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Showing posts from October, 2011

Creative Nova Scotia Awards Gala

The Creative Nova Scotia Leadership COucil hosted the 6th annual Creative Nova Scotia Awards Gala this past Friday night in Halifax.
The festivities were a true testament to Nova Scotia’s diverse arts and culture scene: presentations were done in both English and French; awards and performances showcased a wealth of milieus, social mores and time periods, from interactive web media and classical piano fused with world music overtones to distinctive dance, film, photography, illustration, theatre and poetry. It was clear by this evening that Nova Scotian artists truly have transcended beyond the categorized kitchen party or fishing-themed watercolour.
Award finalists and winners ranged from being born and bred in Nova Scotia to living in the province for several years and now calling it home. The first accolades presented were the Established Artist Recognition Awards ($5,000 per artist). Of the ten finalists, those who triumphed were Simon Docking (classical pianist and composer), Sue G…

Let's Get Lost...

Cathy Ostlere’s first book, LOST, began as a series of poems that grew into creative non-fiction essays, excerpts of which have been short-listed for the National Magazine Awards, Western Magazine Awards, CBC Literary Awards, and Prism International and Event Magazine Non-fiction Contests. In 2009, Lost: A Memoir was shortlisted for the prestigious Edna Staebler Award for Creative Non-fiction. In 2010, she co-wrote LOST: A Memoir, a 90 minute one-woman play that runs until November 6 at the Neptune Theatre in Halifax. Recently AE spoke with Ostlere about the production.
AE: What inspired you to write Lost? CO: The memoir was written out of two desires: The first was to investigate what happened to David, and his girlfriend, Sarah, when they went missing on the Atlantic. The second was to understand what it meant to my life to have a deeply loved brother disappear without a trace. David and I were leading opposite lives in 1995. I was an at-home parent tethered to a domestic life with t…

Fall For Flamenco !

Watching Maria Osende perform is exhausting.

Atlantic Canada’s premier flamenco dancer is in full flight across the concert hall floor; head held high, heels pounding to the sensuous Spanish rhythms, hands and wrists gracefully gyrating under the stage lights.

After more than an hour, she stops for but a split second, smiles shyly to spectators, and then starts again; slowly at first, gently weaving her way across the stage, then surely bringing the tempo up to full speed until she is again but a blur of swirling black and red.

One can only wonder what keeps her going.

Thankfully, for fans of flamenco, the fiery force that drives Osende to dance with such fervor is the same one that pushes her to put together the Fall for Flamenco Festival in Halifax each autumn.

The native of Madrid says that she was inspired to start the festival in 2006 by the events that she saw transpiring around her.

“Atlantic Canada has grown so much in recent years,” she explains. “Even in just the very short…

Coming of Age with Ami McKay

Ami McKay hit the mark with her first full-length narrative The Birth House; the touching tale of a Nova Scotia Midwife resonated with readers and critics alike, earning the Scots Bay scribe numerous awards, nominations and a lengthy stay atop bestseller lists. All of the accolades did nothing to slow her down, with the author penning Jerome for a local theatre company just two years later. Her long awaited follow-up novel is The Virgin Cure, the story on a young girl coming of age amongst the tenement buildings of New York City in the late 1800s. Recently AE spoke with McKay about the new book.
AE: What inspired you to tell this story? AM: While digging around the roots of my family tree, I uncovered the story of my great-great grandmother's life. Not only was she a female physician in the late 1800's, but she was also one of the first women to practice medicine in New York City. Her medical studies and her work were carried out through the New York Infirmary for Indigent Women…

El Guitarrazo!

El Guitarrazo
October 22, 2011
Potter Auditorium, Halifax

The soul of Spain set the heart of Halifax ablaze last night as the 6th annual Atlantic Flamenco Festival sparked to life with a spirited soiree of six-string stylings.

Despite the genericy of the venue - a lifeless university classroom with a small stage - festival founder and artistic director Maria Osende warmed and welcomed the mid-sized, multi-cultured, all-age audience with intimate and informal introductions.

Local guitarists Joey Latta, Bob Sutherby and Daniel MacNeil then each performed short sets, stirring showgoers and setting the stage for the evening's headliner Jose Vega.

Relaxed and with his hair tied-back, the Cadiz-born Vega showed why he is a cut above his cohorts. Accompanied by both dancer Miguel Tellez and vocalist Maria Mezcle, the flamenco-master displayed his flare and finesse for the frets, letting loose with an array of strong and soft Spanish selections and sweeping attendees through a myriad of emotio…

Lost - A Memoir

Lost – A Memoir
By Cathy Ostlere October 21, 2011 Neptune Theatre, Halifax
It is a rare feat for any individual to capture an audience’s attention for a full 90 minutes. However, Jan Alexandra Smith did just that at the Neptune Theatre in Halifax last night with her poignant and powerful one-woman production of Cathy Ostlere’s Lost – A Memoir.
Against a stunning stage design – a large, segmented video screen cascading into a smaller, sparser setting of silver and glass squares – the energetic and physical Smith claimed the space from the outset with her portrayal of a suburban Calgary housewife and mother (Cathy) who walks through the loss of her only brother (David.)
Through a series of carefully-crafted vignettes, Cathy recounts her attempts to trace her brother’s (and his partner Sarah’s) final days aboard an aging sailboat.
From Calgary and Winnipeg to the tiny Atlantic Island of Madeira, and then on to Ireland and Scotland, Cathy walks the audience through a wave of feelings – denial,…

Fall for Flamenco!

Cuffed hands creating an alluring rhythm, feet transforming into percussion or gliding across the floor, twirls and flight of colour, the violent strumming and seductive fingering on Spanish guitars - flamenco is beautiful, romantic, exciting, but not so easy to define.
One thing for sure is that it’s about emotion, says Maria Osende. “Flamenco allows for a lot of personal expression and it’s definitely very passionate. It’s a way of putting out your feelings. It allows for a lot of improvisation and freedom. The musicians and dancers play a little bit off each other, so it’s very interactive. That gives and edge to flamenco that makes it very, very appealing to watch”.
Originally from Madrid, Spain, Osende moved to Halifax eight years ago and founded Atlantic Foundations Productions Association, a company that teaches and performs the Spanish art form ; in 2006, she organized Canada’s first ever flamenco festival. In Halifax from October 22 to 30, seasoned and novice flamenco fans can…
Each autumn, the Halifax Pop Explosion showcases established and emerging musical artists. Recently AE's Whitney Moran spoke with the festival’s executive director Jonny Stevens about this year’s event, which runs from October 18-22.
AE: What is HPX and what is its core mandate? JS: The Halifax Pop Explosion is a 5 day marathon of music where fans can digest 150 artists in over 20 venues and discover something new that he or she has never heard before. The goal is to present tomorrow’s stars today. Our mandate is to present new and exciting music from Halifax and beyond while providing the most affordable experience possible.
AE: What opportunities are provided by HPX for local artists? JS: Along with loads of local music, we are putting on a poster-art show, a ‘zine fair, video presentations, and more. We always have our local scene in mind whenever we program anything. We also present a conference that is free of charge for all performing artists to attend and super low cost for any…

Big Town!

Halifax author Stephens Gerard Malone published his first novel Endless Bay under the pseudonym, Laura Fairburn. His second novel, Miss Elva, followed in 2005 and was short-listed for the Dartmouth Book Award. Malone’s third novel I Still Have A Suitcase In Berlin took eight years to write and was released in May 2008 to critical praise. His latest effort is Big Town, a novel of Africville. Recently he shared his perspective on the new book - and all things literary - with AE.
AE: What inspired you to write this story? SGM: Africville captured my imagination shortly after I moved to Nova Scotia in 1986. Depending on whom I talked to, it was either a slum the city did right to remove or a long-standing community bull-dozed in the name of industrial development. But why would a former resident protest the destruction of a slum, for decades, and why was there nothing on the site but a park? From a novelist’s perspective, the reasons why were gold, and gold right in my backyard that few had…

The Medusa Tree

We find her in a field, grass gone dustgold. No serpents undulating
around her face, split tongued. Maybe a rumour, that glance—
how she turned people to stone.

She’s returned as a birch, half-felled by an ice storm. Coiled branches
eeling around a white trunk, whiteness made whiter by the spruce behind.
All the old grievances: how Perseus cut off her head, didn’t sew shut
her eyes. Gave the head to Athena, decoration for a shield. Myth

of August, amphitheatre of weeds sloping to the creek, the birch,
such a drama queen. Nothing moves until a heron (disguised in the sedges)
steps, steps through glass. Tick of grass blades. Windswoon over the hill
where we stand, waiting.

The birch gazes back.

What did we think would happen?

~Anne Simpson

Anne Simpson has published seven books, including poetry, novels, and essays. Four of these have been Globe and Mail Top 100 Books. She won the Griffin Poetry Prize for her second book of poetry, Loop, in 2004. Her second novel, Falling, was longliste…


Nocturne is a free visual art festival held each autumn in downtown Halifax. This year the event takes place on October 15, from 6pm – 12am. Recently AE spoke with the festival’s chairperson Rose Zack about the happening and its impact on the local community.

SPC: How does the event work?
RZ: Nocturne achieves its mandate by working collaboratively with artists and arts organization as well as with the individuals who manage and run their respective locations/venues/sites. To date, event organizers are delighted to have the committed support of numerous community groups, cultural organizations, non-profits, businesses and more. Furthermore, public museums and galleries have committed to waiving their admission fees on October 15, ensuring access to everyone. Temporary exhibits and installations transform store fronts, walls, abandoned lots and other public and private spaces transforming perceptions of where art exists and encouraging the viewer to reconsider spaces they pass by every d…
DalTheatre kicks off it's 2011-2012 season tonight with While We're Young, Don Hannah's tender and touching coming-of-age tale spanning six generations. Arts East spoke with the play's director Margot Dionne about the Halifax debut.

AE: How long have you been involved with Dal Theatre?
MD: This is my 5th year at Dal.

AE: What are the biggest challenges of your profession?
MD: Balancing my teaching and administrative duties with my artistic activities.

AE: What are the rewards?
MD: To behold my students grow and develop as artists and as people. To learn from them and with them through artistic endeavor. To grow as a teacher and director as one of the DalTheatre company, and to grow as an actor in the professional theatre.

AE: What did you choose While We're Young to kick-off the new season?
MD: I fell in love with this play when I heard Don Hannah reading a scene from it when he visited Dal a few years ago, having just won the Raddall Atlantic Fiction Award. I was blow…

The Eco-Innovator!

Chris Benjamin is a Halifax-based author, journalist and columnist. His work has appreared in The Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, Chronicle Herald, Now Magazine, Arts East and many other publications. His first novel, Drive-by Saviours, was longlisted for both the 2011 ReLit Award and Canada Reads 2011. His latest work, Eco-Innovators; Sustainability in Atlantic Canada, profiles some of the region’s most ground-breaking and forward-thinking leaders in sustainability – people who have made measurable contributions both in their respective fields of interest and in motivating others to make change. With ten chapters on matters like reducing consumption, greening the home, sustainable eating, dressing, transportation, and vacationing, the book is an important look into the lives of Atlantic Canadians committed to creating viable green options in our region. Recently AE spoke with Benjamin about the book., which will be launched tonight at Dalhousie University in Halifax, featuring a roundt…
Benjamin Allain received his BFA from Mount Allison in 2007 and has been showing his rustic, lucid narratives to intrigued audiences coast to coast ever since. Receiving funding from the PEICA and Newfoundland and Labradour Arts and Tourism, he has put on workshops throughout Canada teaching his art-making techniques – coffee-spill mapping, alterations to found photographs, collage – and telling folks about the importance of storytelling and the element of chance in making artwork.

Facebook: Benjamin Allain

Arts and Education

Autumn in Atlantic Canada is sheer splendour; the brisk fall air and the changing colour of the leaves bring an end to the carefree days of summer and another revolution in the life cycle. For many, it signals a return to their studies.

But with the region’s education sector undergoing a fiscal and demographic transformation, campuses across the East Coast are taking on a new, streamlined look as academic administrations seek to cut operating costs from already-dwindling budgets.

“Sadly, the arts curriculums are usually the first to go,” says Simon Brault of the Canada Arts Council. “From kindergarten through to university, budget cuts mean less teachers, classes and supplies - and that impedes development.”

Still, Brault – whose seminal book No Culture, No Future is required reading for those interested in better understanding the impact of creativity upon society - feels that the arts are still a viable career option for those with a vocation.

“And,” he notes, “as it is with any other p…