Fall For Dance North: The Flip Side | About FFDN

About FFDN

Mission Statement

To elevate the popularity of dance by presenting a diverse, world-class dance festival of established and emerging talent from Toronto, Canada and around the globe through accessible ticket prices. To support Canada’s professional dance community, create an inclusive atmosphere and inspire and educate new audiences and seasoned dance patrons.


Masterclass with Bulareyaung Dance Company.

Photo by Kendra Epik.


Ryerson Theatre Program Attendees

Photo by Bruce Zinger.

What Is Fall for Dance North?

Fall for Dance North is a commitment to support the professional dance community. The festival, occurring annually in the fall, celebrates dance by launching the performing arts season and opening conversations about dance that will continue in theatres, studios and households throughout the year.

FFDN nurtures the dance audiences of the future. $15 tickets for any seat in the house invite everyone to experience professional dance together. Internationally and stylistically diverse, FFDN’s programming reflects Toronto’s exceptional multiculturalism. A love of dance, and of new dance forms, is cultivated at the festival and audiences attend more professional dance throughout the year because of their experience at FFDN.

FFDN supports the creation of new work. FFDN commissions 2-3 original pieces annually by emerging choreographers for performance at the festival. This is an extraordinary opportunity for young creators to have their work seen by as many as 10,000 people. FFDN is also investing in digital content and employing new media to reach audiences online.

FFDN educates the next generation. FFDN offers a free MasterClass Series at every festival that encourages active learning. Artist Talks and commissioned in-depth articles for our program magazines help FFDN audiences delve deeper into the art form. A Student Show with talk back for middle and secondary students encourages a love of dance and provides insight into dance as a potential career. A partnership with the Ryerson School of Performance connects international choreographers with Ryerson Dance students, impacting dancers on the cusps of professional careers. Perhaps most importantly, FFDN’s sophisticated yet approachable festival programming increases the general audience’s dance appreciation.

As we look to the future, FFDN is expanding year-round opportunities for audiences to experience professional dance. FFDN’s spring Open Studio at Union Station brings professional dancers’ daily practice to the station, placing it in a studio without walls to be observed by passersby. FFDN pop-up performances offer free professional performances in nontraditional settings. Co-presentations with other arts organizations create more opportunities for in-theatre enjoyment of the FFDN brand.

FFDN exists to support the professional dance community. As a festival, FFDN is a celebration of community made better through professional dance.


Mix Mix Dance Collective.

Photo by Bruce Zinger.

How are we adapting in 2020?

Nothing can replace live performance. Fall for Dance North will be ready to return to theatres when you are.

Meanwhile, in these pandemic times, FFDN is adapting and innovating. Prior to 2020, our nimble and creative team had digital projects simmering on the back burner. We were already asking new questions about how to present dance and how to engage audiences: How can a performing arts festival tap into the public’s existing digital engagement habits? What might a future dance festival look like?

While there’s no denying the challenge of today’s circumstances, FFDN chooses to see opportunities. This year’s festival offers a range of new programming streams, always with the aim to engage newcomers and seasoned dancegoers alike. For 2020, FFDN reaches beyond its physical location in Toronto, Canada, and extends its programming across multiple platforms and formats from livestream to poetry, from humour to podcasting.

Creating programming for dance audiences across various platforms and in alternate formats has engaged the FFDN team in a whole new way. Of course, at the heart of it all, the festival’s commitment to dance artists remains strong, particularly in this difficult time. FFDN is honoured to work with Canadian and international dance artists, from emerging to established, who motivate the festival team to adapt and innovate in order to delight, challenge and inspire audiences.

This year’s programming offers unique experiences and makes surprising connections, capturing the spirit of live performance in a different way – by bringing the sights, sounds, stories and movements of dance and dance artists to audiences near and far.

The invitation remains the same:

Come be part of something bigger than yourself.

Shift your perspective on dance and dancers.

Participate in the shared experience of Fall for Dance North.


Ballet Kelowna.

Photo by Marlowe Porter.

A Conversation with Artistic Director Ilter Ibrahimof

Early in the preparation stages for FFDN 2020, Festival Writer P. Megan Andrews had a lengthy conversation with Artistic Director Ilter Ibrahimof. Their exchange ranged widely, touching on the festival’s initial reaction to the pandemic, the subsequent planning and shaping of a new approach, health and safety concerns and some of Ilter’s thoughts around dance art, the digital sphere and the future. Here are some highlights.

Megan: How did you – and the festival – initially respond to the onset of the pandemic?

Ilter: “Honestly, I mean, at first, in a naïve way we thought, ‘Oh yeah, this is just going to be a few weeks. October is safe, so – great, we’ll have our festival.’ And then, quickly we realized that’s not the case. So, what do you do? You can feel paralyzed for a long time and try to hold on to the ‘normal’ you are used to, or you adapt. I think, instinctually, myself and our team, we saw the need and opportunity to innovate, and so we said, ‘Ok, whatever we were planning was great, but it’s no longer relevant.’ Personally, I’m not afraid for this festival to become something else, because it needs to. We either decide to adapt now or we struggle for a few years and then start adapting because then, maybe, we have no choice. I think we should do it now.”

M: What are your big questions right now – as an art supporter, maker, sharer, producer, presenter?

I: “One of my big questions has been around value. Because as soon as the lockdown happened here and around the world, so much content was thrown at the Internet in the form of archival recordings, Zoom chats and online classes. And then people started to create home choreographies – filmed in living rooms, or backyards, or maybe an empty beach or a park (some of them very good!). Immediately I started to ask: why are we doing this? Who are we doing it for? Who is really sitting in front of their computer and their phone for hours looking at this material? Are we doing it well? And then, what is that space for us to just pause, reflect and think about the future? We need to think creatively; we need to innovate; we need to take time to breathe and take care of each other.”

M: Once you knew you were going to rebuild the 2020 festival, how did you define the concept?

I: “I just didn’t want this year’s festival to be another story of cancellation, let’s say. So, I was thinking, ‘How can we create a holistic experience, and still tell dance stories, and give enough richness, enough breadth to the program so that people are still experiencing and thinking and talking about dance for those two festival weeks?’ And I was getting a little tired of trying to catch every archival video, every new video commission, all of that, so I thought, ‘Everything we create doesn’t need to be video based. We need something for the eyes, something for the ears, something maybe that will (safely) mobilize our audience, like Open Studio, the augmented reality edition of The Big Social, and the online workshops. And then we added a few other programs that engage all our senses, like Toronto Stages: Dancing Through Time and The Lost Objects, our collaborations with Dance Collection Danse and The Second City, respectively.”

M: How are you thinking about the relationship between live and digital?

I: “I think that there’s a very natural, organic balance between live arts and what can be produced really well for the digital world. So, it’s not about putting on a live performance in a theatre and filming it for digital release, but using the strengths, innovations, equipment and opportunities that a digital environment presents. Let’s use all of that and let’s also learn from certain niche worlds that have been growing in a steady way, for example the podcast world. In fact, this FFDN shift actually does include some of the projects we’ve wanted to produce for a long time. For the past two to three years, we’ve been dreaming about a podcast season. There are such interesting stories about such amazing people who work in the dance world. “I want our festival to act as producers and providers of innovative original content and in the future find a balance between the mix of live arts and digital delivery. This is our opportunity to try these new ideas and investigate what a future dance festival might look like and feel like. I don’t think anything is going to be replacing live arts – ever – that’s for sure. But what can we do in addition to the live arts to help our audience connect with the world of dance and the art of dancemaking and, especially, the people behind the art form? That’s really important to me and it is the core mission of FFDN.”

M: How has FFDN handled all the health and safety regulations related to COVID-19?

I: “Our organization is lucky to have a great permanent staff that I'm extremely appreciative of, and this year we’ve hired additional producers to make sure we have a lot of hands on deck. Many of our partners helped us with regulations, and we’ve been busy creating new policies, screenings and checklists to adapt to the challenges of the pandemic. We’ve not only pivoted online but we’ve also pivoted the ways we’re producing the festival programs. For example, our reboot of Bran Ramsey’s interview series, Bathtub Bran, has involved adaptations like moving outside for the video shoots, erecting a Plexiglas barrier between the host and guest and ensuring on-site safety of cast and crew. I have to note the willing – and good-humoured – adaptability of our staff and artists to constant renegotiations around the livestream program including the question of whether we could involve international artists and the fact that even the location of the livestream has shifted a number of times.”

M: What about audience connectivity, with each other and with the performers? What about the applause?

I: “When you get swept away by a really good book, or a really good show on Netflix, or a great new podcast, is there applause? There’s no applause. But I also know that thousands if not millions of people also read that book or watched that show or listened to that podcast, so what is that feeling? I’m part of a group of people who had this experience, so do I feel a certain sense of satisfaction from that? Am I part of that silent applause? Maybe. We’re just so used to being in a theatre and being part of that audience, part of that applause. But I don’t think that’s the only way to experience a really moving performance. That is the experimentation in the mix. And that’s also why we wanted to produce a few livestream events instead of going too heavy on pre-recorded video performances. Because a livestream at least gives you the philosophical feeling that it’s happening live. “Physically being together is different and that’s what we’re missing – I don’t think there’s any answer to that. But if we can’t be physically together, what’s the next best thing? “The Flip Side is not a ‘digital’ or ‘virtual’ festival; it is THE festival. This is what we imagine for this year. And it has connotations for what we might be doing in the future.”