PuSh Festival fights winter blues

Over the past decade, the PuSh International Performing Arts Festival has become an acknowledged and respected event, both locally and internationally. 

For their 11th year, the PuSh Festival begins their next decade by reinforcing their motto, “cross the line.” The festival’s organizers once again bring together a diverse line-up of performing artists from local, national, and international communities. “I think this year is a bit of [a] transition year for us,” artistic director Norman Armour told The Peak. “It’s kind of a fulcrum point between the last 10 years and the next 10 years.” 

The PuSh Festival has undergone multiple changes this year, but each new feature contributes to the festival’s growing identity and serves as a development of its vision, values, and priorities. Connecting with the younger generation is an important aspect of the festival, and one of the organizers’ long-time desires is to collaborate with the Vancouver International Children’s Festival to open new avenues for innovative work developed for a younger audience.

This year the festival welcomes The Adventures of Alvin Sputnik with puppeteer and animator Tim Watts, a piece that is suitable for all ages — “that’s the kind of new thing that we seek to introduce this year, and it puts a new spin on the festival,” Armour explained.

The continuation of the youth pass program further shows the festival’s commitment to younger audiences. The program allows youth aged 16–24 access to rush tickets for $5. The festival also aims to sustain an open and inviting atmosphere where artists can seek opportunities, connections, and experiences.

For instance, local theatre company Theatre Conspiracy commissioned another local company, Hong Kong Exile, who will be presenting their show eatingthegame at Club PuSh. Hong Kong Exile was established in 2011 by three SFU contemporary arts graduates: Milton Lam (theatre), Remy Siu (music), and Natalie Tin Yin Gan (dance). Along with the headlining shows of the festival, Club PuSh offers additional avant-garde performances in the less formal atmosphere of Performance Works on Granville Island.

One of the biggest changes of the year was the relocation of the PuSh main office into the downtown core, where it will occupy a new facility with three other groups. To celebrate the transition is Sequence 8, presented by Montréal’s circus group, Les 7 doigts de la main. After the show there will be an outdoor dance performance in the Queen Elizabeth Theatre Plaza, Sylvain Émard’s Le Grand Continental, which involves 70 local community dancers.

The festival was created as a platform for innovative ideas to converge and develop. In a sense, the festival also provides a glimpse into some of the current trends and interests of performing arts in different parts of the world. As a place where artists can present their work side-by-side, it is an opportunity for relationships or connections to exist between “seemingly discreet and distinct disciplines,” explained Armour.

The festival presents “a concentrated glimpse into a particular scene” and the opportunity to view how multiple artists from the same art scene create unique and varying pieces. For example, Dutch artists Lotte van den Berg (Cinema Imaginaire) and Dries Verhoeven (Fare Thee Well!) actually knew of each other before becoming involved in the festival. According to Armour, they share many of the same resources, and there are “lots of parallel in terms of their work.”

Another pair who have preexisting knowledge of each other’s work are Belgian artists Lisbeth Gruwez (It’s going to get worse and worse and worse, my friend) and Kate McIntosh (Dark Matters). 

In order to gain the fullest experience from the festival, Armour encourages people to trust their curiosities and to choose something they wouldn’t normally see. At its heart, the festival aims to provide a challenge and an inspiration for Vancouverites and visiting artists alike.

The PuSh Festival will run from January 20 to February 8 at various venues. For more information, visit pushfestival.ca or pick up a copy of the PuSh brochure.