June 22, 2018

Le Grand Continental

The annual Luminato Festival always brings something unexpected to town: this year  I was thrilled to catch Le Grand Continental, an outdoor dance extravaganza, featuring roughly 250 local performers.

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Le Grand Continental dancers

As the long day was ending dark clouds began to gather over the immense space at Nathan Philip’s Square.  Was rain going to fall in buckets and ruin the months of work these amateur performers had dedicated to the piece?  The rain held off and the dance performance went on.  It was truly a joyful celebratory piece!  Everyone was feeling good about people! How they can work together!  People can achieve anything!  And about comfortable footwear!  And colorful sports attire!

Video of Le Grand Continental

The choreographer, Sylvain Emard, has had a lifelong fascination with line dancing and has created similar, massive, outdoor artworks, with amateurs, all over the world.  Participants — all non-professionals of varying age, physical ability and body type — must commit to three months of rehearsals. They report feeling challenged and ultimately changed by the sometimes daunting experience of mastering 30 minutes of choreography.

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“The work has a  certain vision of humanity,” says Sylvain Emard.  He mentions a political element and I can see that some might want to earnestly explore that aspect of the piece because, yes, it is there — but for me what was so entirely refreshing and delightful about this work is the spectacle of pure, unrestrained joy.   Sometimes that’s all it takes.

June 10, 2018

Toronto Sculpture Garden

Tucked into a petite, green space – which initially appears to be part of the neighboring bistro’s outdoor patio – and right across King Street from St. James Cathedral, is the Toronto Sculpture Garden.

I looked at the installation, titled Pins and Needles, by Karen Kraven.

Video of sculpture by Karen Kraven at Toronto Sculpture Garden

A giant clothing rack holds oversized garment pieces: a pant leg, a bodice fragment, a sort of apron adorned with long ties, a stiff belt, random pockets, gathers, plackets among other objects.  The items, arrayed as though waiting for the next step in a manufacturing process, are made of sturdy fabrics, workmanlike, serious, and in Mark’s type colours.

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Pins and Needles by Karen Kraven

The history of King Street, as a manufacturing hub, a place where workers – especially women – toiled to create valuable objects of utility is gracefully evoked.  Of course, now King Street is home to lofts, furniture boutiques and technically advanced service industries.  Clothing manufacturing from the past is now viewed as unsavoury, exploitative and generally noxious and it has been moved offshore for the most part, out of sight…somewhere.

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Pins and Needles by Karen Kraven

This artwork struck me as strangely nostalgic.  Intellectually we may be meant to reflect on the harsh, dark past of urban textiles factories with a shudder, but these things suspended before me are so appealing the opposite thought occurs: wouldn’t it be great if we made stuff to last, right here in Toronto.

The supple, handsome objects caught the afternoon sun and shifted slightly in a soft summer breeze, as I gazed at them.

 

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