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SummerWorks 2016 Picks

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SummerWorks is Canada’s largest curated performance festival of theatre, music, dance, and live art – and is held right here in downtown Toronto! The 2016 SummerWorks Performance Festival kicks off next Thursday August 4, with over 60 performances occurring over the span of 11 days and involving more than 500 artists.

To help you choose from the vast assortment of innovative, challenging, and original performances offered in this year’s festival, I have highlighted a few of my favourites – shows perfect for the adventurous concert-goer!


1. Imaginary Anthropologies

Written, composed, and performed by Soundstreams Emerging Composer Workshop Alumni (13’) Gabriel Dharmoo, Imaginary Anthropologies (Anthropologies imaginaires) combines extraordinary vocal performance, video projection, and theatricality in a video mockumentary on invented vocal traditions. During the performance, on-screen “experts” comment on these invented vocal traditions, demonstrated by the singer-performer.  These “traditions” are inspired by various odd and/or isolated vocal expression found across the world, but revisited through imaginary folklore and experimental extended voice techniques.

I had a chance to experience this extremely imaginative theatrical work earlier this year (in Vancouver via Music on Main) and I would highly recommend this show to anyone looking for a thought-provoking yet playfully funny work!

Watch the trailer for Imaginary Anthropologies on Vimeo:

In Soundstreams 2016/17 season, Gabriel Dharmoo will be premiering a new choral work at Nelson Mandela University Choir.

2. Lessons In Temperament, Sarite Harris

Both the piano and the mind are unique in their imperfection.

In Lessons of Temperament Toronto-based composer/sound designer James Smith tunes pianos, exploring theories behind Equal Temperament as well as his three older brothers’ mental illnesses: obsessive compulsive disorder, autism, and schizophrenia. Each performance takes place in a different venue around a different piano, in various public and private spaces throughout Toronto.

Lessons in Temperament

“It’s a lovely performance metaphor: the tuning of pianos, the tuning of our hearts and minds, our lives. It’s might be a Sisyphean task but: ‘the struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill one’s heart’. (Camus)”
– Guillermo Verdecchia

This autobiographical, site-specific work of performance art offers a unique and challenging theatrical experience.

3. Bleeders

Written and directed by recent Toronto Arts Foundation Award Nominee d’bi young anitafrika, Bleeders is the culminating play in her Orisha Trilogy.  An Afro-futurist dub-opera set in Ontario, Bleeders follows a group of Black woman who form a small council amidst an explosion at the Pickering Nuclear Plant and explores how we find hope against oppression, repression, and ecological degradation.

I’m attempting with “Bleeders” to be deeply inspired by the pantomime genre and to create this heavy social commentary piece that is looking at a theory that has been kicking around in anthropological circles for a few decades now.

– d’bi.young anitafrika

This ‘dub-opera’ traces roots to the tradition of pantomimes in Jamaica, large-scale musicals in local language that use Jamaican musical forms. Exploring interesting themes and concepts of both the present and the future, Bleeders is perfect for theatre and music lovers seeking an edgy, thought-provoking, and powerful show.

You can check out the teaser trailer for Bleeders on Vimeo:

4. one small thing

Created by Toronto-based dance artist Mairéad Filgate in collaboration with the piece’s performers, one small thing is a new site-specific work that encourages us to find beauty in the mundane. In real-time, dancers respond to their surroundings, weaving the audience into the architecture of the dance.

one small thing

These exceptional performers take residence in public space to look at what already exists, creating choreography from and in real-time. Noticing, looking, and seeing, their observations become part of the fabric of the body and through this they highlight their creative surveillance for us the viewer, while details of gesture and functional movement become interwoven with their environment.

– Jenn Goodwin

By framing our surroundings in new ways one small thing unveils the beauty already and always present in a space while blurring the line between everyday and performance.

5. Summer Drift

Summer Drift is an interactive performance experience blurring the line between participant and audience. Ten performers set at ten musical stations will work with the audience to create a tapestry of meditative sounds and drones immersing the space. The result is the creation of an inverse nightclub that is relaxing, transportive, and communal, encouraging the audience to interact and create their own ‘mix’ within the space.

Summer Drift - 1

This interactive musical experience drifts participants from contemporary life through immersive sounds and relaxation-perfect for the savvy concert goer eager to get their hands dirty in performance creation.

P.S. pillows and mats are provided for extra relaxation!

SummerWorks 26 kicks of next Thursday, August 4th. Don’t miss Toronto’s most original, exciting and stimulating summer festival! Get your tickets here.

– Kat Gimon

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