It’s a busy time of year, and not everyone had the chance to make it out to Luminato, Toronto’s yearly arts festival, this past week. Luminato features visual art, music, theatre, and film, connected loosely by a central theme, this year’s being sex. If you’re wondering whether it would be worth your time to get involved next year, either as an attendee or as a volunteer, here are a few of our favourite events from this year to give you a taste of the festival.

Keys on the Street

“Am I right in understanding this will feature dancers?”

I could see the face of the older gentleman to my left drop as I explained that the classical recital we were about to watch would involve hip-hop.

My curiosity led me to the front row of ‘Keys on the Street — A Recital of Urban Dance and Piano’ last Wednesday night. I wonder how two opposite genres could come together into one coherent performance. Four street dancers under the direction of celebrated choreographer Tré Armstrong danced with the accompaniment of world-renowned pianist Angela Hewitt out on the “streets” of David Pecaut Square.

Half performance, half art piece, the event aimed to inspire. Words like ‘curiosity’ and ‘transformation’ were projected onto the backdrop along with finger tutting and freestyle to provide context for the movements on stage.

The combination of both art forms seemed as foreign and rewarding to the performers as it did to the crowd.

While Hewitt played some pieces without accompaniment, the dancers could be seen grooving backstage. Hewitt could also be seen sporting a huge grin in moments when music and dance came together perfectly. The softness of the piano meant you could hear each exhale and foot hitting the floor — the dancers adding their own soundtrack to the performance.

In the audience, people of all ages moved to the music. I doubt classical music and street dance will be permanently joining forces anytime soon, but the union allowed each genre to be exposed to a new audience, and that, in itself, is worthwhile.

— Monica Pujdak

Music Mob

Complimentary kazoo in hand, I took to my seat in the Air Canada Centre and prepared for my first experience with the Music Mob. Hundreds of musicians from of all ages and skill levels were invited to perform a 40-minute show as one of the largest groups to ever perform in Toronto.

A large-scale arrangement of Boléro by Maurice Ravel was performed twice, with a workshop in between each take led by Toronto Symphony Orchestra director Peter Oundjian.

Violinists, percussionists, cellists, flutists, and trombone players were but a few of the many types of musicians participating in the Music Mob, all of whom demonstrated a very clear and wonderful sense of community. The drummers let out a cheer after a successful warm up; the leader of the clarinet players turned around and gave her section a big thumbs up halfway through Boléro. Being a spectator allowed me to feel the sense of belonging this huge jam session brought about. I can only imagine how unified the performers must have felt. 

As someone who was once a member of their own high school band, I felt a strong sense of nostalgia while listening to the Music Mob. Artistic Director Jorn Weisbrodt’s event succeeded in its goal of letting musicians embrace the spirit of collaboration, and I know that this time next year I’ll be digging out my old drum sticks and joining my fellow percussionists on stage.

— Corey VD

A Literary Picnic

A Literary Picnic sprung up around unsuspecting dog walkers and families last Sunday at Trinity Bellwoods Park.

Festival goers wandered between readings, sampling food, talking amongst themselves and with the authors. Food trucks from Fidel Gastro and Localista served hungry, lunchtime picnickers by the side of the road. Ben McNally Books sold featured authors’ works at their own table, and even brought a couch for tired patrons to take a seat on.

I sat with Cary Fagan on the carpeted bleachers facing Stage C to chat before his reading. Fagan is a children’s author and a former contributor to The Varsity. Fagan hosted one of three literary walks that concluded the picnic. For $15, guided tours were offered in an area of Toronto that has significantly influenced the chosen author’s work. Fagan’s walk focused on Kensington Market. Enticed by the greenery in Trinity Bellwoods Park, I decided to go on one of the more nature-heavy walks, down to Don Valley, with author Alissa York.

York is the author of three novels, Mercy, Effigy, and Fauna. As we walked down from Riverdale Farm to the Don River, she acted as both nature guide and literary lecturer. “Watch out for the nettles!” she warned us repeatedly, as our group traipsed down footbridges and through underbrush.

“That’s dog-strangling vine,” said York, pointing out a hip-tall plant to our left. She explained that the weed has been overtaking the Don Valley, and reflected how it serves as a reminder that “we can only control so much.”

We stopped occasionally for York to read from her book, Fauna, which is set in the Don Valley, as well as from other Canadian books — In the Skin of a Lion by Michael Ondaatje and Cat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood — which take place in the same area. A Literary Picnic ended up being exactly what it advertised itself to be — a wonderful mix of nature and literature, and a discussion of how one often influences the other.

— Sara Gajic

TimesTalk with David Bryne

The fourth and final TimesTalk of the Luminato festival, held in the MaRS Discovery District on Sunday, featured the Talking Heads front man David Bryne. The TimesTalk is a sponsored event by the New York Times where various special guests are invited to chat with a New York Times writer; in this case, it was Arts & Culture writer Ben Sisario.

Byrne’s resumé is filled with multimedia projects, from films to a musical with Fatboy Slim. Though the conversation could have flashed back to his Talking Heads days, the talk focused instead on one of Byrne’s recent books, How Music Works, and his collaborations with the Luminato presentation of If I Loved You, a musical directed by Rufus Wainwright and Stephen Oremus.

When Byrne talked about his past collaborations, he spoke about how there was never one true formula — whether it came to forming the collaboration itself, or the creative process. His collaboration with St. Vincent first came from an invitation to perform at a Housing Works show. In his more recent work with Rufus Wainwright, Byrne was personally asked by Wainwright to participate.

As a fan of Byrne, seeing him in a casual setting was refreshing — it allowed his ideas to shine rather than his legacy. Whatever the intention of the talk was, as an advertisement or an inspiration, I look forward to seeing what TimesTalk has to offer next year.

— Ayla Shiblaq