PuSh International Peforming Arts Festival brightens up winter with unique dance, theatre, music, and film

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Push International Performing Arts Festival | Various venues | January 16 to February 4, 2018

The 14th annual PuSh Festival features artists from 11 countries, 20 Mainstage shows, eight Club PuSh shows, and PuSh Assembly, an industry networking event series. This year, the Club PuSh shows have expanded eastward to the Anvil Centre in New Westminster. Another highlight of this year’s festival is the Spotlight on Ireland, featuring a series of works from the Republic of Ireland as well as Northern Ireland. With so many shows to choose from, it’s hard to know where to start. There are many worthy of anticipation.  



Canadian dance is showcased in a few shows this with Frédérick Gravel’s Some Hope for the Bastards in a special one-night-only show on February 16 at the Playhouse. Gravel is a hard-hitting choreographer who turns a dance performance into a high octane, music-fuelled, politically-charged party. It’s sure to be a highlight of the festival and I can’t wait to see what provocative ideas he has in store for us. Another notable Canadian presentation is Daina Ashbee’s piece, Pour, at the Scotiabank Dance Centre. Ashbee is the 2016 recipient of the Prix de la Danse, and performing her choreography is Paige Culley, the 2017 winner, will bare it all in this work that explores the menstrual cycle and pride in the female body.

Also at the Scotiabank Dance Centre is Nicola Gunn’s Piece for Person and Ghetto Blaster. Gunn is an Australian dance artist who recalls a frustrating foreign encounter in this athletic, abstract work. In this piece she attempts to deconstruct morality, culture, and the politics of intervention. Also from down under, Anthony Hamilton and Alisdair Macindoe bring us Meeting, billed as a “stunning display of mechanical sophistication and human movement” featuring 64 robotic percussion instruments. The dancers respond to the tapping and chiming instruments in a methodical way to create what sounds like an impressive piece of expression. Silvia Calderoni, a gender fluid artist from Italy, will present MDLSX, a dance party that breaks down barriers of sexuality.

Legendary Taiwanese choreographer Lin Lee-Chen brings her company Legend Lin Dance Theatre and their show The Eternal Tides to the Queen Elizabeth Theatre for one night only on February 3 in the largest dance work to be presented at PuSh thus far. The show incorporates age-old rituals, customs and ceremonial rites of Taiwan into a monumental dance work. In elaborate costumes, the dancers are surrounded by vivid sets as they perform this tribute to water.

Theatre and interdisciplinary shows

Vancouver theatre artist Patrick Keating shares his personal story about his past as a bank robber and a convicted criminal in Inside/Out. His witty memoir is sure to be riveting. Shannon Yee of Northern Ireland presents her unique multidisciplinary show, Reassembled, Slightly Askew, in which the audience lays in hospital beds wearing headphones to become immersed in her experience of surviving a traumatic brain injury. In Pi Theatre’s The Events, the massacre of 77 adults and minors at a Norway summer camp is the inspiration for a provocative play that prompts discussion and catharsis. Andy Field’s Lookout explores the future of Vancouver as audience members overlook the city and discuss this one-on-one with local children.  

Not only for children, but certainly something they would love, It’s Dark Outside from Australia’s Tim Watts/The Last Great Hunt is a play full of puppetry, animation, shadow play, and a good old Western story with some twists as the hero is a man with dementia. Both I’m Not Here and Endings deal with grief at the loss of loved ones and sound like hugely cathartic works that will stay with you long after they’re over.

Dublin Oldschool from Ireland is the story of a wild reunion between two estranged brothers: Jason, the would-be DJ, and Daniel, the washed-up junkie. The play is structured with spoken word, intermittent dialogue, and poetic reflections as the brothers reminisce about their drug binges and raves while forming a renewed bond. Local powerhouse multidisciplinary group, Hong Kong Exile (artists in residence at this year’s festival) will present Foxconn Frequency (no. 3): For three visibly Chinese performers. In this show, pianist Vicky chow engages in a kind of keyboard standoff as the other performers compete with her piano drills. Including performers with Down syndrome, King Arthur’s Night reimagines the classic legend with the accompaniment of a live band and choir.


In Blind Cinema, Britt Hatzius has created a unique movie-going experience where the audience doesn’t actually watch the movie. Instead, the film is described by whispers from a child sitting in the row behind as the audience sits blindfolded. It’s a rare opportunity to see the world through a child’s eyes and allow them to narrate the story with the help of their imaginations.

Paired with The Eternal Tides and screening on January 23, The Walkers is an epic documentary about Lin Lee-Chen and her dance company, Legend Lin Dance Theatre which she founded in 1995. Filmed over 10 years, it captures the grace and dedication of both Lee-Chen and her dancers. 


BiRDMAN LiVE is a unique experience to have a ovie soundtrack performed live as you watch the film. On Feb 1, Drummer Antonio Sanchez will perform his compositions live alongside the Oscar-winning film. Turning Point Ensemble brings together a collection of composers and pay tribute to Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood and his icon, Olivier Messiaen, in Radio Rewrite: The Music of Jonny Greenwood, Steve Reich, Olivier Messiaen & Christopher Butterfield. American Composer Frederic Rzewski and famed Belgian pianist Vandewalle pay homage to the sounds of political struggle in Songs of Insurrection. The uplifting program compiles protest songs from across the globe.  


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