Here are some of our strongest recommendations among the PuSh International Performing Arts Festival’s main-stage performances. The interdisciplinary array of shows happens around town from Thursday (January 17) to February 3.
January 24 to 27 at the Roundhouse Community Arts and Recreation Centre
One of the most resounding images from Selina Thompson’s critically lauded one-woman show is of her sledge-hammering a giant chunk of the title substance. But she also shatters ideas about colonialism, racism, and history as she relates her deeply personal journey retracing the transatlantic slave triangle from Britain to Ghana to Jamaica and back. It’s an arduous feat: at one point she crosses the bumpy sea in a windowless cabin, determined to track the trauma that echoes into this century.
January 24 to 26 at the Scotiabank Dance Centre
Freakish. Daring. Cathartic. Primal. These are just some of the words viewers reach for to describe the all-out movement in young Taiwanese dance artist Liu Kuan-Hsiang’s Kids. But the daring trip into the sometimes grotesque extremes of the body’s capabilities is far from just a physical exploration. Set to conversations (with subtitles) that the performer-choreographer had with his mother in the days before she died, it’s a sharp-eyed look at mortality, and the struggles and release the body goes through as it transitions beyond this world.
Kiinalik: These Sharp Tools
January 30 to February 2 at Performance Works
Anyone who’s seen Greenlandic mask dancer Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory perform in Tanya Tagaq’s haunting video for “Retribution”—a howling indictment of environmental destruction—knows she’s spellbinding. Now, in another exciting collaboration, the Nunavut-based artist is joining queer theatremaker Evalyn Parry on-stage. Having met on an Arctic expedition, they combine their fierce talents for storytelling and music with video elements to speak to climate change, colonial history, and more.
Pancho Villa From a Safe Distance
January 31 at the Vogue Theatre
The legendary bandit takes operatic form in this spectacle from Austin composer Graham Reynolds and the librettists at Mexican theatre company Lagartijas Tiradas al Sol. The story of the famous revolutionary comes to life with video projections, two singers, and six instrumentalists, drawing from Tejano and Mexican musical forms and speaking directly to the border struggles of 2019.
Zvizdal (Chernobyl—So Far, So Close)
January 31 to February 2 at the Roundhouse Community Arts Centre
This is exactly the kind of show we love PuSh for: one that defies easy categorization, and that you would never otherwise get the chance to see. In this case, Zvizdal falls somewhere between documentary film, art installation, and performance. The title refers to a haunting town inside the radiation-plagued Chernobyl exclusion zone. Antwerp-based art collective BERLIN and journalist Cathy Blisson have spent years documenting the elderly couple that still lives there, utterly isolated from the rest of the world and refusing to leave. The show blends live shots of three tiny models of the pair’s homestead with projected video footage for a rich and intimate portrait.