(For our report on the first part of the evening, see our previous post.)

Zapato Negro

Zapato Negro

Our live-blogging at Monday night’s event was thwarted by the wireless internet connection at Club Five Sixty dying, but better late than never, here’s our report on the rest of the evening.

After the speeches finished, the crowds thinned out as many took the opportunity to catch a sneak preview of La Marea in Gastown (We saw it yesterday evening , check the blog tomorrow for a review). We were still in for a treat though as Afro Cuban jazz band Zapato Negro took to the stage and launched into some seductive and infectious grooves, creating a sound that blended funk and Latin vibes and soon made the room feel full again. We couldn’t help but dance in our seats as we feverishly worked to write up our first blog post of the night.

At around nine, organisers announced that two listed performances – Theatre Replacement’s Weetube and The Chop Theatre’s Last Dance Tango Salon would be starting in the adjacent Lounge area. Like a number of theatre, art and online projects in recent years, Weetube takes things which have already been said or written and uses them as performance text. After letting the audience watch a popular Youtube video chosen from a projected playlist, actors create short scenes using the public comments posted under the video on Youtube. For the most part these were very amusing, but laughter turned to uneasy silence as we were quickly reminded that wherever public comments can be posted from behind the relative anonymity of a computer screen, racism, misogyny and homophobia will soon rear their ugly heads.



If you’re not a fan of audience interaction, prolonged eye contact, or dancing in public then the Last Dance Tango Salon might not be the performance for you. Audience members are invited to dance with one of four performers, while listening to their thoughts being spoken via headphones, backed by stirring tango music. Those who were too nervous to take part looked on, unaware of the stories being told and the secrets being shared in intimate moments between strangers. I was amazed how quickly I lost any inhibitions and awareness of the people watching as I took part, and was drawn into the eye contact, physical contact and breath shared while listening to the story play out. One of the unique things offered by live arts experiences is the moment of connection between performer and spectator – Last Dance gets to the heart of this exchange, distills its essence and delivers it through intense gazes and words whispered in your ears.

The Zolas

The Zolas

In the main room, local indie rock band The Zolas took to the stage, and an appreciative crowd lapped up their witty and catchy tunes, which kept everyone dancing, cheering and full of energy. They deserved a bigger crowd, but with so many shows going on at once it was hard to choose what to watch. However, the crowd grew as the other pieces finished, and the band gave a great performance that left people wanting more.

Vancouver neighbourhoods map

Vancouver neighbourhoods map

Wondering around the multi-level Club Five Sixty throughout the night attendees were treated to a number of additional performances and distractions – flamenco and contemporary dance groups, a contortionist, photographic and video previews of some of the upcoming PuSh shows being projected on the walls, and short acoustic music sets. Those who made their way through the labyrinthine downstairs washrooms were greeted by an interactive map and the invitation to submit a postcard describing the things they loved about their neighborhood. Perhaps more popular however were the two free photo booths in the main room which attracted steady queues of party goers throughout the night. We’re not sure if it was planned but the ability to watch people gleefully posing and examining their photos from the balcony in the upstairs lounge proved completely captivating.

The party went on into the night with a DJ set that filled the dance floor and had everyone forgetting it was Monday evening and we all had to be at work in the morning. It was great to see so many different people in the arts and culture industry together in one happy room. On a final note, it was impossible not to notice that the event was well populated with friendly and helpful volunteers – a reminder that events such as PuSh often rely on the many passionate permanent and temporary residents of the city who give up their time for free to support the arts.


PuSh merchandise

8:15 Second update from the PuSh Opening Gala – Opening Speeches

Following Mayor Gregor was Max Wyman, president of the PuSh Board. It was very hard to hear what he was saying unfortunately, but something that stood out was when he talked about the imp0rtance of what he calls  the ‘creative class’. He said that “sharing a cultural experience gives us more understanding of each other”. Wise words indeed!

Up next was VanCity CEO Tamara Vrooman who expressed her delight about VanCity’s contribution as a sponsor for the 125th celebration events.

Then it was Norman Armour’s turn! He saluted with a big “Hellooooo Vancouver!! As the Executive Director of the PuSh Festival, he talked about the importance of keeping the arts at the centre of our civic life and was visibly excited about sharing the stage with Vancouver’s 125th birthday celebrations. This year’s festival explores the notions of ‘cityness’ and place, and is sure to inspire many to discover all that Vancouver has to offer as a cultural hub. Norman gave a big shout-out to The Georgia Straight, CTV and all the bloggers and journalists who have played a part in getting the word out about this year’s festival; and gave a resounding rallying cry to all of those present as ambitious and passionate leaders in the arts to strive for our goals and seize opportunities in these challenging and daunting times. Our city needs us!

19.30pm First update from the PuSh Opening Gala – Mayor Gregor’s speech

(Details may be patchy as most of the speeches were inaudible until someone turned the sound up halfway through Norman Armour’s speech!)

Club Five Sixty is packed with people excited to celebrate both the launch of Vancouver’s 125th birthday celebrations (or quasquicentennial to use the correct term-just don’t ask us how to pronounce it!) and the opening of the 2011 PuSh Festival.

After some community performances (did anyone catch who they were over the noise of the crowd?) Mayor Gregor Robertson took to the stage to officially launch the City’s plans for the 125th birthday festivities – a celebration of Vancouver’s diversity: “that’s what we are all made of”.  He announced the plans for Birthday Live –  a free family event on April 6th, the official anniversary of the city’s incorporation, which will include the lighting of the Olympic Cauldron and “yes, there will be birthday cake!”; and Summer Live – three days of free performances  over multiple stages in Stanley Park taking place July 8-10th. As well as these two spotlight events, a funding program of $10 million will go towards bringing improvements and vibrancy to neighbourhoods including Gastown, Chinatown, the Downtown Eastside and Strathcona.

Throughout his speech, the Mayor spoke enthusiastically and proudly about the diverse communities which make up the city, and the role of the arts, culture and creative expression in giving voice to those communities and the city as a whole, as well as acting as a “huge economic driver for the city”. 2011 is set to be a fantastic year with Vancouver being named as the Cultural Capital for Canada and promises of “the most legendary PuSh Festival in history”.  There were thanks offered to the Federal Government, Heritage Canada, the PuSh Festival Board, staff and volunteers, and City Councillors, before  the Mayor signed off by thanking everyone for being here, wishing us all a great 125th year, and reminding people to check for updates on all of the plans discussed tonight.

So what do you think of the Vancouver 125 plans so far? Will you be attending Birthday Live and Summer Live? Leave us a comment on this post or let us know on twitter (@escapadetheatre)!

The excitement is building… The 2011 PuSh Festival kicks off in a matter of hours. With so many varied and  exciting performances to choose from, we can’t wait to sample what’s on offer over the next few weeks. We’ll be live-blogging and tweeting from tonight’s Opening Gala at Club 56o – we’ll be updating this post throughout the evening so keep checking back for updates…

Push Festival 2011 publicity image