If you’re used to cocooning during the cold weather, this is one year when you should rip off the Snuggie blanket, ditch the remote, and get out on the town. Otherwise you’ll miss out on the kind of explosion of creativity that we might never witness again.
Of all the midwinter festivals happening in the coming weeks, the Cultural Olympiad alone will present 600 shows. Add to that the busy roster of other events happening while the world’s eyes are on Vancouver, and you have the busiest season ever. From urban lantern forests to epic danceworks, and from grassroots busking to aboriginal fusions, there’s something for everyone—and then some.
Now that it’s crunch time, here’s a condensed guide to all the festivals. Start cramming!
Push International Performing Arts Festival
(To February 6, various venues)
The Lowdown: Provocative multidisciplinary performance from the cutting edge of Europe and elsewhere. The Big Attraction: Dare to look horror in the face in French-based Gisí¨le Vienne’s Jerk, a portrait of a serial killer—with puppets.
(January 22 to February 28 along the 700 block of Granville Street; February 9 to 28 at the Richmond City Hall Plaza)
The Lowdown: A celebration of the lunar new year through Asian arts. The Big Attraction: Thousands of ethereal lanterns will dangle from a forest of steel trees on a downtown street, alongside larger luminous installations.
Vancouver 2010 Cultural Olympiad
(January 22 to March 21, various venues)
The Lowdown: Gargantuan festival of local, national, and international shows to coincide with the Olympics (see story above). The Big Attraction: With a roster that includes Robert Lepage, the National Ballet of Canada, Laurie Anderson, and major Vancouver Opera, Vancouver Art Gallery, and Vancouver Symphony Orchestra offerings (not to mention collaborations with many of the fests here), who could single one thing out?
Time Flies Improvised Music Festival
(February 4 to 6 at the Ironworks)
The Lowdown: Eight international musicians improvise in a small, ambiance-filled room. The Big Attraction: Every night combines different players, like Mei Han on the zheng and Torsten Mí¼ller on bass.
Place De La Francophonie
(February 11 to 28 around Granville Island)
The Lowdown: More than 100 free—that’s right, free—concerts, performances, and exhibits by French artists from places as diverse as Acadian country and Burkina Faso. The Big Attraction: France’s Transe Express forms a huge human mobile, as a dozen percussionists take to a moving, outdoor platform.
Drum & Light Festival
(February 11 at the Centre for Digital Media at Great Northern Way Campus) The Lowdown: The Hard Rubber Orchestra melds music, visual art, and dance into a multisensory party. The Big Attraction: Tomorrow Collective’s movement meeting the sounds of artists like DJ Timothy Wisdom.
(February 12 to March 21 in the Downtown Eastside)
The Lowdown: A feast of visual art in easily walkable galleries and public spaces around a gritty but culturally thriving ’hood. The Big Attraction: Artspeak’s Brawl, a choreographed rumble in Andy Livingstone Park.
Made In Vancouver Festival
(February 13 to 27 on Mainland and Hamilton streets in Yaletown)
The Lowdown: I Heart VAN ART, in cooperation with the Yaletown Business Improvement Association, offers 15 days of busking talent—all 100 percent non-Vanoc-funded homegrown music, visual art, and other performances—from noon to midnight. The Big Attraction: Seeing 50-odd grassroots artists hold their own during the Games.
(February 19 to 27 on Granville Island)
The Lowdown: A jazz-driven arts and culture festival that spans kids’ activities, culinary arts, visual arts, and music. The Big Attraction: Norwegian post-boppers the Hí¥vard Wiik Trio at Performance Works.
Info: www.granvilleisland.com/ and www.coastaljazz.ca/
Talking Stick Festival
(February 21 to 28, various venues)
The Lowdown: A celebration of aboriginal art and performance, from spoken word to dance-theatre. The Big Attraction: First Nations dance and drumming meet the big top’s juggling and acrobatics in Wonderbolt Circus’s Tricksters.
(March 4 to April 8, various venues)
The Lowdown: The Lisa Nemetz International Showcase of Jewish Performing Arts heralds spring with a diverse range of dance, music, and theatre. The Big Attraction: Ultrahot dance icon/cover girl Aszure Barton brings her dance company here from the Big Apple; Canada’s ARC Ensemble plays the chamber music of Jewish composers forced to flee the Nazis.
Vancouver International Dance Festival
(March 12 to 21, various venues)
The Lowdown: Cutting-edge dancers from here and as far away as Denmark and New Zealand strut their stuff. The Big Attraction: Black Grace’s all-male mashup of Maori tradition and contemporary dance.