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Cirque du Soleil artists to play WinterPRIDE

HIV/AIDS-affected kids to benefit
New name, same look. WinterPride replaces Gay Ski Week, photo submitted

By Cindy Filipenko

WinterPRIDE, formerly Gay Ski Week, has announced that members of Cirque du Soleil’s Mystère casts will entertain patrons of WinterPRIDE’s premeire banquet.

Held at the Telus Conference Centre, in the middle of the week that kicks off Feb 4, organizers believe the banquet will provide a unique opportunity for attendees.

“The WinterPRIDE Banquet idea was born out of some great feedback from previous visitors to Gay Ski Week, who wanted to have an event where they could all dine together and meet new people from around the world,” says Sean Kearns, president of Alpenglow Productions and “With the addition of Cirque du Soleil, this is one dining event you will not want to miss.”

The Montreal-based Cirque du Soleil has been wowing audiences with Mystère since 1993. The show is now permanently housed in Las Vegas at Treasure Island. Like other Cirque offerings, the show is a spectacle of costume, acrobatics, dance, opera, comedy and traditional circus arts broken into vignettes associating to a larger theme. Kearns, through a relationship with Cirque staffers, was able to secure two of the more popular performers, highly skilled contortionists.

“How strong do you have to be to do that?” ponders Dean Nelson, creative director of Alpenglow. “I can barely deal with my own chin-ups.”

The good-humoured Nelson points out that Cirque du Soleil won’t be the only entertainment at the WinterPRIDE banquet.

“We also have Miss Willie Taylor coming up with his posse from the city and Luke Johnson will be on hand to spin some discs for dancing,” he said.

Taylor is a staple on the Vancouver drag scene and is known for his wicked diva impersonations, with a Patti Labelle that’s second to none. Johnson is a well-known San Francisco DJ who has carved a niche for himself in that city’s vibrant T-dance scene.

But the WinterPRIDE Banquet is more than just another dinner and dance, it’s an important fundraiser for Camp Moomba, a summer camp for kids who are living with, or affected by, HIV/AIDS. Camp Moomba has been the charity of choice for the annual gay and lesbian snow sports event since the days when the week was known as Altitude, with the event’s late founder, Brent Benashak, forging the relationship between the two organizations. As in past years, additional funds for the innovative camp will be raised though a silent auction. Organizers hope that some of the funds raised will allow some of those children to visit Whistler to learn how to ski and snowboard.

Tickets for the Thursday, Feb. 8 dining event are $65. The event is also included in the seven-day and extended weekend passes.

Organizers are requesting that tickets be purchased prior to Jan. 31 to allow for planning considerations. Tickets may be purchased through

“The whole idea behind WinterPRIDE is about inclusiveness, even if you’re not gay or lesbian or bisexual or transgender. If you’re straight and just want to hang out with the guys and girls you’re more than welcome,” said Nelson.

WinterPRIDE includes daily ski-guiding by volunteers, après ski and party events, and culinary, health and education programming. WinterPRIDE 2007 takes place in Whistler from Feb. 4 to 11. Organizers expect more than 2,500 men and women to attend the event.