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06/27 2011

Pow Wow at Wells Hill Park

powwow1Saturday’s Pow Wow at Wells Hill Park made up for my disappointment about our big Pow Wow having moved to Hamilton. The park setting was more fitting for a First Nations’ event than the big, man-made Sky Dome. The park was more crowded, but it was more intimate and green.

Master of Ceremonies Bob Goulais set a very welcoming tone. He asked for no photography during the opening spiritual part of the event. Such announcements had been lost in the impersonal Sky Dome. Without the distraction of a camera separating us from people, I could concentrate on the ceremony. Jacqui LaValley’s prayer in the Anishnawbe language was beautiful.

I stayed for the first hour and then went back for the last. Goulais encouraged everyone to get up and dance. In return for letting us take pictures, he said we had to join the fun. Okay, it was a joke but he made his point. He also got people dancing by giving prizes for being in the right spot at the end of each dance. By the end, there were more people dancing than watching. At the end, everybody got a prize. READ MORE

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06/21 2011

Festival Brings Hungarians Together

Hungarian dancing at Toronto's HCCC
Toronto’s Hungarian community comes together this weekend (June 24 – 26) to celebrate its heritage with music, dancing, crafts and food, all centred around the Hungarian Canadian Cultural Centre at 840 St. Clair Avenue West.

Last week, I checked in on a rehearsal of the Kodaly Ensemble, one of the principal groups performing throughout the weekend. Group president Andrew Komaromy, above in gold shirt, advised me to arrive at the Centre around 8:30 to ensure that his class was properly warmed up. It was a cool spring evening but down in the basement rehearsal space the air was thick with humidity. Komaromy joked that he needed to change his wet shirt before I started taking pictures. Another instructor, a friendly young woman, suggested that I should come back every week because apparently the quality of the dancing improved when the camera came out.

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06/16 2011

Aboriginal History Month Drum Lesson

TorontoMulticulturalBlog

Ian AkiwenzieAs a child, Ian Akiwenzie, left,  didn’t know anything about his unique cultural roots. One day, one of his teachers told his class that Ian was an “Indian.” Would he tell them about Indians? He has been learning and teaching ever since.

Ian grew up in Toronto. Earlier this week, he wasn’t wearing feathers and deer-skin but he was fascinating nevertheless. He was talking about his Ojibway culture at the public library at Jane and Dundas. “It’s not Ojibway,” he said. “It’s Anishnawbe. We call ourselves Anishnawbe.”

Like other Natives I have been meeting recently, Ian was refreshingly frank as he spoke without bitterness and with  much humour. He explained about the terms “red Indians” and “aboriginal.” He told us about Indian agents and the outlawing of native ceremonies and languages.

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06/9 2011

A Spectacle Worthy of the Taj Mahal

Actress Lisa Ray and the Taj Mahal
After 20 years at the forefront of South Asian arts in Toronto, dancer/choreographer/producer Lata Pada knows very well that the best way to ensure success is to surround herself with the brightest possible talents. Thus, for the Luminato commission TAJ, debuting at Fleck Dance Theatre tomorrow night, Pada and her company, Sampradaya Dance Creations, have enlisted the services of playwright John Murrell, director Tom Diamond, choreographer Kumudini Lakhia, composer Praveen D. Rao, lighting and set designer Phillip Silver, Quebec-based projection designer Jacques Collin, and costume designer Rashmi Varma.

“Working with such incredibly generous, talented artists has made my job so much easier,” Pada tells me during a break in rehearsals. “I know that every one of them is a master of his or her craft so I really don’t have much to do.”

In TAJ, Emperor Shah Jahan (the handsome Kabir Bedi) relates the story of why he built the world-famous monument to his wife Mumtaz Mahal, who died giving birth to the couple’s 14th child, Gauhara Begum. Canadian actress Lisa Ray, above, plays the Mughal princess to whom the tale is told.

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06/8 2011

Luminato Touches Down

Sargasso by Philip Beesley
Toronto’s fifth annual Luminato festival (June 10 – 19) officially takes off Friday with a raft of intriguing performances but Canadian architect/designer Philip Beesley‘s Sargasso is already wowing passersby in the Brookfield Place Allen Lambert Galleria. Commissioned by Luminato, Sargasso refers to the tangled floating masses of organic and inorganic matter that drift in the centre of the Atlantic Ocean. Suspended inside the Santiago Calatrava-designed atrium, Beesley‘s vast, feathery canopy sports a variety of layers and materials and also emits sound.

Philip Beesley talks about his work at Chapters (142 John Street) Sunday (June 12) from 12 – 1 pm as part of Luminato’s free Lunchtime Conversations series.

Photo by Christopher Jones