ITS. JUNE. Startled? You and me both. Instead of pondering how life is fleeting and how age is already starting to show its years around my eyes, let's take time to smell the artistic roses and examine the LUMINATO Festival that starts, next Friday, June 8, and runs until Sunday, July 17th.
Fortunately none of it takes place at Union Station.
If you don't know what LUMINATO is, you are, indeed, late to the party, but, of course, still welcome to partake. From here on in, let it be known that LUMINATO is an arts + creativity festival held for 10 days every June throughout the city of Toronto. It features a huge range of international and Canadian programming (with emphasis on the international) in literature, dance, theatre, film, visual arts and other creations that can't necessarily be compartmentalized in any of those categories. It's fun! And it's festive!
And it can break the bank.
But there IS a range of FREE activities at LUMINATO which should definitely be checked out.
From transforming David Pecaut Sq. to art along Parliament St. to mobile kitchens where you can actually cook with strangers (love that idea), the city takes on a whole new visual appeal for 10 days.
All Visual Arts listings can be viewed if you click on the red/orange font above.
Music in David Pecaut Square (55 John St)
Every day there is live music in downtown David Pecaut Square. Including Kathleen Edwards, Gil Scott, Rufus Wainwright, K'naan and other international musicians. Word!
Click on the red/orange font above for the complete free music listings.
What else? There's a card cheat who is BLIND and his feats can be viewed for free. There are authors discussing their books, movement workshops at the Parkdale Public Library, and perhaps best of all, on June 14, there will be a public Citizenship Ceremony, complete with photo exhibits, storytelling and visual art displays on what it means to be a newcomer in Canada.
There are also some activities that aren't free but ARE inexpensive.
There is the President's Choice 1000 Tastes of Toronto where there will be an abundance of new street food cooked for tthe selling price of $5.
There's the convo with renowned Montréal Theatre Director Robert Lepage that only costs $20 to attend but will be worth MUCH more than that in experience and memory.
There's a slew of celebrated authors, including Irvine Welsh, discussing their books, also for a $20 admission.
There's a magician who introduces his audience to the feats of magic while they're blindfolded for $35.
There's dance for as low as $35, a late night Shostakovich symphony (#11) by the TSO for $25, and many other events that might tickle your fancy.
Unfortunately the REALLY cool stuff will cost you. Most are large-scale productions not seen 'round these parts too often, so the ticket price can probably be justified, but that doesn't make it hurt any less.
Best bets are Lepage's 3hr epic Playing Cards 1: SPADES, the surefire magical production of La Belle et la Bête: A Contemporary Retelling, and the landmark collaboration production by Phillip Glass and Robert Wilson that the city is abuzz over, Einstein on the Beach.
But don't take my word for it, check the LUMINATO website: www.luminato.com. For a festival that contains an overwhelming number of activities, their website is surprisingly easy to navigate.
LUMINATO starts in a week! It runs until June 17 and takes place in and around Hogtown. Buy tickets or explore at your leisure; there's no wrong way to do it.
Gasp! "Did you see that?!" "Oh! That was something!" "Well, I've never seen that before!"
This is what I heard from the people seated behind me during DARK MATTERS on Wednesday. The latest work by Canadian choreographer Crystal Pite is on stage at the Bluma Appel Theatre until March 3 (tomorrow!). While I am an avid fan of dance, I have to admit the second half of the performance left me colder than the first, but all of it was really very cool. The first half is a gorgeously dark and exciting piece about a puppet creation gone awry. Manipulated by five dancers, the approx. 3 ft wooden puppet comes to life in a way his creator couldn't handle and the relationship between the two, warts and all, was riveting. The music, the dance and the lighting, all seamlessly came together to show the highs and gruesome lows of a relationship between parent and child. The wooden puppet was so realistic I half expected it to come out during curtain call.
In short: it was awesome. Extremely creative, pushed the boundaries of how dance is defined and the story went places I couldn't have predicted. And it was funny.
The second half was also beautiful - let's get that straight. The dancers were unbelievable. The lighting was fantastic. But I couldn't figure out the story. Everytime I thought I had it, I didn't; and while I can gaze in awe at the strength and talent of dancers for quite a while without needing to be entertained by a linear story, I did feel frustrated at my lack of knowledge about the purpose of anything at all on stage. I wish I could provide more insight, but I can't.
I CAN tell you that it was also very cool. If you're a fan of dance or even if you like having your brain challenged by theatre, this could be the stuff for you.
LA FILLE MAL GARDEE, on now at the Four Season Centre, is worth it to see the boyancy of Naoya Ebe. His gravity-defying leaps and his precision in landing are jaw dropping (literally, my jaw dropped). In typical National Ballet fashion, the entire cast isn't far behind him. Every dancer on stage excels and their joie de danse (French grammer beware!) is obvious and infectious. Add into this graceful mix, brightly coloured costumes, a pretty set and loads of satin ribbon, and you've got yourselves two hours of happy feet.
And boy do I wish that were enough for me.
LA FILLE reminds me of a Rogers & Hammerstein musical; at the time of creation it was innovative but now...not so much.
The plot, created in 1789, centres around the blissful love between Lise (Jillian Vanstone in her debut in the role) and Colas (Naoya Ebe in his debut in the role) and the antics the two participate in to be together. Lise's mother, the Widow Simone, (played by Kevin D. Bowles - also a debut - typically played by a man to much comic buffonery) has, however, promised Lise's hand to Alain, the oddball son of the wealthy Thomas. Comedy ensues as the couple play simple tricks on the Widow Simone to be together, frolick where they can, while the town revels in their love and in the general merriment of living in the French countryside in springtime.
So like an R&H musical, LA FILLE is fun and toe-tapping... but that doesn't necessarily mean it should continue to be produced. Like some R&H shows, the content in LA FILLE is so antiquated it's now almost offensive. Forget the fact that the heroine Lise only wants to get married and have babies and doesn't do anything but avoid the chores her mother gives her, and forget the fact that her mother's mode of discipline is spanking and slaps in the face (this is actually done on stage), what is the hardest to take in LA FILLE is that the audience is supposed to laugh at the character of Alain. This character is strange; he doesn't subscribe to societal norms and he has bizarre social ticks. The townspeople are borderline nice to him, but also mock him and cast him off and we, as the audience, are supposed to find this funny and laugh at Alain along with everyone else. This is a central idea in LA FILLE and I couldn't accept it. I couldn't suspend my disbelief and laugh at a simpleton character who shows only emotions of love, who doesn't understand social graces and so doesn't comprehend why he's being mocked. It's just not funny, even if it's under the guise of comedy and no I will not loosen up about it.
Some things just don't translate anymore.
But the split-leaps of Naoya Ebe sure do.
DARK MATTERS is on until March 3 (tomorrow!) at the Bluma Appel Theatre (27 Front St. E.). For tix, visit
canadianstage.com or call: 416-368-3110
LA FILLE MAL GARDEE is on until March 4 (Sunday!) at the Four Seasons Centre (145 Queen St. W.). For tix, visit www.national.ballet.ca or call: 416-345-9595
1. Where did the idea for the show come from?
The idea for the show came about after I read Charlotte Corbeil-Coleman's short story about her experience travelling to Africa, getting bitten by a mosquito and becoming infected with malaria. I have been interested in creating theatre that merges with dance, and trying to tell stories in a physical way, and the images from the short story jumped off the page.
2. What was it about Charlotte Corbeil-Coleman's short story that made you want to choreograph a performance about it?
I had a vision of the mosquitos and thought it would be interesting to try to create a military of mosquitos on a solitary mission to infect the girl in the story. So, this "greek chorus" of mosquitos escorts the main character through her story, playing various roles in this wild tale, including the robotic stewardesses on the plane, the propellors, the military of infected mosquitos, and even the nightmarish chickens having their heads cut off outside her hospital room window!
3. From conception through to the end of rehearsals, how long did the project take to conceive? What obstacles, if any, did you encounter along the way?
I started to choreograph sections of this in 2009 with my students in the dance program at George Brown College. Then Charlotte, Trish Fagan and myself did a 3 day workshop at The Canadian Stage Company's Festival of Ideas and Creation. But most of MALARIA LULLABY was created especially for the SummerWorks Festival this year.
We have had some obstacles - since there is a lot of Aerial trapeze work, Holly Treddenick (our Aerial designer and rigger) had to spend many hours figuring out the rigging and how it would all work in only 4 hours of tech time in the theatre!
3. Why this production for SummerWorks? What is it about the SummerWorks platform that made you want to be a part of it.
SummerWorks is the perfect platform for this show. We were able to take many big risks and incorporate a lot into this show. Dance, Aerials, and stunning Projections and Sound by Beth Kates and Ben Chaisson of Playground Studios. I was really excited to create a hybrid dance/theatre piece for the SummerWorks audience. SummerWorks is an exciting festival and it is an honour to be a part of it.
4. Does your approach as a choreographer differ if you do or do not dance in the show? If yes, how so?
My approach as a choreographer doesn't differ if I am in the show, but it takes a little more time to create if I am also in it. I decided not to dance in MALARIA LULLABY this time around because we were limited for time in the rehearsal hall so I felt pretty strongly about staying on the outside.
5. What other shows at SummerWorks are you looking forward to seeing?
I am looking forward to seeing LITTLE ONE. I am a huge fan of Michelle Monteith and Hannah Moscovitch and Natasha Mytnowych (and they are my friends!) And I am looking forward to seeing COMBAT which also fuses dance and theatre.
MALARIA LULLABY is on now at Theatre Passe Muraille (16 Ryerson Ave). Showtimes:
Sun. Aug. 7 @10:30pm; Thurs. Aug. 11 @8pm; Sat. Aug. 13 @10:30pm; Sun. Aug. 14 @8pm
Visit the website: www.companyblonde.com & the Facebook page