twos and tens and then hundreds, that’s pretty well how everyone ended up in the north-east corner, sitting, dancing, and mostly swaying to the strains of the Shabbes Goyin band.

At official dance show time – 7:30pm – the colonel (Dan Watson), dressed in 19th century Fort York-style gear, took over as host and kicked off with some military directives on how the evening would transpire. We were advised to turn off our phones so as not to transmit signals to the enemy, and to prepare for a journey across the fields to visit various dance “troops.”

Who knew the dance lexicon could be so regimental? Indeed, if music is not enough, festival director Sylvie Bouchard has ensured plenty of laughs and intrigue vis a vis the host.

But Dusk Dances is about dance, and the dance – of what I managed to catch – is worth the trek.

Our first destination was mid-way down the park for the world premiere of Twilight, a calm and soothing Indian dance and drum performance by Bageshree Vaze. Nestled on the hillside just above the skating rink, the crowd stilled, became one, and readied for the evening’s dance journey.

I noticed some lamps hanging from trees to the south-west – they could have been for Crepuscular, the fifth performance of the night. We had also passed a stage, so even the walk has built-in anticipation.

As soon as the first dance was over, the kids raced after the colonel, the adults slowly meandered behind, and our brief walk ended back at the north end of the park, near the Clubhouse, for an excerpt from Audible, performed by Vancouver’s 605 Collective.

We were mesmerized. Four dancers in white made the grass part of their performance as they rolled, tackled, huddled and, as my guest explained, made dance of real football moves. (Or maybe it was just that the dance looked like football? In any case, in homage to the London Olympics, it was a true art-meets-sport performance.)

And then the rain started to fall.

And no one wanted to go home.

Fortunately the Withrow Park event is on until Sunday, and there are other Dusk Dances in various locations across Ontario. And did I mention it’s an annual event? No wonder, because it truly is a wonder.


  • Dusk Dances is performed at Withrow Park (south of the Danforth, between Logan and Carlaw. Closest subway station: Chester)
  • Nightly from July 31 to August 5, 2012at 7pm (band starts at 7pm, dances start at 7:30pm)
  • Performances are PWYC at the venue
  • For more information, call: 416-504-6429 ext. 41