Winter arts fests please the eyes, ears, and heart

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      We get it: this is the time of year when you want to switch on the gas fireplace, put up your feet, and start plowing through the latest Netflix series. The problem is you’ll be missing a whole world of midwinter arts festivals that will be buzzing for the next several weeks. So unglue your hand from the remote control, pull on your Hunter boots, and check out one of the diverse events listed below. And, hey, this has been one of the warmest winters on record, so don’t try to use the temperature outside as an excuse.

      PuSh International Performing Arts Festival

      (Until February 8 at various venues)

      The cutting-edge, interdisciplinary feast continues, with some of its best shows left till last. Meanwhile, Club PuSh rocks on at Performance Works with even more genre-mashing, provocative shows.

      The draw: Highlights abound, but if it’s intimate revelations you desire, sign up for Lotte Van Den Berg’s Cinema Imaginaire, from the Netherlands (February 4 to 8 at 750 Hamilton Street), where small groups head out into the city to both make and view an imaginary movie; or explore similar themes on a larger level in Cineastas (February 5 to 7 at SFU Woodward’s in the Goldcorp Centre for the Arts), where filmmakers’ real lives and movie scenes play out on a giant, split stage.



      Lunar Fest

      (February 20 to 22 at the Vancouver Art Gallery Plaza and the Pacific Centre Rotunda, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily)

      The Asian Canadian Special Events Association throws its annual outdoor arts-and-culture extravaganza to celebrate the Year of the Sheep. Think lantern-making, dragon dances, and dumplings for the whole family.

      The draw: Can you say “Baa-a-a-a”? The World of Little Shepherds will find hundreds of miniature sheep in the first outdoor installation the event’s put up since the beloved Lantern Forest at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics.



      Pacific Rim Celebration

      (February 28 and March 1 at the Orpheum)

      The Vancouver Symphony Orchestra celebrates the city’s Asian heritage in a pair of concerts. The first night fetes Chinese Lunar New Year with conductor Perry So leading the band in Zheng Lu’s Good News From Beijing and Xian Xinghai’s well-known Yellow River Concerto; the second marks the 125th anniversary of the first Japanese Consulate in Canada.

      The draw: Check out the talent on the second night’s roster, including violinist Akiko Suwanai playing Ludwig van Beethoven’s famed Violin Concerto, plus koto player Yuriko Nariya and a chorus of choirs (Cattleya Singers, Sakura Singers, Winds Choir, and NAV Chorus) putting their voice to a host of Japanese jewels.



      Northwest Comedy Fest

      (February 12 to 21 at various venues)

      Craig Ferguson, Maria Bamford, John Mulaney, Hannibal Buress, and the Debaters: they’re just some of the big names hitting the annual yuk fest. This year, the Vancouver International Film Festival also hosts a curated series of films to complement the on-stage standup.

      The draw: Ferguson’s Hot & Grumpy Tour: Walking the Earth should find the former talk-show host reeling ’em in to the Centre in Vancouver for Performing Arts on February 18, while John Mulaney, a former Saturday Night Live writer, FOX show star, and compulsive sharer of hilarious self-embarrassing stories, cranks out the laughs on February 21 at the same venue.




      (February 19 to 22 at Granville Island)

      Art, music, and dance fill the reclaimed industrial buildings and alleyways of Granville Island at the 10th annual fest. Follow your ears to jazz performances and the Kids Zone, where there’ll be everything from capoeira to mask-making.

      The draw: Grey City, a documentary screening at Emily Carr University throughout the event, profiles OSGEMEOS—the Brazilian duo behind Giants, the silo murals that now tower over the site at Ocean Concrete.



      Talking Stick Festival

      (February 17 to March 1 at the York Theatre, the Roundhouse Community Arts and Recreation Centre, and other venues)

      The 14th annual event celebrates our wealth of aboriginal artists, from the slam poets to the contemporary musicians and thesps. Swing by the Roundhouse for a visual-arts exhibition, contemporary dance, and a play called Salt Baby, about looking white but having First Nations ancestry.

      The draw: Electrifying Inuk throat singer Tanya Tagaq brings her haunting intonations to the York Theatre on February 28.



      Chutzpah Festival

      (February 19 to March 15 at the Norman and Annette Rothstein Theatre and other venues)

      Dance, theatre, music, and comedy pack the roster of this ever-growing festival. Acts from around the world include Israel’s Idan Sharabi, L.A.’s BodyTraffic, and our own firebrand Shay Kuebler, while Zvuloon Dub System introduces us to jazz-and Middle Eastern–inspired Israeli reggae and Alon Nashman’s play Kafka and Son reveals a different side to Franz Kafka.

      The draw: We’re going with Maria Kong (see story on page 21), the avant-garde Israeli dance troupe that dares to surround clubgoers with electric guitars, wildly costumed pirates, and interactive digital media in its bold, immersive Backstage at the Red Room, February 19 to 22.



      Vancouver International Dance Festival

      (March 8 to 28 at the Vancouver Playhouse and the Roundhouse Community Arts and Recreation Centre)

      Top acts from Montreal, Japan, Hungary, and elsewhere round out an eclectic program curated by organizers Kokoro Dance. Standouts include Quebec’s Par B.L.eux, with its multimedia Snakeskins, and a raucous duet from Manuel Roque Danse Contemporaine.

      The draw: Dairakudakan’s Mushi no Hoshi—Space Insect, in which 22 dancers morph from humans to bugs in an eerie butoh-theatre hybrid, skitters onto the stage of the Vancouver Playhouse March 21 and 22.


      Looking for more ways to fight the winter blahs? Here is a small sampling of some of the best shows heating up the scene in the coming month or so. The Arts Club Theatre’s momentous look at Martin Luther King Jr.’s last night in Memphis, The Mountaintop, opens February 12 at the Granville Island Stage. Miami City Ballet comes here for the first time in its history, on February 19 to 21 at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre, with an ode to the transcendent, intertwining works of George Balanchine (presented by Ballet B.C.). The Vancouver Recital Society brings comedy duo Igudesman & Joo to the Vancouver Playhouse on February 19 with the uproarious yet virtuosic A Little Nightmare Music. Legen­dary Montreal choreographer Marie Chouinard produces a two-part interpretation of the work of famous French artists Erik Satie and Henri Michaux on February 27 and 28 at the Vancouver Playhouse as part of the DanceHouse series. And Vancouver Opera warms up the late winter with the laughter and romance of Johann Strauss Jr.’s Die Fledermaus, opening February 28 at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre.

      Follow Janet Smith on Twitter at @janetsmitharts.