2011 Banff Summer Arts Festival showcases new creative work in opera, music, dance

Banff, Alberta, May 17, 2011 -- Recently, the New Zealand Herald called a performance by the Black Grace dance company “a polished, pungent, bone-crunchingly physical and perfectly executed alchemy of music, muscle and motion.” The company, New Zealand’s leading contemporary dance group, is a unique mix of traditional Pacific Rim dance and modern movement, under the leadership of artistic director Neil Ieremia. This summer, Black Grace will be in Banff for the premiere of Migration (July 15 to 17), a collaboration with Toronto-based indigenous dance company Red Sky Performance – developed in Banff – one of more than 150 events that will be presented in Banff as part of the Rockies’ biggest cultural celebration.   

Banff Centre’s annual showcase of fine and performing arts, the Banff Summer Arts Festival, runs from May through August, with performances and exhibitions in music, opera, theatre, dance, Aboriginal arts, visual and literary arts, new media, and film, much of it original work created at the Centre.  

The Festival kicks off in May with literary readings and three weeks of readings, from the Centre’s Writing Studio, by authors including Dick Hebdige, Padma Viswanathan, and Daphne Marlatt. Jazz swings into action May 25 under the leadership of New York-based trumpeter and composer Dave Douglas, with three weeks of casual gigs (through June 10) and mainstage performances (May 28, June 4 and 11).  

On June 16, Vancouver-based artist Brian Jungen will unveil his Banff Centre commission The ghosts on top of my head, an outdoor sculpture installation situated at the heart of the campus. More Centre alumni return June 17, for a special concert as part of the Music for a Summer Evening series. The Cecilia Quartet, winners of the 2010 Banff International String Quartet Competition are joined onstage by pianist Jamie Parker of the Gryphon Trio, and Geoff Nuttall, violinist with the St. Lawrence String Quartet, recorded in partnership and celebration of CBC’s 75th anniversary.  

On June 25, the Festival heads into town for a great big outdoor concert featuring St. Johns-based roots rockers Great Big Sea. Held outdoors on the natural slope at Banff’s Admin Grounds, the Performance in the Park celebrates 100 years of the Parks service in Canada. The Centre’s indigenous music series Diverse as This Land returns June 30 and July 1with performances by young Canadian and international vocalists and musicians, and a special appearance by Maori singer Moana Maniapoto.  

When the Festival heats up in July, performances will head outside to the new Shaw Amphitheatre, built overlooking the town of Banff, the Bow Valley, and the Bourgeau Mountain Range. It will be one of the most spectacular outdoor performance spaces in Canada, this year featuring Latin Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter Alex Cuba (July 19), trumpet virtuoso Jens Lindemann (July 31), and Canadian music legends Blue Rodeo (September 11).  

Robert Stephen, a dancer with the National Ballet of Canada and winner of the 2010 Clifford E. Lee Choreography Award, has created a new work for the Centre’s Dance Masters ballet company, set to music by Aleksandra Vrebalov. The company will premiere the work July 20 to 23, along with pieces by Balanchine, Frederic Ashton, and Gioconda Barbuto. In August, the Centre’s Eric Harvie Theatre stage will be filled with opera, including two performances of Mozart’s comic masterpiece Cosi Fan Tutte (August 19, 21), and the Alberta premiere of John Estacio and John Murrell’s Lillian Alling (August 18, 20), which opened last fall at Vancouver Opera.  

In the Walter Phillips Gallery, New York-based conceptual art duo Dexter Sinister will build The Serving Library (July 10 to September 4). A moveable feast of text-based explorations, the exhibition is part fixed archive, part circulating collection. Summer literary events include a reading by poet Anne Carson (June 22), and a month of non-fiction readings and panels in July, led by journalist and author Ian Brown, director of the Centre’s Literary Journalism program.   The summer wraps up September 17 with a special engagement with the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra in the Shaw Amphitheatre. For Classical Banff: A Symphony of Taste, which features cellist Shauna Rolston, a late-afternoon open-air concert is paired with a pre-show chat with CPO Music Director Roberto Minczuk, and dinner in the Centre’s Husky Great Hall.  

The Banff Summer Arts Festival is designed to appeal to all ages and all cultural interests, with large-scale mainstage shows, intimate club gigs, lots of literary and visual arts content, and plenty of opportunities to enjoy the gorgeous surroundings of the Canadian Rockies.

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About Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity:  Founded in 1933, Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity is a learning organization built upon an extraordinary legacy of excellence in artistic and creative development. What started as a single course in drama has grown to become the global organization leading in arts, culture, and creativity across dozens of disciplines. From our home in the stunning Canadian Rocky Mountains, Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity aims to inspire everyone who attends our campus – artists, leaders, and thinkers – to unleash their creative potential and realize their unique contribution to society through cross-disciplinary learning opportunities, world-class performances, and public outreach. www.banffcentre.ca