A dazzling Ai Weiwei exhibit, a Leonard Cohen ballet and five other things to see, hear and do in Toronto this week

A dazzling Ai Weiwei exhibit, a Leonard Cohen ballet and five other things to see, hear and do in Toronto this week

Photo courtesy of Ai Weiwei studio

A dazzling Ai Weiwei exhibit
1The Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei is one of the world’s most creative activists. He works in a multitude of different media—photography, film, sculpture, even Lego—but always hits with a resounding impact, whether by smashing ancient relics or flipping off popular tourist attractions. A new exhibit at the Gardiner Museum is shining a spotlight on his ceramics—a central facet of his artwork from the beginning. Featuring a mix of original pieces and reappropriations of ancient Chinese artifacts, Unbroken is all about subverting history and breaking rules. Thursday, February 28 to Sunday, June 9. $9–$15. Gardiner Museum. 

A frosty beer fest
2Craft IPA snobs and buck-a-beer enthusiasts can get their fix at the fourth annual Winter Brew Fest. This year’s brewery lineup includes Ontario and Quebec favourites like Side Launch, Nickel Brook, Muskoka and Broadhead. In between pints, guests can soak up the beer with a snack (local food trucks, like Sausage Party and Delight Bite Inc., will be on site to take care of the munchies), or join in on a beer yoga session—which is exactly what it sounds like. Maybe some liquid courage will help with those downward dogs. Friday, March 1 and Saturday, March 2. $21–$51. Evergreen Brick Works.

Photo courtesy of The Sony Centre

A Leonard Cohen swing-along
3Leonard Cohen’s melancholic lyrics and stringed compositions might not seem super-danceable, but internationally renowned choreographers Andonis Foniadakis, Annabelle Lopez Ochoa and Ihsan Rustem have made them the focus of this grand tribute, Dance Me, which fuses ballet and jazz with some of Cohen’s most famous works. It’s a compelling ode to the artist’s poetic prowess, executed with impressive lifts, romantic duets and accompanying video projections. Friday, March 1 to Saturday, March 2. $55–$145. Sony Centre for the Performing Arts.

Handmaid’s Tale talk
4Since the dramatic season finale, when June passed up her chance to escape Gilead and cross the border to Canada (where, ironically, the series films), viewers have been anxiously waiting to see whether the show’s heroine will finally find freedom. Hulu recently announced that the new season will premiere June 5 (praise be!), and in the meantime, Atwood fans can get a Handmaid’s Tale fix at Hot Docs Theatre’s Curious Minds talk this week. The discussion, featuring some of the show’s key players from behind-the-scenes—including executive producer Warren Littlefield and production designer Elisabeth Williams—looks at the making and meaning of the series, and will cover everything from costume design to gender politics. Sunday, March 2. $29. Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema.

A royal RuPaul party
5For the first time in Drag Race herstory, the new season of RuPaul’s cult competition show features a Canadian queen. Toronto’s Brooke Lynn Hytes, who studied at the National Ballet School and did some of her first shows in the Gay Village, will be competing for the title of the next drag superstar. For the season premiere, the Queen of the North is trekking from her current home in Nashville to host a viewing party and Toronto drag reunion show at Woody’s. Expect death drops, voguing and a whole lot of sequins. Thursday, February 28. Free. Woody’s. 

Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann

A mix and match ballet
6The National Ballet blends together four short works into a stunning mix-and-match program. Front and centre is George Balanchine’s Apollo, a neoclassical piece about the Greek god of music and his muses, set to music by Igor Stravinsky. Also on the agenda: Night (created by Canadian-born choreographer Julia Adam), The Sea Above, The Sky Below (revived for principal dancer Xiao Nan Yu’s farewell season), and Paquita, a Romantic ballet about a young woman who gets kidnapped by gypsies. Friday, March 1 to Sunday, March 3. $67–$265. The Four Seasons Centre for Performing Arts.

A night with Anderson .Paak
7When California-bred musician Anderson .Paak released his debut album in 2012, he used the pseudonym “Breezy Lovejoy.” He’s since shed the alter-ego, but it’s still the best way to sum up his musical style. Equal parts swag, hip hop and soul, .Paak’s songs are deliriously run, switching from quick-paced rap to funk. Fresh off his first Grammy win for Best Rap Performance, .Paak is headed on tour to promote his newest studio album (and he’s said to have two more in the works). Tuesday, February 26. $95.65–$172.55. Rebel.