Why Women Choreographers Suck (According to Glenn Sumi)

This past weekend, while I was waiting for my take-out pizza to be heated up, I picked up a copy of the latest issue of NOW Magazine to read the cover story on dance legend Peggy Baker. It seems like every time I read NOW, I’m reminded again and again why I never read NOW. This week’s issue is no exception.

After his article on Baker, Glenn Sumi produces a list of some of the city’s top choreographers (all of whom happen to be women) and talks about why they are not the next Peggy Baker. While I’m all for critics asking hard questions and pushing artists to make the best work possible, lining up a group of female choreographers and then taking stabs at each of them for not being “the next Peggy Baker” shows questionable journalistic judgement.

Even worse perhaps, is the fact that Sumi’s criticisms of these women are woefully inaccurate. He states that Sasha Ivanochko “has yet to find her choreographic voice”. I’m sorry, what? Are you fucking kidding me? Sasha Ivanochko has yet to find her choreographic voice? Is this supposed to be a joke? That’s like saying the dancers of the National Ballet need to pay more attention to their technique.

Making a statement like this would incline me to believe that Sumi has never actually seen any of Ivanochko’s work, except for the fact that I’ve been in the audience with him at some of her performances.

Sumi then goes on to slag Susie Burpee because apparently “her dance is overshadowed by her theatricality”. Again, are you fucking kidding me? The theatricality of Burpee’s work is precisely what makes it distinctive and interesting and I fail to see how this could be considered a bad thing.

He goes a bit easier on Kate Alton. Instead of simply making a blanket statement about why she doesn’t measure up in his eyes, he poses the question of whether “her links to other disciplines [are] detracting from her dance or expanding her audience”. Though I appreciate his ability to at least posit this as a question, I still think it’s a pretty stupid question. Part of the reason why Alton has the success she has is precisely because she works across disciplines and has established connections with audiences outside the traditional dance core.

And while I’ll agree with Sumi that Sarah Chase is high demand around the world, and therefore not able to perform in Toronto as often as I’d like to see her, can a Toronto-based artist achieving international success really be considered a criticism?

It’s hard enough for dance artists to get coverage in mainstream publications, who’d rather dedicate ink to the latest Mirvish musical, than some obscure series of duets at the Winch. Why NOW would take an opportunity to spotlight six female choreographers, only to slag them for not measuring up to some undefined theoretical standard is beyond me. Our community deserves better than this steaming heap of shit passed off as arts journalism.
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Oklahoma's Intrusive Abortion Law Heads to Court

Rogers and Hammerstein's beloved musical Oklahoma! has charmed audiences around the world for almost seventy years. The tale of handsome farmhand Curly MacLain and his courtship of innocent farm girl Laurey Williams, has garnered critical praise, numerous awards, broken records on Broadway, and grossed millions at the box-office. The show is so frequently performed, in professional, community, and high school productions, that there is an average of one performance every day somewhere in the world. While Curly and Laurey wait until after they've tied the knot to consummate their love, things could have turned out differently for them if they'd ended up getting it on before their wedding night. And if they were living in Oklahoma today and had to deal with an unplanned pregnancy, things could be pretty bad.

On Feb 19 a hearing will begin in Oklahoma State Court regarding a controversial new abortion law passed last fall but put on hold by a judge until this week. Known as the Statistical Reporting of Abortions Act, the law requires all women who have abortions to complete a form with more than 30 questions including their age, race, level of education, and marital status, as well as detailed questions on their reasons for choosing to terminate the pregnancy. The information is then posted on a website. Women who refuse to complete the form cannot be provided with abortion services and doctors who try to side-step the process would face criminal sanctions and lose their license.

Check out the rest at Xtra.ca
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Keith Cole Announces Toronto Mayoral Bid

On Friday February 12, local performance artist and provocateur Keith Cole announced his plan to run for mayor in the Toronto municipal election next October. Amidst cheers, as well as some shocked faces, he told the crowd that it was time for change.

"For the last six years I have felt that this city has been nothing but a long, dry hack of a cough," he said. "In 2010 we actually have the opportunity to change how the City of Toronto is going to be run and how it is going to be organized. It is up to you."

Since Cole is best known for his outrageous stage antics and unconventional approach to drag performance, many were surprised by his announcement. The most common question that comes up when his candidacy is mentioned is whether he is actually serious about his intentions.

"Yes, I am totally serious about running for mayor," Cole says, on the phone from his Jarvis and Wellesley apartment. "I went down to City Hall on Tuesday, paid my $200, and got the big binder of information and rules they give out to candidates."

Check out the rest at Xtra.ca

Watch the official announcement on YouTube.
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d'bi.young at the Rhubarb Festival

You’d be hard-pressed to find an artist more prolific and hard-working than d’bi young. The 32-year-old Jamaican-born, Toronto-based, queer dub poet, writer and performer has recorded four albums, published two books, contributed to numerous compilations, written half a dozen plays, won two Dora Awards and performed on stages across the Americas and Europe. She is the founder and artistic director of anitAFRIKA! Dub Theatre, a company that teaches dub poetry to youth, and has taught and lectured internationally.

Currently on a year-long performance tour that is taking her across Canada and to Ecuador, Belize and England, young is doing her best to balance her many projects with life as the single mother of two young children.

So how exactly does she manage to do it all?

“I don’t know!” she laughs, on the phone from Montreal, where she’s currently performing. “Some days I’ll have three or four hours before rehearsal that I plan to use working on lines or something. But you know, I’ll spend the whole time making food and changing diapers.”

Her newest piece, She, which explores a young woman’s obsession with a pop icon, is being presented as part of the second week of Rhubarb at Toronto's Buddies in Bad Times. The piece is the first part of a new trilogy entitled She Raw Now, which examines “the state of affairs of the world today.”

Check out the rest on Xtra.ca

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