Porch View Dances turns the spotlight on a neighbourhood and its dwellers.
It begins with a welcome to Seaton Village: that little neighbourhood nestled just north of Koreatown, bordered to the west by Christie Pits. Donning suspenders, tophat, and a cheekily upturned moustache, Allen Kaeja turns to the dozens of west-enders gathered in front of a London Street residence and invites them to take a seat “on the sidewalk or on the street.” Red T-shirted volunteers block off oncoming traffic with bicycles and hand-printed signs. Music plays, and a woman emerges from the front doorway. As the crowd ogles, she launches into a dance.
The reason for the specacle is Porch View Dances, an “Urban Landscape Performance Initiative” by Kaeja d’Dance. The project seeks to capture “real people, in real time, in real spaces,” dancing for the world to see. The brainchild of Seaton Village residents Allen and Karen Kaeja, the performance series was born of a desire to communicate the lives of people within their community through professionally choreographed dance vignettes, right on the front porches and yards of the neighbourhood’s inhabitants.
Thursday night marked the initiative’s inaugural event, and it drew a formidable crowd. While dozens of curious onlookers across all ages—from tiny toddlers with diapers peeking over elastic waistbands to grandparent types sporting white coronas and canes—turned up from the beginning, others joined along the way. As the audience procession made its way to five different front porch staging sites, where different dancers performed different pieces, the crowd progressively collected more passersby and neighbours.
Despite the high caliber of choreographer talent behind the event—including both Karen and Allen Kaeja, Nova Bhattacharya, Michael Caldwell and Maxine Heppner—the performers were a mix of professionals and enthusiastic locals with limited dance experience. The youngest dancer, six-year-old Willem Kerr, performed with his two older sisters and parents in a full-on family affair that was every bit as unpretentious as it was charming.
This, ultimately, is the beauty of Porch View Dances: a simple, lighthearted community showcase. The product? Pure joy.