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national ballet of canada

30 Things We Love About Toronto This November and December

2. Spirits by Karoo Ashevak (photo courtesy of the Museum of Inuit Art)

1. Crunching into stone-baked pizzas and grilled panini at Café Uno in the the Distillery Historic District.

2. Marveling at finely crafted stone and bone carvings at the Museum of Inuit Art.

3. Horses and llamas and cows (oh my!), plus a giant vegetable competition and more at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair.

4. Admiring Grace Kelly’s glamourous gowns, Oscar and more at the TIFF Bell Lightbox.

5. Savouring straight-from-the-tandoor-oven naan—alongside chicken tikka and palak paneer—at Little India. (more…)

Wealth of Nations: Your Guide to Luminato

The all-encompassing Luminato festival bestows the world’s artistic riches on Toronto.

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (photo by Johan Persson)

It’s always a bit of a challenge to write about Luminato. Where has been covering this summertime celebration of the arts and creativity since its inception in 2007. Back then, newness was the event’s hook, and a small coterie of marquee stars were easy to pluck from a list of about 100 projects, but we quickly discovered many of Luminato’s smaller happenings, from public art installations to author discussions, were equally deserving of our attention, and that of our culturally astute readers. It proved very difficult to pick and choose.

Luminato continues to grow as it reaches its fifth anniversary. Its sheer scope is perilous for the scribe who would attempt to pare its programming for quick consumption. That same largesse is a boon for eager attendees. More than 150 ticketed and free theatrical and dance productions, concerts, readings and art displays are booked from June 10 to 19, and while it would be impossible to see everything on the schedule, that certainly shouldn’t stop anyone from trying.

As with many arts festivals desirous to share a cultural vision, Luminato carefully selects its programming on the basis of a particular yet broadly interpreted theme. This year, Luminato’s connective tissue is the idea, the tradition, and the many modes of storytelling, reflected foremost in its headline production, One Thousand and One Nights. Created by British director Tim Supple and Lebanese novelist Hanan al-Shaykh, and performed in Arabic, French and English (with surtitles), this special commission weaves the enthralling yarns of Shahrazad into an ambitious, two-part drama that comes complete with its own intriguing backstory. Although the show’s rehearsals in Egypt were disrupted by that country’s recent revolution, last-minute accommodations were found in a Moroccan palace—perhaps an even more fitting space in which to craft such an opulent tale. Canadians spin yarns with universal appeal, too, in such on-stage offerings as Tout Comme Elle—an oratorio for 50 voices that delves into the relationship between mothers and daughters—and the provocative Andromache, which frames the Greek myth and 17th-century French play as a tragedy of lust and obsession.

(more…)

Hot Date: Alice Dances Down the Rabbit Hole

Photo by Johan Persson, courtesy of the Royal Opera House

JUNE 4 TO 12, 23 TO 25 The peculiar imagination of Lewis Carroll is brought to life with music and movement in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, a new dance work co-produced by the National Ballet of Canada and Britain’s Royal Ballet. Presented as part of Luminato, this North American premiere was choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon, who is known for his unique synthesis of neo-classical and modern dance interpretation. Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, $21.50 to $201; call 416-345-9595 or click here for a schedule and to purchase tickets.

Weekend Roundup, March 25th to 27th

Friday: Thrill to the fleet footwork of Michael Flatley's Lord of the Dance (photo by Ken Howard)

Friday, March 25
Michael Flatley, who has been aweing audiences for over a decade as the Lord of the Dance returns to the Sony Centre for a mythic tale of Irish folklore that has dazzled over 100 million people worldwide. Don’t miss this classic story of good versus evil expressed through fast-footed dance.

Emerging director Philip McKee of artistic troupe Idée Fixe presents a passionate adaptation of Shakespeare’s King Lear at Harbourfront Centre. As the king comes closer to death, he demands his daughters prove their love to him in order to secure their inheritance. When the most faithful fails to offer concrete evidence of her devotion, Lear banishes her from his home and heart.

Celebrating 40 years of Canadian music, Junofest features over 100 bands in 20 venues over two nights across the city. Catch tunes from such bands as Billy Talent, Die Mannequin and Bedouin Soundclash playing at such concert locations as the Opera House and Phoenix Concert Theatre.

Saturday: Check out the best bikes at the National Motorcycle Show

Saturday, March 26
Turn off your technology and experience Earth Hour at the Ontario Science Centre with a free live stage show from TVOkids entitled Don’t Sit Still. Or, as the lights go out, observe the stars in Toronto’s sky and a special viewing of Saturn through a telescope with the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada.

Rev up your engines and head down to the Better Living Centre for the 30th anniversary of the National Motorcycle Show. View vintage bikes, including the new row of champions, and find everything you need to get geared up for the season.

Celebrate with tequila at Embrujo Flamenco, an authentic Spanish tapas restaurant which this weekend features a special pre-fixe tasting dinner menu with tequila tasters. Sample fare like flambéed shrimp cooked in Cuervo Blanco tequila and a chocolate mousse with Jimador Reposado tequila and orange marmalade. Post-supper fun includes flamenco dancing and a live music show.

Sunday: Applaud your favourite Canadian musicians at the Junos

Sunday, March 27
The Juno Awards mark their 40th anniversary here in Toronto, home of the very first awards show honouring Canadian musicians. Rap superstar Drake hosts a line-up of stellar performances featuring Sarah McLachlan, Broken Social Scene and Hedley, nominated respectively for Best Artist, Group and Album of the Year.

Hurry to the Art Gallery of Ontario for the last week to see the majesty of the Maharaja: The Splendor of India’s Royal Courts. See amazing artworks, royal costumes, jewellery and a life size model elephant enrobed in textiles, trappings and a silver howdah. Don’t miss the afternoon performance by South Asian dance company inDance.

Marvel at the National Ballet of Canada’s premiere performance of Russian choreographer Alexei Ratmansky’s Themes & Variations, Apollo & Russian Seasons. This showcase features three short one-act ballets set to Tchaikovsky’s Orchestral Suite No.3., created by George Balanchine and Igor Stravinsky with a score by Leonid Desyatnikov.

Hot Date: Duo of Dances

Sonia Rodriguez in Don Quixote (photo by Cylla von Tiedemann)

MARCH 9 TO 13, 17 TO 20 The National Ballet of Canada brings to life two classic stories with full-length interpretations of Cervantes and Pushkin. The company’s first effort, Don Quixote, adds lusty and lavish choreography to the tale of a Spanish outcast’s pursuit of a fair maiden. The following week, John Cranko’s long-hailed adaptation of Onegin offers a gorgeous examination of passion, honour and regret. Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, $21.50 to $201; call 416-345-9595 or visit here for showtimes and tickets.

Hot Shows for the Holidays

The holiday hoopla is beginning to reach fever pitch in Toronto. In the lead-up to December 25, the city offers numerous seasonal shows that are sure to enthrall the whole family.

The National Ballet's Nutcracker

SPIRIT OF THE SEASON
DECEMBER 6 TO DECEMBER 30 A classic tale is told in Soulpepper Theatre’s lauded staging of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts. The troupe’s adaptation is noted for its reverence to Dickens’ original prose, as well as strong performances by a stellar cast, including Joseph Ziegler as the tormented Ebenezer Scrooge. Performed in the round, this is a holiday treat for the traditional theatre lover.

GET CRACKIN’
DECEMBER 11 TO JANUARY 2 The Four Seasons Centre is transformed into a magical kingdom in the National Ballet of Canada’s annual production of The Nutcracker. Choreographer James Kudelka’s reworking of this classic story is an elegant take on Misha and Marie’s journey through a fairy tale land of sugar plum fairies and toy soldiers. Watching the ballerinas float across the stage in perfect coordination with Tchaikovsky’s memorable score is a delight that is sure to transport you into the blissful land of sweets and snow.

MULTIPLE MESSIAHS
DECEMBER 16 TO 21 (TSO)
DECEMBER 15 TO 19 (TAFELMUSIK)
Classical music doesn’t get much more joyous than this! The renowned Toronto Symphony Orchestra offers a stirring rendition of George Frideric Handel’s Messiah at Roy Thomson Hall. Featuring more than 60 instruments and accompanied by the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, this is a performance on the grandest possible scale. If you can’t help but join in the music-making, the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra and Chamber Choir invites you to Massey Hall for its Sing-Along Messiah, a holiday tradition spanning a quarter-century. It’s a truly moving experience to be part of the hundreds of voices singing this immortal oratorio. (Tafelmusik also offers four traditional Messiah concerts at Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre.)

Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas

GREEN CHRISTMAS
DECEMBER 17 TO JANUARY 2 Dr. Seuss’s world of whimsy comes to life at the Sony Centre in How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical. This acclaimed Broadway production is true to the author’s original story and illustrations, remaking the stage as an animated Whoville. Though the Grinch may start the show with a heart “three sizes too small,” he soon comes to learn the true meaning of Christmas.

MONSTROUS FUN
NOVEMBER 25 TO JANUARY 2 Popular producer Ross Petty brings his brand of zany enchantment to the Elgin Theatre in the form of Beauty and the Beast: The Savagely Silly Family Musical. Featuring stars of stage and screen, this is a unique, contemporary theatre experience for kids and families, with many laughs to be had as the characters guide you through a classic tale with a comedic twist.

AN ICE-BOUND TRIP
DECEMBER 25 TO JANUARY 2 Disney on Ice dazzles Rogers Centre spectators with Mickey and Minnie’s Magical Journey. See the beloved cartoon mice as they dive under the sea with The Little Mermaid, venture into Africa with The Lion King, fly through the skies with Peter Pan and hula dance with Lilo & Stitch. This round-the-world journey makes a great gift for both kids and parents.

You Are Here: Queen Street West

The downtown segment of what is arguably Toronto’s coolest street becomes an even cooler destination as winter arrives.
View You Are Here: Queen Street West in a larger map

Kids can learn about animation in the NFB's winter wonderland workshop

HOLIDAY MOVIEHOUSE Edging into the Entertainment District you’ll find the National Film Board’s Toronto Mediatheque, an education centre and library of Canadian flicks that can be watched for free at one of many digital viewing stations. Like what you see? Sign up for a Winter Wonderland workshop, where kids (ages 6 to 13) can create animated films of their own.

DESIGN DEN Just north of Queen West is the distinctive facade of the Umbra Concept Store, the design company’s only standalone location in the world. Not only does this retail space feature the firm’s entire line of modern, affordable home products, it also showcases designers at work. For the holidays, nearly 100 brand-new items are on offer—perfect for stocking stuffers.

Chef David Lee oversees the action at Nota Bene (photo by Nikki Leigh McKean)

BOUNTIFUL BITE Nota Bene stands out on a section of Queen Street otherwise stocked with bars and Indian buffets. The stylish yet casual restaurant provides the perfect atmosphere for both intimate dinners and larger, more boisterous celebrations. For a winter warm-up, be sure to try chef David Lee’s Yucatan hot and sour soup, or pasta with hearty rabbit ragu.

MUSICAL GEM Home to some of the city’s top operatic and dance productions—including the National Ballet’s The Nutcracker, opening December 11—the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts is a local landmark. From street level it strikes a staid stance, but inside it’s a marvel of design. Take a docent-led tour on most Saturdays to learn more about the building’s architecture and incredible acoustics.

Marvel at The Bay's detailed holiday window displays

WINDOW SHOPPING Massive department store The Bay has eight floors of fashion, furniture, fragrances and more—something for everyone on your holiday gift list. As Canada’s oldest corporation, this store is an iconic part of our national history. The flagship location continues a Toronto tradition, too: each year its Queen Street frontage features intricate window displays with seasonal scenes.

GATHERING PLACE City Hall’s two curving towers overlook Nathan Phillips Square, an outdoor hub for concerts and cultural events. The multipurpose site offers something to look forward to when temperatures drop, as its reflecting pool turns into a public skating rink. Even in winter the square is bustling—the annual Citytv New Year’s Eve bash is just one can’t-miss activity.

Weekend Roundup, November 26th to 28th

This weekend, art, comedy, music, dance, and a great winter celebration are sure to entertain (and keep your mind off of the increasingly cold weather).

Friday: Learn about the creative genesis of Tim Burton films such as Mars Attacks!

Friday November 26th
The work of Tim Burton is celebrated with an enormous, acclaimed exhibition at the TIFF Bell Lightbox. Drawings, storyboards, and even pieces from Burton’s personal collection are just some of the items comprising this examination of the idiosyncratic American auteur.

See (and hear) Barbie as never before in Barbie at the Symphony at the Sony Centre. This production combines well-loved Barbie Princess films with live classical-music accompaniment performed by the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony.

Comedic scenes, songs, and improv make up The Second City’s Dysfunctional Holiday Revue. Catch a matinee performance of this hilarious alternative to the traditional holiday show. It’s a great way to spend the afternoon and get into that good old holiday spirit.

Saturday: Revel in the illumination of the Cavalcade of Lights

Saturday November 27th
Get three ballets in one tonight as the National Ballet of Canada presents Chroma, Serenade and Emergence as a triple bill. The first dance pairs classical dancing with the music of The White Stripes. The second is a plotless piece that focuses solely on the beauty of dance, while the final work explores the pressures of social norms.

The unveiling of Toronto’s official Christmas tree occurs tonight at the Cavalcade of Lights.  Fireworks and live performances by such acts as Shawn Desman will all be taking place in celebration at Nathan Phillips Square.

Ozzy Osbourne, arguably one of the most entertaining men in rock and roll, strides on to the Air Canada Centre stage to perform tracks from his new album, Scream, as well as some past hits. It’s sure to be an interesting night with this former reality star in the spotlight.

Sunday: Catch a final glimpse of Canadian conceptual art

Sunday November 28th
Wicked, the enthralling tale of the witches of Oz in the days before Dorothy, takes its final bow today at the Canon Theatre. Beautiful (and award-winning) costumes, sets and singing make this a definite must-see!

It’s also your last chance to check out the challenging works featured in Traffic: Conceptual Art in Canada 1965-1980. This exhibition, displayed across four different galleries, curates an important period in the development of modern Canadian art.

Thrill to the magnificent musicality of pianist Stewart Goodyear, who performs this evening at the Royal Conservatory’s Koerner Hall. Praised for his creativity, Goodyear is set to showcase his skills with a selection of Beethoven sonatas.

Weekend Roundup, November 19 to 21

The holiday season has begun in earnest in Toronto. Start getting into the spirit with a variety of fun (and in some cases, festive) events this weekend.

Friday: Indulge at the Gourmet Food and Wine Expo

Friday, November 19
The Gourmet Food and Wine Expo offers oenophiles, epicureans and bon vivants the opportunity to sample more than 1,500 wines, beers and spirits while enjoying food from Toronto’s top restaurants. The decadence is on all weekend at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.

A mix of jazz, classical, pop and world music–inspired melodies fills Massey Hall tonight, as pop orchestra Pink Martini brings a bubbly show to Toronto in support of its latest album, Splendour in the Grass.

In its own unique fashion, the Bata Shoe Museum is currently celebrating 40 years of the Juno Awards! See the footwear sported by to Canadian musicians like Drake, Nelly Furtado, Avril Lavigne, and many other past Juno winners and nominees.

Saturday: Glimpse the lives of India's historical royalty through such artworks as "Procession of Raja Ram Singh II of Kota and His Son at Kota" (© Victoria & Albert Museum, London)

Saturday, November 20
It’s your last chance to see the National Ballet of Canada’s performance of Cinderella! The company’s James Kudelka–choreographed production at the Four Seasons Centre has received universal acclaim from critics and is certain to leave you and your family enchanted.

The posh Bloor-Yorkville neighbourhood celebrates the season with its annual Holiday Magic festival. Join in the merriment tonight at the “flick the switch” lighting ceremony, featuring a performance by Juno winner Ivana Santilli, free hot beverages and colourful displays in local shop windows.

More than 200 extravagant artworks, furniture, jewellery and much more—all created for India’s royal court—are now on display at the Art Gallery of Ontario’s much anticipated Maharaja exhibition. You’ll be dazzled by this glimpse of royal life on the subcontinent.

Sunday: Welcome Santa and his reindeer friends to the city

Sunday, November 21
Santa Claus is coming to town! A tradition since 1905, the Santa Claus Parade officially heralds the holiday season in Toronto. Line Bloor Street West, University Avenue and Yonge Street this afternoon to see all the floats, marching bands and the big man himself.

If you’re still craving holiday cheer after the parade, head to the Harbourfront Centre for its annual Swedish Christmas Festival! See live performances, browse handmade crafts, enjoy Swedish sweets, and try a glass of the traditional mulled wine known as glögg!

Get ready to cheer—it’s the Major League Soccer Cup Final today at BMO Field! FC Dallas battles the Colorado Rapids at 8:30 p.m. in what’s sure to be an exciting match!

Weekend Roundup, November 12 to 14

There’s a little bit of something for everyone happening this weekend! Enjoy everything from theatre and sports to wildlife and winter fun!

Friday: View Suite Suite Chinatown at the Reel Asian Film Festival

Friday, November 12th
Parents and parents-to-be can check out the Baby Time Show, ongoing all weekend at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. Get insider tips on everything baby-related and entertain your kiddos with sing-a-longs and live shows on the main stage. Today there are seminars throughout the day on such topics as breastfeeding and keeping your children safe around dogs.

The University of Toronto’s Hart House Theatre premieres Equus, the second production of its 2010/11 season. Recently re-popularized when Harry Potter‘s Daniel Radcliffe performed its  lead role in London, the Peter Shaffer-penned classic tells of a psychiatrist’s attempt to understand the sexual and religious connotations of a boy who blinds horses.

Celebrate the cinema of the Far East at the Reel Asian Film Festival, which continues this weekend. Along with screenings taking place throughout the day—including Suite Suite Chinatown—there’s also a special Karaoke Party tonight at 9 p.m. at The Abbey Pub.

Saturday: Fall in love with the Toronto Zoo's red pandas (photo by Peter Meenen)

Saturday, November 13th
Like its black and white counterpart the red panda is facing extinction. To raise awareness, the Toronto Zoo celebrates International Red Panda Day. Learn all about this gorgeous animal at the zoo’s dedicated red panda exhibit. All proceeds go to the Red Panda Network which helps conservation efforts to save these furry little creatures.

Let your imagination soar at the National Ballet of Canada’s performance Cinderella tonight. The timeless fairytale is given a slightly modern twist in this production, which focuses on the allegorical elements of the traditional rags-to-riches tale.

Take in some ice carving, live music, and fire performers this Saturday at the Ice, Wine & Dine event, part of the Downtown Yonge BIA’s Winter Magic festival. There will also be food and wine tasting as well as ice martinis and so much more.

Sunday: See Leafs stars like Phil Kessel test their skills

Sunday, November 14th
It’s the final day of the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair! See this annual celebration off in good humour by attending its Woof and Hoof event—where canine is pitted against equine in numerous challenges including barrel racing. The Trick Riding Championship also takes place today, plus cattle penning, mini chuckwagon racing and much more.

The Toronto Maple Leafs throw down the gauntlet at 11 a.m. for their Skills Competition. See some of your favourite players go head to head in shootouts, skate offs, and many other mettle-testing events. For tickets, click here.

Experience the glitz and glamour of Indian entertainment in The Merchants of Bollywood, which wraps up its Toronto run this evening. The costumes, music, and beauty of Indian cinema come alive in this fabulous production.

Hot Date: Cinderella’s Moving Fable

NOVEMBER 11 TO 20 A beloved fairytale reaches great heights on stage as the National Ballet of Canada presents Cinderella. Although this timeless tale is set to classic music by Sergei Prokofiev, the production is a thoroughly modern one thanks to the inventive and enthralling choreography of James Kudelka. In this version, the dancers’ movements emphasize their characters’ stories of personal growth through the power of love. Combined with stunning sets and costumes, this beautiful ballet will be a sight to behold. Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, various times, $12 to $201; call 416-345-9595 or navigate here for tickets.

Luminato Logbook, Day One

If imagination is the core of the soul, then Toronto’s spirit is strong indeed, and on full display during Luminato. This annual celebration of arts and creativity brings to the city an international array of theatrical and dance performances, world-music concerts, visual art displays, literary events, interactive festivities and much more—all of which you can read about here daily. Expand your horizons and imagine new heights; for the next 10 days in Toronto, anything is possible.

TODAY’S TOP TICKETS

John Malkovich takes a chilling turn in The Infernal Comedy

ACTING OUT An innovative pairing of music and storytelling sees actor John Malkovich (yes, that John Malkovich) portray charismatic Austrian criminal Jack Unterweger in The Infernal Comedy: Confessions of a Serial Killer. His manipulative monologues are contrasted by the beautiful music of the Vienna Academy Orchestra and two sopranos giving voice to the killer’s absent mother and his many victims. Massey Hall, 178 Victoria St., 8 p.m., $55 to $125.

SHINE A LIGHT In Dark Star Requiem, music and poetry illuminate the history of HIV/AIDS, a disease that disregards race, class, age and culture. Created by Tapestry, a Toronto-based developer of new operatic works, this redemptive oratorio soars with the strains of the Gryphon Trio and vocal harmonies by the Elmer Iseler Singers. Koerner Hall, 273 Bloor St. W., 8 p.m., $30 to $50.

MORE MUST-SEE SHOWS

>> Pay tribute to Luminato co-founder David Pecaut, who succumbed to cancer last December, by viewing the Atom Egoyan–curated film installation Solar Breath (Northern Caryatids)/Light Air. Brookfield Place, 181 Bay St., 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., free.

>> He was only 12 when he hatched his dream of becoming a fashion designer; now Canadian Mark Fast’s knitwear is known the world over. A Luminato-exclusive showcase of his couture is on display today. Brookfield Place, 181 Bay St., all day, free.

>> Reflect on your life’s journey aboard a 30-foot Chinese junk salvaged by Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller to examine artists’ and writers’ fascination with the image of an uncaptained Ship O’ Fools. Trinity Bellwoods Park, Queen Street West and Strachan Avenue, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., free.

>> Don’t want to miss a thing? Illuminate your Luminato experience at the lunchtime Festival Overview. Roots (2nd floor), 100 Bloor St. W., 12:30 p.m., free.

>> Three points of view merge in tonight’s preview of The Africa Trilogy, an East meets West exploration that unites playwrights, directors and performers who ask: How do we see each other? Fleck Dance Theatre, 207 Queens Quay W., 7 p.m., $30 to $45.

>> The festival officially kicks off with a Luminato First Night concert featuring such Canadian pop divas as Sass Jordan and Melanie Fiona. Yonge-Dundas Square, 7 to 11 p.m., free.

>> Witness the National Ballet of Canada’s dynamic West Side Story Suite, accompanied by Jerome Robbins’ Opus 19/Dreamer and the world-premiere of Pur ti Miro by Finnish choreographer Jorma Elo. Four Seasons for the Performing Arts, 145 Queen St. W, 7:30 p.m., $20 to $210.

>> Mystery readings from the Scene of the Crime are sure to send a chill down your spine, thanks to tales written by the king of South African crime fiction, Deon Meyer, and Dublin-born John Brady. Al Green Theatre (Miles Nadal JCC), 750 Spadina Ave., 7:30 p.m., $15.

>> Laugh until you cry (and be profoundly moved in the process) as Two Faced Bastard employs dance, theatre and comedy to examine the duality of human life. The Joey & Toby Tanenbaum Opera Centre, 227 Front St. E., 8 p.m., $50.

>> A powerful historic act is remembered in One Pure Longing: Táhirih’s Search. Dance, poetry and music tell the story of a 19th-century Persian woman who was executed for refusing to wear a veil. Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, 12 Alexander St., 8 p.m., $35.

Purchase Luminato tickets daily at the T.O. Tix booth, located at Yonge-Dundas Square.