Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The funny thing

The web is such a wild and woolly place. After blogging for months on theatre in its many aspects, we finally get noticed by a major online blog.

And it's for the entry on the Telectroscope.

Sigh. We'll take our victories where we find them.


On another note, Luminato is now going on around town. With Twelve Angry Men running at the same time (as well as the brutal heat wave we just went through), I've only been to two events — First Night, which featured the Count Basie Orchestra, and On the One, which was a Funk Festival. Both of these events turned out to be disappointments.

Not that it was all bad. The Orchestra was rocking, but the dance floor that was laid out as part of the Light On Your Feet programming was filled with people just watching the show. There was a good turnout from the swing dance community but the looks we got from bystanders as we tried to find somewhere, anywhere to dance was unbelievable. Between sets, the tiny section of the dance floor we had managed to carve out was taken over and we were all forced to dance way off to the side on a surface that nearly twisted my ankle, even after I was changed back to my street shoes. I talked to one of the Luminato staff afterward and he said that because Yonge/Dundas square was a public space, they couldn't section off any of it outside of the dance lessons, as it would be impossible to police. But as a fellow dancer pointed out later, large sections of the square had been reserved for a large booth for the sponsor and another large section for a bar.

It strikes me as unbelievable that it was billed as a dance event and yet the dancers were not given any consideration at all. Also, any swing band will tell you that they feed off the dancers, so imagine what could have been if they could have been able to see us. It was just incredibly frustrating, especially because I made arrangements to leave work early so that I could participate.

I went to the Funk Festival between shifts on Saturday, and outside of watching some great dancing during the Funk Crew Competition (which I couldn't stay long enough to find the winner of), I was extremely disappointed with the programming. Almost the whole time was hip-hop, which I know is part of the evolution of the music but not what I have in mind when I think funk. The DJ spun some good stuff but there was no effort to make it more participatory — it just felt like a time waster, with no encouragement that I could see to get people dancing (although I will admit finding shade was a bigger priority at that point). My schedule meant that I could see the marquee acts (James Brown's Soul Generals & Morris Day and The Time), which would have made a difference in how I perceived the festival, but I felt deeply disappointed. And that disappointment meant that I didn't bother to attend the Disco night tonight after work, which I also had been looking forward to.

Luminato has become deeply resented by a lot of the smaller organizations around town. I know the folks at the Toronto Fringe are deeply unhappy with the amount of government funding the festival has received (they told me Luminato got more than the Toronto Arts Council's annual budget) and the way that Luminato wanted to use the artists they have nurtured without crediting or assisting the Fringe in any way. I've heard other companies talk about how they've not been invited to be part of the dialogue between the festival and the community. I've felt really mixed about this because I strongly feel that Toronto needs an international arts festival. I've seen firsthand the benefits a large festival has brought to the Australian and New Zealand artists and I would like us to benefit as well.

But Friday night, after watching another community I'm a part of (the swing dance community) be disregarded and disrespected, I'm really starting to turn against the festival. They've brought in some wonderful work — A Midsummer's Night Dream and Black Watch are must sees (which sadly I'm going to miss because I need my last week of work) — and show why a festival needs to exist. I'm just really feeling right now that festival isn't Luminato.

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