Vancouver 2010 - Cultural Olympiad News Vancouver 2010 Cultural Olympiad is a celebration of the contemporary imagination. From artistic collaborations that fuse contrasting perspectives to emerging talents re-inventing the voice of contemporary Canada, the Cultural Olympiad has something for everyone. en-ca Painter-turned-sculptor branches out - Cultural Olympiad Features : Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics

In a career first, acclaimed Montreal painter Etienne Zack will debut his first large-scale, three-dimensional sculpture during the Vancouver 2010 Cultural Olympiad.

The sculpture, Untitled Circuit (Name,Medium,Size,Year), is modelled after Zack’s 2008 painting by the same name. While the sculpture is a “purified” version of the original piece, he says the central idea is still very present.

“The [painting’s] perspective is distorted, there’s all kinds of colours and things that disrupt the space,” says Zack. “There are many different time periods within the same painting.”

Accordingly, the sculpture uses colourful items, ranging from pieces of furniture to typewriters, to text and imagery from art magazines, to convey its message. Zack says Untitled Circuit (Name,Medium,Size,Year) represents the ways that cultural systems, like the art industry or the sporting industry, are produced and given meaning in society.

“The sculpture is based on the production of anything. In this case it is art-making and art distribution and art promotion,” he says. “I’m talking about making a work, and then writing about it and the whole industry of curating and talking about the work and pushing the work.”

Before beginning a painting, Zack usually makes small sculptures in his studio that would act as inspiration for his paintings. He often uses found objects and his own artists’ tools to build the models. “So basically what I’m doing now is inverting them.”

Although this is the first major sculpture Zack has produced, he says many of his paintings could be made into sculptures or installations.

“A lot of the paintings I’ve done are done, kind of, as sketches for sculptures. They’re very sculptural,” he says. “A lot of people say they’re quite surreal, but actually, they all could be sculptures.”

“Untitled Circuit (Name,Medium,Size,Year)” will be showcased at Five-Sixty, 560 Seymour Street, Vancouver from January 28 to February 28, from 11 am to 6 pm; free.

More information on Etienne Zack: Name, Medium, Size, Year

The Cultural Olympiad’s digital mark - Cultural Olympiad Features : Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics

When the programs of the Cultural Olympiad’s digital edtition (CODE) were first conceived in the fall of 2007, the cababilities and breadth of social media in Canada and across the world were a pale version of what exists today. Only during the crest of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, with huge public particpation, international accolades and groundbreaking digital collaborations, did it become clear clear how wildly this digital experiment had succeeded.

For Burke Taylor, executive producer of the Cultural Olympiad, the extent to which CODE surpassed its own very ambitious goals was one of the most rewarding parts of the project, a first for both the Olympic and Paralympic Games. As Vancouver’s Games grew nearer and social networking technology became more popular and developed, he says that growth gave the project bigger potential than the its tight-knit team could have dreamed.

“The opportunity to share Canadian art and culture and to invite Canadians to express themselves about this great nation were key to our mission and guaranteed to trigger our passions, but no one could have predicted how fully engaged the nation would become,” he said. “It speaks both to how comfortable and creative Canadians are online and just how proud and fortunate we feel to live here.”

According to Rae Hull, CODE’s originator and its creative director, the true beauty of the project was reflected in how each of the four program streams succeeded in its own unique way and reverberated with its own distinct audience.

“One of our objectives was to articulate, as a country, that we’re so much more than just moose, mountains and Mounties. CODE underscored that and really emphasized the extent to which, yes, we are a big country with wild open spaces, big mountains and big landscapes, but we’re also really smart at using technology to overcome these distances,” she says. “I love the extent to which all of the CODE projects touched and reflected our collective spirit.”

Public participation and involvement in CODE ranged from the 20,000 individual designs submitted to Vectorial Elevation, a spectacularly beautiful spotlight-based light installation over Vancouver’s English Bay, to the films of CODE Motion Pictures that appeared on mobile phones, airplanes and buses, and at Celebration Sites across Vancouver and Whistler. Along with Screen 2010, an online collection of award-winning visual art, the audience for CODE’s screen-based digital arts projects numbered in the millions.

Meanwhile, from February 4 to 21, CODE Live, a celebration of popular culture featuring technology-infused music and new media art installations in three locations across Vancouver. Featuring Canadian and international artists in its showcase of astonishing interactive technologies, the free-entry project drew accolades from across the city and around the world. At CODE Live Night Life, audiences in Montreal and Vancouver danced with each other in real time with bands in both locations at the Jamming the Network concert, while progressive groups including Bell Orchestre, Chromeo and Hard Rubber Orchestra delivered their own boundary-pushing sounds.

A project that particularly stood out for Hull was CODE Live’s Room to Make Your Peace, an interactive installation located at the Vancouver Central Library, in which 10,000 visitors to the Games contributed their thoughts about peace, added them to other messages that had been submitted online, and released them skyward in a luminous public art collaboration.

“Watching the children, some very young, with a very serious expression on their faces, writing down how they could create more peace in their lives and watching them fold the origami with the online contributions that Canadians had made on the same topic, then seeing them symbolically send those collectively into the air was extraordinary,” said Hull.

Canadians also contributed more than 10,000 images and text to Canada CODE, a user-generated online collaboration of photos, words and audio-visual remixes designed as a grassroots portrait of Canada. Some of their peace-themed images and text even made it onto screens at the United Nations in New York.

“The online submissions to Canada CODE really stand out,” said Taylor. “The strength and quality of the public response to these programs has been extraordinary. Both the creative content and the extent of the response moved me personally.”

In fact, CODE was so well-received, the organizing committee for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Summer Games has expressed interest in mirroring its programming at their Games. “I am proud but not surprised that London 2012 has taken such a keen interest in the CODE programs,” he added. “London is very forward-thinking so we expect them to build on what we’ve done. It’s a great compliment.”

“Ten years from now I believe the CODE programs will be widely recognized for the groundbreaking initiatives they are – as thresholds into whole new ways for Olympic and Paralympic Games, other major national and international celebrations, and communities to engage and inform the world.”

Being on that vanguard of digital technology, online collaboration and web-based interactions was a constant challenge, but also a constant inspiration, said Hull.

“When it comes to participation in online projects, there’s often a lot of fear involved in opening up creative enterprise to citizens due to the unpredictable nature of it,” she said. “I think this project proves once again, that if you give people a frame, ask them to be thoughtful and to respect its parameters, they will honour that and knock your socks off.”

“We carved a new trail and traveled quickly down it,” said Hull. “I think one of its most important accomplishments is the fact that the first step was made.”

“We used digital media to encourage people and artists to express themselves and bridge their expression and creativity,” she added. There will be many more and bigger steps in the future, but I think making that first step is the hardest and in some ways the most joyful.”

Visual art’s mark on the Cultural Olympiad - Cultural Olympiad Features : Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics

With a record-breaking number of attendees, the Vancouver Art Gallery 100 000 visitors during the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, exceeding its 2007 tally by 30,000. While galleries across the city saw a similarly huge upsurge in turnout, public art projects across the city engaged a wide range of Vancouverites and visitors in art.

Outside the VAG’s Robson Street steps, a 20-foot LED screen projected 667 hours of video made by more than 70 artists from around the world. Curated by the VAG’s Chief Curator and Associate Director Daina Augaitis and New York-based curator Christopher Eamon, CUE: Artists’ Videos was a veritable who’s-who of Canadian and international artists.

On the opposite side of the gallery, Michael Lin’s A Modest Veil covered the entire Georgia Street façade with a large, colourful, red mural with hand-painted with pink and green flowers, a piece that incited viewer reflection on notions of public space.

Also in the surrounding area, 1 by 1-foot metal boxes strapped to light poles with three-dimensional scenes encouraged passersby to stop and look at art. The PaCu Boxes (PaCu stands for participatory culture) were just one part of the Cultural Olympiad’s digital edition’s (CODE) visual art pieces.

Billboards and bus shelters around the city also played host to public art. Endlessly Traversed Landscapes brought art into public space with provocative images by Canadian artists including Vancouver’s Ken Lum, Toronto’s Jason McLean and Montéal’s Geneviève Cadieux. 

“We wanted to move out of gallery spaces and institutions and into everyday life; into a realm that impacts on a wider array of people,” said Endlessly Traversed Landscapes curator, Natalie Doonan. “Hopefully they’re provocative enough to trigger questions and thoughts in the minds of people who see [the works].”

Inside the Vancouver Art Gallery, Visceral Bodies displayed the work of 20 international artists depicting the human body from an artistic and scientific perspective. Works include sculptures of skulls, MRI images and a paper maché reproduction of a human body.

According to Marlene Madison, Head of Visual Arts for the Cultural Olympiad, another festival highlight included Ikons, a collaborative piece by experimental American musician George Lewis and Governor General Award-winner and co-founder of Vancouver’s Western Front artist-run centre Eric Metcalfe. As gallery-goers approached Metcalfe’s large pyramid-shaped sculptures, music composed by Lewis played from the pieces. Although both artists have been working in the same circles since the 1980s, Ikons marked the first time these two artists have worked together. The importance of this project was echoed by the Cultural Olympiad’s program director.

Ikons is a big part of the our legacy. Without a doubt, it will likely have a life after the Cultural Olympiad,” said Robert Kerr.

Housed in the same gallery (Five-Sixty), Etienne Zack took a 180-degree turn from his regular practice of painting and created a sculptural work based on his painting Name, Medium, Size, Year.  The piece is built around a laser-cut three dimensional frame, wrapped with raw canvas and packed with art historical references including old wooden school desks, a miniature replication of a modernist sofa that Zack designed for the piece, and images and text referencing art history and modern architecture.

While an abundance of visual arts pieces around the city and in galleries were huge successes of the Cultural Olympiad, one piece that particularly stood out was Presentation House Gallery’s theatrical art installation and Irish pub, The Candahar.  Two Irish bartenders flown in from Ireland served Irish whiskey and Irish beer in the cozy portable plywood bar – with a capacity of roughly 20 – that was plunked in the middle of a small theatre space on Granville Island. The periphery of the bar, inside the theatre space, was roomier. Tourists, artists, writers and athletes hung out from noon until midnight, drank beer, ate Irish stew and watched nightly performances ranging from readings by Lee Henderson to a DJ set by Stan Douglas.

Bringing up questions of authenticity, borders and cross-cultural exchanges (“I’m an Englishman building a Belfast bar in the middle of Canada,” principal artist Theo Sims told a reporter in 2007), The Candahar offered pub goers more to think about than just whiskey and beer.

“This gives people an opportunity to have a slight respite from all the Olympic fever, and it has really brought the community together,” said Sims of his conversation-starting creation.

Also exploring notions of borders and identity, Border Zones,the inaugural exhibition in the Audain Gallery at the newly renovated at the Museum of Anthropology, featured multi-disciplinary works by artists from around the globe. From a sound-based photographic exploration of a dying native language to a four-panel video about changing landscapes in Malaysia, curator Karen Duffek writes, “The artists raise questions that ask us to look more closely at the border zones within and among communities, institutions, and art forms. And they allow us to experience community voices, ritual, sculpture, and new media on a shared terrain, as contemporary cultural practice.”

While sports may have been top-of-mind during the Vancouver 2010 Winter Games, culture vultures, art lovers and anyone walking the city’s streets lucked into a wealth of engaging and thought provoking art projects. And while most of the installations are down, their wide-ranging and diverse effect on the city’s art community remains.

For full recap of stories about the Vancouver 2010 Cultural Olympiad, please visit our Cultural Olympiad Features section.

The Cultural Olympiad’s dance revolution - Cultural Olympiad Features : Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics

From classic to contemporary, butoh to ballet, the Vancouver 2010 Cultural Olympiad had dance aficionados and two-step newbies on their toes, trotting from one sold out show to the next. Invigorating Vancouver’s dance scene like never before, local, national and international choreographers had theatres packed during the festival’s 60 days of arts programming.

Launching the festival with a bang on January 22, Joni Mitchell and Alberta Ballet’s Jean Grand Maître paired up for a night of socially conscious ballet, ballads and visual art. Twenty-eight beautifully toned dancers wearing skin-coloured leotards and battle props of helmets and war paint moved elegantly around the stage to Mitchell’s anti-war anthems. Dancing to her hits (Big Yellow Taxi and Woodstock) and other gems from her vast repertoire, the dancers mixed up their moves from classical ballet to African dance to a modern “club scene.” Above the stage, photos and videos from Mitchell’s Green Flag Song showed tragic scenes of war and environmental degradation.

While Mitchell and Maître’s pairing thrilled audiences, another Cultural Olympiad dance union also had viewers at the edges of their seats. The Royal Winnipeg Ballet and the National Ballet of Canada’s Dance Canada Dance shared a stage at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre, performing two distinct but artistically cohesive acts. While the Winnipeg ballet danced to Itzik Galili’s energetic work Hikarizatto, the National Ballet performed 24 Preludes by Chopin, an acclaimed contemporary piece by Marie Chouinard, one of Canada’s most celebrated choreographers.

Described by The Globe and Mail as “one of Canada’s most reliably provocative choreographers, and among its most successful,” Chouinard brought a brand new work to Vancouver for its world premiere, commissioned by the Cultural Olympiad. “Silly and profound,” The Golden Mean (Live) featured 12 dancers delivering an incredible range of movement, gestures and emotions.

While big-name Canadian performances filled theatres, homegrown choreographers received just as much attention. From Jennifer Mascall’s new work White Spider to Governor General award-winner Krystal Pite’s latest Kidd Pivot project Dark Matters, theatres around the city were packed to the brim with night after night of full houses and standing ovations.

But the Cultural Olympiad didn’t just stick to showcasing homegrown talent. Spain’s Maria Pages brought Flamenco; Taiwan’s Cloud Gate dance theatre company produced a breathtakingly meditative fusion of tai chi, modern dance and ballet; Uganda’s Spirit of Uganda told traditional stories to the sounds of beating drums and melodic call and response vocals; and New York’s oh-so-hip dance troupe STREB performed unthinkable physical feats.

From March 12 to 21, the Vancouver International Dance Festival (VIDF), in partnership with the Cultural Olympiad, hosted a slew of shows by dancers from around the world, including New Zealand’s Black Grace, Denmark’s Kitt Johnson, Taiwan’s LAFA and Artists Dance Company.

“There was a great response for the free shows,” said VIDF’s executive director Jay Hirabayashi. In fact, he says the festival’s high turnout, nearly twice as many people as they were expecting, was a pleasant surprise for both organizers and performers.

For a full recap of stories about the Vancouver 2010 Cultural Olympiad, please visit our Cultural Olympiad Features section.

The Cultural Olympiad’s curtain call - Cultural Olympiad Features : Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics

“It was an amazing spectrum of productions that even the most cynical of audiences were drawn to,” said Burke Taylor, executive producer of the Vancouver 2010 Cultural Olympiad. From the lauded Canadian premiere of the John Adams’s blockbuster opera Nixon in China to the hyper-kinetic energy of the collaborative Hive 3, local theatre companies had their hands full presenting a full range of dramatic options to suit every taste.

For many, one of the highlights of the Vancouver 2010 Cultural Olympiad was the dark new commission from performance art superwoman Laurie Anderson. Composed as a solo opera with moody background horns from Eyvind Kang and Colin Stetson, Delusion created a brooding universe of scientific manipulation, political outrage and nostalgia. “As a world premiere, that’s a piece that will have a good long life,” said Cultural Olympiad program director Robert Kerr.

At the Centre for Digital Media’s Great Northern Way Campus, Hive 3 took over the sprawling space left over from CODE Live 1, swathing its cavernous walls with a colourful tableau of paint and found objects. Boca Del Lupo’s The Interview, an Afghanistan-themed piece on war, death and a soldier’s return to real life, made inventive use of an outdated treadmill, and Theatre Replacement’s S.P.A.M. used mobile phone technology to create meaningful low-tech experiences with individual audience members. With enthusiastic viewers in outfits as outrageous as any worn by the performers, it was a frenetic fringe-style extravaganza quite unlike any other.

Local theatre groups took full advantage of the Cultural Olympiad’s investments in co-presenting partnerships, putting on a wide range of ambitious theatre programming, including the PuSh Festival’s warmly reviewed Edward Curtis Project at the Presentation House Theatre and Best Before’s digitally savvy format, which saw audiences participating in the show using video game controllers at The Cultch. In its homage to older women, Body & Soul enjoyed sold-out performances at its Vancouver premiere and showed audiences that a woman, like a fine wine, gets better with age.

According to an enthusiastic review of Nixon in China in The Globe and Mail by reviewer Elissa Poole, the opera was “brilliantly cast” and “a stunning production.” This rarely performed operatic spectacle treated its diverse, bedecked audience to a compelling look at Richard Nixon’s historic 1972 visit to the secretive superpower, complete with a soaring libretto by Alice Goodman and virtuoso musical score by John Adams. As one of the finale pieces of the Cultural Olympiad theater lineup, it was a brilliant production whose art direction by Michael Cavanaugh ensured this production will have the staying power required to last in the oft-fickle world of opera.

For a full recap of stories about the Vancouver 2010 Cultural Olympiad, please visit our Cultural Olympiad Features section.

The Cultural Olympiad’s Francophone side - Cultural Olympiad Features : Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics

While Quebecois athletes were picking up gold, silver and bronze medals at the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, audiences across the city were enjoying a plethora of French language cultural activities. Cold beer, warm poutine, lively music, hilarious comics and engaging films en français were daily fare during the Vancouver 2010 Cultural Olympiad.

A new work from Quebec’s brilliant stage and screen visionary Robert Lepage opened its month-long run with two sold-out French shows back in February. In true Lepage form, le Dragon Bleu/the Blue Dragon’s beautifully elaborate set design and captivating storyline captured audience members from start to finish.

Opening at the launch of the Games, Granville Island played host to Place de la francophonie, a home base for French language music, comedy and street arts, featuring an outdoor venue with a covered stage, music cabaret, sports pub and tourism pavilion.

Performers from across Canada and around the world played their hearts out during more than 100 free shows, including Quebecois mainstays Mes Aïeux, Garou, La Volée d’Castors and Pierre Lapointe, franco-ontarian Damien Robitaille , as well as international superstars such as Angélique Kidjo, Alpha Yaya Diallo (now Vancouver-based) and Valérie Sajdik. While some shows, including the Juste pour rire comedy night, required knowledge of French, others transcended the language barrier.

Montreal indie rockers Malajube (who play in French but have a huge following with hip Anglophones), Karkwa, Les Cowboys Fringants and Robert Charlevoix had audiences of all linguistic backgrounds dancing to fend off the chilly night air.

“You didn’t have to know the music or the song, but you could see the excitement on the faces of everyone watching,” said Angelina Theilman, a French immersion graduate from Vancouver. “The crowd was very energetic; everyone was dancing — despite the rain.”

While francophone musicians wowed audiences with their energy, Montreal-born chanteuse Florence K wooed them with her French, English and Spanish jazz-pop songs on the Winterruption Performance Works stage.

As musicians were serenading audiences, comedians had their fans in stitches on the (sometimes very damp) ground. Francois Massicotte and the rest of the Just pour rire comics shared their wit and slapstick humour to crowds at the Stanley Theatre and Place de la francophonie.

Further south, away from most of the Cultural Olympiad action, Les 16e Rendez-vous du cinéma Québécois et francophone showcased French language films from around the world. From March 1 to 12, nightly films played to mixed language audiences in the brand new theatre at the Auditorium Jules-Verne.

“We opened the new theatre, which will be occupied by the school 100 days a year and by the community the rest of the time. It’s a new beginning for us,” said the executive director of the festival, Régis Painchaud, who moved from Quebec to British Columbia more than 20 years ago.

“The highlight was the Cinema Salon,” he said of the brand new theatre. “We had films for kids, all-day film workshops, conferences about movies and an opera show. It was a really great evening.”

While most events took place around Vancouver, one piece connected local audiences with viewers at Montreal’s Grande Bibliothèque. Presented by the Cultural Olympiad’s digital edition (CODE) and Montreal’s Society for Arts and Technology (SAT), Breaking the Ice used a super-high-speed internet connection and touch-screen that allowed viewers 4,800 kilometres apart to interact with each other in real-time.

When it came to breaking barriers, CODE hosted a slew of technology-based programming available to multilingual audiences both online and at sites across the city. One of the featured curators of CODE’s Screen 2010 online art gallery was internationally acclaimed Nathalie de Blois. For her thematically cohesive pieces When the Night Comes and Let the Light Be, the Quebec-based artist drew on her extensive list of contacts to put some of Quebec’s best artists on digital screens across the world.

CODE Motion Pictures, a series of films celebrating the power, beauty and fragility of the human body in motion, included work from filmmakers from a variety of linguistic backgrounds. In the short film Sheng Qi (Souffle de vie) writer, director and producer Maxime-Claude L’Écuyer painted an intimate portrait of an athlete’s body as he undergoes a speed-skating race. As seen through resonance imaging, this gemlike film casts light on “the invisible essential.”

After 60 days and nights of unforgettable French-language programming, the curtains of the Vancouver  2010 Cultural Olympiad are drawing to a close. From eclectic music to evocative theatre, audience members from a mélange of linguistic backgrounds are bidding adieu to this once-in-a-lifetime festival — at least until the next rendezvous.

The Cultural Olympiad’s lasting impression - Cultural Olympiad Features : Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics

Scene: It’s Vancouver in the year 2020. Ten years after the end of the Vancouver 2010 Cultural Olympiad, a festival of arts and popular culture that filled the city with music, theatre, dance, art, digital installations, spectacle and more than a few works that defy description, what is your most indelible memory of the 60-day festival?

According to Burke Taylor, executive producer of the Cultural Olympiad, the creation of thousands of individually meaningful moments was one of the most important accomplishments of the event, which presented nearly 200 performing, visual and digital arts projects, delivering more than 600 performances and exhibitions in more than 60 venues between January 22 and March 21.

“For me, there is nothing greater than being in a venue where the artist is producing every wonderful thing we imagined when we programmed them, and the audience is engaged and being moved in ways that are beyond even what we or they might have hoped,” he says. “That happened over and over again during the Cultural Olympiad, and the energy that resulted was magical for both artists and audience.”

For Cultural Olympiad program director Robert Kerr, that personal highlight will always be his experience at Anthony Braxton’s Sonic Genome Project, an all-day musical experiment in which musicians of all ages roamed Vancouver’s historic Roundhouse, playing their parts as pieces of a larger organism.

“One of the highlights for me was being in the middle of that. Talk about suspending normal operating procedure,” he laughs warmly, reminiscing about the show. “I saw artists doing things in that show that I haven’t ever heard them do. They were given permission to explore and create. It was just remarkable for me. It really felt like you went into another world.”

During nearly a decade with the festival, from bid to completion, Taylor says his own most memorable moments will be of enthusiastic audience members and co-presenting partners describing their own life-changing experiences of the events.

These transformative experiences weren’t limited to the festival’s biggest events, either. For example, the Cultural Olympiad’s partnership with the Vancouver International Dance Festival, founded in 2000, made it possible to hold a wider scope of events including some at the Vancouver Playhouse, says festival co-founder Barbara Bourget. She says the creative support and investment of the Cultural Olympiad made a difference for her emerging festival.

The influence the massive and multi-year Cultural Olympiad festival has had on Vancouver’s and the nation’s artistic community will be one of its greatest legacies, says Taylor. “I would like to think — and I actually expect — the Cultural Olympiad will be remembered as a catalyst and springboard in the evolution of the city’s creative sector.”

“Without question, we’ve created extraordinary opportunities for just about everyone we’ve partnered with. That was one of our objectives from the beginning,” agrees Kerr. “We wanted to help them realize some dreams.”

As the Paralympic Winter Games draw to a close, they are both confident the Cultural Olympiad will leave an indelible mark on the city.

“There’s amazing spirit in Vancouver’s arts community. I think this has taught us that we can expect more from ourselves than what we have created to date. The strength is here,” says Kerr. “The Olympics really woke this city up.”

Suburban edge - Cultural Olympiad Features : Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics

The phrases “family friendly” and “urban edge” aren’t usually used to describe the same body of work. But then again, Coquitlam’s Water’s Edge festival isn’t usual.

“We wanted to make it an exploratory kind of festival where people could have hands-on, interactive engagements with music,” says Diana Clark, the festival’s artistic director.

As well as performances by internationally known local talent, Water’s Edge will play host to workshops, song-writing circles, jam sessions and an instrument petting zoo, where you can test your skills on an Australian didgeridoo, an African axaste rattle and other exotic instruments.

While audiophiles of all ages can participate in the music making, established artists including Brad Turner, The Elektra Women’s Choir, musica intima and Night Street and the Coastal Sound Youth and Children’s Choirs will be performing on the main stage — sometimes at the same time.

Brad Turner, who won a JUNO Award in 1999 for Best Contemporary Jazz Album, is set to perform a newly commissioned multi-movement piece with the Coastal Sound Children’s Choir. The new work was composed by the multitalented Turner, who is a trumpeter, pianist and drummer.

“I’ve never written for voice before specifically, let alone a children’s choir, so that makes it different from other things I’ve done,” he says.

Typically, Turner plays with a quartet but has added three members to his usual roster. They’ll also play a variety of instruments not traditionally used in jazz, such as the tabla, a short, squat Indian drum.

“I usually don’t think twice about things like this,” he says. “Being that I never tried anything like this before, it took me a little while to get things off the ground, but once the ideas started flowing, it came pretty naturally, I think.”

The final result is a seven-movement, 45-minute performance that “blows away” anyone who has been lucky enough to get a sneak peek, says Clark, the festival’s artistic director.

In addition to presenting a music festival in a new and interactive way, she says another major goal of the festival was to bring cool music to Coquitlam.

“There’s nothing like this at all in this area. Usually, when there’s a music festival, it’s great music, but it’s not contemporary. It’s not newly composed or edgy — it’s pretty mainstream. So it was important to us to try and have an urban music and cultural festival in a suburban area.”

Water’s Edge runs Friday, 19 mars to Sunday, 21 mars at the Evergreen Cultural Centre, 1205 Pinetree Way, Coquitlam; (604) 927-6555. Mainstage performance tickets are 18 $ to 25 $.

Tickets and more information on Water’s Edge

Fire on Ice - Cultural Olympiad Features : Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics

What do a Prince-loving figure skater, an outspoken punk-rock activist, a Juno Award-winning jazz musician and a Zamboni have in common? Possibly nothing, except the fact that they’ll all be part of Ice Age 2010, a multimedia tribute to the ice rink.

This one-of-a-kind extravaganza features dancing Zambonis, hockey, curling, ringette, figure skating, hilarious skits and Vancouver’s energetic 17-piece jazz, funk, world music and pop group Hard Rubber Orchestra.

Olympic figure skater and So You Think You Can Dance contestant Emanuel Sandhu, punk singer and former Green Party politician Joe Keithley (aka Joey S***head) and trumpeter, pianist, drummer and composer Brad Turner will share the rink with a handful of other Canadian celebrities as they perform a variety show like no other.

At its core, Ice Age 2010 is an homage to the humble and ubiquitous ice rink. From class skating trips to early morning hockey practices, from ice dance shows to the local junior-A playoffs, Canadians from across the country are bursting with rink-side memories.

“This show is about our love affair with ice and winter. In some cases, we look at hockey as a religion and the arena as the temple of worship,” says Hard Rubber Orchestra bandleader John Korsrud.

And who better to comment on his icy love affair with the rink than three-time Canadian champion and 2006 Olympian Emanuel Sandhu?

“Most kids would skip school to smoke pot and I would skip school to go skating,” Sandhu chuckles, while taking a time-out during rehearsal at a Vancouver arena. Although he spent several early mornings at the rink (while his classmates were still fast asleep), he always looked forward to lacing up.

“This is my first skating show since being off the ice,” he says, referring to his year-long hiatus from skating he took to focus on his role as a contestant on So You Think You Can Dance. “So it’s a special return for me and the fact that it’s with a live orchestra is really interesting.”

“To be able to take my art form and blend it with another art form, which is this live orchestra, is very neat. I love that sort of stuff.”

In 2000, Hard Rubber Orchestra presented the first Ice Age show as an on-ice opera devoted to the subject of Canadian winter sports. Ten years later, Ice Age 2010 has revamped the show, adding more music, sports, comedy and celebrities.

Other Canadian stars on the ambitious lineup include figure skater Kathryn Kang, Double Exposure’s Bob Robertson, skating pair Tarrah Harvey and Keith Gagnon and sportscaster/cartoonist Kevin Sylvester.

While the show features performances from musicians, athletes, journalists and comedians, their first order of business is to please the audience.

“When those lights go down, that’s when the performance mindset comes in. It’s a give and take between the audience and the performer,” says Sandhu. “I’m flirting with my audience and I want them to flirt back with me. That’s the energy I feel.”

Hard Rubber Orchestra presents: Ice Age 2010 Saturday, March 20 at 7:30 pm, Harry Jerome Arena, 123 East 23 Street, North Vancouver; (604) 684-2787. Tickets are $18 and $25.

Tickets and more information on Ice Age 2010

Classics’ second coming - Cultural Olympiad Features : Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics

Between 1933 and 1945, scores of European artists, many of them Jewish, fled Nazi persecution, taking with them a wealth of art and culture. Artists destined for success saw their careers screech to a halt as they uprooted their lives, leaving behind friends, family and fans as they tried to reestablish themselves in their new countries.

“Imagine living in Germany and having to move to the United States. You didn’t speak the language and half your family was in concentration camps; you didn’t have any money and you had to find work,” says Simon Wynberg, artistic director of Artists of The Royal Conservatory (ARC) from rehearsals in Toronto.

“You had a huge career in Germany where you had a major position at a conservatory and suddenly you find yourself in America where people weren’t that culturally sophisticated, and there weren’t symphony orchestras and opera houses in every town. Obviously, you’re at a huge disadvantage. And that’s what happened to a lot of émigré composers.”

Wynberg has found some of these artists and brought their works back to life.

While many documents were destroyed during the war, there’s a wealth of material sitting in private collections and on public library shelves, just waiting to be rediscovered. Some of the pieces are by well-known composers such as Felix Mendelssohn, while others are by relatively unknown musicians.

Included in the unknown category of ARC’s roster is composer Franz Reizenstein, who grew up in Nuremburg, Germany and was considered a child prodigy.

“He probably would have had a big career had he stayed in Germany and had the war not happened. His pieces were played in the 40s and 50s and then they fell out of favour,” says Wynberg.

In 2003, ARC performed a concert series of music composed around and during the Second World War as well as works inspired by the Holocaust. Three years later, the Music in Exile series officially began in Toronto with works by composers who either fled Germany or vanished into exile underground. The successful series was later performed across North America and Europe.

“One of the most extraordinary concerts we did was in Poland, because we played a whole program of Polish music to an audience of Poles who had never heard it before. The music had a particular resonance for them, and the fact that it was being performed by a Canadian group amazed them,” says Wynberg, who grew up in Johannesburg, where his family landed after fleeing the war.

Although individual members of ARC have played in Vancouver, the ensemble will have their first appearance as a group in the city March 19 and 20 as part of the 2010 Cultural Olympiad.

While Wynberg acknowledges Vancouver has a relatively small Jewish European immigrant community, he says the music transcends cultural barriers.

“This is not a specialized concert. These works follow a theme and fit into a time and place, but it’s still a regular concert with works that are worth listening to and don’t need any special pleading,” he says.

“Most of the works will be relatively unknown to a general audience, but for those interested in expanding their horizons, there’s a lot of interesting stuff.”

ARC Ensemble: Music in Exile plays March 19 at 2:00 pm and March 20 at 9:00 pm at the Norman Rothstein Theatre, 950 West 41st Avenue, Vancouver; (604) 257-5145; Tickets are $16 to $24.

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This three-ring circus - Cultural Olympiad Features : Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics

As a child, Cirque Éloize director Daniele Finzi Pasca would anxiously await the first rainstorm of the summer. For him, rain is a sign of unexpected things falling from the sky, so the astonishing beauty of his acclaimed vaudeville circus act, Rain, should come as no surprise.

Dressed in 1920s costumes, a stage full of theatrical circus performers hang from the ceiling, catapult each another across the stage, juggle, contort and even jump through on-stage puddles of water during Pasca’s award-winning piece.

Rain is quite different from traditional circus, because it’s pretty much all of us on stage at the same time doing different things. It’s really remarkable,” says trapeze performer Anna Ward, who has been a member of Cirque Éloize for two and a half years.

“Because there’s not that many of us, we’re really involved and take ownership of the show,” she says, adding that each performer plays a character loosely based around their grandparents in the 1920s.

After outgrowing Cirkids, a Vancouver-based circus school for kids, Ward moved to Montreal at age 16 to study at the National Circus School, where she specialized in trapeze. Since then, she’s performed in circuses based in Canada and Europe and performed around the globe.

“Travelling all the time is amazing and difficult. It’s very rich and a very intense way of life,” she says adding the benefits far outweigh the difficulties. “It’s like being in a little village; it’s got a whole ecosystem unto itself.”

Although Ward has toured around the world, she has yet to perform on home turf — a 16-year streak she will break when Cirque Eloize comes to Vancouver’s Centre for Performing Arts March 18 to 20.

“I haven’t been participating in the community here, but am still in touch with people. It’s going to be really exciting and pretty nerve-wracking.”

“Cirque Éloize: Rain” runs Friday March 18 to 20 at 8:00 pm at The Centre for the Performing Arts, 777 Homer Street, Vancouver; (604) 280-3311. Tickets are $35 to $60.

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Aeriosa takes to the sky - Cultural Olympiad Features : Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics

With their eyes and cameras turned towards the sky, a crowd has gathered on the corner of West Georgia and Hamilton Streets in downtown Vancouver. Shielding both from the late afternoon sun, business people in suits, mothers with strollers and scruffy teens with backpacks and dreadlocks watch with rapt amazement as three women start to dance down the side of the Vancouver Public Library.

“Using the wall as a floor lets you jump bigger,” says the show’s choreographer Julia Taffe, who is one of the three dancers in business women’s trio, part of Aeriosa’s new work in situ, which she was rehearsing for the benefit of their captive audience on the ground. “It’s a whole different range of motion and a suspension of time. That’s one of the things that is really attractive about it.”

With a team of dancers whose backgrounds range from circus arts, gymnastics, theatre, contemporary dance and even mountain guiding, Aerisoa is not your average troupe. They specialize in site-specific works, and chose the library for a very specific reason, according to Taffe who is also a founding member of the group.

“We’re putting the work on difference sections of the library that represent different environments. For example, the trio on the tall office tower is called business women’s trio, and it celebrates the power of the women in that tall building in their power suits,” says Taffe, who is still in a headscarf and climbing harness as she uses a walkie-talkie to direct another team of eight dancers who are up on the wall.

“The fact that the library is a house of learning and a repository for all this knowledge, and is also a social hub for Vancouver, has really inspired this atmosphere.”

She says they’re also trying to celebrate people who love to read and those who help facilitate access to books: they’ve cast one dancer as a librarian who helps another dancer find a book in row after row of imaginary library stacks.

“Inside of the library’s main building we’ve done a tribute to readers and characters from books. We’ve create a dance that collides the two worlds, where characters from books literally leap off the pages into the arms of the readers,” she says.

The show, which runs in the evenings from March 17 to 20 and will be accompanied by live music by the Vertical Orchestra (Redshift Music Society), is free for anyone who wants to watch, which is something that Taffe says she feels very strongly about.

“Part of the library’s programming is that it needs to be accessible to everybody, and that means you can’t charge a fee. I feel very strongly about that in the arts as well,” she says. Aeriosa’s shows frequently attract new fans to their suspended and suspenseful style of dance, she adds.

“A lot of our work attracts people who wouldn’t seek out a ticket for a formal dance concert,” she says. “I’ve heard that from all kinds of people; they’re all very appreciative and grateful.”

In Situ runs March 17 and 18 at 10:00 pm and 19 and 20 at 8:00 pm at Library Square, Vancouver Public Library, Central Library, 300 West Georgia, Vancouver. Free.

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Black Grace’s driving force - Cultural Olympiad Features : Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics

In the mid-1970s, when New Zealand’s booming economy slumped, police would raid homes at dawn, scouring homes for Pacific Islanders who had overstayed their visas. These so-called “dawn raids” were specifically targeted at illegal immigrants from Tonga, Fiji and Samoa, who would be sent home if they couldn’t produce papers.

For acclaimed choreographer Neil Ieremia, who founded the dance company Black Grace in 1995, these early-morning raids were the inspiration for his latest work, Gathering Clouds, which gets its Canadian debut as part of the Cultural Olympiad on March 18.

“It was quite a dark time,” says Ieremia, who is of Samoan heritage but grew up in New Zealand.

A somewhat unexpected song fuelled his inspiration: Suspicious Minds by Elvis Presley.

 “We were suspicious of each other all the time. That was my jumping-off point. I worked with this idea of being in a cell, being trapped by each other. The choreography came out of that idea of trying to negotiate a relationship from that, to move away from it.”

With a contingent of seven male dancers and three female dancers, the troupe is intensely physical, yet is still capable of the most delicate contemporary movements. Along with excerpts from Gathering Clouds, Black Grace will also be performing Ieremia’s 1999 work Minoi, which features a modern take on Samoan slap dance. They’ll also perform excerpts of his 2003 creation Surface, an examination of the lines, ink, tools and cultural influences of Samoan tattoo art.

“We aren’t like any other contemporary dance company. We are very unusual,” says Ieremia from his hotel room before a performance in Williamstown, Massachusetts. “We hold some things higher than how many pirouettes you can do or how high you can hold your leg. There are some things that are more important to us than that.”

“I want to create an environment where people can pursue excellence without excuse, and with a sense of honour and integrity,” he says, adding that it has been important for his own professional development to move beyond oversimplified stereotypes of his heritage and move into more nuanced pieces.

“I really believe that my role as an artist with Black Grace is to create work that responds to social conditions, things that are happening in our world. It’s not just simply about creating movement to music. I feel like I must reflect things back.”

Black Grace runs March 18 and 19 at the Vancouver Playhouse, 600 Hamilton Street, Vancouver. Tickets are $50/adults and $35/students and seniors.

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Political dance party - Cultural Olympiad Features : Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics

According to Ori Kaplan, a founding member of the eclectic and horn-heavy band Balkan Beat Box, each musician’s diverse background is why the group’s funky, klezmer-laden, hip-hop/reggae and rock-influenced fusion music is so unique.

“Since we come from Israel, we have a big mix in the back of our ears —from Arabic music, to Middle Eastern music, to Greek music. We all have different backgrounds that are widespread,” he says.

Although all three permanent members of the group are from Israel, their parents and grandparents emigrated from across Eastern Europe and Yemen. To confuse their national identity even more, the three began collaborating while they were living in New York City.

“Ours is very much music that reflects the experience of immigrants in urban environments,” says Kaplan, who recently moved to Vienna from New York, where he lived for 16 years.

Balkan Beat Box first came to life when Kaplan, Tamir Muskat and Tomer Yosef decided to take ancient sounds and mix them with contemporary technology for an “urban edge.”

“We grew up in the Internet generation with computers, but we also have a connection to something very old, just from who we are.”

Besides bridging the old and new, the group also unites different cultures, making each Balkan Beat Box performance an on-stage lesson in cultural tolerance — with more dancing than lesson plan. Plus, with a rotating contingent of about seven or eight band members and fellow collaborators performing at once, each show is a new experience.

“Essentially, I think our music connects with everyone. It immediately breaks barriers. We show people a different possibility of communication between people from different cultures,” says Kaplan.

“When people see us on one stage partying together like crazy, they usually think ‘Wow. It’s so easy in music, so why can’t we apply this to life?’”

With three albums released since its inception in 2005, the band is on the verge of releasing their fourth, which Kaplan says is more focused, personal and deeper.

“With every album we have a goal. We have different elements we use for a new album and always try to do something different. There’s no point in repeating the success of your last album,” he says.

“Expect us to make a left turn, just when you thought we’d turn right.”

Balkan Beat Box plays March 18 at The Venue, 881 Granville Street, Vancouver; (604) 257-5145. Tickets are $25 and $30.

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Not your everyday Alice in Wonderland - Cultural Olympiad Features : Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics

This may not be the Alice in Wonderland you were expecting.

In the film, a taxidermied rabbit breaks out of his glass storage box, puts on a ratty red and black waistcoat, then picks up an antique stopwatch and stores it in his sawdust-filled chest. As for Alice, she follows the rabbit across a rocky field and into a crowded desk drawer before turning into a doll and being chased by a creepy cast of “bonecreatures.”

For filmmaker and composer Daniel Janke, this unconventional Alice is the perfect heroine.

“I see her a real survivor. The story is very episodic; she goes from one thing to another and she’s always chasing the white rabbit and trying to find him so she can get out,” he says from his studio in Whitehorse. “I see her as somebody who deals with whatever life gives or takes away, in more of an everyday notion of heroism.”

For the upcoming performance of Alice and Other Heroes by the Longest Night Ensemble, which Janke is currently in the final stages of composing, the visuals will be provided both by Jan Svankmejer’s Alice, and by other short films including Drift, a stop-motion by Veronica Verkley, a tuba concert called Quadratubapuss, Legault’s Place, a rarely-screened 1964 National Film Board documentary short, as well as two films from Janke himself.

“The films are structured like a series of short stories, and the live music is a continuous thread that supports every film,” he says. “It’s a simultaneous performance of music and film, and the combination of the two provides for a third narrative.”

He says this blend of mediums, which have been woven together in a curatorial fashion, will provide a fun and surprising experience, even for skeptics.

“I think it really sparkles. It’s a really neat experience having the live ensemble with the films. It’s quite new and quite fresh.”

Plus, despite Svankmejer’s slightly disturbing take on Alice’s adventures, Janke says there is a lesson to be learned in how she faces her adversity: head-on.

“If you look at [Svankmejer’s] Alice, it’s pretty weird and creepy, but so is the story of Alice in Wonderland. Look at all the things that happen to her. I think this idea of the hero is something we all can identify with,” he says.

“Even though we’re only circumstantially involved with the Olympic [Winter Games] and the Paralympic [Winter Games], there’s nice synergy in this idea of the everyday hero who rises to the occasion with whatever life gives or takes away.”

Alice and Other Heroes runs March 17 and 18 at Performance Works, 1218 Cartwright Street, Vancouver. Tickets are $20.

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The ties that bind us - Cultural Olympiad Features : Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics

Whenever dancer and choreographer Christopher House presents a new piece with his Toronto Dance Theatre troupe, people pay attention. For his most recent full-length work, Dis(sol/ve)r, the detail-oriented contemporary dance veteran has tackled a fundamental topic: us.

“It’s a series of encounters, and it’s very much about relationships and relationships in terms of space,” he says. “This is a theme through a lot of my work, but there is this passionate search for connection within it. There’s also a recognition that this connection is extremely ephemeral.”

Dressed in fine, tailored eveningwear designed by Toronto-based fashion upstart Phillip Sparks, the nine dancers in the troupe pull together and push apart, linking hands and bodies in garlands of human relationships.

While he was choreographing the piece, House says he was reading a lot and inspired by philosophies of new physics, probability theory and proxemics, the science of how objects relate to each other within space.

An integral part of how we relate to each other within these relationships has to do with our hands, says House.

“One of the themes that we deal with is the importance of the hand. The hand is often an invitation, and it’s usually the initial conduit for any kind of contact, any kind of physical contact,” he says. “In most of my work, they play a really important part. I often use hands around the head, or the head or the face and shoulders and neck area; I think they’re very natural gestures.”

For him, choreography is as much about the development process that is done in collaboration with his band of hand-picked dancers as much as it is about the audience experience.

“The work is only completed by the presence of the audience,” says House. “Someone once described the piece as producing meaning for each audience member. It’s not as though you’re abdicating responsibility and you’re saying ‘I don’t really know what I’m doing, I hope it means something to you,’” he says with a laugh. “They’ll be able to respond to it in a number of ways: letting it wash over them, analyzing it. They don’t even have to like it.”

Which, he assures, audiences will.

“The quality of the performance is very beautiful and very honest,” he says. “They’re performing as dancers doing quite extreme things, but they’re doing them as themselves rather than from the fantasy of just being a dancer.”

Toronto Dance Theatre: Dis(sol/ve)r runs March 16 and 17 at the Vancouver Playhouse, 600 Hamilton Street, Vancouver. Tickets are $50/adults, $35/students and seniors.

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Cuban jazz on Canadian soil - Cultural Olympiad Features : Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics

“It was like love at first sight,” says Hilario Durán, reminiscing about the first time he played piano in Cuba when he was eight years old.

“My parents decided to buy a piano for my sister because it was fashionable for girls to study piano,” says Durán, who, as a child, dreamed of someday being part of a big Latin jazz ensemble. “Since I first played the instrument, I fell in love with it. I just wanted to play piano all day. My mom had to lock the piano and hide the key.”

Growing up in a musical family, Durán was exposed to recordings, instruments and a wide range of music from Cuban to Russian and classical to contemporary. His father, Hilario Durán Senior, was a prominent figure in the Cuban jazz movement called “Movimiento del ‘Feeling’” in the 1940s and played music in a popular Havana neighbourhood with local legends, including Omara Portuondo.

“I come from a musical family, but am the only one who took it up professionally. I listened to great music in my childhood and there was a huge collection of records in my home: classical, jazz, Cuban, everything,” he says.

Years later, Durán has won three Juno Awards, several National Jazz Awards and been nominated by Factor Hispano as one of the 10 most influential Hispanic Canadians.

But his greatest accolades have arrived along with the fulfillment of his childhood dream: being part of a large Latin jazz group. . The pianist and his Latin Jazz Big Band, which formed in 2005, have become renowned as one of the best in the world, earning a Grammy nomination for their song Paq Man. The jazz ensemble includes Durán’s long-time collaborators Roberto Occhipinti, Arturo Sandoval, and many other big names in Canadian and Cuban jazz.

Although Durán left his tropical island home 12 years ago for Canada, he says Cuba is still very much in his soul. 

“I miss Cuba, but the way I miss it is not sad because I have Cuba inside my heart and inside my home,” says Durán, who now lives in Toronto with his wife and daughter. “When I close the door of my house, I have a Cuban flag; I have Cuban food; I have my music and I have all my roots here. So I don’t really miss Cuba, because I have it here, inside me.”

After playing several shows in Canada, often by invitation from multiple Juno award-winner and Order of Canada appointee Jane Bunnett, Durán eventually made the move in 1998. Although his connection with Cuba is still strong, he says his adopted country has been great for his musical education.

“Because Canada is so multicultural there’s a lot of different art and music,” he says. “There’s music from China and Latin America, American Jazz. You can also hear Celtic music and music from the Middle East. There are a lot of influences that enrich my way of doing music. That has been so great for me.”

According to Durán these influences also include musicians with whom he’ll share the stage in Vancouver as part of the 2010 Cultural Olympiad. With Bunnett on reeds, Phil Dwyer on saxophones and the legendary percussionist Changuito, the show is sure to be unforgettable.

“I’m looking forward to the show because I will work with a great staff of musicians.”

Hilario Durán Latin Jazz Band with Special Guests Jane Bunnett, Phil Dwyer and Changuito runs March 19 and 20 at Performance Works; 1218 Cartwright Street, Granville Island, Vancouver.

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Kitt Johnson decodes her dance DNA - Cultural Olympiad Features : Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics

With influences from Charles Darwin to Lester Horton, a giant of modern dance, Kitt Johnson melds the art of dance with the science of evolution in her solo piece, Rankefod.

Created in 2005, Johnson uses modern dance techniques rooted in expressionism and highly controlled slow movements of Japanese butoh dance to explore ideas of evolution and the body’s ability to access biological information from our evolutionary memory banks.

“We know that each cell is carrying the information of our evolution, but is it possible to access these memories?” Johnson wonders. “To open this box of memories and transform them into a physical, chorographical expression is, of course, impossible.”

“Giving myself tasks which are almost impossible is characteristic of my work. But in trying to do this, I’m stretching the borders of what I can do and opening the limits of the possible,” she says from her rehearsal space in Copenhagen, Denmark.

While her task may be unobtainable, her efforts are striking. Drawing from modern dance approaches that incorporate the dancer’s mind as well as body, Johnson’s slow, graceful movements explore her inner self.

“The nature of this kind of work is very personal and very looking into your own guts. The task has been to build this bridge while staying true to what was the original source, but also adding clarity and intention to communicate to an audience,” says Johnson.

Although audiences in most of the world don’t understand the dance’s title, Rankefod, Johnson says she decided to stick with the Danish word because there just isn’t an English translation. Roughly translated, it means Cirripedia, a type of crustacean on which Darwin’s theory of evolution was founded.

“In Danish, the word Rankefod is really magical,” she says. “In English, Cirripedia is not a poetic word, it’s a scientific word. But in Danish, it is really magical and hints at something old.”

As Johnson slithers across on the stage, animal sounds recorded and processed through a computer can be heard coming from behind the stage, producing a sound that is “organic sounding, but not scientific.”

After performing only twice in Canada (both times in Toronto), Johnson became a darling of the Canadian dance scene and was nominated for a DORA, a prestigious Canadian performance art award. She says that she’s looking forward to performing in Canada again — particularly during the Olympic Games.

“I did a workshop with the dancers for the Opening Ceremony in Athens, so to be a part of the Olympic experience again is really exciting.”

“Kitt Johnson: Rankefod” runs March 16 and 17 at the Roundhouse Community Arts and Recreation Centre, 181 Roundhouse Mews, Vancouver; (604) 662 4966. Tickets are $35/adults, $25/students and seniors.

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The brawn and beauty of Duet - Cultural Olympiad Features : Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics

Daniel Westley is not a trained dancer. While that didn’t stop him from performing a fiery contemporary dance piece to Vivaldi’s La Folia trio sonata for the newly commissioned short film Duet, it certainly meant he had some practising to do.

Under the guidance of choreographer and fellow dancer Simone Orlando, Westley trained for hours, relating the graceful extension of his large, muscular arms to the action of throwing a basketball.

“He’s done all sorts of sports, so certainly movement and physicality is part of what he does,” says film director Raul Sanchez Inglis, who was commissioned by the Cultural Olympiad’s digital edition (CODE) to make the film on the theme of the human body in motion.

“The amount of training that Simone has done to become a dancer is the same amount of training Daniel has had to do. He’s done downhill skiing, tennis, basketball, and it’s all been about training. It’s about devotion to their craft, for both of them.”

In addition, Westley isn’t an average athlete. As a five-time Paralympian, he has competed in both summer and winter Paralympic Games, and even developed his own nimble sports-oriented wheelchair that gives his muscular upper body the widest range possible.

“I do think that with the wheelchair there’s a way to make it appear quite fluid or dance-like, even if you are in the middle of a sporting activity like tennis or basketball, there’s a way to make it look like a self-expression,” he says.

“This particular chair, when I developed it, I made it so that it could hold me and I could do whatever I wanted with my arms. I could swing the racket and not have to worry about maintaining my balance. I could shoot the basketball and not worry about the chair tipping over or moving out from underneath me.”

But Inglis says the wheelchair plays a discreet second fiddle to the passionate, intimate movements between the two dancers, who worked over one exhausting 12-hour day to get all the footage needed for the piece.

“People love the beauty of [the film] and the idea that we don’t see somebody who’s ‘handicapped’. We just see two people, and suddenly you realize that one of them is in a wheelchair, but it doesn’t matter,” says Inglis. “By the time you realize that, you’re already invested in their relationship and the dance itself. What we equate with being handicapped isn’t at all.”

In fact, Inglis adds, the wheelchair allowed him to use some innovative filming techniques, including fastening the camera to one of its wheels to capture a ground-level view of Orlando’s choreography.

As he’s trained in his wheelchair over time, Westley says he is constantly discovering new ways to maintain momentum and flow in his movement. “It translates really nicely into dance,” he says. “It’s allowed to me to bridge that gap of the grace I’ve created in my sport and create a different medium with it through dance.”

Duet will be available on the CODE Motion Pictures website from February 4 to March 31 and at all Celebration Sites during the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games.

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Q&A; with Underneath the Lintel’s Christian Murray - Cultural Olympiad Features : Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics

In Underneath the Lintel, the return of an overdue library book — 113 years late — piques the nascent detective skills of an uptight Dutch librarian who embarks on a quixotic, globetrotting pursuit of the anonymous borrower and returner. Christian Murray, as the Librarian, leads the audience on a winding trail through history, unravelling a mystery that dates back to the Crucifixion and a figure who may be more man than myth. Murray, an actor and a writer himself — he won a Gemini Award for his writing work on This Hour Has 22 Minutes and was shortlisted for the CBC Literary Award in 2006 — talked with us about this wonderfully literary one-man, one-act play. Underneath the Lintel makes its Vancouver debut March 14 as part of Vancouver 2010 Cultural Olympiad.

Q: This is not your first time trying on the Librarian’s sweater. What keeps you coming back?

A: This will be our third remount of the show in the past three years. We performed it in Halifax and then we did a Maritime tour. As I’m getting back into re-remembering the play, I’m aware again of how special this piece of writing is. For the audience, it is captivating, how it unfolds and what it speaks of, which I don’t want to give away, but it makes great connections with people experiencing it. The piece has a surreal comedy sense about it, like a labyrinth with real Through the Looking Glass writing.

For an actor, it is certainly a challenge: A one-man show, a 60-page monologue. It is great to get back into it because when you revisit a piece you see other layers and remember little hand-holds for your performance.

Q:  How do you prepare for something like a 60-page monologue?

A: Over the months, lying there when I can’t fall asleep, I’ll run the lines to keep him alive because I know I am doing the play again… It all comes back because the fear of failing is great. That is the wonderful thing about theatre: you have to do all that work to feel like you are in the driver’s seat.

Q: Audiences have really embraced this as a piece of theatre and a mystery. How do you capture their attention and draw them in with one character?

A: Glen Berger, the writer, he speaks in the foreword about a certain style of musical from the turn of the century in England. So he’s pushing that style, which is clowning in a way, and there is leeway because the material is moving but also funny. My background is physical theatre . . . and I get to bring a physicality element that differentiates this from other one-person shows with talking heads. It is stylized and funny. This very stuffy Dutch librarian goes on a strange vision quest and he has visual aids as he goes. There is a whole slideshow that’s part of his presentation, like a lecture demo on acid.

Q: How does he change as a result of this quest?

A: The character sets it up as if he has invited people to hear the tale of what he has gone through with this library book. You see him evolve from someone who has never left his hometown — except when he went to Gouda to see how they made the cheese, but tours weren’t given that day — to a person who ends up travelling to China, New York City and Australia. He has found purpose in his life, and the myth he exposes within the piece is quite lovely. He’s quite astounding, how the piece unfolds like a mystery around him. That is what hooks people and keeps them guessing.

Q: And you can’t give us any hints about this mysterious myth?

A: There is a racist myth that he uncovers. It is turning that on its head that is the crux of this journey. Is the librarian talking about a myth or is he talking about himself? There are these layers of stumbling onto the myth and then debunking it and that’s the spirit of the piece that speaks to people: how far he comes and where he projects himself going. That’s is what is so much fun about it; for 90 minutes, you won’t even know you are at the theatre.

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