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Measha Brueggergosman: Bend, break, breathe

Measha Brueggergosman

Measha Brueggergosman at the 2013 Banff Midsummer Ball, with trombonist Wycliffe Gordon. Photo: Rita Taylor.

You would never forget meeting soprano Measha Brueggergosman. I first met her when I walked by her outdoor table at Maclab Bistro on The Banff Centre campus, when she was here earlier in the summer to perform and record. “Hey,” she said. “Come sit down.” I obeyed.

“Are you the one who’s going to interview me?”

She then took my number, made a call to arrange the time and  introduced me to her friend, while simultaneously sending more texts, presumably to contacts far and wide. Once the plan was made, I was kindly dismissed.

This friendly/bossy mix made me even more curious about a woman who’s an international opera star, emerging gospel favourite, new parent, yoga instructor, and all around, in-your-face, super extrovert. Her energy is contagious, her life has been a mix of extreme highs and crushing lows, and she seems to know everyone and to remember everybody’s name.

When my appointment time came, Measha and I sat down to talk about tattoos, breath, yoga, and what it means to be the keeper of the classical music grail.

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Produced by Jennifer Kingsley.

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Donald Sales’ onstage improvisation

DonaldSales

Still from Donald Sales’ ballet The ugly duckling, with costumes by Jorge Sandoval. Photo: Don Lee.

Award-winning choreographer Donald Sales isn’t new to The Banff Centre. He was here last year to work with Aszure Barton on a piece she created for our Dance Masters performance series. But this year, Sales — who received the 2013 Clifford E. Lee Choreography Award — had a completely new experience here. He’s experimenting with giving dancers more creative freedom on the stage — a style of artistic direction that’s also the basis for his new dance company, Project 20.

“Last year I knew when I came back I wanted to do a story,” Sales says. “I’ve been able to elaborate on ideas and dreams I’ve had.” His new work, The ugly duckling, was choreographed for dancers in The Banff Centre’s Professional Dance program, and premiered at Dance Masters last week. “It’s very cinematic, very character-driven, and very personal to the dancers,” he says.

The piece also gives the audience freedom to interpret the story for themselves. “I purposely designed it so we don’t know exactly who the main character is.” As I watched The ugly duckling on opening night last week, I saw a dancer — who opens the piece on a dark and eerie set — haunted by someone she can’t shake, and it’s unclear whether she wants to. “I can’t even say there’s an ending,” Sales says. “The piece should be continued.”

Continue Reading →

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Jorge Sandoval: designing dance

Jorge Sandoval has been a dancer, and now he sees his career in design as a natural evolution that keeps him in that world. He was just in Banff for the tenth consecutive year, working with a team of staff and work studies on the costume and production design for Dance Masters. He’s recently finished his Master’s degree in theatre and performance, and is now getting ready to start his PhD in the fall. He recently answered a few questions for me around process, design, and dance.

Why do you love designing for dance?
One of the reasons I think they keep inviting me back is that I understand movement. So when dancers move, creating these characters, the costumes have to be an extension of those characters. I’m always thinking about how they can really move the way they need to move and still look the way I want them to look.

How do you approach this type of design?
Before the performance, the choreographer and I have a lot of conversations. I always ask a lot of questions about the style of dance … choreographers tend to include a lot of different styles of movement, a little bit of hip-hop, acrobatics, and balletic style. I ask them are they doing a lot of stuff on the floor, or are they doing a lot of jumping, or are they doing a lot of partnering? Some choreographers want to prepare in the studio with the dancers, which is a more organic, a more artistic way, to collaborate. They count a lot on what the dancers bring to them. So a lot of the questions that I have are just theoretical until the moment we see the dancers in the studio. Continue Reading →

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Shakespeare after the deluge

This weekend we’ll present a staging of Romeo + Juliet by the Shakespeare in the Park company, a joint venture between Theatre Calgary and Mount Royal University. Getting it to the stage, however, was quite an ordeal.

The flooded site of Theatre Calgary's Shakespeare in the Park, in Prince's Island, and their new site at Mount Royal University (right). Photos by Christopher Loach and Kristian Jones.

The flooded site of Theatre Calgary’s Shakespeare in the Park, in Prince’s Island, and their new site at Mount Royal University (right). Photos by Christopher Loach and Kristian Jones.

It all started around dinnertime on the evening of June 20th. Some photos posted on Twitter, taken from the pedestrian bridge leading into Prince’s Island Park, showed our Shakespeare in the Park trailers, storage shed, Romeo and Juliet set and even the pink porta-potty nearly fully submerged by the flood waters that were starting to consume much of the island. A few staff from Theatre Calgary quickly made their way down to the park and pulled yet-untouched sound equipment off the island, but it was too late for much of our infrastructure. Thankfully, our costumes and swords were still in the workshops back at Theatre Calgary.

The next day, a small group of Theatre Calgary employees gathered and decided that, even though Prince’s Island would be off limits for some time, it was important to look for a new location for Romeo and Juliet.  It was a very delicate decision to make, but we felt that the several weeks of hard work our emerging artists had undertaken in rehearsal might bring some happiness and a sense of normalcy to very trying times in Calgary and surrounding communities.

Keeping the show outdoors and maintaining an in-the-park feel were very important to us. Our producing partners, Mount Royal University, were approached about using their beautiful TransCanada Outdoor Amphitheatre. MRU were delighted to provide the new home for the production and, since July 4th, Romeo and Juliet has been onstage in the new space with a modified set. The encouragement we’ve received from the citizens of Calgary has been tremendous, and now we’re thrilled to bring Shakespeare to the mountains. Enjoy!

Christopher Loach is the Director of Communications at Theatre Calgary.

 

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Sitting pretty in the Shaw Amphitheatre

A late June afternoon in the Shaw Amphitheatre. Photo: Rita Taylor.

Two summers ago we opened the Shaw Amphitheatre, the final phase of our most recent capital building project. Since then, it’s become so important to our summer programming that we couldn’t imagine the season without it. It’s hosted musicians from the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, Emmylou Harris, Matt Andersen, Jens Lindemann, Serena Ryder, Blue Rodeo, and a lovely late-night screening of films from the Banff Mountain Film Festival, among other noteworthy events.

It’s taken a little while for all the landscaping to grow in, but now that the place is fully green and gorgeous, we thought we’d present some of the latest photographs taken in the space. On June 30, right after the flood, we brought in four bands for an afternoon and evening of entertainment. Here, scenes from that show, with Elk Run + Riot, The Eerie Green, Zeus, and Classified. All photos by Rita Taylor.

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The Spirit of the Rockies: Donation fuels new creative work

(l-r) Joel Landsberg and Uwe Kruger of the Kruger Brothers perform with the Banff Festival Orchestra.

(l-r) Joel Landsberg and Uwe Kruger of the Kruger Brothers perform with the Banff Festival Orchestra.

On August 25, The Banff Centre premiered an innovative new symphonic work for chamber orchestra, guitar, bass, and banjo. Commissioned by the Centre and composed by Jens Kruger of the legendary bluegrass group the Kruger Brothers, The Spirit of the Rockies was made possible by the generous support of David and Christine Anderson.

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Christine and David Anderson. Images: Kim Williams.

During a pre-performance residency, musicians in the Centre’s Banff Festival Orchestra program collaborated on the creation of work under the skilled tutelage of the Kruger Brothers.

“The experience of working on The Spirit of the Rockies was for us an intense journey on many levels,” says guitarist Joel Landsberg. “The opportunity to research a region’s history and mystery is a powerful path for artistic development.”

A musical meditation on the history, culture, and beauty of the Canadian Rockies, the new work delighted the audience in the Eric Harvie Theatre during the premiere performance. “The Spirit of the Rockies was an amazing piece,” said Melissa Callaghan. “I hope we will see parts of it in the future, used to inspire people to come to Banff.”

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