Chill Out winter arts guide: Festivals roll out everything from Tex-Mex opera to Mando-pop musicals

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      A bunch of winter festivals are gearing up to help you ward off the chill—not to mention the lure of your couch and Netflix on a cold night.

      This year’s offerings are particularly diverse, boasting everything from Tex-Mex multimedia operas to Japanese butoh spectacles and everything in between.

      PUSH INTERNATIONAL PERFORMING ARTS FESTIVAL (At venues around town to February 3)  The interdisciplinary celebration continues, with cutting-edge shows from as far away as Japan and Belgium. Highlights: Pancho Villa From a Safe Distance (January 31 at the Vogue Theatre) blends multimedia and opera in ways you’ve never heard before, in this tale about the legendary bandit; the shared history of the U.S. and Mexico plays out in the sounds, with two singers and six musicians on keyboards, drums, violin, cello, electric guitar, bass, and—best of all—tuba. And don’t miss L’Homme de Hus (February 1 and 2 at the Vancouver Playhouse), French performer Camille Boitel’s amusing mix of acrobatics and clowning, as he struggles with a mountain of sawhorses.

      WINTER WANDER (At Vanier Park on February 2)  Stroll between the Vancouver Maritime Museum, Museum of Vancouver, and H.R. MacMillan Space Centre as they open their doors for a day full of activities, fuelled by on-site food trucks and musical performances. It’s all for just five bucks admission. Highlights: Climb aboard for tours of the St. Roch, with a string quartet playing on the ship’s deck from 11:30 a.m. to noon.

      LUNARFEST (At the Vancouver Art Gallery Plaza on February 9 and 10, and other venues from January 29 to February 19)  Follow the oinking sounds as this arts extravaganza celebrates the Year of the Pig. At the outdoor headquarters by the VAG, look for 12 endlessly Instagrammable porcine superhero statues, Taiwanese “Luna robots”, plus other hands-on arts programming. Highlights: Mando-pop fans will flock to An Accident of Love, a musical adaptation of the 1983 Taiwanese film Papa, Can You Hear Me Sing (February 9 at the Centre in Vancouver for Performing Arts), while The New Butterfly Lovers, by choreographer Joshua Beamish, returns to the Queen Elizabeth Theatre on February 3, reuniting China’s most famous folktale with the Asian-inflected concerto it inspired.

      JFL NORTHWEST (At venues around town from February 14 to 23)  Comedians converge in the city for the annual laugh fest, from big-name stars to underground sensations. Podcast, sketch, and more are on the roster, with headliners including Howie Mandel (February 14 at the Orpheum), Gabriel Iglesias (February 18 at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre), Steve-O (February 17 at the Vogue), and Whitney Cummings (February 16 at the Vogue). Highlights: Late-night-TV fans will await the warped genius of Fred Armisen and his Comedy for Musicians but Everyone Is Welcome (February 16 at the Vogue), as well as the fully improvised show by Reggie Watts (February 23 at the Vogue), while serious comedy die-hards will be all about Dave Attell (February 14 at the Vogue).


      Children of God, Corey Payette's acclaimed musical about the residential school system, returns for Talking Stick Festival.


      TALKING STICK FESTIVAL (At the Roundhouse Community Arts and Recreation Centre and other venues from February 19 to March 2)  The traditional and the contemporary meet in this 18th annual celebration of Indigenous visual arts, theatre, dance, music, powwow, and film. The diverse mix includes a kickoff gala that blends a buffet, the Using Tradition Visual Arts Exhibition, and sample selections from upcoming performances at the fest; and a Métis fair on March 2 at the Roundhouse. Highlights: If you’ve never seen Corey Payette’s haunting residential-school musical Children of God (February 22 to March 10 at the York Theatre, presented with the Cultch), catch it during the fest; and check out February 23’s all-afternoon Celebration of Dance, whose diverse acts include Immigrant Lessons, a troupe that finds colourful physical ways to tackle issues from racial discrimination to gender identity.

      COASTAL DANCE FESTIVAL (At the Anvil Centre in New Westminster from February 20 to 24)  Dancers of Damelahamid continue the former Coastal First Nations Dance Festival in a new location, putting the spotlight on local and international Indigenous artistry and welcoming performances from B.C., Yukon, Quebec, Alaska, Washington state, and Australia. Highlights: From the other side of the globe, Wagana Aboriginal Dancers celebrate Australia’s Blue Mountains and Central New South Wales through contemporary and traditional Aboriginal styles.

      VANCOUVER INTERNATIONAL DANCE FESTIVAL (At the Vancouver Playhouse, the Roundhouse Community Arts and Recreation Centre, and other venues from March 8 to 30)  Performers from Asia interweave with local bright lights like Lesley Telford, Noam Gagnon, Daina Ashbee, and Olivia Davies amid the eclectic offerings this year. Highlights: Japan’s wild, warped, and wonderful butoh company Dairakudakan returns with another spectacle to open the fest, this time featuring sculptor KUMA/Shinohara Katsuyuki’s iron and glass stage installations; and Taiwan’s Tjimur Dance Theatre closes the series at the same venue with its mesmerizing Varhung—Heart to Heart.

      Dairakudan’s Pseudo human Super Human, at the Vancouver International Dance Festival.
      Hiroyuki Kawashima