Judith Mendelsohn, Soulocentric curator, says this city is “exceptional” for its festivals. “Calgary is a festival town,” echoes Nicole Mion, artistic director of the Fluid Movement Arts Festival.
It is precisely this local festival “vibe” that prompted the creation of both Soulocentric and Fluid, two October events that feature plenty of dance and physical theatre.
Soulocentric originated about a decade ago at a time when more artists were starting to explore solo work. “We created Soulocentric as a platform for those artists,” explains Mendelsohn.
The festival is arranged around four evenings in Vertigo’s Studio Theatre and includes solo work from a wide variety of disciplines, including dance, theatre, music, clown and the circus arts.
Of the more than 40 artists participating in Soulocentric this year, almost all are from Calgary, with the exception of a couple of visitors from Edmonton.
It kicks off with a set from singer-songwriter Julianna Hindemith, followed by Jennifer Roberts’ one-woman show, Wilma–May and Her Tight White Socks.
Thursday evening features a selection of theatrical works, including former Cirque du Soleil artist Jessica Barrera with her whimsical show about a fallen moon fairy, and local clown Jed Tomlinson with The Bus.
Tomlinson, who trained with John Turner of Mump and Smoot fame, portrays a homeless clown who remains on a public bus for as long as possible, all the while trying various strategies to make it feel homier.
“I’ve been playing with the idea of home. What is home?” says Tomlinson, who plans to further develop this 10–minute piece into a full-length show.
Thursday evening’s featured performer, Melanee Murray, will stage her one-woman show, The Hoodwink, which won this year’s Calgary Region One-Act Play Festival. It follows the journey of a young woman who is trying to make it in the hip-hop world without caving in to sexualized female stereotypes.
Friday, October 5 is Soulocentric’s contemporary dance showcase. It includes a work by Tony Olivares that reflects the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan. There will also be some butoh dance on the program (a style originating in Japan), courtesy of Gessuri Gaitan.
“We believe there is an audience out there for every form of art,” says Mendelsohn. “If you want something more challenging, if you want to ponder, if you want something more ‘artsy-fartsy’ so to speak, then you come to the Friday night showcase.
“If you’re interested in mainstream performance, come Saturday night,” she adds of that evening’s assortment of short dance, music and theatre pieces, including Moiré by Calgary choreographer Jamie Freeman Cormack.
Following on the heels of Soulocentric is the seventh annual Fluid Festival.
“The word ‘fluid’ suggests more than just a dance festival. It’s about using the body for a broad range of movement, from movement on film, to dance theatre, to installation, to dance itself,” explains Fluid artistic director Nicole Mion. She says one of the fest’s goals is to ensure that “great artists from around the world are coming to Western Canada and working side by side with local artists.”
This year, for example, Berlin’s Circle of Eleven will be on hand with LEO, a one-man show of “acrobatic physical theatre.”
“It expands the notion of what it means to tell a story through the body,” says Mion. “It’s like Buster Keaton for the contemporary age.”
The Fluid Festival has partnered with several other Calgary arts groups this year to co-present shows, including The Tempest Replica, by famed Canadian contemporary choreographer Crystal Pite, hosted by Theatre Junction Grand, as well as the Vertigo Y Stage showing of IZM, a piece by Canada’s only nationally touring street-dance company, Bboyizm.
Finally, the fest is also featuring a wide variety of artistic offerings through a “nomadic gallery caravan” called containR.
“ContainR is this crazy thing we did for the Olympics in Vancouver. It’s about creating venues. Some people won’t come into a gallery to see work, but if something interesting is happening on the street, they might stop to check it out,” says Mion.
These street-level venues are actually shipping containers that will be located in East Village on the RiverWalk Plaza. There will be both free and ticketed events operating on the stages, ranging from a display of Mexican art to the performance of a radio play courtesy of WordFest.
“Fluid Fest comes from the world of the physical, but creative conversation is what we want to facilitate,” says Mion.