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PuSh International Performing Arts Festival will feature performances from 15 countries

Rakesh Sukesh PuSh Fest
Rakesh Sukesh addresses the roots of xenophobia in his show, entitled because I love the diversity. Photo by Irene Occhiato with artwork by Irene Narys.

The PuSh International Performing Arts Festival is living up to its global name. This week, it unveiled a 2024 lineup featuring 17 original works by artists from 15 countries.

From January 18 to February 4, there will be live performances from Madagascar, Haiti, China, Brazil, India, Romania, France, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and the United States, as well as an installation from Palestine.

The lineup includes Kerala-born choreographer Rakesh Sukesh’s I love the diversity (this micro attitude, we all have it). It combines storytelling and dance in exploring micro-aggressions.

Another internationally flavoured dance piece, DARKMATTER, comes from Belgium and the Netherlands, In this, Cherish Menzo “invents a movement language”. The festival states that this “reimagines the biased way we look at our own and other bodies, and the stories we attribute to them”.

PuSh Festival DARKMATTER Bas de Brouwer
Photo by Bas de Brouwer.

In addition, there’s a play by NOUS Theatre, from Haiti and France, called L’Amour telle une cathédrale ensevelie. The festival describes it as a “story of exiled Haitian families as told through opera-theatre with staggering subtlety. A Creole and French chorus, accompanied by Haitian classical guitar, explores migration, displacement and human rights in a profoundly moving ode to all those in search of a promised land.”

There will also be a timely interactive installation running for two weeks: Dear Laila — Basel Zaraa. Boca del Lupo and Pandemic Theatre are teaming up on this project, which is described this way: “Basel Zaraa invites you to experience a model of his childhood home in the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp, Damascus. Inhale sage, open drawers, leaf through books. This award-winning immersive installation speaks of joy, family and the beauty of community in the face of ongoing displacement.”

Watch the trailer for the 2024 PuSh Festival.

PuSh triggers creative and political stimulation

Meanwhile, there’s an international collaboration with Naishi Wang and Jean Abreau in Deciphers. According to the PuSh festival, the co-performers and choreographers will “decipher each other and languages that ground them, through intense, physical performance embracing elements of Chinese Folk Dance, Brazilian dance styles, spoken word and ink on paper”.

Canada is well-represented in the lineup with Nellie Gossen (Unceded Coast Salish Territory, MST), Patrick Blenkarn & Milton Lim (Vancouver), Chaû Kim-Sanh (Montreal), Diana Lopez Soto (Toronto), Human Cargo (Toronto), Theatre Conspiracy (Vancouver), and Theatre Passe Muraille (Toronto).

“PuSh expands our consciousness by bringing our bodies in proximity and creating space to think,” PuSh programming director Gabrielle Martin said in a news release. “It triggers creative and political stimulation through local-international encounters, and it fosters a transmission of knowledge unique to the ephemeral community of an international festival.”

Martin, a contemporary and aerial dance artist and choreographer, is a former performer with Cirque du Soleil and Cavalia. She’s been in her current position at the PuSh Festival since 2022.

The PuSh festival unveiled its lineup on the same day that many Vancouverites learned of the death of its co-founder and longtime artistic and executive producer, Norman Armour.

“Norman’s dedication and passion for connecting audiences to artists, fostering global-local collaborations, and pushing the boundaries of creative expression have left an indelible mark on our city’s cultural scene,” the festival said in a statement. “His commitment to providing a platform for contemporary performance, cultivating partnerships, and maintaining cultural relevance was unparalleled.”

The PuSh International Performing Arts Festival runs from January 18 to February 4. For tickets and information on more shows, visit the festival’s website.

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Charlie Smith

Charlie Smith

Pancouver editor Charlie Smith has worked as a Vancouver journalist in print, radio, and television for more than three decades.

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We would like to acknowledge that we are gathered on the traditional and unceded territories of the Coast Salish peoples of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and Səl̓ílwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations. With this acknowledgement, we thank the Indigenous peoples who still live on and care for this land.