Beat Nation Live © Chris Randle

Live arts correspondent Bella Todd on Canada’s PuSh Festival, where dancers will find themselves in a tight corner and Aboriginal collective Beat Nation Live will be pushing hip-hop into digital art...

The Main Event: PuSh Festival

If you’re thinking there’s nowhere better to be than under your duvet this month, then look to Vancouver and think again. While the rest of the world’s cultural capitals sleep to the strains of their zillionth production of Swan Lake, the Canadian city has figured out that the start of a new year is actually the perfect time to showcase fresh work by groundbreaking live artists – among them Beat Nation Live, a unique collective of Aboriginal MCs, graffers, video artists and musicians who’re using hip-hop to communicate First Nations culture.


Always a home for Canada’s most cutting-edge theatre, dance, music and multimedia performers, this year the PuSh Festival (January 17-February 4) is going truly international. Spain, Japan, Lebanon, New Zealand, Argentina, the Netherlands and Mexico, as well as the US and UK, will all be represented, resulting in a programme of diverse perspectives that should ignite dancefloors, debates and imaginations.

In the main programme, we’re particularly drawn to Dances For A Small Stage. There’s something about cramped confines that seems to spark creativity in dancers (NB we’re thinking more African slaves presaging dancehall by limboing on ships in the 1700s than women cage-dancing at Whisky A-Go-Go in the 1960s…), and this wildly original show will see Canadian dancers take on the Legion venue’s signature 10ft-by-13ft stage.

But like all of the best arts festivals, Vancouver’s mid-winter cultural blow-out also has it’s own social hub. And it’s the intimate, licensed Club Push that will host some of the hippest, most experimental work. Check out Your Brother, Remember?, Zachary Oberzan’s splicing of home videos with Hollywood film footage and live performance based on he and his big bro’s childhood attempts to recreate the Jean-Claude Van Damme kung fu flick Kickboxer. Check out also sequined satirist Taylor Mac as he gives Ziggy Stardust a run for his money. 

Club Push will also be the venue for the afore-flagged up Beat Nation Live, a collaboration between rapper Ostwelve, video mash-up artist Jackson 2Bears, electronic cellist and live looper Cris Derksen, performance artist Skeen Reece, Heida craftsman Corey Bulpitt and Archer Pechawis, who is, among other things, the creator of the digitally triggered video drum.

Oh, and a non-person called the Tangible Interaction Digital Graffiti Wall, a piece of interactive technology that’s transforming street art with the aid of a digital spray can. One of those projects you no doubt have to see to get your January head around…

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