Unless you’ve been in complete hibernation, you know by now that festival season in Vancouver isn’t just limited to the summertime.
For the next couple of months, everything from world dance extravaganzas to elaborate lantern installations is competing to pull you out of your winter slumber. Here are a bunch worth getting off the sofa for.
PuSH International Performing Arts Festival
(Until February 3 at venues around town)
As the boundary-pushing interdisciplinary festival enters its final week, there’s still a lot to check out, from dance to experimental theatre.
The Big Attraction: Don’t miss the festival’s two warped twists on Shakespeare: I, Malvolio, a look at Twelfth Night through its fun-hating steward by England’s inimitable Tim Crouch; and King Lear, a blend of Peking Opera techniques and western theatre from Taiwan’s Contemporary Legend Theater.
Talking Stick Festival
(February 19 to March 3 at various venues)
Full Circle Performance celebrates 20 years with a festival that spans ancient, traditional, and cutting-edge contemporary aboriginal work. Shows run the gamut of music, theatre, dance, and more, with everything from jigging and fiddling to spoken-word jams and powwow dances.
The Big Attraction: There’s an especially strong theatre component this year, with works like Café Daughter, a one-woman show about a young girl growing up in Saskatchewan during the ’50s and ’60s; Agokwe, a queer love story about two teenage boys from neighbouring reserves; and The Great Mountain, a family-oriented eco-adventure story about a girl who starts hearing the spirits of rivers and soaring mountains.
(February 22 to 24 on Granville Island)
Granville Island comes alive in the dead of winter with this almost-all-free music, dance, food, and visual-art extravaganza. While art studios and Emily Carr University of Art and Design open up for behind-the-scenes tours, the Coastal Jazz and Blues Society keeps the music going all weekend long at Performance Works, thanks to afternoon and evening shows by the likes of the Tyson Naylor Trio, Jen Hodge All Stars, and Bend Sinister.
The Big Attraction: Join [ART]ifacts: The Granville Island Story in its tour around this creative hub, and don’t forget to peek inside the Arts Club Theatre Company’s costume and production shops.
(February 15 to 17 at the Vancouver Art Gallery plaza)
Launched to celebrate the lunar new year, this colourful annual event celebrates all Asian arts and culture, and the myriad ways people celebrate the Year of the Snake. Taiwanese visual artists and pop stars will show their stuff, alongside Korean folk dance, lion dancing, and Dharma drumming. And did we mention the dumpling tastings?
The Big Attraction: Every year the fest offers an immersive art installation that families can walk through at the VAG plaza, and this year’s Lantern Jungle writhes with hundreds of snake lanterns made by kids during the 2012 Vancouver International Children’s Festival.
(February 7 to March 3 at the Norman and Annette Rothstein Theatre and other venues)
The celebration of Jewish culture brings in high-calibre music, theatre, comedy, film, and dance acts from here and around the globe. Highlights include the cool world sounds of Yemen Blues; the live, multimedia concert called the Yellow Ticket, set to the same-titled silent film; and the return of the red-hot Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company.
The Big Attraction: Unmissables include Touchstone Theatre’s new play called Haunted; the slick, high-intensity choreography of New York City’s Sidra Bell Dance; and Klezmerata Fiorentina’s intoxicating chamber-klezmer music.
Vancouver International Dance Festival
(March 2 to 23 at the Roundhouse Community Arts and Recreation Centre, the Scotiabank Dance Centre, and the Vancouver Playhouse)
The international fest truly lives up to its name here, with acts that represent cultures from the far corners of the map. The talent doesn’t just hail from places like New Zealand, Zimbabwe, and Mexico; there’s also a world of different styles on view as well, from butoh (organizers Kokoro Dance and the haunting Jocelyne Montpetit Danse) to First Nations (Dancers of Damelahamid). Anchoring the program are a host of local contemporary works, including Joe Ink’s 25th-anniversary retrospective (March 6 to 9 at the Scotiabank Dance Centre).
The Big Attraction: Anyone who caught the Kiwi troupe Black Grace in 2010 will be back for more of its explosive, Samoan-charged contemporary dance (on March 12 and 13 at the Playhouse). And you can’t miss a legend like Margie Gillis, the Canadian dance icon who’s created a new work with painter-sculptor Randal Newman (March 16 at the Playhouse).
Festival Du Bois
(March 1 to 3 at Mackin Park in Maillardville/Coquitlam)
Alongside popular Québécois groups like Genticorum and Dentdelion, head out to Maillardville’s heated tents in the park for famille-friendly acts like world-champion hoop dancer Dallas Arcand, musician-storyteller-dancer-puppeteer Roger Dallaire, and the comedic acrobats of Acme Circus.
The Big Attraction: Maple taffy, tourtière, and poutine.
Still itching for ways to escape the cold glare of your TV set? Here are five more shows to warm a winter’s night:
• DanceHouse presents the acclaimed BJM (formerly Les Ballets Jazz de Montréal), including a piece by Natalie Portman squeeze, Black Swan choreographer, and newly named 2014 Paris Opera Ballet boss Benjamin Millepied, on February 15 and 16 at the Vancouver Playhouse.
• Cult-favourite comic artist Art Spiegelman sees his first retrospective exhibition in CO-MIX: A Retrospective of Comics, Graphics and Scraps, at the Vancouver Art Gallery starting February 16.
• The National Ballet of China brings its sparkling rendition of Swan Lake here from February 27 to March 2, in its first tour to Canada in more than five decades.
• Theatre Conspiracy premieres its ambitious new “bilingual documentary-theatre” project Extraction, which jumps between the traffic jams of Beijing and the tar sands of Alberta, using nonactors who know those territories intimately, from March 5 to 9 at the Cultch.
• Vancouver Opera brings its opulently staged, First Nations–flavoured version of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s The Magic Flute back to the Queen Elizabeth Theatre on March 9, 10, 12, 14, 16, and 17.
Think of them as hot toddies for your brain.