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D’bi Young’s Dare

D’bi Young wants to tell you stories, and she wants to listen to yours as well. She’s a dubpoet, monodramatist and educator, which means she writes plays and spoken word pieces and performs those pieces, re-living the experiences that have shaped the work in front of her audience. She also travels around the world teaching a holistic human and artistic development methodology called Sorplusi.

D'Bi Young, onstage at the Spoken Word cabaret, April 2013. Photo: Meghan Krauss.

D’Bi Young, onstage at the Spoken Word cabaret, April 2013. Photo: Meghan Krauss.

I met Young two years ago in Swaziland where she was performing at Bushfire, an arts festival that raises money to fight the HIV epidemic in that country. Leading up to that she’d been mentoring artists in Capetown, South Africa. Since, she’s been teaching in India, Jamaica, Sweden and has plans that may bring her to Bali in the coming year. Recently she spent a busy few months at the Banff Centre, teaching in the Spoken Word program, developing a play for the SummerWorks Theatre Festival in Toronto, and taking leadership courses as part of a project to further her teaching methodology.

S.O.R.P.L.U.S.I. is an acronym for the eight principles that guide Young’s teaching: Self-Knowledge, Orality, Rhythm, Political content & context, Language of communication, Urgency, Sacredness, and Integrity. Her method encourages artists to be accountable to their communities and to be partners in affecting social change. It emphasizes emotional, psychological, creative, physical and spiritual growth in the artistic process.

While at the Banff Centre she recorded several poems, including “Dare to Wear Love”:

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To hear the full piece and an interview with D’bi check out the podcast on our Soundcloud page.
Recording by Ben Oegema.
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Tanya Evanson: “the griot of all time”


Spoken Word director and artist Tanya Evanson, guiding a collective breath in The Club. Photo: Meghan Krauss.

“So how does someone get started as a Spoken Word artist?” I asked Tanya Evanson, the new director of the Spoken Word program here. She explains that it’s not really a choice, but a calling. “Leonard Cohen said it best, ‘poetry is not an occupation. It’s a verdict’. I can’t just say, step one – buy a journal.” As director, Evanson designed the program for the 15 Spoken Word artists here to emphasize the “timelessness of art”. To do this she selected diverse faculty, each bringing different skills and a unique background to the program.

“There’s  Jean-Pierre Makosso, a griot from the Congo – the original storyteller around the fire, but not just the storyteller. The musician, the dancer, the singer, the ceremony participant, the genealogist, and the librarian.” Then there’s D’Bi Young, a Jamaican dub poet. “She’s very much on the spiritual side,” Evanson says. The other two faculty are what Evanson refers to as more “futuristic.” Christian Bök is an experimental sound poet (he won the Griffin Prize for Eunoia). “He’s interested in vocalization and all the things you can do with that instrument - the mouth.” Alexis O’Hara‘s specialty is media and working with technology.

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“Spoken word poetry saved my life”

“Don’t you want to be a part of something?”  That rang out over the microphone as Spoken word artist Truth Is… stood in front of a crowded audience in The Club last Friday night and recited her all-time favourite poem, Alone. She was here as part of the Spoken Word program, and the poem goes, in part, “To die alone can be done with ease.  But to live together requires work.  Work that cannot be done alone.”

Truth Is... performing at Spoken Word: Roar 4 Al Purdy in the Club. Photo: Don Lee

Once intermission arrived, I immediately went up to her and her crowd of admiring fans, to ask her a few questions about her presentation, her poetry, and her life.  “Alone is the poem I can easily dedicate to all the nouns and sentences we call life,” she says.  “It’s the one that connects with me…Call it my mission statement.” And after spending a few hours searching, reading, and recording all that I could find on Truth Is online, I see that she wasn’t exaggerating. From slam poetry competitions, to co-directing a not-for-profit Organization called Guelph Spoken Word, to performing at Toronto’s Pride week festival and even opening for Canadian hip-hop artist K-OS, Truth Is… truly connects herself to many communities and causes through poetry.

“The truth is,” she says with a laugh.  “I can’t imagine myself doing anything else. Spoken word poetry genuinely saved my life. I used to feel I didn’t have any true calling, or real direction, and I wasn’t heading in a direction that I was sure about. But now that I’m on this path, every day I feel grateful for it.”


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Look who came to lunch…

In which we continue our periodic blog series of chatting with Banff Centre artists / conference guests / leadership participants in Vistas restaurant about their experience here…

My name is: Claire Varin
I’m from: Laval, Quebec
I am: A novelist delving into spoken word
I’m sharing lunch with: Other participants of the Spoken Word program
I came to The Banff Centre because: I think that The Banff Centre is Canada’s best kept secret. I was here two years ago when I received a grant from the Quebec Council for Arts and Letters for a self-directed residency. I spent two months in the Henriquez Studio and I met so many amazing artists here who I ended up working with on some multidisciplinary collaborative art projects
This morning I: Attended a workshop led by Regie Cabico. He was testing some new exercises with us. He would say “put your hand on the shoulder of the person in the room you would choose to rob a bank with” and questions like that
After lunch I plan to: Work in the recording studio. I have just completed my first ever spoken word poem, which was inspired by the movie Grizzly Man and I have to rehearse for the Student Speak event
Before I leave the Centre I want to: Meet a bear, see wolves, speak with a mule deer
The best item on today’s menu is: The fish curry

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Kick-ass woman in a man’s world

Kelsey Miller, lighting technician work study behind the scenes of Live! with Kelly. Photo: Kim Williams

“Technical theatre is largely a male-dominated industry,” says Kelsey Miller, who’s here as a lighting technician work study. She’s currently the only woman on the technical stage crew in the theatre department here at the Centre. “It’s my first time working on an all-but-one male crew, and I actually just feel spoiled. It’s like I’ve got a club of guys who are like my brothers constantly looking out for me.”

Kelsey Miller on the set for Live! with Kelly. Photo: Kim Williams

Arriving just two weeks ago from Red Deer, where she studied theatre and lighting design, Miller hit the ground running with her first project in Banff as a general technician for Live! with Kelly. “Last weekend has set my standards for this work study very high. I’m expecting everything to be that fast-paced and on-the-fly,” she says. For Live! with Kelly, Miller and the crew had to do almost everything at least four times before it was right.  “Television isn’t as choreographed as theatre. We’d hang the lights, they’d look too bright on camera so we’d reset the lights and then the colour would be off,” she says with a laugh. “In theatre, it’s much more planned out, so for Live!, I learned how to react and adapt quicker than I’d ever had to before.”

Miller’s next behind-the-scenes project will be the Spoken Word  events this week and next in the Club. “I’m excited! I don’t know what to expect from the Spoken Word events. All I know is I’m ready for anything.”


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