Dance Like Everyone is Watching

Forget dancing like no one’s watching — a unique community dance project in downtown Toronto has families dancing with (and for) their neighbours

Have you ever looked around your neighbourhood and wondered what life looks like on the inside of those houses? What stories do those individuals and families have to tell? A few years ago, these questions popped into the mind of Toronto-based choreographer Karen Kaeja as she looked out the window of her own home. What would it be like to have these families emerge from their houses and, for just a few moments, put their lives and energies on display for their neighbours to see? she thought.

These ponderings are what inspired Porch View Dances. Hosted by Kaeja d’Dance — one of Canada’s longest- standing contemporary dance companies headed by Karen and her husband, Allen — Porch View Dances has become an annual event in which families around the neighbourhood conduct professionally -choreographed dances on their front porches. The audience, which is made up of neighbours from near and far, commute from home to home watching the different families put on their distinct dance numbers, each performance representing the family’s uniqueness within their community.

“I thought, ‘What if these neighbours’ and their lives came out through the mouth of their houses, out onto the front porch and into the yard? What if we paired these families with professional choreographers — what magic could we make?’” Kaeja says.

This year, Porch View Dances took place on the evening of Wednesday, July 16, 2014, leading the audience on a scenic walk from house to house within the neighbourhood just northwest of Bloor and Bathurst. From an eerie, whimsical dance number put on by a family of four, to a synchronized swimming-themed performance by a troupe of young girls in swim caps, the night took neighbours on an enlightening adventure of art and friendship.

“I’ve never seen such a successful removal of the barrier between performers and their audience,” says Sheldon Rose, whose family kicked off this year’s series of dances. “People will make art if you let them, and Karen and Allen are real enablers in that way, bringing people out and really knitting the community together through the arts.”

Families who are interested in joining next year’s Porch View Dances, in which they will be paired with a professional dancer to choreograph their unique dance number, can reach out via

All photos by Diana Renelli
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Amanda Storey

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