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The Weekender: Nixon in China, Kuumba and six other events on our to-do list

The Weekender: Nixon in China, Kuumba and six other events on our to-do list

1. FRIDAY AFTER FIVE: DINNER AND A MOVIE This edition of the Gardiner Museum’s popular Friday night event features a screening of the 1992 magical realist flick Like Water for Chocolate, preceded by a cocktail hour and dinner inspired by the film and catered by Jamie Kennedy. You can also just go for the movie, but why would anyone choose to skip out on ceviche, mole and churros?

February 4. Movie $5, $45 with dinner. Gardiner Museum, 111 Queen’s Park, 416-362-1957, ext. 201, gardinermuseum.on.ca.

2. JUNO DECADES: SONGS OF THE ‘90S This year marks the 40th birthday of the Juno Awards, and the Horseshoe is celebrating with a by-the-decade concert series (the awards themselves will be held in Toronto this March). This weekend, the ‘Shoe takes on the ‘90s, with a lineup featuring Sloan’s Chris Murphy, the Rheostatics’ Dave Bidini and seminal female rapper Michie Mee. February 5. $20. Horseshoe Tavern, 370 Queen St. W., 416-870-8000, ticketmaster.ca.

3. TORONTO CELEBRATES CANADA READS 2011 (FREE!) We’ve always been big readers, so it should surprise no one that we’ve got a soft spot for the CBC’s annual lit competition. The actual debates happen next week, but this pre-show features music, giveaways and a Q&A with the authors of three of the books in contention, Terry Fallis, Angie Abdou and Jeff Lemire. February 4. Atrium, Toronto Reference Library, 789 Yonge St., torontopubliclibrary.ca programs-and-classes/.

4. NIXON IN CHINA At first glance, we were a little skeptical of this minimalist opera about Richard Nixon’s historic week-long visit to China in 1972. (We’re a little bit more pop culture than high culture.) But celebrated U.S. composer John Adams’ 1987 work, produced by the Canadian Opera Company, is kind of awesome. Combining a fully-staged opera with newsy themes, this was a precursor to his On the Transmigration of Souls, a choral piece dedicated to the victims of 9/11, and Doctor Atomic, an opera about the Manhattan Project. Psychologically penetrating and critically acclaimed, it’s worth a watch. February 5–26. $62–$281. Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, 145 Queen St. W., coc.ca.

5. KUUMBA (FREE!) Harbourfront’s annual Kuumba festival, its two-weekend Black History Month celebration, kicks off this weekend. There are lots of reasons to check it out, but our fave is the plethora of dance forms represented, including performances by Jaivah Nouvel Exposé Dance Troupe and workshops in Afro-Cuban dance and capoeira. February 5 and 6. York Quay Centre, Harbourfront Centre, 235 Queens Quay W., harbourfrontcentre.com.

6. BAROQUE IDOL Much like on American Idol, Simon Cowell won’t be in the house for this classical competition, but that’s no reason to skip the show. Hosted by Aradia Ensemble, purveyors of “fresh baroque,” ten young composers compete with one another to present the best five-minute piece arranged for a baroque ensemble (in this case, that means strings, harpsichord or organ, oboe or recorder and bassoon). The audience chooses the winner, obviously. February 5. $35. Glenn Gould Studio,  250 Front St. W., 416-872-4255, aradia.ca.

7. CINEMA KABUKI Kabuki, a heavily stylized drama-dance hybrid, is one of the most popular of Japan’s traditional dramatic forms, although unlike anime and Pocky, it hasn’t really made the jump to non-Japanese audiences. Until now, that is. The Japan Foundation Toronto is screening film versions of three popular plays: Heron Maiden, Triple Lion Dance, both dance pieces, and Rakuda: Party With A Dead Man, a dark comedy. February 5 and 6. $15–$20. Scotiabank Theatre, 259 Richmond St. W., jftor.org/whatson/.

8. BYE BYE LIVER: THE TORONTO DRINKING PLAY This sketch comedy show is all about the joys of a booze-filled night out. Expect jokes about drunk dialing, poor alcohol choices, poor life choices—an average Friday night at Richmond and John, basically. Also worth noting: this is possibly the only play in the world that invites the audience to take part in drinking games. Your liver may not thank you. February 5–July 30. $15. Hard Rock Café, 1-800-650-6449 279 Yonge St., byebyeliver.com/toronto.

(Images: Nixon in China by Ken Howard, Chris Murphy by Tsar Kasim)

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