At the beginning of every year, PuSh Festival brings the performing arts community to life in Vancouver.
Its genre-defying shows blur the boundaries between, theater, dance, music, and even technology-based design. With the festival's eleventh iteration underway, I caught up with curator Joyce Rosario to chat about this year's incredible range of works and the different ways Vancouverites to enjoy the programming.
There is something for everyone at PuSh Fest, whether you're a broke student getting into the Vancouver arts scene (like me), or a performing arts industry veteran.
One performance that promises to be especially visually arresting is Kate McIntosh's "Dark Matter." The performance will incorporate speech, music, and dance, and deals with some heavy subjects: time, space, and existence. The show "will feature a woman in a green sparkly dress, two men in suits, on-stage home science experiments, and a star-cloth," Rosario tells me.
By contrast, "Sea Sick" will use a harsh, minimal format to deliver its equally gripping subject matter. Journalist Alanna Mitchell will present, using only a table and chalkboard, her inquiry into the state of our oceans. The performance has been described by The Charlebois Post as "a fantastic example of how to bring journalism, especially science journalism, to the masses."
This year the festival is also offering unique offsite element: the "very meta" Experience Spheres, designed in collaboration with Tangible Interaction, a local design company that creates sensory, participant-driven art installations.
"When you go into a theater, you're going into this world," Rosario says. "They were interested in creating something that would be more of a one-on-one experience, but then installing them out in public spaces, where people would be observing the person having that experience." The Experience Spheres will be installed at the Vancouver Art Gallery's FUSE party on January 30, as well as a variety of outdoor locations. After the festival, they will be moved to BAF Studios.
Rosario says it's important that young people can afford to attend the festival's events, so they created the PuSh Youth Passport, which allows those aged 16 to 24 see up to five shows for five dollars each.
"Price was the biggest barrier [to seeing live performance art] when I was a student," Rosario says. "It seemed crazy that those very people that are studying dance and theater can't get out and see the things they want to spend their careers doing. The other thing is that you want theater to be social, and this makes it easy to make going to show a social event."
What's exciting about PuSh is how for a few weeks, there's something happening all over the city.
The other night, my friend and I showed up in the pouring rain to use our Youth Passport tickets to see the contemporary circus act "Séquence 8." With only 10 minutes to spare, we realized the big, talkative crowd outside meant we weren't getting in, so we flew a few blocks across downtown to the Scotiabank Dance Centre, where Belgian dancer Lisbeth Gruwez's "It's Going to Get Worse and Worse and Worse My Friends" was playing. We got inside just as the lights went dim.