Reimagining The Possibilities

By Grace Wells-Smith
  • Tay / Photo by François Lalumière
  • Tay / Photo by François Lalumière

After twenty-six years with Christopher House, Toronto Dance Theatre (TDT) is welcoming its newest artistic director.

On March 5, the company announced that Andrew Tay will be taking over in August after a transition period with House, the company’s longest-standing artistic director.

“I think we’re at an interesting point where the success of a dance company today can’t be measured just on the work that it creates for the stage,” Tay said. He thinks that success also comes from community engagement, how the company tackles social issues and addresses the way dance is shifting as a whole. He also said he’s excited about rethinking the potential for a company with a repertory history and an ensemble of dancers.

“I’m not really interested in status quo kind of work,” he said. He describes his own work as experimental and doesn’t think taking audiences outside of what they’re used to from an established company is a bad thing.

“I am under the impression that sometimes being challenged or a little bit of danger can be, like, sexy or exciting,” he said. He also noted that when talking about dance, he finds the word “challenging” triggering. “I’m always thinking about who’s deciding what is challenging and who is making that kind of judgment call,” he said.

These values factor into why he got the job. “We believe that while he will respect tradition, he will also challenge the status quo; and we are very excited to see where he will take the company with his generous nature and constant curiosity,” said TDT’s board president, Charles Pavia, in the company’s press release.

This appreciation for the avant-garde won Tay the 2016 Vanguard Award for Risk and Innovation from the SummerWorks Performance Festival in Toronto for his piece Fame Prayer / EATING. In addition to Canada, the piece has been presented in the United Kingdom and Israel and is scheduled to keep touring internationally throughout 2020. Other work includes More than Naked, created with Doris Uhlich from Vienna, and Les Frontieres de Pixels, created with Sasha Kleinplatz for Cirque du Soleil.

Tay has been working with Kleinplatz for years. The two co-founded Wants&Needs Danse in 2005, producing dance events Piss in the Pool, Short&Sweet and Involved in Montreal.

Currently, he’s finishing up his work as artistic curator of the O Vertigo Centre for Creation in Montréal. Executive Director Paul Caskey thinks that Tay’s curatorial perspective is an asset he’s going to bring with him to TDT.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if [Tay] is going to look for ways to create activities that bring artists together for exchanges and then involve the public in that process,” Caskey said, speculating about the perspective he thinks goes beyond product creation and delivery. He also said that after hearing the news that Tay will be leaving Montréal, his feelings are mixed; he thinks it’s a great opportunity for Tay, but he’s sad to see him go.

Once Tay gets to Toronto, he’s hoping to create a space that he would want to exist in as artist, which he said his whole practice is based around. “I really hope that I’m going to be able to contribute something meaningful to the Toronto dance landscape,” he said.

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