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Friday, December 31, 2010

Kingston 2010 - Not too shabby

Image: Scylla and Charbydis by Alana Kapell (at The Art Rental & Sales Gallery)

Good memories of the arts in Kingston, 2010 -in no particular order (the blog will have an order, coming out soon). Well, sort of in order,

The Happiness Project, Charles Spearin and friends, brought in by Apple Crisp
The Happiness Project house and Don Maynard's bathroom
Elton John 0 Yeah.
Gordon Lightfoot...sort of sad
All that dance at the Grand
Kim in The Year of Magical Thinking, Theatre Kingston
Thousand Islands Playhouse - 3 major shows to love (Blood Brothers, Another Home Invasion, Master Harold and The Boys - Also the Chic Gamine Concert
John's show (Trouble on Dibble Street!) at St. Law Shakespeare Fest in Prescott
All the energy from Jim Garrad and friends that went into the Sir John A Back From The Dead Concert Tour (although the title maybe...was too much fun for the room)
Don Maynard's Franken Forest at the Agnes (Particularly the Flock piece)
Modern Fuel everything
Rockne Corrigan as Hamlet in The King's Conscience...and the cabaret style set up at the Baby Grand for it
The Wm. Bremner show at the Agnes E
Writers' Fest growing all the time -but CR Avery and Joyce Carol Oates the faves
Measha Bruggergosman in tiny Syd. St. United Church
The rather strange Jonah piece led by R. Murray Schaefer himself at Sy. St. U Church
She Sings! - and I'm in it...
Cirque du was actually great
Trevor Strong - anything he does
The Kingston Arts Council getting the website up (now you have to fill it, folks)
The endless consultations for City of Kingston Cultural Plan, but it's a good one
The dauntless Brenda and programming for Arts & Letters Club
The Kollaboration Kingston project - particularly Andrea Graham, Jane Thelwell, Trevor Waurechan,and Lenny Epstein, and great guidance by Lindsey Fair
Painting classes with Ben DarrahStrange painting classes with an unnamed teacher
Stuart Ross really rocking the reading scene for a too brief time
Mary's Wedding by Blue Canoe (really!)
The energy of Reel Out Film Fest
The new dedication to edgy smaller theatre at the Grand
THe artists of Kingston (are a pretty cool bunch, overall...)
And a special place of fondness (and for their tolerance of my high blood pressure!) The Arts Tarts

And, of course, getting to know new artists all the time through the old job at the Arts Council and the new one at the Art Rental & Sales Gallery.

Keep it growing, dear K-town

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Moves and Visions - Quidam & Rubberband Dance

This week we got to shame the pounds back into those holiday chocolate boxes by going to see two artistically and physically motivating pieces: RUBBERBANDance Group’s Loan Sharking and and Cirque du Soleil’s first visit to Kingston with Quidam. The sense of human possibilities that even occasional visits to these venues unleashes has to be worth every penny spent on them, and I think annual visits to both the Grand’s Dance Series and the event of your choice at KRock are well worth saving up for.

It was my first Grand dance event of the season, and a long-awaited one. Compared to many dance troupes, RUBBERBANDance Group’s performers seemed particularly young: a limber and nearly gymnastic team of lithe and healthy bodies where gender power was both downplayed and equally distributed. I don’t think anyone except the founder Victor Quijada was over 30. The dancers undulated in unison and threw their bodies utterly relentlessly through sequence after sequence of a fusion of hip-hop/locking inspired and body-contact style moves, performing on top of strong and playfully jarring lighting designs and soundscapes from Stravinsky, Brubeck and Jasper Gahunia, a former award-winning “battle DJ.” The total effect was curiously delightful, and the audience fell in love with them – although the troupe’s Achilles heel is also their signature. Their total reliance on the admittedly brilliant moves and an apparent disinterest in emotional engagement, story, or greatly varying emotional dynamics also kept me from feeling entirely engaged with them. Nonetheless, the movers themselves are inspiring and the sense of exploration from Quijada and his entire team (including the designers) is palpable. I’d definitely come back again to check out the virtuosity of performers like Emmanuelle Le Phan and to see how the energetic young company is proceeding.

On the other hand, I expected Cirque du Soleil to be stunning strange eye candy and little more – but went out of curiosity to see how it would play at the KRock Centre. As ever, the scrap of a storyline inserted (a young girl who is whisked away from her boring family to another Neverland-style dimension) is almost gratuitious, but it was an entry to an utterly wonderful world of strangely beautiful and extraordinary performers and delightful visions and yet seemed like tasting a meal of wonderful strange new fruit. I love being in awe of humanity – both in terms of accomplishment and vision – and Cirque again provided huge doses of each. I also loved that I became so caught up in the sense of dream they create that I nearly had to pinch myself to remember “holy crap –those are all real people up there!” In a continually digitally enhanced world, it’s more important all the time. Quidam, although a smaller scale than their tent shows, was even more charming than the last piece I saw (Corteo) – and the rope acrobats, an “Adam and Eve” pair of gymnasts who balanced neck-on-neck for one-legged stands and other feats, the finale acrobats, and four young Chinese yo-yo jugglers were particularly amazing. I’m going back to thinking that Cirque is a must-see every few years, at least – in spite of a misplaced generalization that they have veered into sheer commercialism. (It also continues to tickle me that Guy LaLiberte came out of the same mime school I did…and he still has a hand in it all. And all those fixed point/undulating locking moves… I’m just sayin’…) Ahem, back to the gym

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Surprises in Simple Things

I'm not going to recant my rant about an earlier production I saw by Blue Canoe, but I'm sure glad that people perservere until they really get it right. Mary's Wedding, which the company produced for a very short run with Fifth Company Lane productions last week was 97% perfect. Sometimes one fears a beautiful script might be ruined by less-than-seasoned direction or casting, but in this case the youth and freshly unaffected but heartfelt performances of the two cast members (Meredith Busteed and Sean Ogle) under the impeccable eye of director Anja Zeljkovic meant for a perfect night at the theatre. Nice use, sparingly, of emblematic choreography, too. Biggest quibble -- you don't get an evening like that without the playwright...and the audiences deserve biographical materials on the writer in the programme. They should never be 'Out of sight, out of mind." Massicotte is a treasure, and this work is now a Canadian classic.

Congratulations, in any case.

Also hugely enjoyed the dark circus put on by the Upper Canada Performing Arts people, mostly on the spur of the moment (and with the help of great performers such as the Swamp Ward Orchestra) last week. Clarke Mackey is right --vernacular culture can really have impact. The Kingston Symphony's flash mob last weekend at Cataraqui Town Centre is another case in point. (And if you still want to donate to Upper Canada's curtain campaign, they may soon have the most versatile and affordable space in town!)

Other simple but sweet events coming up - concerts by the Voices of Joy, She Sings and Kingston Choral Society this weekend, and the Fat Goose Craft Fair Dec. 12 at the Renaissance Ballroom. I would be particularly remiss if I didn't point out that the Gallery Shop at the Agnes has a small but very sweet selection of work by local artists (under $400) and artisans ($8=200). Open every afternoon except Mondays.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

You Can't Always Get A Chihuahua

A few years ago at the Playhouse, our funny bones were really tickled discovering the phrase "you can't always get a chihuahua," substituted somewhere for the Stones' lyric of "You Can't Always Get What You Want.." This week, it started to seem that there wasn't a chihuahua around, as I'd been looking right and left without much success for cultural highs. Measha Brueggergosman left me unfulfilled... I got annoyed as hell at the Arts and Letters Club debate about arts elitism and vernacular culture. Theatre Kingston's new show also brought up a few "issues." Maybe I should just stay home and read from now on? I started to wonder.

But on the seventh day she clapped. Whistled. Smiled. Tonight I found that delight still lurks out there in the world, and truly in the unlikeliest of places. Who would have told me that, when my friend got sick and I couldn't go to see Royal Wood and Hannah Georgas, I'd actually be in for a fabulous time by "settling" for a show of old barbershop singers doing a tribute to the military? I'm an old draft dodger, remember? And someone who's not comfortable (yet) in a room full of old men. At all.

Now, the joy wasn't the Kingston Townsmen themselves, as nice and earnest as they are, nor the sepia-tinted military promo films at the beginning. But the group itself has to get a huge credit for assembling some totally unexpected talents, and ones that I, and a lot of others, would never have seen otherwise. A choir and sax quartet from RMC? Never would have gone. A group of young male barbershoppers, the modern equivalent of Forever Plaids? Probably would have passed. Ernestown Secondary SchoolChoir? "I'll see my own grandkids someday."

Well, this is the instance of "vernacular culture" Clarke Mackey had been talking about at Arts and Letters, and it worked. The RMC Choir and sax quartet were superb --at the top of their game (and also heartfelt and moving in their singing.) "May they never have to go to war, they're so lovely" I thought, stereotypes shattering away. And the young guys,the Rendezvous Quartet "hot damn" is all I can say. (Check out their YouTubes, and Invite them back, somebody!)

Here I thought I was just going to go to the concert, listen to my Ipod before the show, be a nice wife and a good sport, and not feel too sorry for myself about not having a date to Royal Wood (next time Royal, save me a seat)...and it was absolutely energizing. Amateurs, doing it all for the love of it, and aiming for the top. Vernacular culture --with standards. Absolutely.

You can't always get a chihuahua... you can't always get a chihuahua (all together now:) You can't always get a chihuahua...but if you try sometime, you might find, you get a burmese!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Sight and Sound art - the next 14 days

It's a lively week two weeks ahead. Time left to choose, but still busy!

Monday Nov. 1 -Real Resident Reading Series, Grad Club. 7:30; Writers Martha Baillie/Trevor Strong

Tues Nov. 2 7 -9 Reception for The Annual Tone Deaf Festival at Modern Fuel, which runs until Nov.6 Also, 7-10 Poetry Night at the Artel
Thurs. Nov. 4 - 10 a.m. - 9 p.m. Free day at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre, opening day of the Seasonal Showcase in the Atrium, featuring 60 regional/regionally connected artists (come and visit me.) Street parking free, eves.

Sat. Nov. 6, 2-4 Meet and Greet the artists, Seasonal Showcase
7:30 p.m., Hear in the Dark (just what it says)from Tone Deaf Festival at the Vogt studio, Carruthers Hall on campus

Sun. Nov. 7 - 2 pm Free film, Winds of Heaven, about Emily Carr, with talk by director Michael Ostroff, Etherington Hall
Evening, Sydenham United: Measha Bruggersgosman Queen's Performing Arts.

Tues. Nov. 9- Face Off, 7 pm. Confederation Place Hotel, Arts & Letters, the highs and lows of amateur/community arts and professional. Is there elistism? Should there be?

Thurs Nov. 11 - Opening night of Theatre Kingston's The Attic The Pearls and Three Fine Girls, Baby Grand Theatre

Sat. Nov. 13 Choice between Royal Wood and Hannah Georgas (Grad Club) and opening reception for of Reconaissance, an intriguing art show about views of war, Modern Fuel and Scott Wallis in the State of Flux.

Also check out Maker's Hand, the artisan's fair in Picton (Nov 6/7) and the Studio Tour featuring JT Winik, Barb Carr, Lee-Ann Taras, Nov. 13.14

Friday, October 29, 2010

Norman didn't entirely conquer...but glad it came!

This was a week for edgy Canadian film - starting with the big ticket, much anticipated and somewhat disappointing Norman, by 4-D Art, at the Grand Theatre and winding up with intimate free Canadian art films at the Agnes.

4-D Art’s Norman is a fascinating choice to launch the edgier new Grand Theatre Series, and it’s safe to say you’ve never seen anything so visually powerful on the Grand’s Stage before. Co-created by Michel Lemieux and Victor Pilon and performed by dancer Peter Trosztmer about the extraordinary late Canadian (NFB) filmmaker Norman McLaren, Norman featured hypnotic and gigantic film clips from McLaren’s truly avant-garde films that were talked at, talked about, danced to, and danced about…with superimposed interviews (mostly in French, with surtitles) to help provide background on his uniqueness. Particularly brilliant were the dance between Trosztmer and McLaren in Chairy Tale; his playing with the Merles song (in which various bird parts come together and come apart) and a piece called Mosaic, where Trosztmer danced between the already-dancing dots of McLaren’s film. The show was a theatrical “McLaren 101”, a great introduction to the filmmaker – who more than deserves resurrecting and re-examining. My quibble, however, the script was weak (a throwback to the 50’s documentaries McLaren himself would have mocked) and more performers and varied choreography (with no - or far less -dialogue) would have made it a much stronger piece, and one befitting its subject.

At the Agnes Etherington, a devoted little group gathered for the second part of a free series put together by Frances Leeming. The theme of Thursday's (Oct. 28th)was Persistence or Vision, and each of the films certainly demonstrated persistence/endurance of both subject and viewer. My fave was Daniel Cockburn's 2002 Metronome, a brilliant "heart tapping" piece, as well as Our Marilyn, which genuinely immersed you into the world of swimmer Marilyn Bell.
Keep your eye out for more films and talks, Oh, and there were at least 5 available parking spots right across the the gallery is free on Thursdays. What more do people want? Dunno.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Sitting and The Arts--- A Balancing Act

October. This year I'm trying to get smarter: "acquire more knowledge while taking advantage of Kingston's primary asset (Queen's)." So far it's meant a fair amount of sitting...and a wee bit of foot jiggling and hand-pinching to stay awake,but there has been an overall decent balance between obtaining some valuable knowledge and the having the odd giggle afterwards.

Oct. 2 we rushed back from the curious experience of Nuit Blanche General Idea film from the Art Docs series at the Agnes E. (It was both hilarious and moving, bringing back the good old days of the 70's and yet the terrible loss of two of the three group members to AIDS. The brilliantly executed and powerful deathbed portrait of one of them in the Agnes' New Canadiana exhibit is a must-see.)

But the pleasure was short-lived. 2 days later I could only take an hour of suffering through the generally ill-prepared and art-naive ramblings at the All Candidates' Focus on the Arts meeting (where only two candidates seem to have done their homework). I greatly appreciated Vicki Schmolka's speaking about what experiencing the arts as a spectator actually does to her, and extrapolating that to how they can then transform a community. It was a huge relief to rush off to the Arts and Letters Club afterwards and be with real artists! Writer-in-Residence Stuart Ross was outrageously hilarious, in a poem rant about a boring play...and Trevor Strong is a truly bright light.

Still, we figured that a Queen's film dep't/Reelout presentation (connected to the much-anticipated 4D- Art Norman that visits the Baby Grand Oct. 27) would have to be better than that. The talk was almost the antithesis of animator McLaren's fluid style, but my favourite takeaway was watching the audience pretend not to notice the flickers of fairly hardcore porn inside part of the animation clips brought in by ReelOut.

It was hilarious watching the Grand Theatre employee contingent trying to act nonplussed about it all... and I immediately fantasized about the (uninformed/innocuous/evil) candidates from the previous evening sitting down for an evening of that sort of thing. Oh, they could probably endure the porn but I'm sure that mixing it into "art" would be far more than most of them could handle.

But one shouldn't tar all politicians with the same brush. I have to hand it to Bill Glover, who came out for all three hours of the very comprehensive Revealing Art seminar by Kamille Parkinson at the closing-soon Wellington Street Gallery. That's walking the walk. Or it makes you want to, afterwards. Happy Sitting...