Arts celebrated

During the 1960s, happenings were all the rage. From New York to Warsaw, these multi-disciplinary performances were void of simple narratives and made the observers really think about what was happening.

Sampradaya Dance Creations performing earlier this year at the Harbourfront Centre (photo/
Sampradaya Dance Creations performing earlier this year at the Harbourfront Centre (photo/

Stir, a live dance, video & music mash-up, was a night of sensations. Presented by the Blackwood Gallery and the University of Torontos Celebration of the Arts 09, Stir possessed the same free-spirited, abstracted, and visually stimulating elements as those of the 60s happenings. The event was a spectacle of sight and sound that took over two months to create, with each of the unique contributors providing a pivotal part of events success.

The dance element was provided by Sampradaya Dance Creations, who are renowned in the South Asian dance community in Canada. Founder and Artistic Director Lata Pada has created a unique dance company that is both classic in style (her specialty being Bharatanatyam) and, as indicated by Stir, able to co-habit the stage alongside cutting-edge, modern artists.
Two of Padas performers, Sinthiya Sivasithamparam and Nadini Krishna, gracefully made their way around the MiST Theatre weaving through the flickering projection sheets around audience members who stood around the theatres perimeter. Their gaze, constantly distant, matched the audiences only once in an attempt to engage the stunned onlookers in some upper body participation.

The event was dramatically interrupted by the entrance of Ulysses Castellanos of the DJ group Quadrasonic. Consisting of three brothers, Ulysses, Alvaro, and Boris Castellanos, Quadrasonic is a group of DJs that specialize in creating more than just music. The brothers have developed a style that melds both sight and sound. Not only do they create music through spinning records and live instruments, but they also employ visual appeal by incorporating images and projections.

Ulysses portion of the show was startling and abrupt. His theatrical performance consisted of the re-telling of a twisted childhood story, which included props — small, battery-operated puppies and a malfunctioning drumming panda. Set against the live and electronic music, it became both a chilling and mildly depressive act that juxtaposed the tenderness, grace, and overall sense of stability the traditional dancers had previously set up.

Stirs ambiance was provided by Faisal Anwar. Anwar, a digital media artist and design studio director, possesses a depth of varied knowledge and experience. After graduating from the National College of Arts in Pakistan, Anwar continued his studies at the Canadian Film Centres Habitat-Lab, and now continues to work and create in Toronto.

His projections were a combination of both pre-recorded video and live streaming images, projected all over the theatre on two massive screens on either side as well as on three screens in the middle of the theatre that could be walked through.

The mash-up of disciplines resulted in an original and deeply moving performance. The hour-long happening tantalized all the senses and required every viewer to immerse themselves completely into each element. As each member of the audience entered the theatre, they were handed a numbered surgical mask to wear throughout the performance, thus becoming a key element of the event.    Participation was encouraged, and five members of the audience even read through a script which was amplified through the theatre. The night was completed with a group dance-along to a Kevin Federline video on YouTube.

Stir was a stellar combination of sight, sound, and spectacle which will not be forgotten anytime soon. These sorts of collaborations are not as common as one would hope, but when they do take shape they create a truly unique visual and learning experience that stays with the audience.    K-Fed never seemed more credible.

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