Saturday, May 19, 2007

Cirque Avaia's Feast of Might and Fright

On a recent night Jerrold, Sameer and I headed up to Woodbine racetrack for a night under the big top with Cirque Avaia. Happily forgoing candy apples for a nice drink, we strolled into the main tent to see what the Kantemirov Family - the Russian family dynasty who'd created the show - had in store for us. With horses billed as a big part of their act I could only imagine something like Medieval Times but I was hoping there was more to it than childish role-play.

The show opened on a somber note, with curious bohemian clowns in an underwater scene while sonic rain began to fall on our heads. As Cirque Avaia continued we were awed by the lavishness of it all, massive horse breeds danced around the ring while acrobats in lush costumes flung overhead. The loose theme seemed to be a journey through time and place lingering in medieval eras, but this was no Medieval Times, instead I felt like I'd come upon one of George Lucas' transient villages. I was both curious and a bit unsure.

The flow through acts left us jarred at times, ebbing and flowing between scenes of melancholy and tribal celebration. These latter built up my excitement, reminding me of something out of alieninflux' Harvest Festival and its focus on visual treats served up with bassy beats. Avaia's costumes (for both humans and horses) were stunning, and the original music was a perfect compliment to the circus' shifting moods and otherworldly feel.

20070519_02_horsestand.jpgDespite the array of brilliant visual and aural stimuli, Cirque Avaia lacked the glossy touches rival troupe Cirque du Soliel is known for. To me this was a positive point, since I found it helped me connect with the show on a more real level. The performers were hard working and disciplined but not so much so that their faces held back the strain and sacrifice of demonstrating their life's work under the bright lights' unforgiving glare. Sitting close to them I was filled with the same tension they must've felt before moments before these acrobats pelted themselves though the air and gymnasts dropped and dangled above us on a thread. I was left both dazzled and made to gasp.


Just when I'd felt you could cut the tension in the room with a knife... the knife thrower came out and did just that. From our perspective the man seemed to lose control of one of his knives, darting through the air over the heads of a group next to us. More anxiety filled me as a horse lost footing and fell. Fortunately it was fine and quickly regained composure. After this it became difficult to enjoy any of the horse scenes, wondering what might happen as the ringmaster loudly cracked his whip.

Luckily the clowns saved the day. Their interlude was a charming touch and nothing like the cliched acts usually offered up under the big top. We argued later whether it was their performance that had made the show. They consistently amused the crowd, and it wasn't just the kids who were all giggles, they won us over too.


If you like entertainment with an element of surprise and danger check out Cirque Avaia, only here until May 27th.

Much thanks to Jerrold for the fabulous photos and Sameer for his Cirque Avaia preview and commentary.

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Brassaii Bringing Sexy Back

Saturday night Brassaii is officially launching their patio season with a sexy little jam that'll knock your socks off. If you made it out to the recent Contact Festival launch party hosted by the sexy crew at blogTO you'll know what a sweet spot it is.

Saturday night will bring together talented house music DJs JoJo Flores of Therapy and Nicolas Matar from Cielo in NYC. I heard Matar spin one night at this intimate club in the heart of the meat-packing district and you couldn't have pulled me out of there, and JoJo, well he's been bringing sexy beats to the Toronto scene for years. Together they'll be launching Cielo's newest CD Seventh Heaven. Tickets are $15 in advance from ra sunspa.

Brassaii 461 King Street West 416.598.4730
ra sunspa 388 Richmond street West 416.977.3748

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Thursday, May 17, 2007

Toronto Architecture: Playing the Fame Game

In Toronto, as in all cities, there are those who care about architecture and those who don't notice a thing. Fortunately those who do care are a vocal bunch, whether blogging or putting the word out publicly. If you're the caring kind too there's a new place for you to make your opinion count. The Pug Awards (formerly the Pugly Awards but now with a cute little pug-faced icon) offers a slick new website where all of Toronto can get involved in the state of architecture by way of a vote. They post the latest building projects and you pick whether you think the design deserves FAME or SHAME. By June 6th votes are tallied for a celebrated best and worst of Toronto architecture list.

Not sure how to judge? The Pug Awards, now in its fifth year, offers up some advice to voting novices. In this competition originality is king - no more brick boxes - it's gotta have the fresh factor and add something to it's surroundings. Interaction at street level is also integral - who needs another condo with built-in strip mall?

Last year the site registered 5000 votes and hopefully registered on the minds of developers working to build up a beautiful city. Hall of shamers include a growing list of condo developments while some of the favs are the National Ballet School and Calatrava's BCE Place Atrium. However, I can't help but think that our opinions often change over the years, even if we offer resistance initially. Many of us were astonished by OCAD's new addition when it first sprouted up. I'll admit now it's grown on me.

Want to know what people are saying about the Pug Awards? Check out the comments on blogTO.

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Monday, May 07, 2007

Contact Festival Kicks Off at Brassaii

Friday night's Brassaii party kicked off the Contact Photography Festival exhibiting across Toronto until May 31st. Photographers Alex vs Alex set up a photo booth to get stills of the crowd as they entered, setting a bit of a red carpet vibe. Meanwhile Toronto's most loved photobloggers were in full swing getting their snaps of the jumping crowd inside while others milled though large prints of Toronto strewn across Brassaii's glossy white walls. CBC's report on Contact finds fellow blogTO writer Jerrold Litwinenko inside before the show.

Cherry Blossoms in Bloom

in ueno...
Originally uploaded by 416style.
I may have missed the little jam in High Park this weekend but it doesn't mean I haven't spent time appreciating the cherry blossom trees in bloom, donated to Toronto by the Japanese government in the 50s. For me it's the real sign of summer coming and there's almost no better way to appreciate the nature than spending time under the boughs of this beautiful tree, except maybe how I spent some time today, playing and petting a newborn squirrel who came to visit me and my shoe.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

At Dr. G's The Doctor is Always Generous

Consistency is one of the main ways I rate a restaurant. It's important to set a certain standard and continually live up to that standard one's set. Dr. Generosity is one of the rare places I've found that does just that.

Since the first time I walked through the door of this Bloor West Village restaurant a couple years ago, I've found it a hospitable place with a great menu. Add to this the friendly Doctor, Dr.G, who really cares about how his restaurant is run.

Their menu has a ton of variety, for kids, vegetarians, for everybody. My fav is their lunch menu (really a brunch menu) that lasts until 3pm on weekends. I usually show up with about 10 minutes left and chose from a tuna melt deliciously made with apples or my regular, Eggs Dostoyevsky (Eggs Benny but with Salmon). With a side of salad and lemon basil sauce, and a tiny cup of fruit salad, it's definitely a generously-sized meal, and always made with fresh ingredients. The caesars with horseradish are made just right too, every time.

Dr. Generosity, 2197 Bloor Street West, 416-604-0704

Terminal One Welcomes Feist Back to Toronto

It's not often Toronto's Terminal One at Pearson inspires me to break into song and dance. That might be different after watching Feist's new video My Moon My Man. Next time I find myself strolling down the moving sidewalks looking at our sparkling city under a full moon I don't know if I'll be able to hold back. I just hope there'll be a few others that join in.

The jetsetting Canadian singer songwriter has been away for awhile. I'm happy to hear she's just moved back to Toronto where she's filmed a few videos for her upcoming album The Reminder, scheduled for release in Canada and the US today. For now Feist is working solo but her past musical collaborations led her to work with with Broken Social Scene and former Toronto roommate Peaches.

My man Craig Williams, Location Manager on Feist's recent videos which were shot over several nights at the airport, said they were ton of fun to work on. It's a catchy song too. See what people are saying about the video on blogTO.

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