Let us love: The ‘Sun Comes Out’ at Portland Opera

Queer-themed Canadian opera makes U.S. premiere at Hampton Opera Center

FEBRUARY 2, 2022

BYANGELA ALLEN, OREGON ARTSWATCH

When the Sun Comes Out opened in 2013 in Canada, commissioned by the Vancouver Queer Arts Festival.

Now, a long eight years later, the new-music opera by Japanese-Canadian Leslie Uyeda with a gorgeous libretto by Canadian poet Rachel Rose, finally premieres in the United States. It opened Jan. 28 at Portland Opera’s Hampton Opera Center for six performances through Feb. 12. Five have sold out, though the day I went, the 154-seat space was at least a third empty. Many opera-goers may have decided to watch from home when the opera is available digitally on Portland Opera Onscreen for a limited time starting Feb. 25.

But the big question: Why do these eye-opening pieces take so long to reach us? In 2015, gay marriage was legalized in the United States. It was 2005 in Canada, and in 2002, the Netherlands pioneered it. Gay marriage is old news in the Western world, from a political standpoint, though the opera was written and sung in English. Of course there are more complex ramifications to gay marriage than legalization.

And in at least 65 other countries same-sex marriage remains a crime, many times a death sentence. And that’s what this opera is all about — and it’s about love being blind to politics: love is love, even more if you have to fight for it.

The Hampton’s intimate Hinckley Studio Theatre can be reconfigured for different shows, and this one, with the audience on three sides, left the stage to the performers. Only a pile of pale furniture morphed into a table here, a bed there. The five musicians and conductor were tucked away in a corner.

Christine A. Richardson’s simple white and beige costumes (other than the rugged mannish one worn by the intense, plucky Solana performed by soprano Cree Carrico) and Cynthia Felice’s set were neutral, indicating a lack of place other than the inside of a home, perhaps a reference to Covid’s claustrophobia. Still, there was a shawl that turned into a head scarf for Lilah (mezzo Sandra Piques Eddy), the woman who now has a child and is desperately sought out again by Solana after an affair three years earlier.

So perhaps that head scarf and mention of lemon trees in Lilah’s courtyard were clues to the setting, though the symbolism did not hit you over the head. In contrast, Solana was dressed like a Canadian explorer — hat, staff and shoulder bag. The suspenders on the two men’s costumes were a nice touch. The detail gave off a pioneer vibe, and in this opera, there are pioneers. This is a country-less, timeless piece.

As much as I adored the poetic libretto loaded with images and metaphor about two very different women— Solana comes off as daring, dangerous, brave and fickle; Lilah is a wealthy (her emerald jewels are mentioned), obedient wife and mother— who fall for each other in an unknown country where gay sex is criminalized, I was not overwhelmed by the opera. 

The music falls into the category of new music, with distinctively Asian touches, and tempos were notably uneven and melody uncommon. Many listeners’ ears are not tuned to those musical values, though others of us crave and embrace brave new operas. The five Portland Opera Orchestra principals who played (cellist Dylan Rieck, flutist GeorgeAnne Rieg, clarinetist Louis DeMartino, violinist Margaret Bichteler and pianist Sequoia) conducted by Maria Sensi Sellner were excellent despite the difficult score, and never overwhelmed the singers. At times, the subtle music vanished into a backdrop, and I wish I could recall more of it.

Two dancers–Sophie Beadie and Aaron Petite of Portland’s Shaun Keylock Company–reflected complex emotions, mostly comforting with their movements the performers’ angst, but sometimes enhancing their fury. Graceful and almost soundless, they were a welcome addition to the production, and very much a part of the show’s fabric, somehow sorting out searingly difficult feelings and memories.

Then about 50 minutes into the 80-minute opera, guess who appears? A man. This is no longer a lesbian opera if that’s what you were banking on.The story gets more interesting and the stakes go higher.

Baritone Michael Parham, plays the part of Lilah’s husband, Javan. And guess what? He has a vey big secret: He’s gay, too, and has named their beloved daughter after a favorite lover, Azhar, who was killed for homosexual behavior. (Javan has intense survivor’s guilt.)

Everyone is suddenly in the same boat, despite the jealousy and secrets, and they can kill each other off before the state does, or they can help one another to forge a new future. They choose the latter after much saber-rattling and knife-drawing, and an overwhelming reason is the child — the future, a factor that the stubborn Solana must accept. Lilah and Javan must accept a new family configuration with Solana. After all, the opera is called When the Sun Comes Out; its message is ultimately hopeful.

The opera picked up with the entrance of Parham, a former PO resident artist, who has a strong voice and weighty stage presence. He added his baritone to Carrico’s soprano and to Eddy’s lovely warm mezzo (she sings often at the Met and was praised profusely for her 2015 PO Carmen performance and for the Carmen she sang twice on tour with Seiji Ozawa).

Carrico’s voice calmed down as the performance lengthened. She is a coloratura soprano and has quite a bit of ping and ring to her voice. Some call it squillo, which according to my online source is:

the resonant, trumpet-like sound in the voices of opera singers. It is also commonly called ring, ping, core and other terms. Squillo enables an essentially lyric tone to be heard over thick orchestrations, e.g., in late Verdi, Puccini and Strauss operas.

Too much and the voice sounds shrill.

And there was no thick orchestration to be heard over. Perhaps Carrico was directed to sing more stridently in the first part of the opera to show off her bravado. “I will never be a wife or a bride in dazzling white,” she sings early on. The opera space is small and the audience is on top of the singers, so the pinging and ringing were especially apparent. Eventually–most notably with Parham’s entrance–the singers harmonized in duets and trios, and there was nothing more beautifully rendered and orchestrated in the opera, without the least bit of sentimentality, than the last line: “Let us love.”

Vancouver composer Leslie Uyeda’s When The Sun Comes Out sees its U.S. premiere at Portland Opera, January 28

Originally commissioned and produced by the Queer Arts Festival, opera explores forbidden love in a nation where homosexuality is banned.

BY JANET SMITH, STIR VANCOUVER

A PIONEERING OPERA about oppression and the LGBTQSIA+ community is set to see its American premiere.

Vancouver composer, pianist, and conductor Leslie Uyeda’s groundbreaking When the Sun Comes Out, with a libretto by Vancouver poet Rachel Rose, opens at the Portland Opera on January 28.

When The Sun Comes Out was composed between 2011 and 2012 as a commission for the Vancouver Queer Arts Festival, where it premiered in 2013, followed by performances in Toronto in 2014. It was billed at the time as “Canada’s first lesbian opera”.

The opera is a poetic love story following resistance against a fictional state that oppresses lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people. It centres on the rebellious Solana and her beloved Lilah, who is now a wife and mother; together, they fight for a new future, even as their secret romance is threatened by Lilah’s unpredictable husband, Javan.

The live Portland production, staged at the Hampton Opera Center, features a cast that includes Sandra Piques Eddy, Cree Carrico, and Michael Parham, under conductor Maria Sensi Sellner and director Alison Moritz. The music comes courtesy of a quintet of Portland Opera Orchestra musicians, featuring violin, cello, flute, clarinet, and piano. The piece also integrates original dance by Portland’s Shaun Keylock Company.

At the time of the premiere here, Uyeda, a onetime chorus director for Vancouver Opera, revealed she had long dreamed of writing a lesbian opera in a genre that often centres on heterosexual love stories. Both she and the poet she found to create the libretto are queer artists. (Rose was Vancouver’s Poet Laureate from 2014 to 2017.)

Reflecting on the ongoing relevance of the piece in the American-premiere announcement yesterday, Lesie Uyeda said, “Written before social movements that began in the United States such as #MeToo and Black Lives Matter, and before the tragedy in Orlando, I’ve asked myself how different the opera might be if it had been written within the last two or three years.

“What is the difference between what I wanted to say then and what I would say now? Sadly, I think that the issues the opera was talking about ten years ago are more than relevant today. For this reason, I am so grateful to Portland Opera for including When The Sun Comes Out in their 2021-2022 season.”

Here’s why a piano was lit on fire in Mountain View Cemetery this weekend

By: Brendan Kergin, Vancouver is Awesome

An unusual sight lit the city’s only cemetery this past weekend.

On the evening of Sunday, Oct. 24, a piano was set on fire as a woman in a red (fire-proof) gown played two new songs.

This was a piece of transdisciplinary art, though a piece with plenty of ceremonial aspects, involving sound and visual pieces.

Rachel Kiyo Iwaasa, the pianist, was performing a local version of Piano Burning put on by the Queer Arts Festival (QAF) and Full Circle: First Nations Performance. Originally conceived of in 1968 by avant-garde composer Annea Lockwood, the local version carried extra meaning given the current state of the world, location, and participants, says SD Holman, the founding artistic director emeritus at the QAF.

A central theme has to do with the involvement of Indigenous peoples in the performance. Among other parts, there was a four directions dance preceding the piano performance, and the original songs played as the piano was lit on fire were created by local composer and member of the Lil’wat Nation Russell Wallace.

Piano Burning, in this context, resembled a fire ceremony. Fire ceremonies were a part of Coast Salish culture banned by the federal government along with potlatches.

“The music, the dance and all the ritualistic aspects of things were basically performed not openly in the community,” Wallace says. “Back in the 40s when the songs were coming back out, my mom was part of that movement of bringing the music back to the community.”

Through the flames items are sent to ancestors and those who’ve passed. For Holman it was a way to send music to their wife. For Wallace the ceremonial impact of his work didn’t hit until the piano his songs were being played and the piano was burning.

“I wrote it with the intention of sending music up to my parents who were both very supportive of me being involved in music,” he tells Vancouver is Awesome. “I had a moment there I was like, ‘Wow, this is kind of heavy with meaning.'”

Part of that weighty moment comes from the fact it was held in a cemetery. Holman notes another layer of the piece has to do with the fact a piano is an item from European and colonial cultures, while it was burned in a fire ceremony with many Indigenous aspects involved.

“Europeans burn things in effigy, it’s a violent concept,” she notes. “Indigenous people burn not what’s despised, but what’s cherished.”

Another aspect is an environmental statement, since the wooden object burns; the fact the performance had to be delayed due to the fire ban over the summer only adds to that. Additionally, there are the recent headlines about residential schools in Canada, a part of history that’s only recently been seeing more light.

“We have to learn to reconcile the difference between what we’re taught and the history we can no longer deny with all the residential schools,” Holman says.

Central to all the layers is the transformative nature of fire.

“It’s this beautiful thing; how we’re directly witnessing matter change to energy, just as we transform from matter to energy when we die,” says Holman.

Wallace wrote two pieces of music just to be played as the piano was destroyed. In both cases he leaned on Coast Salish styles to inform the songs.

“Being a knitter, I’ve knitted before, and patterns, repeating patterns, slightly altering them to create designs are important,” he says. “That was the idea of the compositions. Repetition with slight changes to create a design.”

Since he’d never written for piano before Iwaasa, the pianist in the flame retardant gown (and co-founder of QAF), helped. She had actually approached Wallace in the first place about creating the music.

While the music was central to the performance, Wallace notes the visual of the piano was interesting.

“Once it got darker and the piano was ablaze it was really visually striking and kind of felt like a big bon fire,” he says.

For those upset at the idea of a piano being destroyed, Holman notes it was donated after a long life of being used and recycled throughout the community. She also notes it was “not really a viable piano” anymore. Wallace says that the first thing to go on it, after it was set alight was the tuning (it was a cool day and fire is hot).

Postponed Piano Burning finally ignites on October 24 at Mountain View Cemetery

BY JANET SMITH, STIR VANCOUVER

The Queer Arts Festival and the Talking Stick Festival present Piano Burning on October 24 at 5 pm at Mountain View Cemetery

IT’S A PERFORMANCE that refuses to be extinguished.

After seeing postponement due to fire bans on August 8 during the Queer Arts Festival, Piano Burning is now ready to ignite again. As we reported then, the outdoor performance at Mountain View Cemetery will feature Rachel Kiyo Iwaasa sporting a (fireproof) gown designed by Evan Ducharme and literally lighting her piano on fire. The highly symbolic performance will debut a new piece by composer Russell Wallace.

SD Holman and Margo Kane, artistic director of Full Circle: First Nations Performance, have put a new twist on Annea Lockwood’s notorious work, written in 1968 and directing the performer to soak paper in lighter fluid, set it alight, and drop it into a piano that is beyond repair. The Vancouver duo has re-envisioned the entire act through the lens of historically banned First Nations fire ceremonies and the global warming crisis.

They’ve grounded this event in cultural knowledge and a focus on Two-Spirit artists, including Sempúlyan, who will speak about the spiritual role of fire to communicate with ancestors, and Squamish Nation councillor Orene Askew (better known as DJ O Show), who will set the piano alight.

In August, Holman wrote a letter explaining the reasons for the postponement and for the provocative transdisciplinary performance itself; you can read it here. And brush up on much more background on Piano Burning itself, with info here from when Stir previewed it in August.

Mark Takeshi McGregor will succeed SD Holman as artistic director of Vancouver’s Queer Arts Festival

by Charlie Smith, Georgia Straight on August 16th, 2021

One of Vancouver’s most influential queer arts administrators is going to take a well-deserved respite.

SD Holman cofounded the Queer Arts Festival 14 years ago and in 2018, founded SUM, which is the festival’s year-round programming arm.

At the close of this year’s Queer Arts Festival on August 13, Holman publicly announced that this would be the last under their direction. Holman, who served as executive and artistic director, is a self-described gender anarchist who uses a mix of pronouns.

I’m proud of the artistic triumphs we’ve achieved together,” Holman said in a statement, “including Jonathan D. Katz’s Drama Queer curation; the 25th-anniversary reunion of the notorious Kiss & Tell collective; Jeremy Dutcher’s first full-length Vancouver concert; UnSettled, the world’s first entirely Two-Spirit-curated festival; the commissioning and the world premiere of When the Sun Comes Out by Leslie Uyeda and Rachel Rose, Canada’s first lesbian opera; and co-producing the multi-award-winning world premiere of Lesley Ewen’s play Camera Obscura (hungry ghosts).”

Holman’s replacement as artistic director is Mark Takeshi McGregor, a former executive director of the Powell Street Festival as well as an acclaimed flutist. He begins in this new position on October 1.

“As a musician and visual artist, I’ve enjoyed close ties with this organization for over fifteen years and I’ve witnessed firsthand how it has grown and evolved,” he said. “None of this would have been possible without the passion and tenacity of SD Holman, who leaves us with an inspiring legacy of queer arts and culture… and massive shoes to fill! I’m looking forward to working with our incredible staff, board of directors, volunteers, and community to continue challenging norms, breaking barriers, and inspiring discourse.”

Holman was born in Hollywood and graduated from Emily Carr University of Art + Design in 1990. Holman’s work as an artist and curator has addressed themes of sex, death, and identity, according to a Queer Arts Festival profile.

In a 2018 article written for the Straight by queer journalist V.S. Wells, Holman conceded that they didn’t expect everyone to like or even understand the Queer Arts Festival.

In a column on Straight.com two years earlier, Holman wrote about the violence that has been inflicted on queer people simply as a result of their gender expression, gender identity, or sexual orientation.

It came in the wake of an attack on an LGBT+ nightclub in Orlando, Florida.

“So many of us have stories of violence done to us. I am thinking of the man that came with a gun to my house in Rock Creek to shoot me, a story I have never told, until now—what’s yours?” Holman wrote. 

“My heart goes out to the families, chosen and biological, of the dead and wounded. We are going to be grieving for a very long time. Hate cannot bring an end to hate—only love can.” 

On a lighter note, Holman, along with Fay Ness and Stephanie Goodwin, came up with the idea of calling 2018 the “Year of the Queer” in Vancouver.

It coincided with 15 Vancouver LGBT organizations celebrating milestone achievements.

One of those was the Queer Arts Festival, which was then approaching its 10th anniversary.

This change at the Queer Arts Festival follows a series of changes in leadership at a few other locally based queer organizations, including Vancouver PrideRainbow Refugee, and Health Initiative for Men

Mark Takeshi McGregor takes helm of Pride In Art Society as SD Holman steps down

BY JANET SMITH, STIR VANCOUVER

THE PRIDE IN Art Society board has announced that SD Holman is stepping down from its helm after 14 years.

Musician Mark Takeshi McGregor will take on the role as artistic director of the multidisciplinary queer arts organization. Holman announced the exit on August 13 at the closing party of the 2021 Queer Arts Festival, which Pride in Art has run online and in person for the last few weeks.

Holman cofounded the Queer Arts Festival, and then later, in 2018, established SUM, QAF’s year-round programming arm and Canada’s only queer-mandated gallery. (Pride In Art began in 1998 as a collective of LGBT visual artists mounting a community art exhibition.)

“I’m proud of the artistic triumphs we’ve achieved together,” Holman said in the announcement yesterday, “including Jonathan D. Katz’s Drama Queer curation; the 25th-anniversary reunion of the notorious Kiss & Tell collective; Jeremy Dutcher’s first full-length Vancouver concert; UnSettled, the world’s first entirely Two-Spirit-curated festival; the commissioning and world premiere of When the Sun Comes Out by Leslie Uyeda and Rachel Rose, Canada’s first lesbian opera; and co-producing the multi-award-winning world premiere of Lesley Ewen’s play Camera Obscura (hungry ghosts).”

SD will continue as founding artistic director emeritus. 

Internationally acclaimed flute innovator and former Powell Street Festival artistic director McGregor said he was “thrilled” to join the Pride in Art family.

 “As a musician and visual artist, I’ve enjoyed close ties with this organization for over 15 years and I’ve witnessed firsthand how it has grown and evolved,” he said in the press statement. “None of this would have been possible without the passion and tenacity of SD Holman, who leaves us with an inspiring legacy of queer arts and culture… and massive shoes to fill! I’m looking forward to working with our incredible staff, board of directors, volunteers, and community to continue challenging norms, breaking barriers, and inspiring discourse.”

Holman returns to the studio to resume full-time artistic practice, remaining available to the organization for mentorship and organizational history. 

“As QAF and SUM grow and evolve, my hope is that the organization will stay Avant-Garde and Contemporary,” Holman added in the statement. “Life is short and art is long–or as the Guerrilla Girls say, it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon. This work is a relay, and it’s time to pass the torch. I am delighted to be leaving the organization in inspired and capable hands.”  

Queer Arts Festival addresses and postpones controversial Piano Burning performance at East Vancouver cemetery

by Craig Takeuchi, Georgia Straight, on August 6th, 2021 at 1:57 PM

A scheduled performance at an East Vancouver cemetery involving fire has been postponed after after facing online comments, criticism, and questions.

In response, the Queer Arts Festival (QAF), which began on July 24 and continues until August 13, released a statement today (August 6) from artistic and executive director SD Holman about a planned revisioning of Annea Lockwood’s 1968 conceptual art piece Piano Burning, scheduled to be performed on August 8 at Mountain View Cemetery, located at 5455 Fraser Street.

Lockwood’s instructions for the piece are as follows: 

Set an upright piano (not a grand) in an open space with the lid closed. 
Spill a little lighter fluid on a twist of paper and place inside, near the pedals. 
Light it. Balloons may be stapled to the piano. 
Play whatever pleases you for as long as you can.

Although the QAF has a fire permit for the performance, it is postponing the performance to comply with the provincial fire ban.

This performance is separate from Ceremony for Rebel Spirits, which will be performed by dancer Alvin Tolentino and Onibana Taiko on August 7 at the same cemetery. 

Holman’s addressed the reaction to the Piano Burning event by providing an explanation of how the performance is based in Indigenous culture.  

Holman explained that burning plays a role in many Indigenous cultures and that Canada had banned Indigenous use of fire for a century “as part of Canada’s campaign of cultural genocide”.

After the ban was lifted, Holman stated, two-spirit people continued to experience “barriers to full participation in ceremony despite the place of honour they traditionally held”.

In addition, colonialism introduced European-based gender-defined roles, which Holman pointed out was reinforced through residential schools.

“Even today, Canada periodically bans Indigenous ceremonies, citing public health or safety, indifferent to the deep psychological and spiritual wounds this causes,” Holman stated.

The performance is intended to be a “public declaration of reclamation and empowerment” by focusing on two-spirit artists: elder Sempúlyan; composer Russell Wallace, who created a new composition for the performance; designer Evan Ducharme, who created a fire-proof gown; and Squamish Nation councilor Orene Askew (DJ O Show), who asked to light the fire. Interdisciplinary artist Margo Kane, of Cree and Saulteaux Nations, and her company Full Circle First Nations Performance also provided cultural expertise for the curation.

“Honoured two-spirit elder Sempúlyan wanted to speak at Piano Burning about the spiritual role of fire to communicate with the ancestors; items placed in the fire are sent as offerings to the dead now in the spirit world,” Holman stated.

In addressing criticism about using fire in a performance amid the B.C. wildfires, Holman pointed out that the colonial fire ban “outlawed Indigenous forestry practices and ecological stewardship that included controlled burns to remove potential fire sources.

“Canadian forestry policy paternalistically discounted Indigenous knowledge,” Holman stated.

In response to questions about why a piano is being burned, Holman explained that pianos represent “arguably the peak achievement of European industrialization”.

Russell entitled his composition “A Clean Start”, which pianist Rachel Kiyo Iwassa would perform on the piano, which reflects hopeful outlooks, ranging from a post-pandemic restart to reconciliation and respect.

Iwassa is also slated to perform “Fonax Chemica” by composer Jeffery Ryan, which refers to an “alchemical crucible in which fire magically transforms lead into gold, or base materials into the philosopher’s stone”.  

“This collaborative revisioning of Piano Burning invites settlers to witness Indigenous ways of knowing in which we burn not what we despise, but what we cherish,” Holman said. “Annea’s 1968 conception of Piano Burning asks us to confront our terror of change and loss.”

Holman added that while fire is destructive, it is also “purifying, transformative, catalytic, life-sustaining”.

This year’s theme for the arts festival is Dispersed: It’s Not Easy Being Green…, which reflects upon climate issues as well as those who are marginalized.

In response to questions about the event’s impact upon the environment, Holman noted that any harm done by burning one piano is “infinitesimally small in the context of the capitalist growth economy”.

The performance of Piano Burning has been rescheduled to the autumn, with a specific date yet to be confirmed.

You can follow Craig Takeuchi on Twitter at @cinecraig or on Facebook.

Queer Arts Festival postpones Piano Burning, releases statement about fire ban

BY JANET SMITH, STIR VANCOUVER

Updated: THE QUEER ARTS Festival has decided to postpone its Piano Burning concert due to the fire ban.

Though the fest had a fire permit, it’s going to comply with the provincial fire ban and delay the performance at Mountain View Cemetery until a to-be-announced date in the fall (see the full letter below).

It seems that some community members saw the performance, which was meant to comment directly on some of the reasons BC is engulfed in forest fires this season, to be tone deaf to the fact there are wildfires raging. Some also questioned how the performance fit into the fest’s green eco theme this year.

As Stir previously reported, Full Circle First Nations Performance and the Queer Arts Festival’s had planned to feature musician Rachel Kiyo Iwaasa will play a new piece commissioned from Lil’wat composer Russell Wallace—all while re-enacting the idea behind New Zealand composer Annea Lockwood’s Piano Burning, a composition that called for a pianist to set the instrument alight. Biut in this presentation, curated by SD Holman and Margo Kane, the idea was to reframe the fire that engulfs the dilapidated piano (a symbol of colonial European culture) as a metaphor for striving toward decolonization. The act also refers to the banned fire rituals from Indigenous cultures: as stated in a letter from the artistic director below, “the colonial fire ban also outlawed the time-tested Indigenous forestry practice of controlled fires”.

Here is the letter in full from artistic director Holman:

qafletter.jpeg
qafletter2.jpeg

Stir Cheat Sheet: 5 things to know about the fiery Piano Burning at the Queer Arts Festival, August 8

BY JANET SMITH, STIR VANCOUVER

AS WILDFIRES rage across BC, a timely performance this weekend will ignite discussion—along with a piano

Full Circle First Nations Performance and the Queer Arts Festival’s presentation of Piano Burning, in which star musician Rachel Kiyo Iwaasa will play a new piece commissioned from Lil’wat composer Russell Wallace—all while her keyboard goes up in flames.

Drawing on the idea behind New Zealand composer Annea Lockwood’s Piano Burning, a composition that called for a pianist to set the instrument alight, this presentation puts a timely new lens on the idea: here, the collaborating artists—curated by SD Holman and Margo Kane—reframe the fire that engulfs the piano (a symbol of colonial European culture) as a metaphor for striving toward decolonization. The act also refers to the banned fire rituals from Indigenous cultures.

There’s much, much more to the performance. Here are five things to know about it:

#1: Annea Lockwood’s original 1968 composition directs the performer to soak paper in lighter fluid, set it alight, and drop it into the piano. She asks that the performer use an upright piano that is beyond repair, saying, “Piano burning should really be done with an upright piano; the structure is much more beautiful than that of a grand when you watch it burn.” Balloons may be stapled to the structure, and the pianist can play whatever pleases them, for as long they can. The New York Times has called Lockwood a “composer of audacious experimental works on the border of musical performance and conceptual art.”

#2: Métis womenswear designer Evan Ducharme has created a fireproof red ballgown for pianist Iwaasa to don during the performance. Ducharme launched an eponymous clothing label a decade ago, and has built a name designing through Indigenous perspectives on gender, queerness, and environmental responsibility. You’ve seen Ducharme’s work at Indigenous fashion week, and on the pages of Vogue.com.

piano burning.jpeg

#3: What exactly does it sound like when a piano goes up in flames? The performance will amplify the experience. Along with Wallace’s music, you’ll hear what’s described as “a variety of pitched and unpitched sounds as the piano strings heat and break.” If there are balloons, expect popping near the end. And visually? Past piano fires have been described as slow burns, layer after layer disintegrating, sometimes with coloured flames due to different varnishes.

#4: Russell Wallace is a composer, producer, and traditional singer from the Lil’wat Nation, with music heard across film and TV soundtracks and theatre and dance productions across the continent. Wallace also has a way with words, as one of the founding members of the Aboriginal Writers Collective West Coast and as an alumnus of the UBC Creative Writing program. He has written poetry, short fiction, theatre, and music theatre. You might remember him the artist in residence at the Vancouver International Jazz Festival in 2019.

#5: Organizers say they are drawing directly upon calls from the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. Article 11 of the former emphasizes Indigenous peoples’ right to “practise and revitalize their cultural traditions and customs. This includes the right to maintain, protect and develop the past, present and future manifestations of their cultures, such as…designs, ceremonies, technologies and visual and performing arts and literature”. Meanwhile, the latter report calls for “safe and dedicated ceremony and cultural places and spaces for 2SLGBTQ+ youth and adults, and to advocate for 2SLGBTQ+ inclusion in all cultural spaces.”

Queer Arts Festival’s Language as a Virus takes storytelling in radical directions, to August 13

Queer Arts Festival presents Language as a Virus: Queer Isolation Stories around False Creek and online, to August 13

BY GAIL JOHNSON, STIR VANCOUVER

MUSIC, SOUND ART, individuals’ recordings, and power transmitters—Language as a Virus: Queer Isolation Stories is an event unlike any other at Queer Arts Festival 2021 Dispersed: it’s not easy being green.

The sonic-art installation by Bobbi Kozinuk happens in two forms. The first is a “walking radio” tour around False Creek. People need an FM radio or QR-enabled phone. The other is an online experience.

The event is described as an experiment in radical storytelling. The thematic focus, meanwhile, is on the effect of the pandemic on queer and diverse communities.

Community-submitted recordings mix with sound art and music to become soundscapes that are broadcast on low-power transmitters along the water’s edge. Participants will find advertisements for the project at transmitter hubs and participating community centres throughout Metro Vancouver. These posters have QR codes that, when scanned, allow people access to a selection of stories.

The public is invited walk along False Creek and listen in on their FM radio or QR-enabled phone and to visit the Isolation website to contribute their own stories and tune into location-specific channels.

For more information, see QAF.  

Live music guide: Concerts to catch at Metro Vancouver parks, stages, and public spaces this summer

BY GAIL JOHNSON, STIR VANCOUVER

LIVE MUSIC IS back, and it’s never sounded more joyful than in our (getting-there) post-pandemic world. Here are a few places to find it this summer. Check individual websites for the latest health and safety information.

Keep your eye on this page for updates, and we’ll add more concerts to the list as shows are announced.


Music in the Courtyard

To September 5 at the Firehall Arts Centre

From Arabic avant-garde and vocal-driven art pop to sitar and soulful blues, the Music in the Courtyard series is as daring as it is diverse. Presented by the Firehall Arts Centre and the Vancouver Independent Music Centre (VIM), the 2021 series runs July 30 to September 5. Performances take place outdoors in Firehall’s courtyard Wednesdays to Saturdays at 7 pm and Sundays at 3 pm PDT (with one exception: the Sunday, August 1 concert is at 7 pm). The lineup features M’Girl (July 30), Haram (July 31, presented in partnership with Vancouver Folk Music Festival), Gentle Party (with guest curator Peggy Lee, August 1), Small Town Artillery (with guest opener Aza Nabuko, August 4 and 5), Microcosmos Quartet (August 6), the C.R. Avery Orchestra (presented in partnership with the Vancouver Folk Music Festival on August 7), Only a Visitor (August 8), Emily Molloy with opener Cat Madden (August 12), Murray Porter (August 13), Mohamed Assani Trio (August 14), Tonya Aganaba (August 15), Ad Mare with guest artist Julia Nolan (August 20), the History of Gunpowder (August 21), Rumba Calzada (August 22), Ophelia Falling (August 25), Quatuor André Lachance (August 27), Electronica Night (August 28 with x41: ambient; Hitori Tori: breakcore; and Sara Gold: drone), and the Brad Turner Quartet (August 29).

That’s not all.

On September 2, rice and beans presents Made in Canada: an agricultural song cycle. Originally slated as a live theatre show titled Made in Canada: an agricultural operetta, the work evolved into an album of 10 songs composed by Mishelle Cuttler. Blending mariachi influences with lyrics sourced from actual words of seasonal temporary foreign workers, news articles, and legal text surrounding the Temporary Foreign Workers Program, the musical journey tells the stories of the people who harvest our food.

From there, Alvaro Rojas’ Gran Kasa plays September 3 (guest curator, Peggy Lee); Handmade Blade performs September 4 (guest curator, Peggy Lee), and Alpha Yaya Diallo closes out the series on September 5.

Kay Meek Music Series

August 12 to 26 at the Kay Meek Centre

In addition to various virtual offerings, West Vancouver’s Kay Meek Arts Centre a lineup of live music that makes it worth crossing a bridge. It all starts August 12, with a performance by Marin Patenaude (vocals, piano, guitar) and electric guitarist Cole Schmidt. (This show, along with many others, will also be streamed online.) On August 19, the C.R. Avery Storm Collective takes to the stage.

Sea to Sky Chamberfest happens August 21 Pianist Ian Parker, cellist Joseph Elworthy, and violinist Jonathan Crow join aspiring pre-professionals with selections from Brahms, Schumann, Mendelssohn, and more.

On August 26, pedal-steel player Scott Smith and guitarist Tony Wilson perform Buddy and Lenny, in homage to Buddy Emmons and Lenny Breau. Joined by bassist James Meger and drummer Liam Macdonald, they, will play the entire 1970s album Minors Aloud, which was recorded in Nashville and became a hard-to-find classic and a must-listen for guitarists.

 

Vancouver Bach Festival

August 3 to 5 at the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts

Early Music Vancouver presents Bach’s Sons on August 3 at the Chan Shun Concert Hall with cellist Elinor Frey, Pacific Baroque Orchestra, and music director Alexander Weimann as part of the 2021 Vancouver Bach Festival. The works illustrate the language of Sensibility (Empfindsamkeit): intimate, sensitive, and subjective where the beauty of melody shines. (Note that this event, like other EMV offerings listed here, are recording sessions for Early Music Vancouver’s Digital Concert Hall and not traditional concerts.)

On August 4 and in that same EMV vein, the works selected by Mélisande Corriveau and Eric Milnes for Pardessus in Paradise reflect musical styles formed in pre- Revolution France.

EMV closes its Bach Festival on August 5 with two solo Bach cantatas performed by its artist-in-residence, Jonathon Adams, a Two-Spirit, nêhiyaw michif (Cree-Métis) baritone specializing in early music performance, and the Pacific Baroque Orchestra led from the organ and harpsichord by Alexander Weimann.

 

Blueridge Chamber Music Festival

August 7 to 15 at the Orpheum Annex and Polygon Gallery

The fest presents live concerts—all free—with four centuries of chamber-music masterworks exclusively composed by women.

On August 7, the Blueridge Mainstage series opens with Three Sisters: an evening of piano at the Orpheum Annex. Clara Schumann’s Piano Trio in G Minor shares the program with Germaine Tailleferre’s Piano Trio and Cécile Chaminade’s second trio.

It’s over to the Polygon Gallery on August 8 for trailblazing Montreal-based Baroque cellist Elinor Frey. Warming by the Fire offers new works by Vancouver composer Jennifer Butler and Toronto-based Cree composer Cris Derksen with a twist:  each piece invites audiences to participate in the performance with optional atmospheric sounds and gestures. Rounding out the program are works by American composer Pauline Oliveros, who is known for experimenting with “sonic awareness” and “deep listening” to break down barriers between performers and audiences. Warming by the Fire happens August 12 at the Orpheum Annex and August 15 at the Polygon.

And on August 14, Blueridge Festival presents Music from the Edge at the Orpheum Annex. The program features 20th century works by composers Alexina Louie, Rebecca Clarke, and Sofia Gubaidulina.

Summer Pop-Up Concerts with Music on Main

August 9 to 31 in Vancouver parks

These free evening concerts will take place at various Vancouver parks from August 9 to 31, with the full schedule being announced on August 5.

Vines Art Festival

August 9 to 18 at Vancouver parks

The festival highlights artists and underrepresented voices who work toward land, water, and relational justice and presents work for free on “earthstages”—everyday, populated, and natural public spaces in Vancouver and beyond. The grassroots event features combines art disciplines of all kinds on each of its programs, all to connect people and awaken them to the environment and their souls.

Among the artists performing at Vines’ Re-Opening Ceremonies at St’ít’eweḵw’ (Stanley Park’s Second Beach) on August 9 are Kwiigaay iiwaans & Kimit Sekhon, who will perform an electronic music and lighting show featuring iiwaans’ vocals in the Haida and Squamish languages; singer-songwriter Janelle Reid; and Mad Riddim, founded by drummer Richard Brown and bassist Matt Reid.

Anessa Lefan Yuen–whose debut album, What Holds Us Together, co-created with Thomas Hoeller, will be released next year—performs as part of Our Stories Embodied. It takes place August 11 at X̱í7nam̓ut | New Brighton Park

Stl’a7shn-chef—Our Feast on August 14 at Trout Lake Park is a blind and low-vision-friendly event featuring a vast array of performance art, movement, storytelling, and more, plus the Clown Parade. Magnifuego & Friends will perform a fusion of South American Andean folk music mixed with Latin Rock elements; Sudanda plays the music of Alaaledin Abdalla, a composer and musician from Sudan., with oudh/vocals, guitar, accordion, trumpet/bass, trombone, and percussion.

Hip-hop and spoken-word artist Á’a:líya, who was born and raised in her home community of Skowkale within the Coast Salish Territory, is among the performers at Resilient Roots on August 18 at Trout Lake Park.

 

Queer Arts Festival

August 7 and 13, Mountain View Cemetery and Sun Wah Centre

Find live music—kick-ass taiko drumming, in particular—as well as dance at Ceremony for Rebel Spirits at Mountain View Cemetery on August 7, featuring Onibana Taiko and Alvin Erasga Tolentino. Plus, DJ O Show spins on the rooftop of the Sun Wah Centre at Glitter Forever: Closing Party on August 13.

 

Open Space Saturdays

July 31 through August at the Massey Theatre

Every summer Saturday from 11 am to 10 pm, the outdoor areas around New Westminster’s Massey Theatre come alive, with family-friendly activities from Jenga to open-mic poetry to Zumba. The July 31 Buskers Stage lineup features Gwen Davies, Jason Bonhomme, and Jasmine Stacey while the Ed, Salve and Friends musical extravaganza features MJ Ancheta, Daunties Band, CrackerJacks Band, and more.

De l’Art Queer aux Quatre Coins de la Ville

Pour la première fois de son histoire, le Festival des arts queer de Vancouver propose une programmation hybride qui se déploie aux quatre coins de la ville. Un reportage de Lyne Barnabé. 28 juillet 2021. CBC Radio Canada Ici Télé.

Queer Arts Festival’s visual-art exhibition turns apocalyptic dread into artworks for change

BY GAIL JOHNSON, STIR VANCOUVER

Queer Arts Festival 2021 Dispersed: it’s not easy being green runs July 24 to August 13 online and in-person at various venues. It’s not easy being green: a Curated Visual Arts Exhibition runs the same dates at Sun Wah Centre’s lower ground floor, with a tour on July 27 at 5 pm PDT.

WHEN THE TEAM at Pride in Art Society was planning the theme for Queer Arts Festival 2021, it was a different time: events like it are typically devised years in advance, and nobody had even heard of COVID-19. What was top of mind was the climate crisis, with Greta Thunberg sounding the alarm while sailing the Atlantic. It was settled: the theme for this year’s fest and its curated visual-art exhibit would be “it’s not easy being green”.

Enter the pandemic, and the novel coronavirus took over everything, bumping the environmental emergency out of the headlines. However, the 2021 fest’s it’s-not-easy-being-green theme remains as relevant now as it was before the virus entered our lives—maybe even more so.

It works on multiple levels beyond the obvious difficulties humans are having at keeping the planet green. There’s green as a representation of land, tying into Indigenous rights and sovereignty and the ongoing effects of colonization. It represents evergreen issues such as renewal, growth, and the supernatural on one hand and power, greed, and poison on the other. There are pop culture underdogs, anti-heroes, and oddities who are green, from Kermit the Frog to Elphaba the Wicked Witch of the West to the Mandalorian’s Baby Yoda. Green is also the colour of aliens, or others.

“In early 2019 when we chose ‘it’s not easy being green’, there was this apocalyptic fear and dread referred to as the climate catastrophe,” QAF artistic and executive director SD Holman tells Stir by phone. “Indigenous-led anti-pipeline demonstrations shut down Canada, and more people recognized that we are interdependent with the Earth and animals for our very survival. The climate situation seemed to be pressing down like this tidal wave; it seemed like there was this worldwide acknowledgment that this was happening. Right on the heels of that, the pandemic happened and shoved aside everything. Then there was plastic—lots and lots of plastic.”

And then people around the world were asked to stay home and away from other people.

“I feel like the mainstream learned about isolation and about space and what it’s like to feel unsafe in public, in danger of standing too close to somebody—the wrong person—the fear of stepping outside of one’s home or family bubble, which could mean death,” says Holman, a queer award-winning image-based artist. “Queers and marginalized people have felt that their whole lives. ‘It’s not easy being green’ still resonated. The pandemic and all of those risk factors are all too familiar to radicalized and queer people and all the people in the margins.”

Holman curated it’s not easy being green: A Curated Visual Art Exhibition with two-spirit artist Jeffrey McNeil-Seymour; they will lead a tour with guest artists on July 27.

“The announcement of the Tk’emlups te Secwépemc confirmation of 215 unmarked graves of children, then 725-plus took its toll, and the numbers continue to rise,” McNeil-Seymour says. “The Cancel Canada Day rally at Vancouver Art Gallery where Sarah Brooke Cadeau and Audrey Siegl’s truth speak reverberated off the glass and concrete of downtown Vancouver, waking the hearts and minds of the thousands that gathered to show us all what love looks like. 

“The culmination of these ongoing events comes at a cost,” McNeil-Seymour says. “Preparing for show readiness is a heavy labour. The heavy emotional labours are especially felt by artists and visionaries. It’s not easy being green—indeed.”

The exhibition features an eclectic group of artists from across Canada and as far away as India working in photography, sculpture, drawing, painting, printmaking, film, and other disciplines. Here, they upcycle and recycle apocalyptic fear and dread into artwork and social change.

Featured artists include Beric Manywounds, Blake Angeconeb Chad Baba, Duane Isaac, Falak Vasa, Grace House, Ho Tam, Isaac Murdoch (whose Ojibway name is Manzinapkinegego’anaabe / Bombgiizhik), Jay Pahre, Kali Spitzer, Katherine Atkins, Kathleen Ross, Manuel Axel Strain, Oluseye, Pablo Muñoz, Preston Buffalo, Tejal Shah, and Tsohil Bhatia.

“We have invited featured artists from around the globe, from diverse contexts,” McNeil-Seymour says. “Duane Isaac is a stand-out for us. Like Isaac, the exhibition’s relationship-building with the featured artists; the storytelling of their process, vision…made us, made me take pause. The artists gathered here are amplifying the ripples of change.”

Holman, whose project Butch: Not Like the Other Girls toured North America in 2014 and is available in book form in its second edition, is proud of the Queer Arts Festival, which is one of just a handful of its kind in the world. Holman also founded SUM Gallery, the only mandated queer visual-art gallery in Canada at present. “I hope there’s more,” Holman says. “I salute those ones who came before. They died of exhaustion or gentrification or both.”

QAF 2021 Dispersed: it’s not easy being green takes place online and in-person, making the 2021 event the first in the fest’s 13-year history to take on a hybrid format. Last year’s edition was fully virtual, the hope being to reach as many people as possible despite the pandemic. It worked: the fest doubled its audience and had viewers from 50 countries on six continents. What was especially remarkable, Holman says, was that those nations included ones where people could be killed for being part of a queer activity. Holman wanted to maintain that potential to connect with people near and far this year while also offering in-person events, once it was deemed safe to do so. There’s a movie night on the rooftop of Sun Wah Centre, a dance and music performance in Vancouver’s cemetery, and opening and closing parties. (For the full program, see QAF.)

Promoting queer art is hard and at times seemingly thankless work, Holman admits, but it’s always necessary, and sometimes it’s life-altering or even life-saving.

“I don’t think of myself as ambitious, but I do have a lot of drive, and I want it to be good,” Holman says. “I want the recognition for the artists who are doing some of the finest work through history, period. We still know the terrible statistics: two-spirit and queer people of colour are the most vulnerable youth to suicide and bullying. Those statistics hit you in the face all the time. If we can get the art there, art has that ability to get past the confirmation biases. Art is that thing that changes people.”

For more information, see QAF.

Two-spirit Squamish Nation councillor Orene Askew aims to build better world for young people of all sexual orientations

by Charlie Smith, Georgia Straight on July 22nd, 2021

Even though the term two-spirit originated with Indigenous people on the Prairies, it had immediate appeal to Orene Askew, a member of the Squamish Nation council.

Askew’s mother is Indigenous and her father is African American, hailing from Gary, Indiana, where his parents lived down the street from the famous Jackson family.

“When people ask me about two-spirited, my definition of it makes sense to me,” Askew told the Straight by phone. “I have a masculine and a feminine spirit inside of me.”

Askew, also known as DJ O Show, is a pillar of Vancouver’s LGBT+ community, serving on the boards of the Queer Arts FestivalOut on Screen, and Vancouver Pride Society. A passionate motivational speaker and lively DJ, she has won a B.C. Indigenous Business Award, a Stand Out Award from the Vancouver Pride Society, and a 2021 Alumni of Excellence award from Capilano University. But what really energizes her is helping young people.

“I’m a part of the first generation that didn’t go to residential school,” Askew said. “I can see the difference in the way the youth of today think.”

According to her, they’re not as jaded by trauma as their Indigenous elders, who were forced to attend the church-run residential schools.

“They’re so optimistic and they’re incredible,” she continued. “And I want to try to be a good leader for them because I want them to take over and I want them to take care of me when I’m an elder.”

More recently, Askew has been learning about the term Indigiqueer from young people in her community, particularly during the Kindred Spirits digital artist residency in May and June. Askew was one of the faculty members offering weekly presentations to two-spirit and Indigiqueer artists, who could sign up for free. An online exhibition at the Queer Arts Festival is described as the “digital culmination” of Kindred Spirits, focusing on how identities and futures can be described through self-portraiture that extends beyond colonial framing.

In one Zoom presentation to the young people, Askew played her 30-minute audio documentary, Our Dark Secret, which is about residential-school survivors in her community. She did this just after the leadership of the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc revealed that unmarked and undocumented graves of 215 children had been located on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School.

“I felt it was like the perfect timing to play it for the youth and the other mentors,” Askew recalled. “And people talked about their feelings. It was really healing that day.”

Askew’s mother was a huge fan of Motown songs, which influences the music she makes today. Recently, Askew recorded her first hip-hop track with Vancouver producer Jane Aurora.

“I think it’s really good and I can’t wait to release it,” she said. “We’ve applied for a grant to film a music video, so we’ll find out in the next couple of weeks if we’ve got it.”

As an elected councillor with her First Nation, Askew was on a committee that entered the first float by the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh in the Vancouver Pride Parade. She described it as “awesome” to see two-spirited Indigenous people dancing so freely on the float.

In addition, the Squamish Nation has created a rainbow sidewalk at the foot of Capilano Road, not far from the Chief Joe Mathias Centre, which is a major community gathering spot.

Things are going so well for Askew that she’s been featured in a documentary by Human Biography, which has featured celebrities such as Meryl Streep and Susan Sarandon in the past. According to Askew, the film about her will drop next month.

But it wasn’t always such a joyous existence. She was raised in a B.C. housing project as a child before she and her mother moved to Eslhá7an (a.k.a. the Mission reserve), west of Lonsdale Quay.

On occasion, she said, she would be called the n-word, which was very confusing. She would think: “Why are they calling me that? That’s my family.”

As she grew older, she realized that people who insulted her were probably taught that word. And she tried not to take it so personally.

In fact, Askew admitted that on some days, she actually forgets that she’s Black because she’s been so immersed in Indigenous culture for her entire life.

“I say it all the time,” she said with a laugh. “I feel like a stork kind of just dropped me off: ‘Here you go; kind of deal with it.’

“That’s the thing: if you saw me walking down the street, you wouldn’t think I was First Nations at all.”

Vancouver dance artist Alvin Tolentino and Onibana Taiko to celebrate rebel spirits in Queer Arts Festival

Carlito Pablo, Georgia Straight on July 27th, 2021

This year’s Queer Arts Festival marks a homecoming for dancer and choreographer Alvin Tolentino.

The founder and artistic director of the Co.ERASGA dance company said that he was one of the original performers in the Vancouver festival when it started as Pride in Art in 1998.

“It’s kind of a full circle to come back to it and to be part of it again,” Tolentino told the Straight in a phone interview.

The 2021 Queer Arts Festival runs until August 13 and reunites Tolentino with E. Kage of Onibana Taiko.

Onibana Taiko is a three-member ensemble that blends traditional Japanese drumming with other art forms and what festival organizers describe as “feminist queer punk aesthetics”.https://12306f8e14e35d8971988c32112a3525.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

The band formed in 2016, bringing together Kage, Noriko Kobayashi, and Leslie Komori.

In connection with Kage, Tolentino related that he created a work called OrienTik/Portrait in 2005. In it, he and dancer Andrea Nann performed to the music of Kage on the taiko (Japanese drum) and classical pianist Alison Nishihara.

“They played experimental, traditional, and contemporary music, and so I worked with them at that time to create a full-length piece,” he said.

When Onibana Taiko was creating a concept for the 2021 Queer Arts Festival, Tolentino’s name came up.

“This is a reunion, in a way,” he said about Kage.

Tolentino and Onibana Taiko will present a dance-and-music performance called Ceremony for Rebel Spirits on August 7. The show starts at 8 p.m. near the Chinese pavilion of Vancouver’s Mountain View Cemetery (5455 Fraser Street).

Tolentino explained that Ceremony for Rebel Spirits will represent the obon, a traditional summer festival in Japan honouring the dead.

“The narrative is about this reawakening of the spirits and being with the spirits,” he said about the collaborative work.

The obon is held in Japan during August, and it is believed that the spirits return to visit their loved ones at this time. It is an occasion for family reunions.

Customarily, people visit ancestral graves and bring flowers and pray for the dead. Tolentino noted that obon is similar to a cherished tradition in the Philippines called All Saints’ Day, which is marked on November 1.

As with Japan’s obon, the joyful event is a time for families to get together and share memories.

This Philippine occasion of remembering the dead is also called undas, said to have come from the Spanish word honra (“honour”).

“It has that kind of similar feeling, and the dance which I’m going to evoke is about meeting the spirits, and the music awakens those spirits as part of the festivity,” Tolentino said.

Onibana Taiko’s logo features an image of the higanbana, or red spider lily, which grows on Japanese grave sites.

Tolentino said Ceremony for Rebel Spirits seeks to commemorate people who fought for noteworthy causes and against all forms of discrimination.

Communing with spirits also serves as a reminder of unfinished struggles and the need to persevere.

“Queer people still get bashed in other parts of the world, and being gay is still not being accepted in some other parts of society,” Tolentino noted.

He pointed out that queer artists have a particular knack to “provoke” serious examination of issues in society.

“And so as queer artists, we cannot stop. We have to continue to fight for freedom and acceptance,” he said.

This is why Tolentino feels happy returning to the Queer Arts Festival. “Our story is still the same and still continuing to be rebellious,” he said.

As gay man and artist of colour, Tolentino is the quintessential rebel.

“I have always followed my creative instinct. I do not follow the crowd to create my work. I have stayed true to my calling,” Tolentino said.

He added that he’s proud to be a part of the festival’s legacy.

“I was there to signify the relation of queer arts and dance in a generation wherein art for queer was just being talked about or just beginning to bloom in Vancouver,” Tolentino said.

For Tolentino, “being a rebel is doing, continuing, and redefining the idea and meaning of being an artist for 30 years, and now, to dance for the dead in the spirit of obon”. 

Share