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The must-see season: A guide to summer's hottest cultural events Add to ...

Kokora Dance

July 1 and 2

Wreck Beach, Vancouver

Wreck Beach is clothing optional, which is why the 17th annual Wreck Beach Butoh is performed in the nude. The beach is in a wilderness setting, so the nakedness of the dancers fits in well with the primal call of nature. The butoh dance style, which rose out of the ashes of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, is slow, controlled, deep and nihilistic in its breaking of rules. First-time participants pay $400 (plus HST) for the privilege of undertaking the physically gruelling two-week workshop/rehearsal process. After that, it’s a $32 annual fee. The performances take place in the morning, rain or shine ( kokoro.ca).

Dancing on the Edge Festival, Vancouver

July 5-14

This is the 24th year for this important festival of pan-Canadian dance. Producer Donna Spencer ensures that there is a judicious mix of the home team plus choreography from the other side of the mountains, a balance between emerging and senior artists, plus a variety of dance styles. Vancouverites include the 605 Collective, Co. Erasga, Peter Bingham, Contingency Plan, Karissa Barry and MACHiNENOiSY. And from away are Fortier Danse (Montreal), Adelheid (Toronto), Nicole Mion (Calgary), Robin Poitras (Regina), Constance Cooke (Victoria) and Brian Webb Dance Company (Edmonton). There are always site-specific creations such as composer Brad Muirhead’s sound-dance installation at Victory Square ( dancingontheedge.org).

All Over the Map

New Works, Granville Island, Vancouver

July 8, 15 and 22

This popular freebie, Sunday-afternoon series is back for its eighth year. The concert mandate is the presentation of culturally diverse dance. First up is Vancouver Cantonese Opera, which presents the art form in the traditional style of the every day Guangdong dialect. It differs from Peking Opera in both language and its accessibility to the common man. Next is Kokoma African Heritage Ensemble anchored in the dance and drumming of the Efik and Ibibio tribes of southeast Nigeria. And finally, Dancers of Damelahamid is a professional aboriginal company from the northwest coast of British Columbia. Their rich history is performed by masked dancers ( newworks.ca).


By Brad Wheeler

Bluesfest, Ottawa

July 4-15

A freak storm and an unfortunate stage collapse marred last summer’s blues-plus blowout. Undaunted, the massive annual event has a new title sponsor (RBC Royal Bank) and a whopper schedule featuring Norah Jones, Iron Maiden, Metric, Alice Cooper, Seal, Snoop Dogg, John Mellencamp and Charles Bradley. Did we forget anything? Ah, yes – blues. Try Shemekia Copeland, Downchild Blues Band and Monkey Junk ( ottawabluesfest.ca).

Interstellar Rodeo, Edmonton

July 27-29

The first-year event lost its first-night headliner when Sinead O'Connor scuttled her tour, citing bipolar disorder and a gruelling schedule. Nothing, of course, compares to the enigmatic Irish singer-songwriter, but the dustbowl-folk siren Gillian Welch is a nice substitute for an event organized by the Toronto-based roots-music label Six Shooter Records. The other stars aligned for Hawrelak Park are Hawksley Workman, Blue Rodeo, Jenn Grant, Randy Newman, Whitehorse, Cadence Weapon and the cosmic alt-country troupe from Australia, Wagons ( interstellarrodeo.com).

Osheaga Festival Musique et Arts, Montreal

Aug. 3-5

Simply, Osheaga has joined the ranks of the elite North American festivals, to be mentioned in the same hipsters’ breath as Coachella, Bonnaroo, and Lollapalooza. Critical darlings this year include the Black Keys, Feist, the Shins, the Weeknd, Gary Clark Jr., Austra and the new acoustic soulster Michael Kiwanuka ( osheaga.com).

Full Flex Express Tour, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Winnipeg, Edmonton, Vancouver

July 13 to July 22

Possibly inspired by the great hippie railway adventure across Canada in 1970 (involving Buddy Guy, the Band, Janis Joplin and others), the dubstep wunderkind Skrillex has gone plumb locomotive. Starting at Historic Fort York, he’ll join fellow free-spirits and coach-riders Grimes, Diplo and Pretty Lights for an all-aboard ride (with stops for concerts and refills of Jägermeister) that finishes at Vancouver’s PNE Coliseum. ( fullflexexpress.com).

The Tragically Hip

June 30, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont.; July 1, Oro, Ont.

Gord Downie and the Kingston-based rockers tour selectively by today’s standards, picking and choosing the best possible occasions to suit up and take stages. Lyrical and still muscular, the band celebrates Canada Day at the Burls Creek Family Event Park, where camping and flag-waving is encouraged and plastic cups will hold foamy, golden beverages efficiently. One day earlier, the Hip assembles itself at the Commons at the historical Butler's Barracks to mark the bicentennial of the War of 1812. Both concerts also feature Death Cab for Cutie, the New Pornographers and the Rural Alberta Advantage ( thehip.com).

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