Dancing in the street

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By Julia Che

at first no one notices as 15 black-clad dancers gather at the pedestrian bridge between Union Station and the CN Tower. The drab concourse becomes a stage and then the music starts. Jeremy Nasmith and Toan Truc are the first to begin.

If you were to come across this dance in the middle of downtown Toronto, you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between pedestrian and performer at first glance. You’d probably have to stick around for a minute to see who suddenly broke into dance and who continued walking by.

Random Steps is a faction of professional and non-professional dancers that perform “improv” dance pieces around downtown Toronto. The concept is similar to impromptu street performances by break-dancers but instead of helicopters and head spins, these performers will burst into lyrical motions of ballet, modern dance and jazz.

“Today, there just isn’t enough exposure to the ballet or performance pieces. We are trying to make it accessible to various types of people by performing in public venues such as the Eaton Centre, the Royal Ontario Museum and Toronto subway stations. We are bringing arts and performing to an atmosphere that is not usual. This is an opportunity to merge different groups of people,” says Nasmith, co-founder of Random Steps.

Random Steps has taken dance out of its traditional setting and into the streets of Toronto. By performing in public venues, they have made themselves accessible to everyone. They do it for the love of dance, and nothing else. This group will take their act anywhere.

The dancers, all dressed in black, stand in position at the overpass in Union Station. The music begins, and a remixed track merges Tchaikovsky and house beats. Nasmith and Truc, also a co-founder, begin the show with lyrical arabesques (exntesion of the leg) and lengthy port-de-bras (lifting of the arms).

A few others join in while eight dancers are moving on the floor, stairs, and escalators. Then suddenly, the dancers begin moving expressively among pedestrians, up and down the stairs and on the structure along the walkway. Movements range from energetic “up rocking” (a break dancing move of the upper body) to smooth lyrical motions of modern dance and ballet.

The dancers utilize their location by leaping up the escalators or skipping down the stairs. The performance is fluid and engaging. Every movement is unrehearsed and improvised. However, moving so harmoniously with each other, these dancers make it look like a previously composed piece.

Blurring the boundaries between the passer-by and performers make this concept fascinating and visually pleasing. It is difficult to distinguish between performer and pedestrian but that is the point.

“We are trying to blur the boundaries between viewer and performer,” says Nasmith.

It was about two years ago that Nasmith and Toan Truc, a Ryerson dance student, founded Random Steps.

“One day we were all just sitting around and bored. So we decided to go out, bring out ghetto blaster and start dancing in the middle of Union Station,” says Truc.

Now the group looks to perform at the Toronto Stock Exchange and the Toronto Convention Centre. When selecting locations, they search for environments that can be incorporated into their movements, commonly with stairs and escalators.

Nasmith says, “After doing this a few times, we’ve really begun to understand and feel each other’s movements. We catch on to what one another is doing and work with what we can to connect our movement and react to each other.”

In contrast to a choreographed performance or class exercises, dancers are allowed to improvise steps while in a performance atmosphere. It is a chance for these talented dancers to incorporate technique along with personal style into their movements as opposed to solely focusing on perfecting their skill.

The members of Random Steps are not paid and have not received any official licensing to perform. However, this seems to be a part of the exhilaration. They also have run into the problem of being kicked out by security from a few locations. Nevertheless, this has not stopped them from continuing to dance.

To take part in Random Steps, call Truc at 647-999-8626.

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