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Dancing together: Festival showcases U of T's vibrant dance community

From the dance halls of Havana to the clubs of New York City to the finest ballrooms of Vienna: organizers of U of T’s Festival of Dance took audiences around the world without leaving the plush seats of Hart House Theatre.

The festival, which ran from March 30 to April 1, featured student dance troupes from all three campuses, covering such diverse styles as salsa, hip hop and ballroom dancing as well as more traditional forms of dance. Now in its 11th year, it is Canada’s largest university dance festival and boasts about 70 dance pieces and more than 200 performers.

“It’s an incredible moment for all the dance organizations across all three campuses to come together and not only see what everybody else is doing but also show what they’re doing and connect with each other,” says Safia Khan, festival artistic director and president of the U of T Dance Coalition, which produces the event with Hart House Theatre.

“The fact that it keeps growing every single year and the fact that we keep getting new dance groups that come into being because there’s the need for it and there’s the interest and the drive, it just speaks volumes to how powerful the dance community is becoming and how important it is becoming to the artistic culture at U of T.”

Sahil Dhingra, a fourth-year psychology major at U of T at Scarborough, founded the first dance team to represent the Scarborough campus at the festival in 2003. This year, he is co-ordinator for UTSC Dance, which is presenting a fusion of street dance and salsa.

“All of us [on the team] have been dancing in one capacity or another at Scarborough. There is a big dance community at Scarborough, whether we have fashion shows or other showcases,” Dhingra says. “This is just another opportunity for us to get together and dance.”

For Dhingra, the festival’s highlight is its ability to bring students together. “It’s very important for the dance community. There are so many dance groups and dancers at the university and this is their one chance to showcase it for the rest of the community.”

Echoing Dhingra’s sentiments, Khan attributes the event’s popularity to its sense of community. “The fact that all the campuses have this chance to unite and dance together in this kind of space and in this way is really meaningful. I think people love it, I think people love coming to the theatre and performing and seeing everyone else.”

© University of Toronto Scarborough