About the Award
In 1996, Toronto dance critic Paula Citron inaugurated a prize to recognize the accomplishments of independent choreographers. She chose as the annual recipient, an artist participating in the fFIDA International Dance Festival because the event is the largest gathering of its kind in Canada. Ms. Citron has elected to carry over her award to the new curated Toronto International Dance Festival, and has donated a cash prize of $500. The honouree will come from among the dance artists participating in the ticketed events.
Ms. Citron prefers the word “recipient”, rather than “winner” because this award is not about the first among equals. Rather than separating out “the best” dance piece, Ms. Citron’s very subjective criteria has been to choose a work that compels attention for any number of reasons—an impressive first choreography, highly sophisticated craftsmanship, difficult or unusual subject matter, innovative dance vocabulary, and so on. The object of the Paula Citron TIDF Award is to congratulate a choreographer on his or her artistry in a world where recognition for dance artists is few and far between. Ms. Citron also hopes that the award will act as an encouragement for the choreographer to carry on in the lonely, and often difficult, pursuit of his or her craft.
2005 Christiane Bourget, Montreal
2004 Samara L. Thompson, Toronto
2003 Louis Laberge-Côté and Keiko Ninomiya, Toronto
2002 Kazuyo Hide, Japan
2001 Malgorzata Nowacka, Toronto
2000 Nicole Mion, Calgary
1999 Viv Moore, Toronto
1998 Rebecca Todd and Eryn Dace Trudell, Toronto
1997 Michael Trent, Toronto
1996 Monique Trudelle, Toronto
The 2006 Paula Citron Tidf Award Recipient Sashar Zarif And Holly Small, Toronto
In recognizing the magnificent solo In the Letters of My Name, the award plays tribute to several important aspects of dance. First and foremost, the piece represents the new Canadian dance hybrid, unique to the country’s multicultural cities. This collaboration could only have happened in a vibrant cultural mosaic like Toronto where the traditional arts of immigrants new to the country merge with Euro-American dance influences to create a whole new art form. Secondly, the award honours two senior artists, as well as the experienced masters of their creative team who helped to fashion the dance. Only wisdom and knowledge of life could have produced this powerful work. While dance is predominantly an art form of the young, we must not forget the generation who has gone before, and continues to give us their artistic riches.
Take a superbly expressive and charismatic dancer (Zarif), and an intellectual and seasoned choreographer (Small), and the result is a haunting portrayal of the horrors of war in the old country and the struggles of the immigrant experience in the new. This piece, with its cunning mix of text, movement and evocative soundscore by acclaimed composer John Oswald is as profoundly moving as it is provocative. Kudos also to director Soheil Parsa as dramaturge and Katherine Duncanson as voice coach. Together this quintet of artists embrace countless years of artistic integrity and daring. We must also not forget Dance Ontario who commissioned the work for its annual Dance Weekend, and so continues to enrich the repertoire of dance.
The wellspring of the piece is the 38 letters of Zarif’s full name which constitutes six different names in three different languages – Arabic, Persian and his native Azerbaijani. In impulses of movement and text, we get impressionistic glimpses of a life turned upside down, of a young boy who survived revolution, war, and a refugee camp. Horrors are intimated, but never explained. The choreography, much of it based on real life physicality, swings between graphic emotion and whimsical surrealism. The dancer is rendered completely vulnerable, whether executing tiny baby steps, absurd in a grown man, or crying out in passionate outbursts that are almost embarrassing in their naked anguish. This is a work which opens up the guts of an artist and exposes the raw soul. It is dance storytelling at its best, because it raises more questions than it answers.