A fleet-footed dance spectacular, a night of laughs with Amy Schumer and five other things to see and do in Toronto this week
A fleet-footed dance spectacular
1Alvin Ailey Jr. grew up in Rogers, Texas, during the oppressive Jim Crow era. He founded his seminal dance company in 1958, just as the civil rights movement was heralding an end to this period of state-sanctioned racism. Sixty years later, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre is celebrating his legacy as a pioneering dancer and choreographer who broke barriers for future generations of black performers. The show’s anniversary performances include two Canadian premieres: Jamar Roberts’s Members Don’t Get Weary, a Coltrane-guided meditation on what it means to have the blues; and Rennie Harris’s Lazarus, a fast-paced, hip hop–infused ballet. For the grand finale, dancers will perform Ailey’s own Revelations, the theatre’s signature work, which draws from African-American spirituals, gospel and blues to embody a culture that, as Ailey once said, remains “sometimes sorrowful, sometimes jubilant, but always hopeful.” Friday, February 1 to Saturday, February 2. $85–$157. Sony Centre for the Performing Arts.
A night of laughs with Amy Schumer
2During Amy Schumer’s first Hollywood audition, producers told her she needed to either lose weight or gain it—basically, she had the choice between playing the romantic lead or the fat friend. Now, she’s one of the industry’s loudest champions for body positivity, known for her ballsy, raunchy, no-filter comedy. Schumer was scheduled to tour last November, but had to postpone some of her shows due to some rough side effects from her pregnancy. But now that she’s back on the road, expect a ton of baby material (she’s been posing next to whales on Instagram) alongside real talk about sex, dating and pop culture. Thursday, January 31. $75–$121. Sony Centre for the Performing Arts.
A rowdy symphony
3The Lemon Bucket Orkestra, a self-described “guerilla-punk-balkan-folk-brass” band, consists of former buskers off the streets of Toronto. Together, they combine the frenetic energy of klezmer, the diverse sounds of world music and a hearty dose of Eastern European mythology to create a live experience that’s equal parts joyous and volatile. A typical performance might build from a technically challenging clarinet solo to a full-band eruption of accordion, wild shouting, fast-paced darbuka percussion and dancing. While Koerner Hall may seem an incongruous venue for this unruly bunch, rest assured that the Lemon Bucket Orkestra exhibits just as much virtuosic skill as they do gusto. $30–$75. Saturday, February 2. Koerner Hall.
A tea-lover’s paradise
4At the Toronto Tea Festival, aspiring tea sommeliers can sip on traditional brews or dessert-inspired flavours (think gingerbread, caramel apple and purple chocolate) while learning about the art of the craft or perusing teapots, mugs and fine china. This year’s festival includes the English premiere of Champagne of Teas, a CBC documentary that follows tea connoisseur Kevin Gascoyne, who spent 25 years working as a tea buyer and taster travelling to the Himalayas in search of the finest selections. Friday, February 1 to Monday, February 3. $15. Toronto Reference Library.
A modern opera
5Veering from classical opera tropes, Hook Up swaps powdered wigs and full-length gowns for a modern approach. When three friends start university, they learn to navigate a complex world of consent, shame and power while exploring their newfound freedom. Toronto-based theatre company Tapestry characterizes its productions as “new opera,” zooming in on relatable stories to make classical performance more accessible to younger audiences. Tuesday, January 29 to Saturday, February 9. $25–$55. Theatre Passe Muraille Mainspace Theatre.
An ode to black hair
6For Black History Month, Toronto activist Simone Wright is taking a deep dive into the history, politics and art behind black hair. Wright began collecting archival photos and shots of her friends and family back in 2017. Her collection has since grown and now contains portraits of African tribe members, stills from the civil rights movement and portraits of black women from around the world. In addition to the photography exhibit, there are also vintage combs and other hair tools on display—like a hot comb from Jamaica used in the ’60s—and panel discussions. Tuesday, January 29 to Friday, February 1. Exhibit free, panel discussion $10–$30. Canadian Gay and Lesbian Archives.
A closer look at women’s suffrage
7Gibson House Museum is marking 100 years since women won the right to vote in federal elections. Their exhibit showcases archival documents from the years when the country’s democratic system was beginning to change, as well as common household objects from the early 1900’s that illustrate the day-to-day lives of women. To Sunday, February 11. $5–8. Gibson House Museum.