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Toronto’s Luminato returns to its roots under new artistic director

Luminato’s famous spiegeltent.

Simply by throwing a 10-year anniversary party and sending off its departing artistic director with a festival exotically staged at a decommissioned power plant, last year's Luminato generated considerable excitement. And while the 2016 edition of the Toronto summer arts happening also impressed critics with its programming, the crowds didn't exactly swarm to all of what Luminato had to offer. (Fewer than 65,000 people attended events at the Hearn.)

So, this year, with new artistic director Josephine Ridge at the helm, Luminato will return to its roots, abandoning the east-end Hearn Generating Station for its traditional downtown locations. Its goal, according to the Australian arts veteran Ridge, is to refocus its definition of the word "festival" and to nail down Luminato's blueprint for the years to come.

"A festival needs to be more than just a series of events," Ridge said in a phone interview. "What I'd like to see us do is to develop the in-between spaces, so that there's an engagement with the city and a visibility where even if you're not one of the people who are attending a specific destination, that you're aware of an energy and a connection to the city."

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Set to happen June 14 to 25, Luminato will introduce itself with Tributaries, a free, festival-opening embrace of contemporary Indigenous music and dance in David Pecaut Square.

Programming details, announced Thursday morning, include the world premiere of King Arthur's Night, a Luminato-commissioned musical featuring a cast of artists living with and without Down syndrome, from Niall McNeil and Vancouver's Neworld Theatre. Also making its world premiere is Bearing, a dance opera from Toronto's Signal Theatre.

From Belgium choreographer Alain Platel and les ballets C de la B comes En avant, marche!, a genre-blurring tragicomedy featuring nearly 40 performers on stage, with four actors and seven musicians joined by Toronto's Weston Silver Band.

On the family-friendly side, Montreal's Le Patin Libre collective combines street-dance brashness with the athleticism of ice skating. Vertical Influences offers an immersive experience, in which audiences share ice space with high-flying performers at a pair of city rinks.

The heart of the festival figures to be the Famous Spiegeltent, a tented pavilion filled nightly with occasions of music, theatre, spoken word, and cabaret.

As for following last year's grand party energy, Ridge is pragmatic. "Something like the Hearn is just not sustainable, and, quite frankly, because of the cost implications, not repeatable."

Instead, looking forward, Ridge places an emphasis on developing and shoring up partnerships with other city arts organizations. "We need to think about the next 10 years, and continuing our story and our journey."

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About the Author

Brad Wheeler is an arts reporter with The Globe and Mail. More

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