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Alert: Please note, From Weeds We Grow workshops are now taking place on July 20, August 17, September 14 and October 12 @ 12pm.

A Day in the ‘Heart of the Park’ with Kaeja d’Dance

By Jack Pocaluyko, Outreach and Events Assistant

As Toronto’s parks fill up with our programming this summer, Kaeja d’Dance takes on the biggest project ever with Arts in the Parks: visiting fifteen different parks over five dates, all across the city.

Heart of the Park concept – Karen Kaeja 
Developed with Allen Kaeja
Flock Landing Concept – Karen Kaeja 
Photo – Drew Berry

Since the beginning of the company, community has always been on the minds of co-creators Karen and Allen Kaeja. From 1991 onwards, Kaeja d’Dance has brought site specific, publicly engaged performances that speak to what makes the City of Toronto so great. Their popular Porch View Dances have made the very nature of performance a collaboration, and that tradition continues with Heart of the Park. 

In being immersed in their performances this past Saturday, it is easy to see why Kaeja d’Dance wished to bring Heart of the Park to as many parks as possible this summer. These performances focus on bringing the neighbourhood together and creating a dialogue around art, and those efforts really showed on July 6th. Starting at Beverly Glen Park in Scarborough’s L’Amoreaux neighbourhood, the crowd was excited and prepared to engage with the performances. Thanks to Hanbo Jia from Friends of Beverly Glen Park and Golden Maple Leaf Seniors Association, eighteen different dance groups had gathered to present a number of traditional Chinese dances. 

Choreography  – Karen Kaeja with Allen Kaeja
Photo – Drew Berry

Before long, dancers Caryn Chappell, Mateo Galindo Torres and Mio Sakamoto took the stage with their intimate and evocative creation. By the time Heart of the Park was underway, the sense of togetherness could already be felt. With three unique choreographies, Kaeja d’Dance had the audience entranced by their rhythmic emotion and gradual progression as each performance grows in size and narrative. Before long, it was time to participate in their mindful and communal Flock Landing. Everyone was getting involved, including visits from MP Shaun Chen and City Councillor Jim Karygiannis. After a quick break, there was no time to lose: they were off to their next performance in Parkway Forest Park!

Kaeja d’Dance hopes to promote healthy living with this project which is why they encourage attendees of Heart in the Park to take part in their cycling challenge: bike to all three parks they visit on Saturdays this summer. One other way to get active is by taking a dip in the pool, and that’s where all the action was at Parkway Forest Park. A quick relocation meant that the second show of the day concluded with the Flock Landing in the community pool! As the Heart of the Park’s production manager Malgorzata Nowacka-May can attest to, things can change at any moment in the park.

Flock Landing Concept – Karen Kaeja 
Photo – Drew Berry

The final stop of the day was at Flemingdon Park, where Flemingdon Park Community Support Services were holding their Annual Family Fun Day. Games, music and wellness workshops filled up the evening as organized by Nawal Ateeq from FCSS. While some heavy rain began to fall just as Kaeja d’Dance started their performance, that didn’t stop anyone from watching or participating. The perfect end to a hot summer day: cooling off with the rain while getting together for the love of dance.

Heart of the Park captures the spirit of Arts in the Parks so well by bringing together different groups and communities across Toronto. No matter where you are in the city, Kaeja d’Dance will be right around the corner to inspire neighbourhood engagement and active living. Check them out in your neighbourhood!

Heart of the Park comes to 9 more parks on three different Saturdays this summer, full details can be found at the Kaeja d’Dance website


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