Chill Out guide: Winter festivals flaunt lanterns and divine dance
If the word festivals makes you picture sunshine, striped tents, and ice-cream cones, you haven’t spent a winter in Vancouver recently—or else you’ve spent it on your couch. Midwinter is when festival season really ramps up in this city, but they’re events with a different appeal than those happy-go-lucky fetes in the summer months. From edgy multimedia work to illuminated lantern tunnels, there are dozens of ways to chill out and indulge in the arts this season—but you may want to forgo that ice cream for a hot toddy afterward.
PuSh International Performing Arts Festival
(To February 4, various venues)
The Lowdown: This feast of cutting-edge interdisciplinary work spices up the winter blahs with surprises at every turn, from here and around the globe. The Big Attraction: As the festival enters its final week, two far-flung theatre works stand out. From New Zealand, No. 2 (January 31 to February 4 at the Cultch) is Toa Frazer’s one-woman show about a Fijian matriarch. Meanwhile, from Argentina, El Pasado es un animal grotesco (February 2 to 4 at the Fei and Milton Wong Experimental Theatre) follows the lives of four characters during their country’s economic collapse—all set on a giant turntable.
(February 1 to 5, downtown Vancouver)
The Lowdown: The annual outdoor extravaganza celebrates Asian arts and culture, and the way different communities mark the Year of the Dragon. The theme? Treasures of the Sea. The Big Attraction: This year’s Lantern Aquarium, on the grounds of the Vancouver Art Gallery, will be even bigger and better, decked out in paper sculptures, a visual-art installation by Ruey-Shiann Shyu, and interactive shadow puppetry by Taiyuan Puppet Theatre of Taiwan.
(February 11 to March 4 at the Norman and Annette Rothstein Theatre and around town)
The Lowdown: The celebration of Jewish culture marks 12 years, with music, dance, and theatre carefully culled from around the world. Highlights include theatre works A Blessing on the Moon and King Matt the First, plus music stars like Hadag Nahash. The Big Attraction: The dance program is so red-hot it’s hard to choose. There’s Holland’s edgy Noord Nederlandse Dans, formerly Galili Dance, (February 15 to 18 at the Norman Rothstein); a classic-western-inspired joint work by Ballet B.C.’s Donald Sales and quirky Cherice Barton (February 19 to 21 at the same venue); and, straight outta L.A., Body Traffic’s Monger (February 23, 25, and 26, also at the Rothstein).
Talking Stick Festival
(February 20 to March 4, centred at the Roundhouse Community Arts and Recreation Centre)
The Lowdown: First Nations Performance salutes aboriginal arts through everything from comedy to slam poetry. There’s even a visual-arts exhibition where big names like Rebecca Belmore give their interpretations of the talking stick. The Big Attraction: Three big plays headline this year’s fest, spotlighting the strong body of First Nations theatre coming out of this country. Check out Metis Mutt (February 21 and 22), a humorous but heartbreaking one-man show by Sheldon Elter about growing up in a mixed culture; Drew Hayden Taylor’s In a World Created by a Drunken God (February 23 to 25), a powerful look at identity politics; and Chocolate Woman Dreams the Milky Way, Monique Mojica’s heady blend of Kuna history with physical theatre and storytelling (February 28 to March 3).
(February 24 to 26, Granville Island)
The Lowdown: The seventh annual winter festival celebrates the mix of disciplines that thrive on Granville Island. Among the offerings: exhibitions, open studios, tours of Emily Carr University of Art and Design, and dancers popping up in unexpected spots around the isle. The Big Attraction: Aboriginal company Red Sky puts on its dance-theatre work The Great Mountain; Arts Umbrella showcases its theatre program with Theatre Fix; and at the Kids Zone, the Vancouver International Children’s Festival presents the percussive global rhythms of Kutapira.
Vancouver International Dance Festival
(March 2 to 11, various venues)
The Lowdown: Kokoro Dance’s annual fete bridges butoh and ballet, with shows from San Francisco’s inkBoat, Quebec and Japan’s Lucie Grégoire and Yoshito Ohno, and Japan’s Taketeru Kudo. The Big Attraction: No tough decisions here: San Fran’s famous Alonzo King LINES Ballet kicks off the event with its celebrated works Resin