TORONTO RHYTHM INITIATIVE
Toronto Rhythm Initiative [TRI] is committed to voicing the artistry of Toronto's professional tap dance community, further establishing the identity of rhythm artists through the fusion and merging of tap dancers and musicians through consistent collaboration. TRI also welcomes dancers from multiple genres with rhythmical elements and foundation to promote the identity of percussive dancers working with a musical focus. TRI performers are multi-generational, hail from different parts of North America, and work together to build their professional bodies of work, inspire and support each other, and advance their art form.
Though founded by Allison Toffan, it is the work and dedication of the contributing artists that has truly made TRI a success today. Since 2011 TRI artists have established themselves in Toronto, building an audience that has tripled in size from their humble beginnings. Thematically, each show explores the music of a globally recognized band, and TRI artists collaborate to build original arrangements and choreography for each instalment. To date, their musical explorations have included the Beatles, Stevie Wonder, Oscar Peterson, Ray Charles, Nina Simone, Hall & Oates, Joni Mitchell, The Women of Hip Hop, Duke Ellington, Prince, Ella Fitzgerald and Miles Davis.
Their infectious energy and buzz in the international tap dance community has attracted guest artists NYC's Sarah Savelli (Savion Glover's Stepz), Joseph Wiggan (Broadway's Shuffle Along, Cirque du Soleil Michael Jackson Immortal World Tour), and Anthony Russo (Tap Dogs), Vancouver’s Dayna Szyndrowski (Cantap), and Barbara Vargas (Breaking Barres), Calgary's Tasha Lawson (Tri-Tone Rhythm Productions), Thanos Daskalopoulos from Greece (Artistic Director, Tapmotif), and two time guest artist – Canada’s own NYC based Heather Cornell. (Artistic Director - Manhattan Tap & Cantap)
In their second season, TRI was honoured and proud to present choreography from Canadian tap heavyweights Matt Shields (Tapestry Dance Company, Austin) and Lisa La Touche (STOMP/Shuffle Along, NYC). Season three kicked off with the "Best Of TRI", and welcomed Matt Shields to the stage in person, with additional Tapestry Dance Company members. Joining them on the TRI stage was Living Legend Arthur Duncan, one of tap's most treasured and celebrated artists, well know for his appearances on the Lawerence Welk Show. Season three also included a coveted spot in the lineup of the 2013 TD Canada Trust Toronto Jazz Festival, and the exploration of Joni Mitchell's music where tap dancers replaced the role of the drummer, playing all the percussion in the band to support the choreography and improvisation presented on stage.
Since 2015, TRI has shifted to presenting shows once a year instead of annual seasons of three shows. A hefty goal has been obtained amongst the group - a healthy and thriving professional scene now exists and continues to grow in the city. TRI Artists come together once a year to celebrate their continued success, and in the meantime, create, collaborate, and support each other's independent professional ventures. The scene is incredible today largely due to all artists and supporters involved throughout the years. The legacy is rich, and a testament of the collective energy of the Toronto community.
Co-producing all programming since 2016, Juliana Kelly has been instrumental in the continued growth of Toronto Rhythm Initiative.
TRI musicians include Morgan Childs, Chris Banks, Rich Brown, Mark Cashion, Johnny Griffith, Amanda Tosoff, Matt Newton, Dave Restivo, Tomas Moffat, Donovan LeNabat, Nick Maclean, Elena Kapeleris, Tyler Emond, vocalists Jeigh Madjus, Melissa Lauren, Sophia Perlman, Justin Bacchus, Kirt Godwin, Tetiana Ostapowych, Jacob Macinnis, Michelle Willis, Lydia Persaud, MC Lola Bunz, Meg Contini, Jill Harris, Jenna Marie, and music direction is under Juno award winning jazz guitarist Nathan Hiltz.
TRI performers come to the table with a wide range of experience, background in multiple disciplines, and countless sources of inspiration. Contributors include Ryan Foley, Dianne Montgomery, Johnathan Morin, Cori Giannotta, Cathy Duncan & Downbeats, Eric Allan, Mackenzie Greenwell, Kylie Somerville, Andrew Prashad, Amy Lintunen, Robin Teeuwen, Rebecca Mastoras, Kyle Brown, Stephanie Cadman, Travis Knights, Tanya Knights, Chelsea Gibbs, Trina Josdal, David Cox, Amanda Buckingham, Genevieve Fullerton, Alisha Stranges, Tiffany Kriter, Jason Scott, Katherine Semchuk, and more.
Produced as part of Intersection 2021, please have a look at our mini documentary below profiling the last 10 years of TRI. This film was edited by Hank Devos, and made possible to create thanks to support from the Department of Canadian Heritage.