Alexandrous Ballard’s RUIN/TIME: A Review

Ruin/time is a contemporary ballet that will have you struggling to feel calm (a feeling which gets you excited to see where the story will take you from start to finish) as you watch the two dancers before you engage in what seems like a disastrous yet co-dependant relationship, which can fall apart at any given moment. It’s just a matter of when, or, a matter of time. Alexandrous Ballard creates a disturbingly fascinating world where time is heightened and every moment seems crucial as well as necessary, as shadows elongate on the stage walls and colours of blood red, black, and flashes of white light moves you through each phase of this story of “…an artifact, building, or society [descending] into ruin.” But by the end of this performance, danced brilliantly by Kelley McKinlay and Reilley Bell, you realize that the director and the dancers have left you with a work of art that, as you walk away from the theatre, still resonates with you long after the show is done.

Photo of Up Close dancer, Nicolas Pelletier by Paul McGrath.

Photo of Up Close dancer, Nicolas Pelletier by Paul McGrath.

Jeffrey Hatcher’s A Picasso at the 2013 Edmonton Fringe Fest

American playwright, Jeffrey Hatcher’s play, A Picasso, uses the subject of beauty in art, not to dispel the horrors of war, but to make audiences question if beauty is heightened because it seems rare during war and times of loss. Watching this play at the Edmonton Fringe Festival, this question is explored in a multi-layered story that brings up many questions such as who does art belong to—the people or the artist? Led by the two lead characters—the infamous Picasso played by Julien Arnold and Miss Fischer, an art critic employed by the Nazis to collect “degenerate” artwork, played by Shannon Blanchet— they explore the answers to this question, within a Parisian interrogation room, while also facing each other’s philosophies about the world and the role of art in life.

The intelligence of this script is made bolder by Shannon and Julien’s earnest performances which audience members respond to with their laughter made over the quick, witty jabs both characters make over topics of sex and gender roles, or for the moments of intense silence when the audience gets a glimpse into the person that Picasso might have been outside of his larger-than-life identity. All of this makes the play a work of art in itself for allowing the audience to believe that hope is always a possibility—even when it seems as if it does not exist.

Watching the “Young and the Restless”: A Folk Fest Experiment

What do you get when you throw together folk bands, one of which who called their music “therapeutic” with a Celtic-Bhangra band who takes their audience on an “acid trip” as they called it, with their electronic based beats, and get them to play random songs together? This isn’t the start of a bad joke – but it had the potential to be.

On Friday, August 9 unexpected magic happened at the Edmonton Folk Festival on stage 6, when the “Young and the Restless” session featuring The Head and the Heart, Neko Case, Rayland Baxter, and Delhi 2 Dublin took the stage all at once. All four bands played ten minute sets and then finished with an improvised performance which all four bands participated in all at once.


Picture of The Head and the Heart taken by Vic Mittal of VSM Photography.

As the name of the session suggests, all performers were young adults who brought a “youthful”, confident energy to the music they performed. But this isn’t what made their performance that day, successful. It worked because all bands were having a conversation with each other through their music about love and culture and even about hanging out and talking with Jesus (based on a lighthearted, humorous dream that Rayland Baxter once had and then decided to turn into a song), within a safe place – indeed, kind of like an onstage therapy session. All four bands talked/performed without pressuring each other or competing with one another to overshadow the other’s performances.

So what do you get in the end? A blend of styles that showed the audience that music always has room to surprise, amuse, and charm listeners as it did at “The Young and the Restless”.

See my review for Marker Magazine here:

Chase Padgett’s Nashville Hurricane: A Review

When Chase Padgett walks onto the stage in the Strathcona Library he assumes the roles of four entertaining characters who demonstrate that fame comes at a cost. Chase reveals Nashville Hurricane’s transition from a fragile Southern boy who’s scared of the world, to a confident, intelligent young man, who learns that the world has a lot to offer.

This musical genius’s story is told in a documentary fashion through all four characters – Nashville Hurricane himself, his mother, his manager, and his mentor. The show is funny and honest, without being overbearingly serious, and allows audience members to engage individually with each character.

Chase’s own musical abilities shown through his guitar playing also make the play remarkable, but performing more than two songs would have strengthened the entertainment of the production.

Nashville Hurricane Shot2


Have you seen this show lately? Drop me a line and tell me what you thought of it.

See this review and more here:

An Unforgettable Act: Gregory Porter Performs at the 2013 Edmonton Jazz Fest

As Gregory Porter tells his definition of a full life, standing tall with his eyes glued to the audience singing “Imitation of Life”, there’s a sincerity heard in his voice.

Watching him perform as the opening act for Esperanza Spalding on June 25, 2013 in the Winspear Centre, he fills the space with his soulful jazz that takes the audience back to the days when gents like Nat King Cole ruled billboard charts. While Porter’s performance shows the audience that he could have stood toe to toe with men like Cole in those golden jazz days, his music moves beyond idyllic romance sung about in standards like “When I Fall in Love”. The warm tones of his voice sing to the audience about the struggles that go hand in hand with wanting to love — making him a man of our times, as he helps the audience think about our life through his lyrics.

Throughout the night, the audience listens in anticipation for his insights as he performs songs from his albums, Water (2010) and Be Good (2012) — about appreciating the past in “On My Way to Harlem”, to facing the injustice of inequality in “1960 What?”, to acknowledging complicated emotions from wanting someone to love you in “Be Good (Lion’s Song)”. From the moment Porter opens the show with “Imitation of Life” he gives the audience his very best. This is a presentation of a man who sings the truth.

GregoryPorterPhoto of Gregory Porter provided by the Edmonton Jazz Festival Society.

Politic Live at Hip-Hoperation

Taking a Bite Out of Life ©

Taking a Bite Out of Life ©

Edmonton, AB – In this Western capital, diversity and talent came together Saturday night at the Brixx Bar and Grill. The Mad Hatter Art & Music Festival put on a benefit concert to showcase some of Edmonton’s hip-hop talent at Hip-Hoperation. The lineup included The Mighty Alliance, Corvid Lorax, Grizzly Adams Apple and even a performance by graffiti artist Lorien Maheu who worked on live art during the show, but it was made apparent that the show was stoken by headliners Politic Live.

In a dim room, red lights highlighted the performers on stage. With each strong performance, the energy kept rising, but there was a feeling of restlessness in the room.  When Politic Live – Rohan Grimez Mani, Arlo Maverick, and Dirt Gritie – appeared on the stage, the crowd swelled in front of them, and any anxiousness from before was gone.  Song after song, Politic Live delivered a sound that was energetic and fresh and it kept building as they performed.  In “The Fire” by The Roots featuring John Legend, they say: “One love, one game, one desire, one flame, one bonfire, let it burn higher.”

These words sum up the Politic Live experience from that night – a lot of love that kept growing for the group’s music.  Listening to them, it was easy to understand why the audience had built such anticipation. They understood their songs because their lives were featured in them; hip-hop and Politic Live belonged to the audience that night.  As feet danced, hands eagerly waved in the air, and mouths rhymed along to verses from songs like “Pusha Man” and “Throwback”, this point was very clear.  “We take a lot of pride in our city…there’s a lot of stories [about Edmonton] that aren’t being told,” says Arlo Maverick, the group’s frontman.  Politic Live left a feeling in the room long after they finished their set, a desire for hip-hop to keep representing Edmonton and for Politic Live to be the fire that keeps the movement going.