Summer festivals heat up Vancouver's art scene

Outdoor salsa, art walks, tent Shakespeare, and Baroque concerts: summer events span the bold, batty, and brainy.

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      Sure, there are lots of arts fests this summer that will be more fun than a beach party: we’re thinking red-hot outdoor salsa dancing, blond-shopaholic musicals, and poodle doodling on Main Street. But you can also feed your brain with heady discussions on the effect of the Pacific Ocean on B.C. art, Shakespeare set in Jazz Age New Orleans, and art walks along South Granville. You know, to counteract all that beach partying.

      Festival d’ete
      (until June 21 at Le Centre culturel francophone de Vancouver)
      The language is French but the rhythms and soulful chansons are incredibly diverse. The big ticket this year is Louisiana singer-songwriter Zachary Richard and Quebec star Kevin Parent (June 15).

      Vancouver Draw Down
      (Saturday [June 15] at locations around town)
      The fourth annual art event puts pen, paper, and much more in the hands of all-ages visitors to more than 35 galleries, parks, public spaces, and other spots around the city. The theme is environmental, with everything from a “Main Street Poodle Doodle” to a comic jam. Did we mention it’s all free?

      Russia Day
      (Sunday [June 16] at Creekside Community Centre)
      The largest Russian festival in the province revs up by False Creek with colourful folk dancing, a fashion show, concerts, and the requisite borscht and vodka.

      Spur Festival
      (Monday to Wednesday [June 17 to 19] at SFU Woodward’s)
      Get your brain buzzing at this new festival of politics, arts, and ideas, produced by Diaspora Dialogues and the Literary Review of Canada. Linked to similar Spurs in Toronto and Winnipeg, it features events like a conversation between playwright Dennis Foon and Cultch executive director Heather Redfern (Tuesday [June 18] at noon) and a panel of West Coast artists discussing the role of the Pacific Ocean in artmaking here (Wednesday [June 19] at 7 p.m.).

      South Granville ArtWalk
      (June 22 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.)
      Gallery Row shows its stuff, as visitors get the chance to wander through more than 15 exhibitions in the ’hood, listening to artist talks and indulging in wine and cheese along the way. Shows span a huge range of styles, from Erika Toliusis’s serene, panoramic landscapes of India, South America, and Canada at the Ian Tan Gallery (2202 Granville Street) to John Barkley’s vibrant, painterly oil canvases at Bau-Xi Gallery (3045 Granville Street).

      Bard on the Beach
      (June 26 to September 14 in Vanier Park)
      Our waterfront Shakespeare festival celebrates its 24th time out with one of its boldest and most audacious seasons ever. On the main stage, Electric Company’s Kim Collier directs her husband, Jonathon Young, in a 21st-century-set Hamlet (opening June 29), while the crystalline romantic comedy Twelfth Night takes place in a 1913 European spa (opening June 26). On the more intimate Douglas Campbell Studio Stage, John Murphy directs Measure for Measure, locating it in the dark and bawdy streets of early-last-century New Orleans; and beloved local actor Colleen Wheeler takes on the lead role in playwright Timothy Findlay’s critically acclaimed Elizabeth Rex.

      Sunday Afternoon Salsa
      (Sundays from 3 to 7 p.m., June 30 to August 25, at Robson Square)
      We don’t care if you shake it Cali-style, New York–style, old-school Cuban, or not at all: everyone’s invited to move to the beat at this free afternoon salsa explosion. Lessons kick things off at 3 p.m., and expert performances take place at 5 p.m. This is the way salsa was meant to be enjoyed: outdoors in the summer heat, in the heart of the city.

      Dancing on the Edge
      (July 4 to 13 at the Firehall Arts Centre and other venues)
      The summer dance fest celebrates a quarter century of Edge-y offerings with names like Wen Wei Dance, Plastic Orchid Factory, and Noam Gagnon on the roster. Wild subjects range from a Rubik’s Cube to robots to Japanese folklore, and choreographer Sandra Botnen’s Wobble Tops puts dancers atop high poles in the SFU Woodward’s atrium. And in Co.ERASGA Dance’s 25 Gestures for Dancing on the Edge, Alvin Erasga Tolentino and Alison Denham perform 25 ritualistic, prayerlike gestures in 25 minutes, at a site to be announced.

      Indian Summer
      (July 4 to 13 at SFU Woodward’s in the Goldcorp Centre for the Arts)
      Music, literature, film, politics, business, and, of course, food mix into a unique masala at the third annual celebration of Indian culture. Highlights include director Deepa Mehta with poet Jeet Thayil, author Shauna Singh Baldwin with academic Satwinder Bains, futurist Sudeep Chakravarti, and musical group Rajasthan Josh.

      All Over The Map
      (July 7, 14, and 21 at 1 and 3 p.m., at Ron Basford Park on Granville Island)
      Here’s one of the best ways to get a taste of the cultural melting pot that is Vancouver. On the roster of this year’s outdoor dance and music festival are vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Rupinder Sidhu, a percussion and hip-hop innovator who plays with live looping (July 7); fierce local flamenco practitioners from Karen Flamenco (July 14); and the Silk Road Trio, playing traditional Asian instruments while Wen Wei Dance performs.

      Theatre Under The Stars
      (July 8 to August 17 at Malkin Bowl in Stanley Park)
      Two sassily satirical musicals liven up the outdoor stage this year: Legally Blonde: The Musical, a live song-and-dance reimagining of the film about rich, Chihuahua-toting sorority girl Elle Woods (directed by Valerie Easton); and How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, a Mad Men–era comedy that saw a hit Broadway remount in the 1990s by Matthew Broderick (directed by Sarah Rodgers).

      Summer Repertory Festival
      (July 8 to August 10 at the Jericho Arts Centre)
      The Ensemble Theatre Company serves up dynamic theatre in a historic venue by the West Side beach this summer. Featured plays include Women Beware Women, Diaries of Adam and Eve, and The Farnsworth Invention, with pre- and postshow talks, Sunday brunches with music and readings, and more.

      (July 20 at Trout Lake)
      Public Dreams celebrates 25 years of lighting up the summer night, with six large lantern installations, the traditional procession, a fire-spinning show, and much, much more.

      Queer Arts Festival
      (July 24 to August 9 at venues around downtown)
      With a theme of Transgression Now, the extravaganza kicks off with its annual curated and community art show at the Roundhouse Community Arts and Recreation Centre, followed by standout performances like Kinnie Starr riffing with cellist Cris Derksen (August 2) and Liklik Pik’s intimate, pig-masked male dancework. There are dance, storytelling, and art workshops, plus much more.

      Vancouver Early Music Festival
      (July 28 to August 16 around the UBC campus)
      At this series of virtuosic baroque and medieval performances, don’t miss members of the Parisian ensemble Sequentia’s rendering of what Carl Orff’s famous Carmina Burana might have sounded like in its day (August 9 at the Roy Barnett Recital Hall), or Montreal’s Voix Baroques celebrating the lute music and songs of John Dowland on his 450th birthday (August 2 at the Roy Barnett Recital Hall). There’s also a rare orchestral and vocal performance of George Frederick Handel’s Israel in Egypt (August 7 at the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts).

      Powell Street Festival
      (August 3 and 4 in and around Oppenheimer Park)
      The largest Japanese-Canadian festival in the country brings on the taiko drumming, contemporary dance, and more. Highlights this year include Tiffany Tamaribuchi’s bombastic new percussion work for Katari Taiko and the debut of Montreal butoh-dance artist Tomomi Morimoto’s Pond. The best example of the contemporary cultural fusion set amid traditional food and arts stalls? Perhaps it’s Soichi Terada’s multimedia project, Omodaka, which mixes minyo (traditional Japanese folksong) with electronic music and motion graphics.

      Vancouver International Fringe Festival
      (September 5 to 15)
      The end-of-summer theatre adventure takes place on Granville Island and across the city, with hundreds of acts to choose from. Amid this year’s free-for-all are San Francisco’s grotesque-minded Naked Empire Bouffon Co., physical theatre and puppets from Austin’s Elephant and Peanut, and scores of local and national stage mavericks.

      Not enough for you in the city? Head to the Hyack Festival and River Market’s concert series along the New West Quay, kicking off on Canada Day with singer-songwriter WiL, followed by Ray Bonneville on July 13 and Hans Theessink & Terry Evans on August 3 (5 to 9 p.m.). Meanwhile, out at scenic Harrison Hot Springs for the Harrison Festival of the Arts (July 6 to 14), programmers are spanning the globe with concerts by Zimbabwe’s Oliver Mtukudsi and the Black Spirit (July 11), Gypsy-Indian fusionists Tambura Rasa, and Mexico’s Mamselle (both July 12). And West Van prepares to host its Harmony Arts Festival from August 2 to 11, with a sprawling curated art market, outdoor concerts, and more.



      Alan Layton

      Jun 14, 2013 at 7:51am

      I love this time of year. It's always a big boost for the local arts scene. Now we just have to pray for nice weather.