Entering its 15th year of production, Vancouver’s PuSh International Performing Arts Festival has a simple message this year: gratitude. “With this year [being] the first year without our founder, that’s a really big thing for us,” says interim artistic director Joyce Rosario. “The festival was founded by our colleague Norman Armour and really made an impact on the local arts scene.” Last year marked Armour’s final involved with programming, and with thanks to the foundation he’s laid, the festival continues to thrive in his absence.
As in previous years, PuSh brings an incredibly diverse and ranging program to Vancouver, featuring local acts as well as international works. Over three weeks (January 17–February 3), 26 shows take place at over a dozen venues across the city. The annual event is a highlight in arts, continuing to pack its program with exciting, relevant, and genre-pushing performances.
Of particular note to Rosario is the show Attractor, featuring Indonesian musical duo Senyawa and a troupe of eight dancers, the show is a heavy-metal opera mixed with the ritualistic and folk notes from Senyawa’s home. For Rosario, the piece is emblematic of the kind of programming PuSh strives to bring to the city, asking questions like, “How do we come together and what brings us together? What role does ritual together play into that?” says Rosario. “And, of course, it’s just stunning dance and incredible music, so that’s just in line with the kind of work we show at PuSh.”
PuSh is dedicated to highlighting the homegrown talent of Vancouver on the same pedigree as its global contributions. “I think that mix is incredibly important, and it’s exactly that alchemy of having the best of the international repertoire and having it alongside with key works that are happening locally,” explains Rosario. Of note is Company 605’s Loop, Lull, which features five dancers in conversation with the looping of music and the repetition of motion.
“I think what’s been really important for the PuSh Festival and having local work as part of the program is that what we’re doing here in Vancouver stands up 100 per cent internationally, and having that work in dialogue with one another is important for practitioners —it’s important for audiences to see the work in that way,” says Rosario. She notes the rock opera Pancho Villa from a Safe Distance and L’Homme de Hus as two international pieces of note. PuSh also brings two acclaimed pieces from United Kingdom–based artist Selina Thompson to Vancouver stages: both Race Cards and salt. Thompson’s work is a powerful and personal examination on identity, race, and intersectionality, and fittingly, boundary pushing.
The 2019 PuSh International Performing Art Festival runs from January 17 until February 3, 2019.
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