Bike Beauty | Amelia

June 26, 2012

“Where are you going, Ameliaaaaaaa?” I call out as indefatigable La Mamma & I try to catch up to the little weiner on 2 wheels.

Mere seconds before, 2-year old Amelia was warming up on her Louis Garneau with her Mommy’s gentle support. Then, she suddenly ditched that bike with training wheels and hopped onto her trusty Strider balance bike and embarked on a wild ride around the neighbourhood.

So out the backyard we went, chasing the toddler biker up the street. Had we been able to read minds, we would’ve known that Amelia sees bike travel as the most efficient way to check up on her friendly neighbour, Nico. He was in, fortunately, and the two had enough time to exchange greetings with each other just before Nico’s parents whisked him away for fun-time errands (like, Costco? Ikea? Unfortunately, we’ll never know).

So it was back to the house for us hosers. The little tyke suffered no playtime defeat, however, and made the most out of the kiddie castle in the backyard. After chucking the Strider and kicking off her pink runners, she scaled that fortress like a monkey. To be honest, we were a little scared when she tossed off her Nutcase watermelon helmet. But before we could say anything, she conquered the big red slide and slid down to blissful safety onto the soft, familiar grass that only exists in the best backyards.

Welcome home, Amelia.


It’s (June) Bike Month in Toronto! And H&P salutes spiffy riders who take care of themselves by putting safety first. Read about last year’s Bike All-Stars.

Bitter Tea by Little Pear Garden Collective | Winchester Street Theatre, Toronto | Oct 14 & 15, 2011

Stria by Chartier Danse | Enwave Theatre Harbourfront, Toronto | Oct 14 & 15, 2011

The personal experiences of 2 different female figures were at the heart of things this past weekend. Little Pear Garden Collective’s Bitter Tea is steeped in the rise & tribulations of Chinese silent-era actress Ruan Lingyu while Stria (pictured, above), by Chartier Danse, is inspired by Marie-Josée Chartier’s transformative trip through Badland territory.

While developing separate pieces with 2 different choreographers, Emily Cheung, LPGC’s artistic director, merged two creative ideas to form Bitter Tea. Moody, abstract emotions channeled through traditional movement by Jack Shi connected various scenes of Jeffrey Chan’s choreographic biography of starlet Ruan.  Cheung also expands the tight-knit company with guest dancers Malgorzata Nowacka, Ryan Lee, Brendan Wyatt – who impart their unique dance backgrounds to the traditional feel of the piece.

Ruan (played by Cheung) first flutters across the stage like a blur but we’re soon formally introduced to her on-screen. Some hero expounds on her seemingly chaste, powdered & rouged beauty. Then, back on stage, Ruan reveals her true self only as a sensual shadow behind paper screen in between transforming into other film roles (nun, peasant, prostitute). She exposes her nurturing side in a tender & playful duet with her adopted daughter (which dancer Bridgitte Tsang portrays convincingly). A trio takes their place like sets of undulating mountains in a shifting landscape and eventually close the scene as an ensemble of 4. A deep crimson backdrop intensifies a tango & melodramatic love triangle between Ruan and her 2 lovers. Her swan song signals her eventual suicide, which is visually delineated by a path of rose petals and ends with elegaic tableau.

Marie-Josée Chartier’s dark & sometimes zany self-portrait, on the other hand, traverses unconventional terrain in her solo work, Stria. Buried in darkness and crumbling audio, her cloaked figure emerges like a perpetually changing rock surface. Her assured movements are refreshing, whether working through free falling sequences or navigating passages with her puppet companion (which she uses throughout for friendly company and self-reflective mirror). Following a nightmarish scene full of kid teasing, Chartier breaks into her first vocal play. “Come inside,” “relaaaaax,” she coos to the audience. The invitation grows into goading & chiding as she flips into a very non-relaxed, Borat tone. The crescendos build into piercing squawks, which become absorbed in the sonic landscape of bird chirps. Ears are given a rest while she shows off crane-like leg work. The cloak returns but this time, worn backwards, she hangs on striking poses like a dispirited rag doll. After a stormy passage, Chartier eases softly into silent screams, which cascades audibly into a fine sheets of mesmerizing vocal dexterity.

An announcement about the Badlands comes through the system. The simple, sparse network of intertwining wire that encircles the stage walls resemble distinct geological striations. Chartier ruminates on the powerfully confusing nature of this land – the myriad of colour, millions of years of life captured in sediment, massive perspective, huge distance. Despite the fact its sheer geography is beyond human scale, there’s something completely human about the land holding our deepest collective memories in every one of its striae.

Chagall and the Russian Avant-Garde | Art Gallery of Ontario | Oct 18, 2011 – Jan 5, 2012

118 pieces by 20 Russian artists revolve around Marc Chagall’s distinctively wild, vividly colourful & poetic paintings in Chagall and the Russian Avant-Garde: Masterpieces from the Collection of the Centre Pompidou, Paris. His work subtly incorporates the various styles that he & compatriots encountered while living in Russia and France (cubo-futurism, constructivism, folk art, expresssionism). Here, Chagalls stand among Natalia Goncharova & Mikhail Larinov’s neo-primitivist canvases and Kasimir Malevich’s abstractions. They all underscore ideas of community and heritage that specifically link Chagall to various modern masters.

Broken into 5 themes, the exhibition begins with Russia: In Search of Roots, which showcases artifacts, mostly Russian icons, from Wassily Kandinsky’s personal studio and paintings completed prior to 1910 depicting traditional and rural life. In the Artistic Advances in Paris & Russia (1911-14) section, the influence of radical French painters such as Cezanne & Matisse on his Russian peers’ abstract explorations and Chagall’s own signature developments (eg. floating figures, bold use of colour) are hallmarks of their travels to Paris. The Return to Russia room indicates the outbreak of WWI and the return of Russian artists to their homeland. After the 1917 revolution, Chagall became Arts Commissar for his native province of Vitebsk. But a new, non-objective type of aesthetic, Constructivism, soon took over the state. It was loaded with politics and plenty of geometric abstraction – the opposite of Chagall’s finely tuned figurative painting. Gueorgii A. Stenberg’s craning Spatial Equipment towers & Dziga Vertov’s Soviet experimental film Man with a Movie Camera, which is projected onto a diagonal wall, bisect the Art & Revolution area. The final room, entitled World of Theatre & Circus, teems with Chagall’s childhood fascination with theatre & circus.  Fanciful stages bursting with animals and performers become perfect mirrors for the joys & sorrows in real life. The Dance & Blue Circus (pictured, above) hang side by side, and dominate the back wall while neatly referencing the stained glass masterpieces that he would eventually begin later in his career.

Don’t worry if you didn’t make the splashy, black tie Chagall Ball gala that started with a (raspberry vodka martini-fueled) cocktail hour with hits like chicken liver mousse profiteroles & deviled eggs n’ caviar, and a suitably lavish, sit-down dinner. For $65, indulge in a prix fixe dining experience by FRANK’s executive chef Anne Yarymowich and chef du cuisine Martha Wright that will surely make any Russophile cry sweet, beet-scented tears. Includes Chagall admission & audio guide. Otherwise, purchase exhibition-only tix before Oct 18 and save 20%.

A set of in-depth, translated essays from “Chagall et l’avant-garde Russe,” edited by Angela Lampe from the Centre Pompidou, is also available for free, online perusal. Complete French catalogue is at ShopAGO.

ProArteDanza Season 2011 | NextSteps Harbourfront Centre, Fleck Dance Theatre | until Oct 8, 2011

Together, the 4 pieces in ProArteDanza’s  Season 11 continue to narrow the gap between the ballet & modern dance worlds.  In Werbowen (2008), shadows & geometric moments of half-light perfectly frame the splendid, balls-out athletic choreography by ProArteDanza co-founder & artistic associate, Robert Glumbek. En Parallèle (2011), pictured, a passionate duet by artistic director Roberto Campanella, is no less intense. In their strict universe, the dancers’ bodies are both bound by each other and serve as catalysts for fiery action, including Marissa Parzei’s dazzling pointe bits. After a break, Kevin O’Day’s choreographic gift specially made for Mami Hata & Louis Laberge-Côté after they danced with his Mannheim Ballet (Germany), shifts toward nocturnal blues in Pearline (2011). The National Ballet‘s principal, Guillame Côté, is a real multi-tasker (ballerino, musician, choreographer). His creation, Fractals: a pattern of chaos, which is set to string-kissed, drill n’ bass tracks by Venetian Snares, closes the programme. Microscopic & frenetic movements in isolated regions of single dancers weave themselves through the 7 other bodies on stage. During a more fluid duet, Johanna Bergfelt‘s tight facial expression simultaneously conveys absolute vacancy & distressing urgency, an interesting duality that could be a riff on ProArteDanza’s very aim at fusing ballet & modern.

Art | Light Learning

September 28, 2011

Weston Family Learning Centre | Art Gallery of Ontario | 317 Dundas St West, Toronto

After three years of (re)building and $20 million ($12M courtesy of the Weston Family & $7.5M from the Feds), the AGO has just unveiled its new, state-of-the-art, light-filled space that will facilitate community learning and hands-on fun for all.

Prior to the reconstruction, the 35,000 sq. ft. area, which was also dedicated to the Gallery’s education programs, exuded all the physical charm of a storage unit. Siamak Hariri (Hariri Pontarini Architects) was tasked with a retrofit that required integration of the new Learning Centre with the rest of the Gallery and flexible use of its new functional spaces. Whether accessing via the Beverley/Dundas staircase lined with Evan Penny sculpture casts or strolling in from the Community Gallery, the Education Commons is a welcoming, multipurpose space that can easily host hungry school groups (with ample for rows of picnic-style tables), evening receptions (suspended metal coat hanging units look more like sculptures and can be hoisted towards the ceiling during functions) or ping pong face-offs (seriously!).  At the Youth Centre, teens will no doubt enjoy wi-fi and the Free After Three (after school) program. They are free to polish off homework, engage in a new slate of studio courses, attend monthly workshops or get their table tennis on. Little ones can go nuts in the Hands-On Centre, during drop-in visits and scheduled classes/workshops throughout the year. The jungle of toys & activities are just the beginning. The room is also maxed out with play tables that rise or disappear through hydraulic magic and shelves that apparently, hide all Murphy-like. (where are the rain forest showers?) Moving on past the immaculate floating conference room, one makes its way down into the spacious Gallery School. This is technically subterranean territory. But two-storey jumbo glass floods the open-concept studio with natural light. In keeping with design objectives, the space accommodates all-ages classes, visible sculpture vaults and swanky soirées.

As the new AGO Artist-in-Residence, Winnipeg-born Paul Butler will conduct his Post-Post Graduate Studies for the public. Expect yoga in the Gallery, cycling tours through the city, movie nights & film/video jam sessions. Get a taste for his practice this Saturday, Oct 1 when he hosts The Other Painting Competition (Guy Maddin in a painting competition?!) during Nuit Blanche. Oh, and if you have the magic words, you might also gain entrance to a VIP culinary installation by Jamie Kennedy‘s daughter in the floating conference room.

Dance | From Thine Eyes

September 24, 2011

from thine eyes | Enwave Theatre – Harbourfront Centre | until Sept 24, 2011

Danceworks season opener, from thine eyes, starts heavy as it journeys into three stories about life, death and the passage that lies between both. With reference to the passage in the Qu’ran, “Lift the veil from thine eyes,” the piece delves into mature subject matter. Yet the urgent choreography (by Michael Greyeyes) and woven-in text (written by Yvette Nolan) during each scenario make them feel like essential meditations.

A prelude establishes grim tone when the 6 dancers claw back their pristine set to reveal a morbid, gulag-like site while our ears are churned by FM-synthesized drones. Then, a sonorous bit of Mahler. A loner fraught with an addictive & violent past painfully assaults a minister within church walls, which then transform into a dank household. A husband & wife cycle through an abrasive pas de deux that highlights the abuse & dysfunction in their relationship. Then the monoliths are hoisted away as giant, sheer curtains unfurl from the ceiling. Another couple exchanges movement and lament their unborn child. The daughter-that-never-was soon materializes. She navigates the blood-strewn path in which her parents literally toil, and engages them in dream-like play. Finally, a struggling doctor is joined by her departed patients as she reconciles her own mortality.

from thine eyes image |

Painting on Paper: the Drawings of Robert Motherwell | AGO | until Dec 11, 2011

This summer, Abstract Expressionist New York – Masterpieces from The Museum of Modern Art deploys a survey of key New York School artists from the 1950s at the Art Gallery of Ontario. Within this definitive collection of a hundred-plus works is the monumental painting Elegy to the Spanish Republic, 108 (1965-67) by Robert Motherwell. He is also the subject of the newly launched exhibition Painting on Paper: the Drawings of Robert Motherwell. These pieces from the Gallery’s own vast collection of paintings and drawings trace the evolution of one of the Abstract Expressionist movement’s most passionate leaders and eloquent voices.

With support of the Dedalus Foundation, which Motherwell founded to promote public understanding of modern art, Painting on Paper highlights work that he produced between the 1940s and the 1970s. The various themes and specific series in the chronology underscore the significance of the large Motherwell painting that stands in the penultimate room of the Abstract Expressionist New York exhibition. The recurring motifs and technical developments in his early pieces, Automatic drawings, Open paintings, selections from the Lyric Suite and studies for Elegy to the Spanish Republic all tell a story about the Abstract Expressionist painter who formed astute responses to his (American and European) surroundings while striving to capture intensely personal feelings in new ways.

Several factors in his background and genteel upbringing distinguished Motherwell from his artistic peers. He was deeply aware of European art traditions and the continent’s Modern movement in particular. The artist noted that few artists in the New York School were born in the United States or were of English-speaking descent.  Mark Rothko came from Russia as a boy and Hans Hoffman emigrated from Germany when he was fifty-two years old. Motherwell, meanwhile, was raised along the American west coast and studied philosophy at Stanford before pursuing graduate studies at Harvard University. Upon returning Stateside from his Parisian sojourn in the early 1940s, he entered artist circles and shifted his focus towards painting though he continued to write, teach and conduct lectures throughout his life. His academic practice and keen interest in Europe informed his artistic endeavours, which made him an authority on Modern painting.

Works such as The Three Clowns (1945), under the section Early Explorations 1942 – 49, show a deft response to Picasso’s early harlequins. Its delineated forms and play between shape and colour showcase a fully Modern palette.

The Three Clowns

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Unravelling the Tight Weave at VIVID4 | Winchester Street Theatre | until Sun, June 26, 2011

There’s something universal in between the visible strains of method and bits of madness in Unravelling the Tight Weave, choreographed by Kathleen Rea (REAson d’etre). From a cryptic, Norse backstory, she’s assembled a range of dancers with various ages, body types and skin tones who run, roll, collide into and boost one another (and the props) during series of movement that have evolved from contact improv. A mix of avant/jazz, Mediterranean-inflected strums of folk, pulsing Radiohead and serpentine Massive Attack feature different string-based textures & melodies. Sometimes the focus of the piece lies in the tension between individual dancers who engage in forceful & light-hearted play. Oftentimes, the ensemble weaves itself in & out of patterns while treating a giant, scarf-like piece as a guideline or lifeline or even discarded viscera. It’s when the rolling, larger-than-life balls of yarn seem to transform from mere props into cosmic orbs that the dancers become clusters of stars, each containing personal and collective trajectories.

The Wild in Us, another REAson d’etre production featuring dancers & grads of George Brown Dance, and an outdoor interactive knitting installation precedes Unravelling.

Tix here

Unravelling image | via REAson d’etre Dance

Bike Dude | BMX Brand

June 21, 2011


It was mere weeks ago that BMX Brand smashed up his knee for the umpteenth time on his zippy two-wheeler. His physio advised him that cycling would actually get that leg in tip-top shape pronto – provided both wheels were always on the ground. So when he arrived all dapper, we thought we were in for a tame shoot. Silly wabbit. It wasn’t long before the dude was pulling bunny hops and ollies. What, would you stop him? When was the last time you saw someone perform BMX tricks decked out in a trench, bow tie and highly buffed Allen Edmonds in blazing walnut?

The Ride: This red zinger is a 1-yr old Black Eye – Park Pro that probably won’t look pristine for much longer. Seat’s jammed down real low to the frame and out of the way to accommodate his vast arsenal of tricks. But he just might lay low for a while this summer. Dude tells me that he’s awaiting delivery for an exquisite, folding Brompton!

H&P will be featuring various Bike Beauties & Studs during June Bike Month in the Toronto area. Think you, your bike & helmet are sexy enough? Just holler: bloggerrhea/at/gmail. Previously: Reel GalsCoach Collier | Hazel Hurricanes | Christine | Inaugural Bike Hotties 

Music | NXNE feast

June 16, 2011

NORTH BY NORTHEAST | until June 19, 2011

Sure, there’s so much to catch at NXNE but that means stumbling on plenty of music that you didn’t know that you love. There’s only so much Myspacing & sampling online one can do to get an indication of just how hard an act will rock your socks from the stage. Best thing is to show up and be pleasantly surprised.

Visitors from la belle provence include The Luyas (made up of members from Arcade Fire & Belle Orchestre), ex-Calgarians Braids, elegaic Grimes and the always energetic, sweaty Handsome Furs. Wonder what a Pang Attack sounds like?

Western Canada has some lo-fi, minimal Dirty Beaches, as well as synth gloom from Mode Moderne.

Why not say Hi to some of our neighbours from down south? Brothertiger’s chilled-out synths won’t bite, but Superhumanoids’ just might. Beware of Woodsman’s tandem drummers while taking in The Dig’s rawk swagger. Maybe cool off with catchy n’ sludgy Lower Dens.

You may want to donate your air miles to some of the following overseas bands… Kovak (UK) make great synth pop while Belle Phoenix (London) does macabre anthems.  Thrashers My Skin Against Your Skin (Taipei) have a very good band name indeed. Bensh (Vienna) keep the electro up, MIRI (Iceland) are likely to roll through the softs & louds and bet Unfamiliar Friends Party (Taipei) will try their hardest to exhilarate with their danceable laptop set (dance-top?) – no subtitles required to dig in.

If you choose to go local, Snowblink spew delightful pop, Mathew Maaksant chugs out folksy electronics and Light Fires’ synth-heavy madness features Regina.

The annual festival offers lots of other goodies outside club venues. The solid line-up of presentations at NXNEi(nteractive) seem wildly popular. They’re already  sold out! So why not see a film after rubbing the sleep-snot out of your eyes or warm up with a free concert at Yonge-Dundas Square (with mighty jumbo screen in the nose-bleed section)?

Ticket/wristband info here.

NXNE banner | via NXNE