With a bold vision to bring dance into the lap of an urban community, dancer/choreographer Sylvie Bouchard created Dusk Dances in 1993, using the natural beauty and magic of Trinity-Bellwoods Park's ravine (Toronto) for a site-specific dance event. The event was part of the Fringe Festival of Independent Dance Artists (fFIDA) and united six local choreographers. Dusk Dances was successful beyond her expectations.
Two years later, Dusk Dances was presented again, with David Danzon joining the producing team. Both of these productions were entirely self-produced, relying solely on the support of the local business community and the voluntary work of its producers and artists. After much support and encouragement from the communities surrounding the park, government funding agencies, and artists alike, Bouchard and Danzon decided to make Dusk Dances an annual event. From 1997 to 2005, Dusk Dances was produced by CORPUS under the artistic direction of Bouchard and Danzon.
Dusk Dances received public funding from all levels of government for the first time in 1997. The event featured twelve choreographers, two programs and ran throughout fFIDA. Once again, it proved to be an artistic and public success. The following year, Dusk Dances separated from fFIDA, and expanded to two parks (adding Withrow Park). That year, Dusk Dances also toured a selection of past choreography to Ottawa, in a co-production with the Canada Dance Festival. In 2000 the festival expanded to a third park in Toronto (Dufferin Grove Park), went to Ottawa for the Canada Dance Festival and was co-produced with the Dancing on the Edge Festival in Vancouver. The festival kept growing in popularity, playing a significant role in increasing the visibility and accessibility of the art form.
2004 marked Dusk Dances’ 10th season. A retrospective programme of nine remounted pieces from past Dusk Dances programmes and one commissioned work, was presented in downtown Toronto. With the support of the Ontario Trillium Foundation and the Ontario Arts Council, Dusk Dances also toured to six regional centres around Ontario (Kingston, Chatham, Guelph, Deep River, Ottawa, Peterborough). In 2004, over 10,000 people attended Dusk Dances.
In 2005, Dusk Dances grew dramatically. Informed by lessons learned in taking the event into new communities, the festival became recognized as an undeniable force in audience development for dance, and as a catalyst for capacity building. The 2006 season marked the first of a three-year project, funded by the Ontario Trillium Foundation, the Ontario Arts Council, and the Canada Council for the Arts, in which Dusk Dances toured to five regional centres (Kingston, Mindemoya, Chatham, Haliburton and Deep River) and the Jane/Finch neighbourhood.
In 2008, David Danzon resigned as Co-Artistic Director and Sylvie Bouchard was appointed Festival Director of Dusk Dances Inc. In 2009, Dusk Dances initiated an exciting new project: for the next four years (2009 to 2012), the festival worked closely with co-presenting partners and communities across the GTA, with an aim to build capacity in underserved GTA neighborhoods. In 2010, with the support of the Ontario Trillium Foundation, the Dusk Dances’ Licensing Initiative began its pilot phase with events in Haliburton and Flesherton, allowing cities and towns around the province to license the Dusk Dances’ model and format, and learn how to produce the event in their respective communities.
In 2011, a Dusk Dances licensee event was added in Ottawa, and in 2012, in Peterborough, through Public Energy. The Dancing on the Edge Festival (DOTE) presented Dusk Dances in Vancouver annually during their festival in early July, until 2015. In 2012, 9,500 people saw Dusk Dances. In 2013, a Dusk Dances event occurred on the grounds of Fort York (Toronto) during their festival, On Common Grounds. Our current licensed events are located in Hamilton (since 2014), through our partnership with the Hamilton Conservatory for the Arts Dance Theatre; in the Lanaudière region of Québec, in partnership with Diffusion Hector-Charland since 2016 (with alternating performances in Repentigny and Terrebonne); and in Barrie, with Simcoe Contemporary Dancers (since 2017). In 2018, Dusk Dances welcomed its first guest curator, Michael Caldwell. In 2019, Dusk Dances celebrated its 25th festival season.
In 2020, Dusk Dances produced its first virtual edition, directed by William Yong, and gathered over 2,500 views. In spring 2021, Dusk Dances joined the roster of artists for Prologue Performing Arts to offer the virtual edition to students and schools in GTA. In 2021, Dusk Dances produced a second virtual edition. Dusk Dances 2021: A virtual edition was presented at a series of outdoor film screenings in Barrie, Hamilton, Scarborough, L’Assomption and Toronto and premiered online in October 2021. In 2022, Dusk Dances piloted a new initiative: a curatorial program that brought together Lead Curator 2022 Sofi Gudiño, and two Supporting Curators Michael Caldwell and Sylvie Bouchard, to curate the Withrow Park event. Dusk Dances returned to presenting dance live and presented festival events in Barrie, Hamilton and Repentigny.
2023 marks 30 years since Dusk Dances’ very first event in 1993, and the last year under the leadership of Festival Director and Founder Sylvie Bouchard who will step down at the end of 2023.
As Dusk Dances grows, we continue to strive to find new ways to push the boundaries of the art form, to challenge choreographers artistically, and to make the event more visible and more popular.