A pop-up big top, street dancing on ice and eight other must-see events at Luminato
An extravagant pop-up venue from the past
This year, Luminato’s home base is the Famous Spiegeltent, a 300-person pop-up theatre with a 1920s cabaret vibe—think ornate velvet canopies, brocade and mirrors. The pavilion’s non-stop programming includes Notes of a Native Song, a spoken word show inspired by James Baldwin, and Pss Pss, a Chaplin-esque clown comedy. June 14 to 25. David Pecaut Square.
Luminato’s opening night bash
Tributaries, Luminato’s free blockbuster opener, is a celebration of Indigenous culture and art, divided into five hour-long sections: a Cree musical cabaret with piano, vocals and saxophone; a round dance, powwow and spoken word from Alberta musical collective Northern Cree; a series of vocal performances, including one from Inuk throat singer extraordinaire Tanya Tagaq; a concert by American-Mexican songwriter Lila Downs; and, to close the night, a multimedia DJ party with art-pop prodigy Lido Pimienta and Bear Witness, one of the members of A Tribe Called Red. June 14. David Pecaut Square.
A fierce figure-skating routine
Vertical Influences brings the swagger of the streets to the world of figure skating. Five performers glide around a hockey rink with icy composure, nailing twists and leaps that fall somewhere between breakdancing and a Patrick Chan routine. The audience gets to sit on the ice for part of the show, and can even lace up for a DJ skate party after the June 23 performance. June 22 to 25. Mattamy Athletic Centre and Don Montgomery Arena.
A multimedia symphonic spectacle
Life Reflected pays homage to four Canadian women: astronaut Roberta Bondar, author Alice Munro, poet Rita Joe and cyberbullying victim Amanda Todd. The National Arts Centre Orchestra’s music—bubbly and brassy in some numbers, melancholic in others—is paired with narration, live performance and video, like vintage space shuttle footage, projected on a curtain of dangling strings that encircle the orchestra. June 18. Sony Centre.
A rock-and-roll remix of classic Camelot
Niall McNeil, a playwright and actor with Down syndrome, co-wrote and stars in King Arthur’s Night. It’s a darkly funny musical about a kingdom coming undone, set in a fantastical dream world with slick production (period costumes courtesy of Stratford, video projections on walls of fog) and a few bizarre gags: an army of goats, a dancing Lancelot and a choir that doubles as a heap of corpses after a bloody battle. June 15 to 18. Berkeley Street Theatre.
A dance premiere about residential schools
Plains Cree choreographer Michael Greyeyes and Algonquin playwright Yvette Nolan tell the story of Canada’s residential school system in Bearing. Ten dancers start nearly naked on a sparse stage, assuming different roles and re-enacting history as they stumble upon symbolic costumes: a young girl’s school uniform, a priest’s smock, a homeless person’s tattered clothes. June 22 to 24. Joey and Toby Tanenbaum Opera Centre.
A slapstick riot from Belgium
En Avant, Marche! stars Flemish actor Wim Opbrouck as a trombone player who falls ill and gets demoted to the cymbals. Belittled, the musician wreaks havoc on his bandmates, exuberantly singing and dancing in the middle of their practice. The show features four actors and a seven-piece band (horns and percussion), playing works by Verdi, Schubert, Beethoven and more. June 21 to 24. St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts.
An artsy skateboarder show
Australian artist Shaun Gladwell’s video Skateboarders vs. Minimalism shows Rodney Mullen, the most creative man to ever step on a skateboard, wheeling over and around iconic minimalist artworks by Donald Judd, Carl Andre and others. The film has been screening at the Drake Hotel since April, but during Luminato, it comes to life. On June 24, Mullen will join a roster of skateboarders from around the world for a live skate demo with replicas of those minimalist sculptures. June 24. Drake Commissary.
An ambitious work-in-progress about the Holocaust
Before she was deported to Auschwitz, the German-Jewish artist Charlotte Salomon handed some her work to her doctor and told him, “Take good care of this. It is my whole life.” Those texts and images are the inspiration for Charlotte: A Tri-Coloured Play, a moving new musical based on Salomon’s life (she died in 1943). The show is a collaboration between Canadian, Czech and English companies, and this Luminato performance is a work-in-progress performance—that is, a rare early glimpse of an ambitious production. June 16 to 28. Theatre Centre.
A three-day hip-hop dance fest
Breakin’ Convention features the world’s best b-boys and street dancers. During its first two nights, performers will take over the aisles and lobbies of the Sony Centre with DJ sets, graffiti, art installations and freestyle battles before a series of headlining hip-hop dance performances. And, on June 25, Breakin’ Convention takes over David Pecaut Square for a free, day-long dance jam. June 23 and 24. Sony Centre.