High Performance Rodeo rides into town

By Rhia Perkins

The rodeo is back in town, but don’t worry about digging out your cowboy boots. One Yellow Rabbit is again playing host to the High Performance Rodeo, a showcase of the newest and the best of performance arts in Canada.

The festival sets out to find and support unique voices in the performing arts, according to Michael Green, Curator of the festival.

"It’s a really rich mix of [new] local stuff with the best stuff in the country, side by side on the same stage," says Green.

Taking place in and around the Performing Arts Centre the Rodeo spotlights a dazzling variety of performances from Calgary and around the World. Not to be missed, according to Green, are shows like Denise Clarke’s Radioheaded, dance company Compagnie Flak and "Les Productions Recto Verso," described as a techno-surrealist poem on death, life and the body.

The High Performance Rodeo is a breath of fresh air in the Calgary winter, giving audiences a look at some of the freshest and best performances available.

"Not only is it the most entertaining work in the country, so the audience is getting something interesting for a change, also, it’s become a national and an international launching pad for work that comes and is premiered from here, and then goes and tours the big festivals of Central Canada and around the world," comments Green.

This is the 14th year the festival has run, but there are still several firsts: this year the Rodeo runs for four weeks, compared to three weeks last year, and two the year before.

They’ve also had their first cancellation ever–Rachel Rosenthall, a performance artist in her 70s, was not able to perform at the festival due to illness. Toronto group DNA will be replacing her performance with a secret show. According to Green, the nature of the show is being kept a secret because it’s, "more fun that way… you’re part of an elite, doing something maybe slightly illegal, who knows?"

Other novelties this year are Ledgefest, young pop musicians playing for the audience as they are waiting to go into the theatre, and the Summer Lab Intensive show, a showcase of four pieces by students in the intensive performance-art classes OYR runs each summer.

"I think it was a very nice way to open the festival," says Green of the Summer Lab Intensive. "It’s like easing into a warm bath, in a certain way. As well, it’s important to remember that that’s a large part of where the HPR came from and an indication perhaps for the future, because for the most part those were fairly young talent."

One of the writer/performers is recent University of Calgary graduate Katie Sanders, one of the many graduates and students involved in the festival.

"If you have a dream and the vision and the drive to actually make this kind of work happen for yourself, then it’s important to find places where you can," says Green.

"When I was Katie Sander’s age," continues Green, "I was very fortunate to be able to create stuff for the artist-run galleries and other things like that–there was nothing like the HPR–but if there had been, I would have liked to have participated in it somehow."

He notes that OYR is always looking for volunteers, particularly during the Rodeo.

"We’re looking for hard-working, hard-partying, dedicated workers who love theatre," he states enthusiastically.

The High Performance Rodeo runs until Sun., Jan. 30. For more information, call One Yellow Rabbit at 264-3224.

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