Tuesday, 21 June 2016

The Power of Thanks

Gratitude is a big buzz word these days. And for good reason. We have much to be thankful for, even amidst some truly terrible things that happen on a daily basis. Saying "Thank You" is a big deal. It means you've been recognized, that your efforts have been noticed, that you're not being taken for granted, and that your contributions have made a difference.

Running a dance festival can get a little chaotic at times...staff and volunteers are truly in the present moment as they run to post a sign about a rain location, or make sure a youth dancer hasn't been left behind, or ensure that artists have water to drink after their performances, or chat with a patron about a particular performance. So, as we emerge from our Festival weekend, we want very much to thank each and every person, funder, sponsor, neighbourhood group, and volunteer, who contributed towards the creation of a very successful Festival. We absolutely could not pull any of this off without your support!

Big thanks to our Platinum Sponsors: 1460 CJOY, Magic 106.1, CFRU, and Intrigue Media.

Big thanks to all of our other sponsors noted in the sponsor board below.

Big thanks to our Funders: Department of Canadian Heritage, Canada Council,Ontario Arts Council,City of Guelph, Guelph Community Foundation, Ontario Trillium Foundation, Good Foundation, Rotary Club of Guelph Trillium.

Big thanks to the Guelph Dance Board of Directors: Richard Gorrie, Michelle Miller, Heather Finn, Marie Zimmerman, Jillian Cockburn, Kim Bolton, Lynda Walters, and Lindsay Morris.

Big thanks to our Fab 5 partners: Hillside Festival, Guelph Jazz Festival, Guelph Film Festival, and Eden Mills Writer's Festival, and to our Fab 5 social media coordinator Marshall Bell.

Big thanks to Hanlon Creek Neighbourhood Group, Exhibition Park Neighbourhood Group, and 2 Rivers Festival for creating partnerships beneficial to so many.

Big thanks to our numerous volunteers at our camps and festival, helping with kids, collecting donations, handing out programs, setting up tables, etc.

Big thanks to the folks who joined our team for the Festival: Taras Cymbalisty, Dorothy Fisher, Leslie Fisher, Amber Sherwood-Robinson, Solana Del Bel Belluz, Davian Hart, Daniel Poulin, Kelly Steadman.

Big thanks to all of the individuals who donated money to our organization all year long. You hold us accountable!

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Le Patin Libre Glides into Guelph

 We asked Alexandre Hamel, Founder of Le Patin Libre to tell us more about the origins of the company, and how a group of former competitive ice skaters began to make art on ice. His words are evocative, and a wonderful video about the making of the work they're performing in Guelph is at the end of this post. You should definitely scroll all the way through and watch it!

Le Patin Libre performs on Stage A, Friday, June 3, 8 pm, at the University of Guelph's gold ice rink. They also teach an ice skating workshop, suitable for all levels, on Saturday, June 4, 9:30 am.
Tickets available by clicking here or by phoning 519-763-3000.

Photos by Alicia Clarke
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Vertical Influences is a contemporary ice-skating show.

Now, what's contemporary ice-skating? It's the result of a 10-year artistic adventure.

I launched Le Patin Libre in 2006. I was then a retiring figure skater. I competed on the international scene, skated professionally for Disney On Ice and in a few other big traditional figure skating shows. Sparkles and all... In 2006, I was also a Fine Arts student, at Concordia University in Montreal. I was studying film production.

During the 15 years of my intensive training as a figure skater, I always felt I didn't fit into what figure skaters reverently call “Le Monde du Patin,” or “The Skating World.” I always found my training companions very obedient and blindly engulfed in this closed universe of competition, hyper-sexualisation, drama, superficialism and....sparkles, always more sparkles. But, I loved the moves and the challenge so much! I just kept going until university provided me a good excuse to get out of it. Figure skating is like a sect. It's not that easy to get out of, especially after your parents have “invested” $15,000 a year in that weird training, secretly and crazily hoping you'll be an Olympic champion.

At university, I was part of little indie video projects. I loved it! Still infused with the love of skating, I gathered a few skaters I knew to launch a little indie ice-show project. It seemed natural to me. This doesn't exist in figure skating, however. Normally, it's all about big money, big producers, big sport federations, an establishment approving it all, etc.

So, year one of the project included a few short performances on frozen ponds in little towns around Montreal. We performed in winter carnivals. It was simple and naive. Good skaters, funny numbers, a bit of acrobatics, a slightly rock 'n roll attitude and....finally... no sparkles! Not a single one! I called the troupe Le Patin Libre. It means The Free Skate.

The shows were prepared very quickly because we didn't have access to much ice time, between hockey games and traditional figure skating stuff. Doing anything happy and un-conservative is forbidden at public skating sessions (even empty ones), so we could not dance or practice there. We did rehearse outdoors, in the winter, but that's often unreliable and feet freeze in an hour in those horrible hard-leather tight ballet shoes with blades.

However simple and quickly thrown together, our little shows pleased people. The local media talked about “rebel figure skaters,” the troupe grew, and we were quickly invited to France for shows organized by private ice rinks.

In France, we were offered a deal: do a few shows for free in exchange for practice ice time. All of the ice rinks are empty at night and in the morning, when hockey players are at work or at school. In city-run ice rinks, the bureaucracy makes such deals impossible, but in the private ice rinks of France, we just borrowed the keys from the owners and went skating for long hours whenever the ice rink was closed or unused. At night, sometimes! We started to go often, for residences that grew longer and longer. We literally exiled in France, to have access to this ice time.

Finally having time to do more than just throw shows together, we started to ask ourselves deep questions:
·       Why are we doing ice shows?
·       Why do we stick with this thing even though ice rinks are so complicated?
·       Why do we freeze our asses in sad looking, foul-smelling refrigerated garages?

I don't even remember how it came to us but the answer was simple: Glide!

It's what makes hockey more exciting than soccer. It's what makes surfing more sexy than beach volley-ball. It's why people fly to the Rockies to ski, when they could snowshoe in their backyards.

Glide is the possibility to dissociate movement through space from the gestures organically associated to human locomotion: walking, running, jumping, crawling, etc. This means a body can be immobile but move quickly. One of the skating-artists of the troupe calls it “grounded flight.”

Glide is the only thing we have and that dancers, circus artists or comedians don't have.

Glide is what's left when you take out those damned sparkles. And I mean “sparkles” in the large sense: TV shows, podiums, judging systems, syrupy music, themes, commentators, princesses.

Later, I would learn that glide is our specificity. With it, we could reach artistic modernity.

And we understood right away that the choreographic possibilities would be endless and completely new.

As soon as we were conscious of this, our shows started to feel better, richer and more natural. Our years of training as top-level figure skaters finally made sense! Where we felt compelled to add barrel jumping, tap skating and fire breathing (check our YouTube channel), in our first naive years, we started to just glide. Simple, pure and rigorously choreographed glide.

And the rest is just lots of sweat, big financial risks and the lives of 5 skating-artists completely invested in this over the course of a few years.

To make the story short, we developed that stuff, self-produced a show in London after another one of those residences in Europe, had a little box-office success, were noticed by the programmers of a big theatre and of a big dance festival (Sadler's Wells and Dance Umbrella), were offered real residencies and professional support and finally developed Vertical Influences. It got us some awards and accolades, and the show is so fun to do, I would perform it even if I were invisible.

So, that's what we're bringing to Guelph! And by the way, Guelph's Arena is not smelly and not even that cold! It's a really good one, and I'm not only saying this because they agreed to cancel a few hockey games to let this happen. We can't wait!
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Check out this wonderful video about the making of Vertical Influences


Thursday, 19 May 2016

Choreographer Suzanne Miller Muses on THIRST

We asked Montreal choreographer Suzanne Miller to share some thoughts on her piece The Water Project: THIRST which will be performed on Stage B, Saturday, June 4, 8:00 pm. Read on to gain some insight into her fascinating mind - and then, without delay! - get your tickets for this performance. Seating is assigned at the River Run Centre, so you'll want to arrange for the best seats now!
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The Water Project: THIRST
Choreographer's Notes, by Suzanne Miller (May 16, 2016)

Interestingly, the percentage of water contained within our body mirrors the percentage of water in the earths’ body.

Water marks our existence and continues to reveal life itself never fully knowing either beginnings or ends.

photo: Francois Bergeron
On June 4th, I share the stage with dancer/collaborator/perfect dance partner Karsten Kroll, with whom I’ve danced since 2000, and composer/musician/life partner Allan Paivio with whom I’ve worked since 1985.

Performed on a mirrored floor surface and riddled in plastic, THIRST uses the three states of water’s transformation -- SOLID, LIQUID and VAPOUR -- as a resource to direct the choreography, scenography and music composition. The kaleidoscopic effect of the mirrors creates a hybrid body where boundaries between, BONE, BLOOD and BREATH – are mixed.

The mirrors also provide water for an interpretation of “The Dying Swan.” This ends the production - it pays homage to the iconic solo choreographed by Mikhail Folkine (1905), made famous by the legendary Anna Pavlova.

We look forward to returning to Guelph Dance festival and are eager to reunite with our family and extended community.

Thursday, 12 May 2016

Partnerships Magnify Festival Offerings

We managed to get Guelph Dance’s Festival Artistic Director, Catrina von Radecki, to sit down for a few minutes so that we could ask her a few questions about how partnerships are making a difference in the Dance Festival’s offerings.

Who are Guelph Dance’s partners are this year during the Festival?
This Festival season, we have expanded our partnerships to include not just our wonderful Fab 5 colleagues (Guelph Jazz Festival, Guelph Film Festival, Hillside Festival, and Eden Mills Writers Festival), but also the 2Rivers Festival, Exhibition Park Neighbourhood Group, Hanlon Creek ParkNeighbourhood Group, and Capacitance.
What are some of the benefits of these partnerships?
The benefits of partnerships cannot be understated! We enrich each other’s programming and assist in promoting each other’s events. The sum is greater than its parts.

The 2Rivers Festival is an annual festival celebrating the beautiful Speed and Eramosa rivers, which meet in the city of Guelph. This year, our Hanlon Creek Park performance (Friday, June 3, 5:30 pm) is included as one of their events, along with a wide variety of activities including nature hikes, heritage walks, opportunities to paddle the rivers, and arts events.
Our partnership with the
Hanlon Creek Neighbourhood Group includes their helping us promote the event to their neighbourhood, and….they’re providing free ice cream during our event! The Exhibition Park Neighbourhood Group’s Creativity Picnic takes place immediately following our Saturday In the Park performance, providing a full and rich afternoon of arts activities for people of all ages. EPNG is also helping to promote our Festival to people in their Neighbourhood.

Our partnership with
Capacitance, curated by Lynette Segal, is a wonderful example of how we have helped to foster an active dance community in Guelph. Capacitance is our Local Initiatives event this season (Sunday, June 5, 2 pm), and is being co-presented by the Guelph Jazz Festival. The performance is multi-disciplinary and improvisational, and offers a more experimental approach in contemporary performance.

Other Fab 5 partnerships during the Festival include Eden Mills Writers’ Festival co-presenting Sara Porter at the In the Studio show (Saturday, June 4, 4 pm); Guelph Jazz Festival co-presenting the Guelph Youth Jazz Ensemble during the In the Park series (Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday); and the Guelph Film Festival co-presenting the screening of ORA, an innovative dance film that will be show during On the Stage B at the River Run Centre (Saturday, June 4, 8 pm).  Our programming is just so much richer with the contributions of our fellow festivals!

What extras can Guelph Dance audience members expect to see due to these partnerships?
·       Live music during the In the Park shows
·       Multi-disciplinary and experimental performance in the Local Initiatives performance
·       An intermingling of dance and storytelling at the In the Studio show
·       Avant-garde films with a focus on dance at Stage B
·       Activities for kids as well as parents during the Creativity Picnic at Exhibition Park

What IS a ‘Creativity Picnic’ anyway?!  
Hosted by the Exhibition Park Neighbourhood Group, the Creativity Picnic offers music, magic, and a wee bit of mayhem from 1-4 pm on Saturday, June 4. It immediately follows the In the Park show. The Children’s Art Factory, Five the Magician, the Making Box, the Art Gallery of Guelph, and Cardboard-ia are among the activities and entertainment that will be available.

Bring a picnic, stay and play for the day on our new playground. J.O.E. coffee will be there with coffee, drinks and treats; and Blue Water Creamery is bringing its delicious ice cream.

We have local and lovely talent such as: The Children’s Art Factory, Five the Magician, The Making Box, and the Art Gallery of Guelph's ‘Inflatable Art Gallery’. Plus we'll have activities from the Guelph Civic Museum, Cardboard-ia, Kids Make Guelph, and more!

Stay up to date on the Creativity Picnic by following EPNG’s Facebook page.

Anything else you'd like to say about GD's partnerships?
Partnerships are fundamental to what we do and are found in all aspects of the Guelph Dance Festival and outreach activities. Partnerships enable us to branch out to new audiences, afford larger scale and a greater variety of work, and access more resources to reach new audiences and to provide artists with great opportunities.  

As the Guelph Dance community grows we are excited to continue to develop and deepen partnerships so that we can be sure we are listening and responding to our community’s needs, that we are intricately immersed in the community we live in, and holding hands with the amazing people that make Guelph such an incredible place to live. 

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Our audience members are our most important partners. Without you, there would be no one to witness the dance. Check out the full festival schedule now!

Sunday, 8 May 2016

Sara Porter In the Studio: An Intimate Tour de Force

Toronto-based Sara Porter takes the In the Studio stage at Guelph Youth Studios on Saturday, June 4 at 4 pm.  Here, she tells us more about "Sara does a Solo," her intimate piece which is part memoir, part stand-up comedy, part dance performance; and in whole, a beautiful and bold statement.
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We all need reassurance.

: that things will be as we expect them to be : that we have a handle on what’s happening in our lives and in the world : that, despite all life’s uncertainties, that we know something, at least something that we can rely on...

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about live performance. 

Last night, I ran the newest version of Sara does a Solo, under the masterful technical direction of James Kendal, in front of a small invited group. James is up for anything and I love that. (He doesn’t seem to mind if I call a cue from onstage and change the order of things, just spontaneously, just for fun.) But last night I thought: That’s it! It’s finished! After working on several different versions of Sara does a Solo over the past months – for various shows in New York and Toronto – I think I have finally arrived at the finished version of the piece. And I felt the satisfaction of having completed something. Ended, finished, done. This is the version I’m taking to Montreal (Studio 303) next week, and to the San Francisco International Arts Festival the following week. (May 20-22). I will be all set for Guelph in June. Now, I know what I’m doing!

Well, now, hang on a moment…

Sara does a Solo
is a piece that is in continual flux. I premiered it – the earliest version – in June 2014 at my studio in Toronto. And, frankly, I was terrified. I didn’t even know if it was a piece. But from there, I’ve shown it – in various iterations – at the Intergalactic Arts Collective Studio in Toronto, at the charming Evergreen Theatre in Nova Scotia, as part of Performance Mix Festival in New York City, at Dancemakers Theatre in the Distillery District as part of Older & Reckless in Toronto, and at Douglas Dunn’s Studio Salon on Broadway in NYC. Each time, a slightly different piece.

We laugh in rehearsal – my rehearsal assistants/creative facilitators Katherine Duncanson, Gerry Trentham and me – saying the title suggests I’m doing “a” solo – but doesn’t actually commit to any “particular” solo. That’s just to ease our stress of this continual change. The piece is continually in flux. And that is partly what it is about….

Sara does a Solo
is very much about the present tense, about what’s going on in the moment, both in the theatre as I perform, and in my life. As one audience member said recently, “It feels like you’re just making it up, right there in front of us.” Well, in fact, in some ways, I am.

There is a strong structure and clearly determined form and text, and much of it is, in fact, very carefully rehearsed. But, as a solo, I can follow – and respond to – what happens in the moment. That’s the fun and the danger of it. It’s much like life. There’s a frame, but there’s always space for exploration, invention, trying something a different way. For play.

That is, I think, what live performance is all about: living a small piece of your life in front of other people. So we get to ponder together what it’s about, what we might share, what is familiar and what is different amongst us. How we might cope.

My life is full of parenting, practicing, rehearsing, making things up, questioning who I am, whether I’m doing the right things, whether I’m too serious, or not serious enough. Whether I believe in what I’m doing – or if others believe in it. Who am I, anyway, and how did I get here? Sometimes it feels like I’m performing all the time. Other times, I’m not even certain if I know who I am. Everything moves.

So, it’s reassuring to know – at least – that I’ll be at the Guelph Dance Festival on June 4th with a piece called Sara does a Solo. That is confirmed. I’m really looking forward to it. But nobody – not even I – knows exactly what it will be. But don’t worry: something will happen. And it will be live. And so will you.
 Sara Porter
May 2, 2016
photos: Tamara Romanchuk (top)
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Here's a sneak preview of Sara's piece:

A limited number of tickets are available to Sara's performance in Guelph. Click here to purchase your tickets online, or call the River Run Centre at 519-763-3000 to purchase your tickets by phone. This show is sure to sell out!

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Festival Artist Spotlight: Swashbuckling Fun with Frog in Hand

This week's Artist Spotlight blog is guest-authored by Colleen Snell, artistic director of Frog in Hand. The company performs its new work Dragon in the In the Park series, at Exhibition Park on Thursday, June 2nd, 7 pm; Saturday, June 4th, 12 pm; and Sunday, June 5th, 12 pm; and at our new park location, Hanlon Creek Park, on Friday, June 3rd, 5:30 pm.

Frog in Hand is a multidisciplinary and site-specific performance company based in Mississauga, Ontario. We mix dance and theatre with visual art, costume and design. Last year we performed our 1920s inspired piece,
Café Noisette, for the In the Park series with the Guelph Dance Festival. This year we are thrilled to return with another exciting production, Dragon.

The Production
Dragon is the timeless story of two knights on a quest to slay a dragon, yet it is no traditional fight between good and evil. When these knights find their dragon, they do not encounter the beast they expect. After a struggle, they learn the consequences of their violent acts; they redefine the meaning of courage and realize the redemptive power of empathy. Our production is an epic legend blending swordplay with dance, magnificent costumes and immersive set design. Damian Norman (dancer, actor), Colleen Snell (dancer, certified actor combatant) and Andy Ingram (certified actor combatant and fight director) bring this tale to life while Joe Pagnan (lighting/set designer) and Noelle Hamlyn (textile artist, costume designer) construct and design the visuals. 

The plot of our production is simple, yet deeper metaphors lie beneath this recognizable exterior. Dragon manipulates a traditional legend as a way of studying greed, humanity’s strained relationship with nature, the power of movement to cross borders between cultures and the overarching importance of myth and archetype in defining a collective human identity. Oh – this is of course in addition to swashbuckling fun, breathtaking feats of physical prowess and spine tingling thrills.

The Process
Dragon was created for the Off the Wall project, a multi-arts event Frog in Hand organized in collaboration with the Living Arts Centre and the Art Gallery of Mississauga. Off the Wall 2015 involved twenty-three artists of all disciplines who worked in five teams to create original, site-specific performances. While Damian, Joe, Colleen, Noelle and Andy had worked together previously they had never worked all together in one group. Andy and Joe had never even met! This creative team had three 7-hour days to devise an original show for the grand staircase in the Living Arts Centre. The work premiered on the fourth day.

Everyone was challenged and surprised by this project as we encountered our characters and crafted our story. Noelle and Joe were confronted with the task of creating the dragon tail (constructed with metal hoops), and transforming the staircase into the dragon’s nest. Damian learned sword work with Andy, who choreographed the fight sequences. Colleen physically researched how a dragon might move and interact. Together we questioned and built a narrative arc, fusing our professional perspectives as actors, dancers, visual artists, and fight choreographers into one project. Certainly the pressure of time was stressful, yet it was also helpful – providing urgency to our process and making each decision count. The work was a hit with our audience, who told us they liked the exciting music, breathtaking action and moving storyline. We’ve since reworked and revisited the piece, performing it in Kitchener for Night/Shift2015. We are thrilled to bring Dragon to Guelph, and can’t wait to share it with new audiences for the In the Park series.

Video below shows excerpts from 'Off the Wall.' You'll easily find 'Dragon!' Take a look.

 Full Festival schedule can be viewed on our website. So much great contemporary dance in four amazing days!

Friday, 15 April 2016

Guelph Dance Defines Gravity in the 18th Annual Guelph Dance Festival!

We are thrilled to announce the lineup for the 18th Annual Guelph Dance Festival, June 2-5, 2016. Bigger and better than ever, Guelph Dance will host 18 dance companies in 9 performances in 5 venues! We promise to define gravity in new ways this season, with dances on ice to dances in trees. We know there is something for everyone, with ticket prices ranging from, well, FREE to $30.

Here’s a little taste of what’s on offer this year. We encourage you to read the full details on our website
The wildly-popular, pay-what-you-can In the Park series features four companies this year:

·  Aeriosa, from Vancouver, performs “Birds Land Too,” a part-aerial, part-land piece that is derived from the behavior of birds
(photo right: Nicholas Podbrey)
·   Ferenc Feher travels from Hungary to perform “Tao Te,” an explosive male duet
·   Mississauga-based Frog in Hand brings “Dragon,” a piece that includes theatrical sword work
·   the local Hidden Heart Collective performs “Oblivion Shift,” exploring missed connections

These four companies perform in Exhibition Park on Thursday, June 2 at 7:00 pm, Saturday, June 4 at 12:00 pm, and Sunday, June 5 at 12:00 pm, and – new this year - at Hanlon Creek Park on Friday, June 3 at 5:30 pm.

The On the Stage shows take place on two different stages this year: the Cooperator’s Hall at River Run Centre and the University of Guelph’s Gold Ice Rink. Ticket prices range from $15-30.

· Le Patin Libre, a Montreal-based ice skating dance troupe, is featured in On the Stage A, on Friday, June 3, 8 pm. Performing at the University of Guelph’s Gold Ice Rink, this company exploits the idea of glide in its full-length piece “Vertical Influences.” (Photo right: Le Patin Libre (Alicia Clarke)

·  Julia Sasso dances (Toronto) and Suzanne Miller & Allan Paivio Productions (Montreal), both long-time members of Canada’s professional dance community, perform in On the Stage B, Saturday, June 4, 8 pm (River Run Centre). Sasso’s group performs “Sporting Life,” a piece that mirrors our fragilities and perverse lust for violence. Miller & Paivio bring “The Water Project: THIRST,” which reflects on the perilous crisis of water as a global issue.
Sara Porter is featured at our In the Studio event, taking place at the Guelph Youth Studios on Saturday, June 4, at 4:00 pm. In this intimate performance, sure to sell out quickly, Porter performs “Sara does a Solo,” a fearless account of an aging body and reflective mind. Ticket prices range from $15-20. (Photo right: Sara Porter (Tamara Romanchuk)

Local Initiatives
, Guelph Dance’s commitment to fostering the local dance community, features Capacitance, a multidisciplinary, improvisational performance produced and curated by Guelph dancer Lynette Segal. The show takes place on Sunday, June 5, at 2:00 pm at the Guelph Youth Studios, and is pay-what-you-can.

Festival favourite, YouthMoves, features 9 youth dance companies from across Southern Ontario in a professionally-produced performance at the River Run Centre, Sunday, June 5, at 4:00 pm. Youth Moves is the place to see the next generation of dance artists in action, before they’re famous! Tickets range from $15-20.

There are several educational opportunities throughout the Festival, including free post-show chats following In the Studio and Local Initiatives; a free pre-showchat facilitated by Sara Porter before On the Stage B; an ice dance workshop with Le Patin Libre at 9:30 am on Saturday, June 4 ($20); a workshop in Skinner Releasing Technique with Julia Sasso at 9:30 am on Sunday, June 5 ($20); Youth Dance Day on Friday, June 3, with a full afternoon and evening of dance activities ($32); and Teen Dance Day on Saturday, June 4, with a full morning and afternoon of dance activities ($45).
Photo Below: Dance Market (Lydia Summerlee)
The fun and interactive Dance Market is back at Exhibition Park this year, following the Saturday and Sunday In the Park performances. Stick around after the show to participate in short demos given by area movement practitioners. It's the perfect way to try out yoga, pilates, gyrokinesis, and more!

Tickets for all ticketed events, including workshops and youth and teen dance day, can be purchased through the River Run Centre Box Office (
www.riverrun.ca; 519-763-3000). In the Park, Dance Market, and Local Initiatives are all pay-what-you-can events. More information about the gravity-defining 18th Annual Guelph Dance Festival can be found on our website at www.guelphdance.ca.  Mark your calendars and purchase your tickets now so you don’t miss Guelph’s premier dance event of the year!

Look for our poster around town! Thanks to Gareth Lind for the design. 
Photo: Julia Sasso dances (Nicole Rivelli)