Monday, August 11, 2008

This is ourselves

It's been an arts-community filled weekend for me. Saturday night was Indyish's second anniversary, an occasion calling for a "Mega" installment of their Monthly Messes. Mega it was, with 60 performers and artists contributing to the marathon interdisciplinary evening. Before going any further, Indyish is a Montreal-based independent artists network and cyber-boutique. Co-founder Risa Dickens has a great post on the impetus behind it. I know people who have been involved with them for a long time, though I'm a more recent disciple. What they're doing, and what Risa hints at in her post, is very important in the current arts climate.

First up was author Jeff Gandell who read an excerpt from his autobiographical novel dealing with jellyfish stings in sensitive regions while in Florida. In true Al Gore fashion, the reading was enhanced by a deftly programmed slide show. He was followed by Tribal Ethereal Dancers, an idiosyncratic belly-dance troupe. I made their acquaintance a couple of months ago at the last Indyish marathon mess, co-produced by the Fringe Festival and Suoni Per Il Popolo, with the Sun Ra Arkestra jam. Anybody who can improvise belly-dancing to Ra's "Carefree" scores major points in my book. They performed two pieces to pre-recorded music this time, but it was just as stunning as their improvised work.

Next up was my friend Elizabeth Bruce, now transplanted to Ottawa. The last time I saw her was one of her first gigs at The Yellow Door, and her confidence has grown by leaps and bounds. She only performed four songs but they were really strong. Her self-accompaniment was fairly intricate at times too, matching well with Melody MacIver on drums and violin.

Fellow CKUT-er Paul Neudorf got a Bravo!FACT grant to produce a short video called "Refractions." Equally inspired by dance, the warehouses of St-Henri, Rainer Maria Rilke and Isaac Newton, the screening was preceded by a gang of improvisers, including the film's composer Gabriel Dharmoo, interacting with two dancers including the film's "star," Jonathan Turcotte. Both the live set and the film are stunning. I stuck it out for a couple of songs from local rockers Magnetic Hill, mashed up with half of the country band Orillia Opry, but fatigue won out. I really wanted to see ex-Dear Patrick Krief and his new band, Black Diamond Bay, collaborate with the female avant-choral institution of Choeur Maha. Alas. I'm sure video will be up on Indyish soon.

Sunday was the 13th edition of Under Pressure. I've blogged the last two years in greater detail, as I didn't have my camera on Sunday and not much is different in terms of what I think of the festival (short hand: it rocks). The b-boy/b-girl battle was changed to an individual battle instead of a crew battle like in years past, and while it improved the sightlines of the cipher, it created a fiasco in the final round when dancers got out of order. Big ups to all the organizers and all the DJs, as usual.

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