The heads in the audience, for the most part, were gray and nodding as around them swirled pre-show chatter touching on the weather, doctor’s appointments and 25th anniversary reunions. It was definitely an older crowd that gathered inside Toronto’s Winchester Street Theatre (80 Winchester Street) on Thursday night for an evening of dance, an art form notorious for its love affair with youth. Many in the house were ex-dancers whose own leaping days were far behind them. They had come not entirely for nostalgia’s sake, although the event gave reason enough for reminiscing: the program at hand promised an evening of revivals by local dance pioneers as well as the welcome return to the stage of some beloved local dancers, long retired. But more enticing (and worthy of a late night) was that this modern dance show, while celebrating the past, was actually something novel, marking as it did the debut of Toronto Heritage Dance, the new kid on the Canadian dance block with a backpack jammed with history.
The brainchild of veteran dance producer Nenagh Leigh in collaboration with Patricia Beatty, Toronto Heritage Dance aims to use work from the not-so-distant past (the oldest work on the current program is just 40) to jumpstart new creations for the 21st century. The idea, elaborated Leigh during a brief intermission chat, is to get audiences used to the idea of preservation as a means of fostering a re-invigorated dance future. Vintage is all the rage in fashion, film and home decor. So why not apply the trend to locally made dance?