This expansive thematic show that uses House music as both an allegory and an art form ends this weekend. It’s worth spending time moving back and forth through the rooms to hear, or rather feel, how the soundscape informs works that are deceptively benign but loaded with signifiers of oppression / liberation creating intersections where labour meets love.
Today, Saturday, October 29 Toronto talent Esie Mensah will be performing between 2 – 4 pm.
“Chicago-based artist Theaster Gates takes over the fifth floor of the AGO’s Contemporary Tower with an immersive exhibition exploring the potential of the house museum—historically important landmarks that have been transformed into legacy sites. Gates proposes new ways of honouring and remembering Black experience and explores the potential of these spaces through music, dance, video, sculpture and painting.”
“OUR TOXIC ADDICTION IS SLOWING DESTROYING OUR BEAUTIFUL WATERWAYS” GreenPeace
Shop till you drop…dead?
In the aftermath of Boxing Day blowouts it’s a great New Year’s Resolution to take time to consider how fashion impacts the planet.
GreenPeace recently launched the Global Detox Campaign in an effort to inform people on how the garment industry, especially in places like China, is turning “public waterways into private sewers.”
According to GreenPeace 320 million people in China are without access to clean drinking water, 40% of surface water is considered polluted and 20% of the urban drinking water is contaminated.
“BEAUTIFUL FASHION DOESN’T HAVE TO COST THE EARTH” Greenpeace
The campaign sparked an around-the-world protest against companies like Zara, Victoria Secret, the Gap and Adidas some of which have now agreed to “detox”.
These toxins don’t just end up the water. New clothing is often sprayed with formaldehyde to protect against mildew and to keep fabrics wrinkle free. We then absorb the toxins through our largest permeable organ – our skin – via the clothes we wear.
With our purchasing dollars, especially during those Boxing Week Sales, we vote ‘YES’ for the continuation of harmful systems unless we opt to change our habits and the way we engage with mall culture and consumerism.
Necessity (mixed with creativity) is the mother of all invention (and prevention).
One way to change is to rock Second Hand Style.
The gorgeous dancers from JACK YOUR BODY – Emily Law, Kristine Flores, Ashley Perez and Jasmyn Fyffe – demonstrated, on the MIXED BAG MAG #MashUPStyle shoot, how to re-mix used clothing. I met JYB dancer Jasmyn Fyffe, when she modeled at a prior shoot and I was inspired by her ability to take cast offs and make them fresh. Many of us do this out of necessity as a way to save money but as we become more engaged around the issues of environmental protection re-using, up-cycling and swapping become great ways to assert our fashion sense while remaining true to the cause.
On the subject of Second Hand Style, Street Culture and Re-Mixing Emily Law (co-choreographer of JACK YOUR BODY along with Ashley Perez) explains that for the show:
“we attempted to costume each section with vintage clothing as much as possible. The majority of the cast owned a lot of second hand clothing, so it was not that challenging to find great retro pieces. Creating this show gave me a chance to wear some of the retro clothing I have been collecting!
Analogous to using authentic clothing pieces from each era, we used classic ‘vintage songs’ specific to each time period. By creating to these songs we are giving them a second life just like the clothing.”
In Street Culture fashion and music riff off each other in a constant creative conversation. Just like DJs who re-mix retro beats to make them fresh the clothing is also about taking the best of the past and making it stylistically relevant to the present. Perfect timing for a world in need of more sustainability (but sexy) choices!
All above images by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag.
“Jack Your Body is a high-energy dance performance that pays homage to American street dance culture. The cast poses, struts, waacks and jacks their way through soul train, paradise garage and other iconic street dance scenarios. Issues of race, gender and social status come into focus during this dynamic dance piece that explores the evolution of underground social dances from the 70s-90s.”
It was a late night tweet from one of Toronto’s finest MP Kristyn Wong Tam that put MIXED BAG MAG onto this exuberant project – WAACK REVOLT A Dance Film.
Watching the video I was sold on the fact that this team has tons of talent.
Waack Revolt’s Diana Reyes aka Fly Lady Di (above) and Emily Law aka Em Fatale (left).
Already familiar with dancer Diana Reyes aka Fly Lady Di (MIXED BAG MAG almost had her as part of the MASHUP STYLE shoot – next time Diana 😉 ) and Emily Law aka Em Fatale from the incredible Toronto dance troupe Kaha:wi (check out MIXED BAG MAG’s post on Kaha:wi’s The Honouring) it seemed an easy decision to get on board to help spread the word!
MIXED BAG MAG’s interview with WAACK’s Director / Writer Sonia Hong was in a word ‘soulful’. At a time where there is ubiquitous imagery representing a too-cool-for-school vibe we often mask our deeper human qualities like vulnerability and the yearning we all have for connectedness behind that chill exterior. I appreciated that Sonia was an open book and ready to share her history as to how she became a film artist who focuses on LGBTQ issues.
Bullied for not fitting in, somewhere along the way and at a young age, Sonia reached in to that spiritual place that we all have inside to find her source. From hiding her light to shining bright, Sonia had done such a remarkable turnaround with her confidence that a teacher who noticed shared this with her then asked her to be the valedictorian at her Grade 8 Graduation.
She built on that confidence and started to attend theatre summer schools where she said improv helped her try on new characters, play around with identity, and continue to grow more comfortable in her skin.
She also spent time working at Legal Aid alongside her mother. “If I hadn’t of gone to film school I would have gone to school for social work.” A keen sense of social justice, she takes her role as an artist seriously developing projects that can help kids struggling with their identity and place in the world.
Writer / Director Sonia Hong (right) with Producer Allia McLeod(left).
“Community building and creating an inclusive community is what I have always been really passionate about. I want to help young people feel empowered and to know from an early age that it’s ok to be yourself.”
Somewhere in the interview we got to speaking about girl culture – for me coming of age with Madonna and Sonia coming of age with the Spice Girls. Whether we agree with it or not, pop culture is what meets kids where they are at. As a female, Madonna taught me that my sexuality was for me alone to own and to be aware of it and my decisions around it but not without having fun – Express Yourself!; for Sonia the Spice Girls belted out the message that she understood to mean be yourself in the most bombastic way you dare – Zig A Zig Ah!
Our musical tastes have matured (I think?!) but for both of us the concern is that in today’s hyper-sexualized Britney-Miley-Nicki world sexuality now is only about an act of ‘performance’ for another’s gaze (mostly young girls for the validation of males) and something is getting lost in the delivery along with the chance for youth to develop a strong sense of self.
WAACK REVOLT takes all that on and promises to be sexy short with a definite message regarding understanding, owning and standing up for your sexuality. Commissioned by the Reel Asian International Film Festival as a collaboration between dancers and filmmakers, WAACK REVOLT will be premiering at this year’s festival.
“This cheeky love story, WAACK REVOLT. A DANCE FILM, sets the stage for a playful journey that opens during an audition in 1940s Hollywood. It is here that our two lovers first meet and begin their love affair with one another – which centers around their shared passion for “Waacking”. Outraged by their “Waacking” dance style, a visual metaphor for their unconventional love and identity, the public exclaim that they aren’t permitted to “Waack” in public, and must keep it behind closed doors.
In response, the couple escapes to different iconic time periods, sliding and interchanging between genders, ultimately blurring the lines entirely as they “Waack” their way to a full, vivid expression of themselves and their love.”
Using dance to challenge traditional gender roles and stereotypes.
The artistic medium of dance has given Sonia the perfect vehicle to investigate gender as it refers to sexuality.
Sonia goes deep into the exploration of how gestures sub-consciously communicate the assertion of power or an act of oppression and she explains that when they are thinking about the choreography they don’t want the dancer playing the male role to come across as a predator or the dancer embodying the female character as not without movements that communicate empowerment.
“I am really exiting about gender-bending with the actual choreography as music and dance are very gendered.”
Waack itself is a form of dance that evolved during the disco era and much like Voguing was embraced and developed by communities on the fringe of the mainstream as a way to own power around race, class and sexual orientation.
“To me, as a 12 yr old girl, the Spice Girls’ “Zig A Zig Ah” could mean anything you wanted it to much like this style of dance. You should be able to be yourself anywhere and you should be able to WAACK wherever you want.”
Emily Law aka Em Fatale
Professional dancer and founding member of the Toronto house dance crew Warehouse Jacks. Emily has been nominated for a Dora Mavor Moore award and a Gemini for her work with Kaha:wi Dance Theatre.
Diana Reyes aka Fly Lady Di
Multi-disciplinary artist, who has appeared on several progams including MuchMusic’s “RapCity”, and CBC Music’s “How to Dance to Classical Music”. Diana is a member of b current’s prestigious rAiz’n ensemble – home to some of Canada’s most successful performing artists, playwrights and producers.
A dynamic and multi-faceted artist, based in Toronto, Maylee’s music combines organic and electronic forms, including elements of boogie, bossa, space funk, psychedelia and soul. She’s shared the stage with the likes of Janelle Monae, Lee Fields, Aloe Blacc, Little Dragon, and The Budos Band. SOCAN has recently nominated her for the coveted songwriting prize. Get into the ‘Waack Revolt. A Dance Film.” groove with some of her funky tunes. www.mayleetodd.com