Sunday, February 7, 2010

18 days, 15 shows, 1 looming circus

Last night's performance of Moon Water by Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre brought to a temporary close one of the most jam-packed two-and-a-half weeks of live art attendance I have experienced in recent memory. And it was a fittingly memorable conclusion, with Lin Hwai-Min's celebrated company weaving a magic mix of Western and Asian dance movements (including some deft martial arts moves) around selections from J.S. Bach's Six Suites for Solo Cello. The final movement, ending with the entire ensemble wading gracefully through water cascading over the stage floor, was simply gorgeous.

Later Richard and I put in a brief appearance at the PuSh Festival wrap party on Granville Island. It was, in my admittedly very biased opinion, another splendid festival, with virtually everything I attended sold out and a great buzz around the shows. Here's hoping we also made some money! And here's looking forward to next year, when Executive Director Norman Armour has some exciting plans afoot in conjunction with the 125th anniversary of the city.

Speaking of Granville Island, I had snuck out there earlier in the day to stock up on some supplies. It was even more of a zoo than normal. No doubt the gorgeous weather was partly to blame. But there was also no escaping the fact that the first big wave of Olympic visitors had arrived (one just had to listen to the mix of languages being spoken as various clumps of tourists parked themselves in front of different shopkeepers' vitrines and pointed and oohed and aahed, and generally blocked the aisles for everyone else like me on a specific time-based mission...). Downtown last night was also jumping, and cars everywhere were scrambling to deal with the most recent wave of road closures (both viaducts, Georgia and Dunsmuir, having recently been shut down).

There's no avoiding the Olympic onslaught, I guess, though I myself will miss the first weekend, as I'm off to Toronto tomorrow to give a couple of talks at the University of Toronto and the University of Guelph. I promised to lay off the VANOC-bashing in this blog for a while, but it is difficult not to shake one's head in disbelief at the litany of ironies piling up in the days before the opening ceremonies--starting with the weather, which has been sunny and unseasonably warm, hovering at or above 12 degrees celsius for the past two weeks. Winter, what winter?

Then there's the recent embarrassing revelation that VANOC had used footage from Leni Reifenstahl's Olympia in its Torch Relay promotional video! The announcement that the Norwegian ocean liner that was going to park itself off the coast and offer accommodation to visitors from out of town wasn't coming after all. An unflattering expose in the Guardian about how the Olympics were going to thrust the city into deep debt, while placing machine-gun toting soldiers on every street corner (so far they haven't appeared, though I am getting sick of the constantly circling helicopters). On top of the ongoing hand-wringing about how many medals will be won, as opposed to affordable housing units built as a legacy of the Games. And all while our erstwhile Premier steals a photo op on the new zip line installed across Robson Square...

Don't get me wrong--I'll be out there mixing it up with everyone else once I get back into town--mostly hanging out at the Candahar Bar (also on Granville Island), I expect, taking in the wonderful line-up of talks, shows, and parties organized by my friend Michael Turner and Reid Shier on behalf of Presentation House Gallery and the Cultural Olympiad. For better or worse, the five ring circus that is the Olympics is a mega-event one must definitely experience (especially given my own research on performance and place, as documented in this blog) up close and personal, and preferably with a video camera in tow. (See, by the way, an interesting article by Gary Stephen Ross in the latest Walrus Magazine, "A Tale of Two Cities," discussing Vancouver's local/global image in relation to the Olympics in much the same way I've been attempting to do in this blog, and the soon-to-be-released book to which it is connected. It's a bit glib for my liking--and there's no mention of the arts--but there are some great photos by Grant Harder.)

However, as I said to my students, who will likewise be documenting things over at the Performing Vancouver blog, the key part of this equation is to avoid getting arrested!


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