There is no doubt that Canada is a northern country and that our winters here in Toronto can sometimes be a little harsh. But that’s no reason to hold anyone back from getting out there and enjoying the city to the fullest.
To ease the winter blues, the City of Toronto has developed a series of special events dedicated to bringing the city to life in the middle of winter. The WinterCity Festival is a city-wide celebration of Toronto’s culinary offerings (the popular Winterlicious restaurant promotion), a wide variety of free entertainment events and a showcase of Toronto’s vibrant arts scene, featuring live music, dance, theatre, spectacle shows, rink-side concerts and even aerial acrobatic performances. Throw in a number of child-friendly events, and WinterCity has something for everyone in the family.
I had a chance to talk to Grant Ramsey from the City of Toronto who is one of the key people behind WinterCity and he is providing a much more detailed overview of all the special events, artistic and culinary treats on offer.
1. Please give us an overview of Toronto’s WinterCity Festival. When did it come into being? When and where is it held?
This year will be the fourth WinterCity held. Prior to the name change, it was called WinterFest, which took place on one weekend. Since expanding the festival, it now runs for two-weeks and is held primarily at Nathan Phillips Square from, Jan. 27 to Feb. 9
2. Please tell us more about the “Wild on Winter Series”.
The Wild on Winter Series (WOW!) combines some of the best performances in Toronto. Two large outdoor spectacle shows, “Walk the Plank” and “Il Corso”, which take place on Saturday and Sundays of both weekends, feature some of the best pyrotechnic, special effects and sound displays in North America. Other WOW! Series performers include, stellar Canadian talent presenting the best in dance and live music all at Nathan Phillips Square.
3. Please tell us more about the “Warm-up Series”? Where does it take place, what events does it include?
The Warm up series offers great discounted events at some of Toronto’s hottest destinations. For those who just can’t brave the cold, The Warm Up Series offer excellent interactive entertainment at The Toronto Eaton Centre and other venues around the city.
Toronto Eaton Centre Schedule:
- Spin Cycle
Monday, January 30: 12:30 & 5:30 pm
The international vaudevillian duo of Greg Tarlin and Kristi Heath combine their talents as award-winning circus performers, Second City comedy veterans and skilled writers to engage, amaze and entertain with skills that include juggling, unicycling, stilt dancing and more.
- The Silk Road Acrobats
Three Man Acrobats & Hula Hoop Act
Tuesday, January 31: 12:30 & 5:30 pm
This performance combines the grace, delicacy and poise of the Chinese acrobatic tradition with the power and athleticism of Russian acrobatics. Three professional acrobats perform multiple towers, falls and strength poses along with an up-beat performance using a multiple hoop apparatus.
- The Silk Road Acrobats
Seven Man Acrobats & The Female Contortion Duo
Wednesday, February 1: 12:30 & 5:30 pm
Professional acrobats perform an amazing group demonstration of strength, coordination, group dynamic and impeccable timing. While balancing delicate vases on their hands and feet, the acrobatic female duo perform graceful contortions and remarkable poses, creating an effect that is truly enchanting.
- High Strung Aerial Acrobats “Dy-no-mite”
Thursday, February 2 & Saturday, February 4, 12:30 & 5:30 pm
A two-woman high energy aerial show with a sassy disco flair. Performed to hits from the 70s, like Disco Inferno, Ring My Bell and Macho Man, the show features aerial straps, a swinging ladder and trapeze. Throw in some audience participation, acrobatics and a kick-ball change or two, and you have a spectacle like no other.
- High Strung Aerial Acrobats “Impressed”
Friday, February 3 & Sunday, February 5:
12:30 & 5:30 pm
Witness aerial dance artistry, superior and surprising manipulations, and skills that seem to defy gravity. Wonder and marvel as these two breathtaking airborne lovelies perform startling acrobatic feats.
Events & Shows hosted by some of Toronto’s top attractions
Don’t miss this series of special WinterCity events at Toronto’s top urban destinations. For more details, contact each attraction directly.
4. Please tell us about the WinterCity Weekend SeeSaw at the Lorraine Kimsa Theatre for Young People.
WinterCity Weekend SeeSaw at Lorraine Kimsa Theatre for Young People
Meet four ordinary kids coping with the ups and downs of their lives. Paige, the popular yet insecure girl. Adam the tough bully who is also a budding artist, shy Josh who learns magic tricks in order to become invisible and Charla the new girl who wants to be everybody’s friend. (recommended for ages 9-12)
Saturday, January 28 & Sunday, January 29, 2 pm
Kids and adults WinterCity price just $12 each.
Regular price $15-20 each
165 Front Street East
6. You also have an event planned that involves “Franklin the Turtle”, “Elliot Moose” and the CN Tower. Please tell us more about that.
Franklin the Turtle, Elliot Moose & friends visit the CN Tower
Join Franklin the Turtle, Elliot Moose and their author friends, Elizabeth MacLeod, Irene Luxbacher and Aubrey Davis, at the CN Tower. Enjoy winter crafts, no-bake chocolate recipes, storytelling and more.
This fun filled event is included with your special CN Tower coupon admission of 3 people for $30
Saturday, January 28 & Sunday, January 29
11 am – 4 pm
3 people for $30
301 Front Street West
For full details on this event please visit, http://www.cntower.ca
6. You also offer special free skating events, beer tastings, a big band event, discounted opera events and theatre performances, please provide an overview of those.
DJ Skating Night @ Harbourfront
Slide down to Harbourfront’s beautiful rink and skate to music including house, progressive and breaks with DJs Phantasm, Simon Jain and Tommy Gunners!
Free hot chocolate! Skate rentals, sharpening, lockers, snacks and drinks all available.
Friday, February 3, 2006
235 Queens Quay West, South of York Quay Centre
A Bite before Twilight
Under 30? Join the Canadian Opera Company for a feast of traditional Bavarian fare at the exciting Bier Markt Esplanade and a quick update of “the story so far” before gorging on the dramatic final installment of Wagner’s epic Ring Cycle – The Twilight of the Gods (Götterdämmerung). Meet other young opera lovers and fortify yourselves with beer and worst, fine food and good cheer in preparation for the experience of a lifetime.
Saturday, February 4, 2006
$60 for opera ticket and meal (includes taxes and gratuity)
4 pm dinner
58 The Esplanade
6 pm performance of Götterdämmerung
Hummingbird Centre for the Performing Arts
1 Front St. E.
To order tickets, call: Ticketmaster at 416-872-2262
A Return to the Golden Era of Swing at Casa Loma
Dance the night away in one of Toronto’s most beautiful rooms with the Toronto All-Star Big Band. Resembling a Mediterranean Courtyard, Casa Loma’s The Conservatory is a spectacular setting with its gleaming brass doors, opulent marble and 30-foot stained glass dome. One of the most exciting bands around, the 17-piece Toronto All-Star Big Band, “cooks” with its powerful tributes to the heady hits of the 1930s and 40s. It’s like watching Goodman, Dorsey, and Miller live.
Saturday, February 4, 2006
$25.00 per person (includes G.S.T. and finger foods)
Tickets available on-line at http://www.casaloma.org
One Austin Terrace
Letters from Lehrer
CanStage offers a 20% discount to the February 9th performance of Letters from Lehrer – written and performed by Richard Greenblatt featuring the words and music of Tom Lehrer.
There will be a Satirical Lyric Writing workshop for the closet songwriter. This pre-show workshop will run from 6:30 pm to 7:30 pm, followed by the performance at 8 pm.
Thursday, February 9, 2006
6:30 pm to 7:30 pm (workshop)
8 pm (performance)
20% discount on regular priced tickets
Regular price range: $26 to $51
26 Berkeley Street
Box Office: 416-368-3110
Coupons for discounted rates are available by visiting: http://wx.toronto.ca/inter/se/coupons.nsf/coupons?openform where they can be printed.
7. Please tell us about “Winterlicious”, Toronto’s winter restaurant promotion.
The phenomenally successful restaurant promotion Winterlicious, presented by American Express, returns to Toronto January 27 – February 9, 2006. The fourth annual Winterlicious is part of the WinterCity Festival, an award-winning 14 day city-wide celebration of Toronto’s culture, creativity and cuisine.
More than 120 participating restaurants will offer a special three-course prix fixe menu where patrons can sample the establishment’s tasty fare at fantastic price points. Prix fixe menu price categories are $15 or $20 for Lunch and $25 or $35 for Dinner. Prices are per person, plus taxes and gratuity. Beverages are additional.
In addition to the hugely popular prix fixe menus, 10 establishments will be offering unusual food-related events. These culinary experiences allow guests to savour delectable meals followed by dancing, unique tours and other rare experiences. To obtain details on the Winterlicious Culinary Experiences, the public can visit http://www.toronto.ca.
In past years Torontonians and tourists alike have enthusiastically celebrated Toronto’s diverse and innovative cuisine with delicious menus available at restaurants city-wide. Winterlicious 2005 sold more that 183,000 meals over the 14 days – an increase of 67% from the previous year and resulting in an estimated $6.4 million in economic activity.
8. Please tell us about the family entertainment offered in the American Express Cool Ice Lounge, including ice sculptures, carving demonstrations and live entertainment.
The third annual WinterCity Festival, the City of Toronto’s city-wide celebration of the world’s coolest winter city, presents the most fun one family can have with 200,000 pounds of ice at temperatures below -5 C — the American Express Cool Ice Lounge.
Created by Custom Ice Art and managed by the Liberty Entertainment Group, The American Express Cool Ice Lounge is Toronto’s first ice lounge ideal for the whole family.
During the day, stroll through the Ice Lounge enjoying contemporary ice sculptures, carving demonstrations and live entertainment. Stop for a beverage and snack at the ice bar and relax on the frosty furniture. Catch ice carving demonstrations twice a day at 2 & 5 pm on January 28 & 29 and February 4 & 5, 2006.
By night, this venue is transformed into a frozen night club venue complete with icy seating, an ice bar, and Toronto DJ’s spinning the latest tunes.
During the day, the American Express Cool Ice Lounge will include live family entertainment, including:
The Magical Comedy of Stephen Elvay
Sunday, January 29 & Saturday, February 4 at 12 noon & 6 p.m.
Witty, engaging and supremely entertaining, Elvay is one of Canada’s funniest and most popular entertainers. His fast paced and visual extravaganza of comedy and magic is expertly interlaced to provoke mystery and laughter.
Flying Debris Show
Saturday, January 28 & Sunday, January 29 at 1:30 p.m. & 4:30 p.m.
Kansas, USA native Richard Holmgren brings his hilarious comedy, amazing magic and unmatched juggling skills to the WinterCity festival. You’ll be amazed by the wide variety of objects flying through the air during his show.
Saturday, February 4 & Sunday, February 5 at 1:30 p.m. & 4:30 p.m.
This one man three ring circus from Red Deer, Alberta has been entertaining audiences across Canada and around the world for the last seventeen years. Flyin’ Bob’s action packed show showcases his own brand of physical and verbal comedy, energetic juggling, spectacular balancing, and audience participation.
Scot Free Daredevil Stunt Show
Saturday, January 28 & Sunday, February 5 at 12 noon & 6 p.m.
One of Toronto’s favourite performers! Check out this skillful mix of character comedy, exciting daredevil stunts, sharp improvised wit and audience interaction. Fun for all ages, come see if this daredevil gets off … Scot Free!!
9. Please tell us about “Soup’s On!” – a special event offering cooking demonstrations and soup tastings.
“Soup’s On!,” presented by Liberty Tax Services, offers cooking demonstrations and soup tastings from Toronto’s top chefs matched with live performances from some of Toronto’s most diverse bands.
The world of soup is vast and sophisticated. There are thick soups such as bouillabaisse that nearly cross the line from soup to stew, thin clear consommés, and everything in-between. Nearly all cultures have their own soup specialties: hearty Russian borscht, garlicky Spanish gazpacho, and Pot-au-Feu, a French clear soup made from boiled beef and vegetables.
Featuring soups from Spain to China and Jamaica to Greece, the “Soup’s On” pavilion will have something for everyone. Hosted by food enthusiast Marty Galin, chefs from Toronto-area restaurants will provide live cooking demonstrations in a heated pavilion on Nathan Phillips Square with the public able to taste-test the results while listening to music from the themed country.
10. Please tell us about the “Tower of Light” performance.
Toronto’s 14 day city-wide celebration, the WinterCity Festival, presented by the American Express Philanthropic Program, presents the North American premiere of The Tower of Light, a large-scale outdoor production blending fireworks and fire sculptures, music, lighting, special effects and spectacular visual images. The production is performed January 27, 28 and 29 at
7 p.m. outdoors at Nathan Phillips Square.
Framed by the silhouette of Toronto’s City Hall, this 30-minute production features a 15m tower of light and a carefully orchestrated outdoor performance of vibrant special effects and atmospheric music. Buckets of fire rise up into the sky as the lighthouse pulses with flares. Fireworks erupt from every level as the performers dance beneath the silver rain. The show comes to a dramatic close with a spectacular fireworks finale.
Walk the Plank is widely recognized as one of the UK’s leading producers of innovative shows and magical spectacles. The company was established by John Wassell and Liz Pugh, its current management team, in 1991. Site-specific shows and fireworks have been a feature of the company’s work since the beginning, but this area of work has expanded and developed over recent years. In 2001 Walk the Plank undertook its first international work with shows in Singapore and Portugal.
The Tower of Light has been performed at the Singapore Arts Festival, Greenwich and Docklands International Festival and Stockton International Riverside Festival.
10. Please tell us about “Il Corso”, a 60-minute open-air theatre spectacle.
11. Please tell us about “Il Corso” performance, based on a book by Pablo Neruda.
WinterCity presents the North American premiere of Il Corso, a 60-minute open air theatre spectacle featuring actors, acrobats and musicians from Germany’s Theatre Pan-Optikum. The production is performed February 3 and 4 at 7 p.m. outdoors at Nathan Phillips Square.
Il Corso will take place all over Nathan Phillips Square as the venue is transformed into a stage. Individual spectators will continually change their positions as they are caught up in the movement and, ultimately, even become part of the performance. Featuring a wall of fire, dancers on 10 ft. sway poles and huge metal structures including a human propeller, the production combines dramatic movement, installations, music, text, huge expressive images and pyrotechnics.
Il Corso tells the story of a human being in search of fulfillment and happiness and is based on “The Book of Questions” by Nobel Prize winner Pablo Neruda. The 74 short poems contained in the book are structured as two-line verses raising 316 puzzling questions. Many of Neruda’s questions are ones children sometimes pose such as “Where do shadows disappear to?” and “Why are leaves green?” These questions often expose the fact that adults cannot explain everything they claim to know. As Neruda says, “What we know is so small and what we assume so great.”
In 2001, the “Kunstfest Weimar” art festival opened with Il Corso. In 2002, Il Corso was chosen from 80 invited open air productions and awarded 1st prize at the street theatre festival in Holzminden, after which Il Corso played 27 times in Germany and the Netherlands. Il Corso is currently the most played open air production in Europe.
10. What about the “Winter Moves” dance performances?
As part of the WOW! (Wild on Winter) Series, The WinterCity Festival presents Winter Moves – dance performances from four of Canada’s top contemporary dance companies. Performances take place outside at Nathan Phillips Square on Festival weekends. Participating companies include:
o Company Blonde – Company Blonde has a unique and vital presence in the independent dance scene in Canada. Since it’s inception in 1999, Company Blonde has been dedicated to creating dance works that are accessible to a vast audience of all ages blending comedy and theatre with classical modern dance. Company Blonde will perform:
o Awright, Awright, Awright! — Clad in bright 70′s style one-piece snowsuits this highly energetic piece was designed for the outdoors but has found its way onto many small stages. The dancers (Monica Dottor, Michelle Debrouwer, Jennifer Helland, Sunny Horvath and Nicole Rush) arrive in a car, music blaring, put out a few plastic palm trees and dance with all their heart to the pop music of Outkast. It is nearly impossible to resist shakin’ it along side them. Awright, Awright, Awright! premiered at the Guelph Contemporary Dance Festival in March 2004 and has been performed many times since, at schools, on stages indoor and out and always in snowsuits.
o Binder Twine — This hilarious Wild West piece features outlaws, saloon girls, line dancers, tumble weed and baked beans! Featuring dancers Monica Dottor, Michelle Debrouwer, Jennifer Helland, Sunny Horvath and Nicole Rush Binder Twine premiered at the Guelph Contemporary Dance Festival in April 2005 and was performed at the T.O Twang Festival at Harbourfront in August 2005.
o CORPUS — Founded in 1997, CORPUS is devoted to creating original work for broad audiences including children. Led by Sylvie Bouchard and David Danzon, CORPUS is known for its precise and surrealist humour, the company combines contemporary dance and physical theatre. CORPUS will perform:
o Les moutons (The Sheep) — Les moutons is a humorous “live installation” where reality meets fantasy. Meet Julie, Marie-Louise, Bernadette and Cesar, three healthy young sheep and an old ram. The Shepherd is here too, talking you through a carefully studied overview of sheep behavior.
o Tina Fushell / Choreographer / Dancer — Born and raised in St. John’s, Nfld., Tina Fushell studied at the Quinte Ballet School and the School of Toronto Dance Theatre. In 2002 Tina co-founded Ambitious Enterprises (AE) with Kate Franklin and Samm Higgison, producing the “At the Wrecking Ball” series, a now yearly event which has garnered much praise for the young company and ushered in a new generation of choreographers and collaborators from various disciplines. Tina Fushell will present:
o sTOries — sTOries is performed to live jazz music. This contemporary dance piece is inspired by Torontonians stories about Winter. The highly physical sTOries features a trio of dancers (Tina Fushell, Anisa Tejpar and Kate Franklin) dressed for Winter in full wool skirts, blazers and boots.
o Larchaud Dance Project is known for their strength-testing choreography and gravity defying movement and are certain to captivate, provoke, and entertain all audiences. Larchaud Dance Project’s upcoming June 2006 production is based on the world and culture of videogames. Each piece in the show is based on a world/level of the game, albeit a jungle, a labyrinth, underwater, etc. At the WinterCity Festival, Larchaud Dance Projects will present:
o Ice World — Of all the levels of a videogame the ice world proves to be the greatest challenge. Not only must the players overcome the treacherous conditions of their environment, but they must conquer the evil Queen and her Henchman. It is she who controls this world, and in her defeat, they may progress onto the next level.
11. Toronto’s WinterCity Festival will also feature a number of live music performances. Please tell us about those.
The WinterCity Festival, presented by the American Express Philanthropic Program, the award-winning 14 day city-wide celebration of Toronto’s culture, creativity and cuisine, will feature two weekends of FREE live music and DJ’s on an outdoor stage at Nathan Phillips Square as part of the WOW! (Wild On Winter) series. The WinterCity Festival takes place January 27 – February 9, 2006.
Friday Jan. 27
Les Batinses, 7:30 p.m.
This young sextet plays world music with a Québécois slant. They embrace music from anywhere and everywhere to marry old-style folk and roots ballads with funk-driven acoustics.
Saturday Jan. 28
Sizzling Hot! Latin Dance Music
DJ Billy Bryans, 12 noon
Get on the ice and move! DJ Billy Bryans drops the latest in Latin music, reggaeton, salsa and the hottest timba cuts directly from Havana.
Chiva featuring Brownman, 12:30 p.m.
Toronto’s Chiva fuses seductive Colombian rhythms with funk grooves and urban hip-hop beats against a Latin-jazz backdrop.
Latin Roots Orchestra, 2 p.m.
With a nod to the golden age of Latin music, this Toronto group blends the hottest sounds of classic salsa with the latest hip-shaking Latin grooves guaranteed to burn up the dance floor.
Tumbao Inc., 3:30 p.m.
One of Toronto’s newest Latin orchestras, Tumbao Inc. offers catchy lyrics and memorable melodies combined with powerful percussive beats in merengue music and electronica.
Brownman & CRUZAO featuring Fito Blanko, 5 p.m.
Led by multi-award-winning trumpeter Brownman, CRUZAO mixes authentic Latin rhythms, jazz harmonies and modern urban grooves. CRUZAO is joined by special guest Fito Blanko, Toronto’s rising star of reggaeton.
Ricky Franco, 6:30 p.m.
Talented singer/songwriter/composer, Ricky Franco delivers slick vocals layered over powerful Salsa Descargas with a soulful edge and the popular dance rhythms of Bachata.
Between sets, DJ’s will spin. Following the final band, DJ’s will spin club music outside until 11 p.m.
Sunday Jan. 29
Ndidi Onukwulu, 12:30 p.m.
A new voice in Toronto’s blues community, singer/songwriter Ndidi Onukwulu was born in BC and grew up listening to a variety of music including Nigerian juju. Set for release early in 2006, her eclectic debut album defies labels.
Tyler Yarema, 2 p.m.
Originally from Thunder Bay, Toronto pianist-vocalist Tyler Yarema dishes up high-energy boogie-woogie complemented by a smooth, fiery vocal delivery.