Electrifying Toronto choreographer Robert Binet has been turning heads with his bold and risky works often set in alternative venues, from subway stations to country barns. This month, his Children of Chaos is part of Fall Dance North, which has 10 companies presenting works over three nights from Oct. 4 to 6 at the Sony Centre.
“We came up with the idea of inviting together a group of Canadian dancers having brilliant careers abroad,” says Binet, on the phone from England where he is working with the National Ballet of Canada on another production. "It's seven dancers, who have danced with San Francisco Ballet, American Ballet Theater, Royal Danish Ballet, the Dutch National Ballet, and they'll all be dancing together. Most haven't performed in Canada since they were children. It's really cool to have them back.”
Although the logistics seem daunting, Binet managed to work with each dancer individually leading up to the performance.
"It was a cool back and forth, and I get them all together for one day, the day before the festival," he says. "We'll melt the whole thing together. It's a bit mad, but also very exciting."
Pianist John Camille Serra will be live onstage with the dancers. “Some of it is very set and rigid, and some of it is very free form, and he’ll be improvising a lot, so there’s a lot of flux built into the process and also the performance itself,” says Binet. “We won’t really know what it is until it’s happening, and that’s exciting.”
Fall Dance North puts together programs over three evenings, and his production is featured tonight, Oct. 4. It's a festival that Binet has long admired.
"I've been a huge fan of the festival since it started," he says. "The quality, variety and diversity he brings together over three nights is astounding. And the fact that they are able to keep all the tickets to $15 is really a game changer. I love the vision, but the biggest reason to be a part of it, for me, is the accessibility."
With affordable ticket prices, Fall Dance North is able to pack thousands into the Sony Centre, a rarity for a contemporary dance performance, and a thrill not lost on the young choreographer.
"It just has such a wonderful atmosphere," he says. "To be in a room so excited to see contemporary dance is really thrilling, and rare in this city, where it is often a smaller and more intimate house."
Binet is not stranger to alternative venues. Whether through his own Wild Space group dedicated to finding new ways to share ballet, or working with Karen Kain and the National Ballet of Canada, he is always looking to share his love of dance with as many people as possible.
Last year, he partnered with the National Ballet to bring his immersive ballet The Dreamers Ever Leave You to life at the Art Gallery of Ontario where audience members were welcome to stay as long as they wanted, wander around the performance, snap photos or videos and generally do things that would result in a serious shushing at a traditional venue. All part of breaking down barriers, Binet explains.
"It really allows people to create their own experience of the work, and today that's how we experience a lot of media and art, we are constantly curating our own experiences," he says. "Giving people a little more freedom in how they interact with performing arts is really important because they become co-creators of their own experience and that is really empowering."
For tickets to Fall Dance North go here.