Saturday, August 8, 2015


On the Monday night of the long weekend, one of the joys of a Toronto summer opened in Withrow Park.

Each summer, for one brief, beautiful week, artistic director, Sylvie Bouchard, and a diverse array of invited performers and choreographers make dance magic happen in Toronto's Withrow Park.

The event has a kind of cheerful anarchy about it.  A genial Brad Brackenridge, in a festive blue tail coat and top hat, MC's the proceedings, introducing us to the performers at the beginning of each act, and blowing a vuvuzela to lead the audience from site to site.

DUSK DANCES takes place in five different areas within the park. Audiences experience an array of delightful dances by following Brackenridge from place to place. You can't get lost.  If the horn isn't enough for you, standard bearing assistants illuminate the pathways between the dances with fairy lights atop tall poles.

The pieces on offer showcase dance influenced by many performance styles, and world cultures, reflecting the diversity of Toronto's current dance scene. This is contemporary dance at its freshest, and unstuffiest.

Monday evening began with the renowned flameco dancer, Esmeralda Enrique performing a beautiful solo she created especially for this year's festival. RECURDOS has gorgeous live accompaniment by vocalist, Tamar Ilana, and guitarist, Michael Kavanaugh.  Powerful, elegant, and passionate, it was a beautiful beginning.

We moved from the flamenco stage, over to a nearby open field, beneath leafy trees, where choreographer Lua Shayenne and her four dancers: Miranda Liverpool, Kassi Scott, Natasha Phanor and Shireen Ali rained down physicality and energy in MURMURE de FEMME.  The piece is, according to the program notes, "an ode to the spirit of femininity in relation to Mother Earth."  Shayenne created an African contemporary dance for the park, driven by the beats of drummers, Derek Thorne and Yakadi Macru. They're an impressively dynamic crew with some jaw-dropping moves.

Next up was BELLA, a revival of Danny Grossman and Judy Jarvis's ode to Puccini, and the lovers in Marc Chagall's paintings. BELLA makes considerable demands of the dancers, both physically and technically, and Meredith Thompson and Michael Caldwell more than rose to the challenges presented. They were beautiful together, dancing on, and around Mary Kerr's Chagall-inspired painted pony.  It was a lyrical romantic duet to swoon for.

Then we were led further afield, to a clearing ornamented with strands of green and yellow fairy lights, where contemporary dance stalwarts, Sylvie Bouchard and Marie-Josee Chartier performed a charming and very funny duet, PHOTURIS VERSICOLOR. The piece is about two fire-fly femme fatale sisters reunited after separation at birth.  The droll and whimsical costumes by Cheryl Lalonde, and a guest "Photinus" appearance by Michael Caldwell really iced the cake. The little ones in the audience loved it!

The last dance of the night, DISCONCERTANTE is set on a group of five esteemed veterans of Canada's contemporary dance scene:  Karen Kaeja, Claudia Moore, Linnea Swan, Graham Mckelvie and Ron Stewart.  Choreographer Tedd Robinson poses a relational question, "When is it that we understand what is happening to us?" Robinson and company create a sophisticated and moving reflection on relationships, love, and mortality, with a lush underscore of Chopin.

Dusk Dances is a family-friendly, affordable, contemporary dance event.  If you've never seen a contemporary dance performance, this is a great introduction to the art form. If you love dance, this is certain to be one of the highlights of your summer. If you arrive early( 6:45 pm) dance master, Miko Sobreira is there with Guaracha y Son providing free salsa lessons.  Newbies are more than welcome.

By the way, I had an outdoor theatre producer tell me this summer,  if everyone who came to see a performance gave them $5, they would have no deficit.  Skip a latte this week, and support your local arts community.

DUSK DANCES continues in WITHROW PARK, beginning with free salsa lessons at 6:45 pm nightly, and at 1:45 pm on matinee days ( Thursday, and Sunday August 9th) . Performances begin at 2:30 PM (Thursday and Sunday) and 7:30 PM nightly, August 3rd to 9th.

WITHROW PARK is located one block SOUTH of the Danforth, between Logan and Carlaw, near Chester Subway Station. Admission is by donation.  

Sunday, August 2, 2015


At the urging of one of my BFFs and his adored consort, I went to see TRAINWRECK last night.

It's a rom-com, people:  humour, brain-candy, light entertainment. It's not rocket science, and certainly not a treatise on gender politics.  If it were, I'd be under the dining room table with a bottle of scotch right now, weeping quietly, while chasing away the bats.

Why, gentle readers?  As a woman, what lessons in love, dating, and hook-up sex did I take away from TRAINWRECK, Amy Schumer, the "feminist" comedy star's debut feature?

1. Your father, and your relationship with him, determine your future relationships with men.

2. If there's any chance you're going to be doing the walk of shame in the morning, stick a pair of flats in your purse. That way you look like less of an idiot getting on the ferry, hung-over, at 8:00 am, after your most recent toy-boy assignation.

3. Under the influence of copious amounts of alcohol, you will, on occasion, make poor sexual choices you will regret, or at least, not want to repeat. In short, choose your fuck buddies while you are still relatively sober.

4. Hot, stupid men remain stupid, and stupid gets old very quickly.

5. For some women, ladding it up is preferable to being the second wife of some guy in a pull-over, becoming a step-parent, and living in the 'burbs.  Yes, hell, yes!

6. Sleeping with a client/subject isn't always a career ending move.  Sleeping with an intern almost always is.

7. For women, certain types of very demanding jobs, and the bosses that come with them ( Tilda Swinton rules!) are fundamentally incompatible with the demands of a long-term relationship: especially if the woman with said demanding boss, is, at least occasionally, expected to be the supportive wife/girlfriend in the middle of a workday, in the middle of the week.

8. Other women, married women with kids, usually, will judge you for choosing to remain single, because they know you wouldn't want be stuck with one of their double standard wielding, pot-bellied, "keepers" for love or money, and they hate you for it.

9. Admit it, everyone wants to marry a rich, good looking, white doctor. Nothing else a North American woman achieves in her life will confer the social status of "doctor's wife".

10. If marrying a successful doctor is on your to-do list, in addition to being intelligent, attractive, funny, and having a successful career that you are willing to use to bolster his medical practice, you have to make like a cheerleader. This means you MUST be: pretty in an unaggressive, sexually non-threatening way, fit enough to look good in spandex, athletic, ingratiating, cheerful, and so desperate to land a husband, that you are willing to dance, and beg for love like a dog.

Seriously, she got the guy an article in Vanity Fair, and he didn't call her, send roses, and say thank you instantly?  He, and we should have been cheering for her success. Instead, she gets to grovel in a soft-porn costume.  If that's a happy ending, I'll take the bus.

In life, Schumer is 34, successful and single. It's that terrible age when many women realize that if they wanted to get married, they should have done it 10 years earlier, unless they are OK with being some 50 year old man's second, or third wife, or settling for a lame duck husband they'll have to carry financially, and emotionally.  The pickings, as a woman ages, are about as appealing as left-over salad bar. Yes, you can still get laid a lot, as any woman who has ever been on a dating site knows.  Finding an equal partner: that's another story.

For many women, it is often MUCH BETTER to be single, than to be married. However, all rom-coms must end with a happy couple.

So Amy, thanks for the laughs.  You're a funny, talented woman, and a damn fine actress.  He's a cute guy and if you're happy, I'm happy for you.  Just don't expect me to fist-pump, and shout "hurrah" when you put on a cheerleader costume to land the doctor.

Tonight, I'm going to rent a Mae West movie.