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Now in its fifth year, the fringe Festival of independent Dance Artists, or fFIDA, remains more than ever an organizational success. its move to a 175-seat professional venue equips it with a congenial bar-cabaret and patio for relaxing before and after the show. Created by independents for independents, the festival is still resolutely opposed to any form of jury to decide who participates. That is to say, in the local jargon, that the program is "noncurated" to assure an authentic, open, and democratic fringe quality to the event.

To qualify for the mainstage the only requirements are three years of professional experience and three produced works, but even that minimum is waived for the late-night series and the off-site works. After that, participation is decided by lottery for designated slots in the ten-day festival. For the audience too, choice is something of a crapshoot despite advance announcements, with three choreographers randomly sharing each one-hour show. The result can be bizarre at times, tedious at worst; yet it occasionally produces welcome surprises. Quality may not be predominant, but the experience overall is usually fun in a month otherwise quiet for dance.

For the artists, of course, fFIDA means good exposure to audiences and publicity at modest cost. The choreographer pays a $225 entrance fee, but all box-office income goes back to the participants, and that has increased with the added capacity of the present theater. The festival itself, for the most part financed by grants from arts councils at three levels of government (federal, provincial, municipal), has in the past managed to stay in the black on a minimal budget of about $65,000, using the invaluable administrative services of Dance Umbrella of Ontario. But it is too early to comment on the current bottom line, since some funds have been slow in coming in, or been cut back.

This year the draw for the mainstage selected twenty-five choreographers from Toronto, nine from elsewhere in Canada, seven from New York City, four from elsewhere in the U.S., and three from Japan, for a total of forty-eight. I managed to see a substantial cross section of these artists, along with one off-site, for a total of fourteen hours of performance.

Not surprisingly, mature dancers most consistently set the highest artistic standards. For example, Peggy Baker's In a Landscape was a finely crafted solo, with carefully articulated movement perfectly matched to a John Cage composition. More robust, Mariko Tanabe in Voices Found continued, as in her previous work, to link Japanese and Western sensibilities, this time moving across three generations. In an uncanny way she sought to express umbilical communication between a mother and her yet unborn child.

Fiona Marcotty's Watershed was a powerful, disturbing, angst-laden solo for a naked woman with an enormous stage-length crimson cloth. Struggling across the floor through various transformations, she inexorably revealed the travails of a female existence.

Among male artists Anthony Morgan was also outstanding, particularly in his 1985 work, Leys. The strongly physical solo suggested mystical energies at special places on earth, such as Stonehenge. It overshadowed by far his most recent charming but wordy piece, The Wonder of Western Wildflowers.

Young talents came to the fore in Dominique Dumais's remarkable exploration of memory, in the genre of nouvelle danse, entitled do moments of Her dissolve? This was a subtle drama of a woman's thoughts and reflections, much of it centered on a stormy relationship, danced to wonderful effect by Joanna Ivey, Je-an Salas, and Robert Glumbek.

Off site in a stifling studio, D.A. Hoskins tried in a longer work, China: a dance of hidden portraits, to give a voyeur's impression of a troubled Marguerite Duras scenario. From a distance it was hard for me to get interested in the slow-moving, emotional encounters of its residents taking off and putting on their clothes. But the work was coherent and danced well, and its ambiance of ambiguities lingered.
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Title Annotation:Festival of Independent Dance Artists, Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, Toronto
Author:Hertzman, Lewis
Publication:Dance Magazine
Date:Nov 1, 1995
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