In most cities in the Great White North, winter is a time for cocooning—for settling into the couch, pulling out the Cheezies, and losing yourself in the latest Netflix series. But in Vancouver, there are so many arts festivals at this time of year, you’d be missing out big-time if you didn’t tear yourself away from the tube.
Below are fests that offer everything from circus mashups to major comedy yuk-ups. So there’s no excuse for riding out the winter months on your sofa.
Push International Performing Arts Festival
At various venues until February 7
The boundary-breaking interdisciplinary happening is in full swing, with dance, theatre, and music events that showcase cutting-edge work from around the world.
The Big Attractions: Rush to get tickets to the Holy Body Tattoo’s January 28 remount of its phenomenal monumental, with live music by Godspeed You! Black Emperor. And there’s a rare chance to see the French circus of L’Immédiat, in which slapstick meets high art, from February 4 to 6.
At the Vancouver Art Gallery Plaza from February 12 to 14
It’s the Year of the Monkey, and LunarFest is going ape: think massive Monkey King installations, as well as reflections on the animal from artists like Taiwanese paper sculptor Hsin-Fu Hung. Elsewhere, find Chinese and Japanese fortune-telling, craft stations, and much more.
The Big Attractions: Taiwan’s Chin Fei Feng Marionette Theatre Troupe performing a miniature puppet lion dance.
Talking Stick Festival
At the Roundhouse Community Arts and Recreation Centre and other venues from February 18 to 28
Music, film screenings, slam poetry, and plays like Kevin Loring’s Battle of the Birds are all part of this genre-spanning celebration of indigenous performance and art.
The Big Attractions: Choreographers Brian Solomon and Byron Chief-Moon celebrate indigenous dance at In Motion on February 24; and don’t miss the mad mix of creation at Indian Acts, the Brief Encounters–style evening of short works by duos of artists who have never worked together (February 17).
At venues around town from February 18 to 27
Just for Laughs has teamed up with the former NorthWest Comedy Fest for a smokin’ lineup of standup shows, spanning big TV names and edgy indie laugh-getters. Headliners include veteran ranter Lewis Black, Saturday Night Live Ladies’ Man Tim Meadows, and she-powered shit-disturbers Janeane Garofalo and Margaret Cho.
The Big Attractions: Grab your chance to see super-smart sociopolitical commentator Trevor Noah take the stage solo, or to marvel at how deadpan deity Todd Barry—the “third Conchord”—can slay without breaking a smile.
At the Norman and Annette Rothstein Theatre and other venues from February 18 to March 13
The sprawling tribute to Jewish arts here and around the world serves up a multidisciplinary myriad: concerts, theatre, dance, comedy, and much more. Kick-ass music includes Israeli culture-melders Baladino, hip-hop–Hebrew rocker Victoria Hanna, and fusionists Klezmerson.
The Big Attractions: As usual, the folks at Chutzpah are boasting a world-class carnival of cutting-edge dance, from red-hot Gallim Dance to Italy’s Spellbound Contemporary Ballet to bold Israeli iconoclasts Maria Kong.
VSO New Music Festival
At the Orpheum from February 25 to 28
The Vancouver Symphony Orchestra gets adventurous, this time featuring San Francisco’s Kronos Quartet, local new-music pioneers Standing Wave, and the orchestra playing work curated by composer in residence Jocelyn Morlock.
The Big Attractions: Don’t miss Kronos taking the stage alone to perform Laurie Anderson’s “Flow” and a cool arrangement of Pete Townshend’s “Baba O’Riley”, as well as Mary Kouyoumdjian’s Bombs of Beirut, with its barrage of warfare sounds (February 26). Two days later, the famed ensemble joins the VSO for a performance of It Got Dark, by brilliant Hollywood film-score composer Thomas Newman (Skyfall, American Beauty).
Vancouver International Dance Festival
At the Roundhouse and other venues from February 28 to March 19
Kokoro Dance serves up an eclectic array, drawn from sources both local and as far away as Japan.
The Big Attractions: Hip-hop, humour, and pantomime come together in the strange world of Sweden’s Memory Wax, collaborating with Cuba’s Danza Teatro Retazos, while Vancouver’s own Company 605 (formerly named the 604 Collective) and EDAM both rock big new works.