Olympics’ cultural capacity 

2009 Cultural Olympiad includes one-year countdown concert in Vancouver, new events in the Sea to Sky region

This spring, dancers will pirouette, singers will pick up their microphones, and actors will take to the stage, all in anticipation of the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games.

The Vancouver Organizing Committee this week announced the programming schedule for the 2009 Cultural Olympiad, which is a series of multi-disciplinary festivals and programs designed to showcase Canadian and international arts and culture that are to take place from Feb. 1 to March 21, 2009.

Robert Kerr, VANOC’s program director of the Cultural Olympiad, said this year’s programming has expanded drastically from last year, to include more than 100 projects, with an overall budget of $2.5 million.

“It’s about a third larger than last year, with over 400 performances and exhibitions during that period,” Kerr said.

At a local level, there are also some big projects on the horizon.

Cultural Olympiad organizers are once again working with the Whistler Arts Council (WAC) to host and expand the Whistler Winter Arts Festival, which sees an outdoor stage constructed in Village Plaza from Feb. 12 to 15 for musical performances and other entertainment.

They will also bring the multi-disciplinary project by the Aeriosa Dance Society, entitled Spirit of Flight, to town a bit earlier than anticipated.

“It’s all about telling the Whistler story — the mountain, the culture, the outdoors and sort of the athleticism and arts of the community,” said Kerr.

The performance is the “cornerstone piece” of Whistler’s Cultural Olympiad programming for 2010, but this year, people will be treated to a sneak peak, as Aeriosa dancers will workshop the piece here during the Winter Arts Festival.

Whistler Film Festival Society has also stepped up and gotten involved in the 2009 Cultural Olympiad. From Feb. 12 to 15, they’ll be screening 20 Olympic-inspired short films onto a giant screen made of snow, set up in Skiers Plaza.

“Fifteen of them are specially-commissioned and personal Whistler stories by B.C. filmmakers,” Kerr added.

And Whistler certainly isn’t the only community in the Sea to Sky corridor to receive a piece of this cultural pie.

This year, the Cultural Olympiad programming travels up Highway 99 to Pemberton for the first time. They are hosting the Northern Edge program during Pemberton’s Winterfest celebrations on Feb. 13, which will transform the village and Mt. Currie into a canvas for projections of video, photography and other imagery, which is supplied by local and international artists, like Karen Love and Neil Bedard.

Cultural Olympiad programming will also be included in the Winterfest’s street party celebrations on Feb. 14 and 15 at the Pemberton Community Centre, offering up live concerts and performances, and arts and crafts activities.

And Squamish will once again host Cultural Olympiad activities during their Wild At Art festivities. Theatresports, a Vancouver-based theatre improv company, will put on a special show that focuses on the logging heritage of the region.

But if you’re willing to venture outside of the Sea to Sky region, there are plenty of other treats in store through the 2009 Cultural Olympiad.

To mark the one-year countdown to the Games, Canadian singer-songwriter, Sarah McLachlan, will be performing a special concert at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre on Feb. 12, which also features Halifax singer-songwriter, Joel Plaskett, violinist Adrian Annantawan, and a dance performance by Alberta Ballet. Broken Social Scene and Tegan and Sara will also give a double bill performance at the Orpheum Theatre on Feb. 6. Tickets to both concerts go on sale on Saturday, Nov. 1.

VANOC has also developed the Cultural Olympiad Digital Edition, a digital suite of programs that extends the reach of the festival into the online realm and allows people across Canada to contribute to a creative project.

They’ve also developed the National Presentation and Touring Program, which is designed to extend the reach of the Cultural Olympiad beyond the Metro Vancouver and Sea to Sky regions.

“Artists who are programmed into the Cultural Olympiad in Vancouver/Whistler become eligible for touring opportunities that would then extend their performance opportunities to communities across the country,” Kerr explained.

For a full list of the 2009 Cultural Olympiad programming, visit www.vancouver2010.com/culturalolympiad .

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