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Arts & Crafts Record Label President Jeffrey Remedios

29 Sep

Lunch with Mary 062b

Date of lunch:
Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The company:
Jeffrey Remedios is the co-founder and president of Arts & Crafts, a record label and production company. Its first album that really helped to launch the label was 2003’s Broken Social Scene’s You Forgot it in People, still one of my favourite albums of all time. And beyond the record label, Jeffrey is involved with music in all sorts of ways. He sits on the board of CARAS (Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences), FACTOR (Foundation Assisting Canadian Talent on Recordings) and others. And one of his most exciting upcoming projects is co-chairing Operanation, a fundraising GALA on October 18th for the Canadian Opera Company’s Ensemble Studio that combines live performances by COC’s Ensemble Studio singers and contemporary music artists, such as past performers Broken Social Scene and Rufus Wainwright and this year’s just announced The Arkells and Nelly Furtado.

The food:
We ate at Jules Bistro on Spadina just south of Queen. It’s a pretty bustling lunch spot but we met for lunch at 1 p.m. so it calmed down quickly. Both Jeffrey and I had the nicoise salad. It was a pretty tasty, light lunch. Jeffrey also ordered frites but they never arrived, strange. We both drank water and both had an Americano after our meal. Total bill was $44 with tax.

The lunch lesson:
Music has really defined Jeffrey’s life and he has been able to parlay that into an awesome career, starting working the public relations side at a major label and now with his own label. But the most interesting aspect of his love of music is how it’s constantly evolving. A great example of this is Jeffrey’s involvement with Operanation. He admitted that he didn’t know much about opera a few years ago but was invited to attend a previous Operanation. And then Alexander Neef attended a Broken Social Scene concert on the Island a few years back and they became friends. His interest and appreciation for opera grew from there, adding Broken Social Scene to Operanation the next year. I really appreciated how Jeffrey has so many great indie rock acts on his label but is still open and excited to learn about other aspects of music. Made me realize that as we get older, we can get a little stuck in what we like and maybe stop looking around to experience new things, it’s great to see Jeffrey continuing to want to learn and experience more.

The lunch:
For anyone who is reading this and is totally jealous of Jeffrey’s job, he did offer some advice to anyone looking to start their own label. “Have Broken Social Scene be the first band you sign.” For the first three years of the label, they were able to work with Broken Social Scene, their friends and side projects of band members like Feist, Stars and Apostle of Hustle, who have all achieved great success including Feist winning the Polaris Music Prize just this week.

Overall it was just a really great conversation that flowed from start to finish. Maybe it was the discovery at the end of our mutual love for Ira Glass’ This American Life where Jeffrey pointed out the most amazing app I have ever seen… every This American Life podcast ever recorded. No more saving up the new ones for road trips!

We talked a lot about music, obviously. Jeffrey explained how music has really defined his whole life and even as he became interested in other things like politics, he still finds that music defines these other interests.

I recently attended Jian Ghomeshi’s new book launch as the +1 of RAA’s lovely Amy Cole and I think this event was the perfect combination of so many aspects of Canada, music and culture and sort of played out in real time what Jeffrey was talking about. It was a literary event, The Arkells were the “house band,” Jian Ghomeshi joined them on-stage and sang lead, he talked about growing up in 1982 as an Iranian-Canadian and politicians were even in attendance like Olivia Chow and Justin Trudeau. A real combination of so much that is Canada. I asked Jeffrey if he attended as Broken Social Scene members also took the stage. Well he wasn’t there BUT he did help organize it. Of course he did. He really has his hands in a lot of stuff in this city.

I was a little embarrassed when Jeffrey asked me what bands I listen to because I am 1. not the hippest and most up to date on my music and 2. I never remember bands’ names. But I was able to talk to those special songs that as soon as you hear them, you can totally be transported back to a moment in time. Like that first Broken Social Scene album that I listened to the whole way across Canada back on a crazy road trip in 2003 or Beastie Boys’ Ill Communication that transports me right back to the tenth grade.

Hanging out with Jeffrey not only makes you excited about music but also about Toronto, there is so much going on all the time, so much music and so many interesting collaborations. I really need to take better advantage of everything this city has to offer and so should all of you!

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Luminato Artistic Director Jorn Weisbrodt

30 May

Lunch with Mary 060

Date of lunch:
Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The company:
Jorn Weisbrodt is the artistic director of Luminato. For those who don’t know, Luminato is an arts festival that takes place all across Toronto and encompasses all kinds of art from music and theatre, to dance and visual arts to literature, film and culinary. This year’s festival, the sixth year, begins June 8th and runs until June 17th. There are exhibits and events that will appeal to everyone, no matter how “arty” you may be. The festival also strives to be extremely accessible with most events free and open to the public. Throughout the festival, Jorn will be introducing several performances and exhibits. Jorn is in his first year as artistic director and just moved to Toronto in January. Prior to joining Luminato, Jorn was executive director for RW Work Ltd.in New York City, representing and managing the work of legendary visual artist, theatre and opera director Robert Wilson. Originally from Germany, Jorn studied opera direction in school and has had an incredibly interesting career that has spanned many forms of art with a definite healthy dose of opera.

The food:
We ate at Swish by Han on Wellington. I have never been here for lunch so I was excited to try it out. We each had the bi bim bap – Jorn had his with mushrooms and tofu and I had mine with chicken. The meal started with a soup that reminded me of miso soup but wasn’t. I didn’t love it. However, we both enjoyed our main. The rice got really crispy on the hot bowl and it was delish. Jorn had a cold mint tea and we both finished our meals with espressos. Total bill was $47 with tax.

The lunch lesson:
The lesson came right at the end of the lunch and will seem quite simple but it really was eye opening for me. I would say that when it comes to art, I am mostly a fan of music and dance. I find other forms of art can sometimes be confusing to me as I don’t always “get it”. I gave Jorn a few examples of performance art that I have heard about that I really don’t understand. He just looked at me and said “stop trying to get it”. He explained that it’s not about “getting it”, you don’t need to understand everything and just enjoy it. As someone who always excelled in math class and not so much in art class, I always thought I had to “get it” and everyone else was in on it except for me. It was a relief to hear that, sometimes, “getting it” isn’t the point. I think this will help me enjoy and appreciate art a lot more.

The lunch:
My lunch with Jorn was very lovely. I really enjoyed our conversation. And he got me really excited about Luminato this year. As a new Torontonian, Jorn asked me what I thought about the city. I told him how I just love the feel of the place, there is always stuff going on and people out and about. And it’s things like Luminato that make Toronto such a great place. You can just be strolling down Front Street and without expecting it, walk into a free concert by Jovanotti, a hugely popular Italian rapper. (Put that one in your calendar, sounds awesome). Or something straightforward like eating dinner ends up being so much more during Luminato as the entire preparation and eating of the meal is an art installation by Austrian artist Rainer Prohaska.

I took the opportunity of this lunch to hear firsthand from the artistic director what he was most excited to check out at the festival. As an obvious fan of opera, he is very excited about the staging of “Einstein on the Beach”, a five-hour opera collaboration between Jorn’s former boss Robert Wilson and Phillip Glass. It hasn’t been staged in twenty years and this is the first North American performance outside New York City. Jorn believes this may be the last staging with the involvement of the opera’s creators. According to Jorn, Einstein on the Beach is fun and beautiful, and can be a great intro to opera for a newbie like me.

Jorn is also excited about an exhibit at the ROM by Jorinde Voigt where she has illustrated a series of 32 Beethoven sonatas. He explained that music is an art form that doesn’t have a “place”, it doesn’t exist visually and this artist has managed to capture the music in a series of illustrations. Sounds very cool.

Since I gave away my love for dance, Jorn also recommended Sadeh21, a modern dance performance by Tel Aviv’s acclaimed Batsheva Dance Company. You can check out some snippets of Sadeh21. It looks incredible.

A big part of the Luminato experience is how you just end up being part of an art performance without even planning it. Luminato continues to have a partnership with the TIFF Bell Lightbox and this year, as people are leaving Luminato video screenings, they will walk right into a magic show in the TIFF Bell Lightbox lobby. Who doesn’t love magic?

For two weeks in June, there will be art everywhere. Before speaking with Jorn, I had no idea how much is really going on and how much is free and open to everyone. As a new Torontonian, Jorn was eager to hear from me about places to check out in the city. After leaving our lunch, I felt a bit like a new Torontonian myself with a whole list of things to see and do. Although I love Toronto, it’s been a while since I have felt like this and I’m excited.

TIFF Bell Lightbox Artistic Director Noah Cowan

15 Mar

Lunch with Mary 051

Date of lunch:
Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The company:
Noah Cowan is the artistic director of TIFF Bell Lightbox, the incredible new facility at King and John in downtown Toronto. He drives the curatorial vision for the year-round programming. Noah has been a part of TIFF for a long time with his first venture being curator of the Midnight Madness program at the festival in 1989 – a program I know has always been popular with my friends. Noah also had some incredible ventures outside of TIFF, including launching Cowboy Pictures, a pioneering distributor devoted to the art of cinema, in 1993 and founding, in 2002, the Global Film Initiative in New York City, a not-for-profit organization devoted to worldwide understanding through film. He returned to TIFF in 2003 as the co-director of the Toronto International Film Festival until January 2008, when he took over his current role.

The food:
We ate at Le Saint Tropez on King Street West. It’s a very cute French bistro and since we ate at 1:30 we pretty much had the whole place to ourselves. Noah had the Quiche Lorraine with side salad and frites. I had the Ratatouille Provençal. My meal was really tasty and had a lot of cheese, which I loved! Noah had a ginger ale and I drank water. After our meal, Noah had a tea and I had a coffee. Total bill was $33 with tax.

Usually when I describe a meal, I end with the price. But this meal had a very traumatic end for me. I forgot my wallet?!?!? It was terrible (and extremely unusual for me). I had taken out my wallet at work to contact my bank and forgot to put it back in my purse. When I realized, I think my face went white. I thought I might cry and I felt very sick to my stomach. I invited someone out for lunch and then couldn’t cover the bill. Awful. Noah was incredibly gracious about it and covered the cost of the lunch. My blog is all about free lunches and open minds – it’s what I do. So I have put a check in the mail to pay him back.

The lunch lesson:
Noah talked about some of the programs they have at TIFF Bell Lightbox aimed at young people – high school and college/university students. Noah wants TIFF Bell Lightbox to be a comfortable place for young people to come, learn and appreciate art and culture. We talked about how museums are really appealing to kids and then an interest that is picked back up later, perhaps in late-twenties, early thirties. But there is a good 10-15 year chunk of time when young people aren’t particularly interested in going to a museum. TIFF Bell Lightbox is the perfect solution. It’s ever evolving and has art from the past and present. It’s a great place to be absorbed in culture. Noah told me that when Tim Burton was in town for his exhibition, he took time to meet with young people and even asked them to bring in their animation projects, which he viewed and provided feedback. Can you imagine being a teenager who is passionate about animation and filmmaking and get advice from Tim Burton? It’s so incredible. And Noah said that Tim Burton was really in his element with the young people and this type of experience is exactly what he wants TIFF Bell Lightbox to be.

The lunch:
The TIFF Bell Lightbox is so new, I haven’t had the chance to discover everything that it entails so it was great to get the chance to hear from the artistic director himself.

The TIFF Bell Lightbox is a five-storey complex with a public atrium, five public cinemas, two galleries, three learning studios, a centre for students and scholars, the O&B Canteen, Luma Restaurant and a lounge. And there really is something for everyone and I think that’s what I really liked the most when Noah was explaining it all to me. One program that I didn’t know about and now I am really excited to take advantage of is the “Back to the ‘80’s” film series. It started February 5 and continues until April 2 and shows ‘80s favorites on the big screen, like Back to the Future, Gremlins, The Goonies and The Princess Bride. Amazing!

Given that I just took a paleontologist out to lunch, who was basically living out his childhood dream, I had to ask Noah if it was the same for him. He said he has always loved movies and if his childhood self saw him now, he would think it was pretty cool. Noah, it seems, has always worked in the film industry somehow, even being a movie critic for Eye Weekly. So I had to find out his favourite movie. He named two. He said that he can judge people based on their thoughts on these two films so it was very embarrassing for me to have not seen either of them. Well, I am definitely going to check them out now. They are The Towering Inferno and The Palm Beach Story. My favourite movie is Rushmore and I totally judge people by whether they think it’s funny or not. (Noah thinks it’s very funny.)

We also chatted on what, or more precisely who, drives people to check out movies. Is it still the movie star? Or is it more the director? Noah spoke of the “big five” – writer, director, producer, editor and cinematographer – as the people that really shape a movie. The actors come in later in the process. He also said how actors are unlikely to always consistently be in stellar movies, whereas if there is a director you really enjoy, it’s likely you will enjoy all of their films. Something to think about when you’re trying to decide what movie to check out this weekend.

It’s hard not to get excited about movies when you talk to Noah and, something I really appreciate, is the excitement about Canadian cinema that he has. At the end of the lunch, Noah brought me to check out the Mary Pickford exhibit, Canada’s own movie star. It’s the inaugural exhibition of TIFF’s new Canadian Film Gallery. It has over 1,900 items from photographs to posters to pillowcases and Mary Pickford make up compacts, all original and incredibly, all part of one man, Rob Brooks’, private collection. This was my first exploration into the TIFF Bell Lightbox space and it was so cool – so much history and so HUGE – and everything is open to the public.

I used to work at a restaurant across from the TIFF Bell Lightbox and at that time, it was a parking lot. Unlike a lot of other Torontonians, I am a big fan of a lot of the downtown condo builds because I like the urban density and having such a livable and lively downtown. But I did love to see that this parking lot was made into a cultural hub, a place for all of Toronto to enjoy. You should all check it out!

Second City Mainstage Performer Inessa Frantowski

10 Sep

Lunch with Mary 042

Date of lunch:
Friday, September 10, 2010

The company:
Inessa Frantowski is a mainstage performer with Second City Toronto’s current show Something Wicked Awesome This Way Comes. She also performs with several sketch comedy troupes including Bull Hooey and HIR. She is also a Gemini Award winner for her work on Cock’d Gunns and she recently worked on the new Kids in the Hall show Death Comes to Town. In short, she’s very talented and hilarious and a very fun lunch guest.

The food:
We ate at 7 West. We both had the prosciutto panino, filled with bocconcini cheese and avocado spread. Delish. The sandwiches came with a side house salad. Inessa had a diet Coke and I stuck with water. My only complaint would be that it was freezing in the restaurant because they had the giant windows open even though it is currently NOT warm outside. I’m all for trying to extend the summer but sometimes you just have to admit that it’s cold out. Total bill was $32 with tax.

The lunch lesson:
Inessa and I had a great conversation about funny women versus funny men. I’ve always admired funny women. This is me talking now since Inessa got me thinking. You see way less women headlining comedy movies (unless of course it’s a romantic comedy). It would be great to see more women succeeding in mainstream “Hollywood” doing physical and outrageous comedy, like what’s being done at Second City. I guess what I am saying here is that we women need to support other women. If we want to see funny women leading the way in Hollywood, we need to be out seeing shows and buying tickets. Now make it so.

The lunch:
Before meeting Inessa for lunch, I had the chance to see her at Second City. She was really funny and the show is great. I felt a bit like an uber fan when we finally sat down to eat as I kept telling her all the parts from the show that I liked the most. Incase you’re wondering, I really liked her as Helen Thomas and as Aunt Sheila, you’ll know what I mean when you see it.

Inessa is a very positive person and really seems to be living out her dream. Her work right now at Second City is an incredible opportunity, one of the only full-time sketch comedy gigs in the city.

As a huge fan of Saturday Night Live, always, it was great to hear what an inspiration the show has been for Inessa. She remembers watching it back in the day and being totally inspired. It changed her life and continues to be her dream job. Secretly I’ve always wanted to be on SNL too. Recently, when my parents moved and I had to pack up my old childhood room, I found a letter that I had drafted to SNL at the age of about 12 telling them why they should have me as the host. Dork. I never did send that letter though.

I asked Inessa about her Gemini that she won for comedic ensemble on Cock’d Gunns. She said she never believed she would win. Quick aside, I asked her where she kept her Gemini and she said her mom has it. I would totally have mine right in the middle of the coffee table, just sayin. Anyway, the show is not officially cancelled but is not in production for a second season. Inessa did say that the show has taken on a bit of a life of its own on Hulu and has a lot of fans in the US. Since I am terrible and never saw it the first time around and because I love to support Canadian shows, I really hope this Hulu popularity translates into a second, third and fourth season. Go Canada!

It was just really great to talk to Inessa about all the different work she is doing to make her way as a successful comedic actor. She does stand-up, acting, sketch troupes and online videos. She also talked about the different sorts of work she does, be it a Walmart commercial, timely comedy at Second City or her more alt-comedy work with her troupe. She just really likes to make people laugh so she is happy to do work that entertains all different kinds of audiences. It’s a great attitude and makes me want to check out her other work even more.

SOMETHING_AWESOME_PR_003Something Wicked Awesome This Way Comes

Rural Alberta Advantage band member Amy Cole

17 Jun

Lunch with Mary 039

Date of lunch:
Thursday, June 17, 2010

The company:
Amy Cole is one third of the excellent trio Rural Alberta Advantage (RAA) on vocals, keyboard and percussion. She is also a good friend of mine from university and has slowly turned into a rock star since graduation. I nearly DIED of jealousy the first time I saw her singing on stage at the Horseshoe. Amy recently returned from a European tour that had immediately followed a tour across the United States. Since I know I can never be a rock star myself, I decided to take Amy out of lunch and hear what it’s all about.

The food:
We ate at a wonderful little spot called Calico Café, which is pretty much right in between Lansdowne and Dufferin on Bloor. It’s a vegetarian restaurant with a great vegetable and herb garden by the patio. It’s like a little oasis right off Bloor Street and tasty too. I had a grilled portobello and sweet potato hummus sandwich with salad and Amy had a mixed green salad with tempeh. We both had cranberry ginger lemonades. The owner was the chef, waiter, dishwasher and busboy and let me know that this weekend is the one year anniversary of Calico Café. You should all check it out. Total bill was $22 with tax.

The lunch lesson:
Since this was a rock star lunch, I figured a rock star lunch lesson was most appropriate. I asked Amy what her favourite shows have been. She said doing shows in France was amazing because they treat bands so well. Backstage they provide wheels of cheese and red wine. Free cheese and French wine, I can’t imagine a better lesson – start a band, get gig in Paris, eat, drink, enjoy, repeat.

The lunch:
Amy had been in the RAA and was playing quite a few shows in Toronto and other spots in Canada and what seems like overnight (but obviously wasn’t) the band pretty much exploded. It was so amazing to have a friend as part of a Toronto darling band and I was excited to have lunch and hear from Amy how it all happened.

It’s such a perfect grassroots story, much like the feel of the band itself. A blogger in Nova Scotia called Herohill wrote about Rural Alberta Advantage and the post and the music caught the eyes and ears of a lawyer in LA. He is a big music fan and sent eMusic a note about the RAA. eMusic then went on to feature the band and through the feature, Saddle Creek heard their tunes and signed them to their label. And the rest is history. Next thing I know, I have to drive to Hamilton just to be able to get tickets to see Amy perform.

Amy talked about some of the big moments so far in this crazy ride that she’s on. She said they booked their first NYC show at a bar called Piano’s. They were just hoping that people would show up. But once they got there, the show was sold out and when they started to perform, the whole crowd knew all the words. The experience was pretty surreal as they had never performed in the US before, and thanks to the internet they had this amazing fan base.

The incredible experience continued as the band hit Europe and people in London knew all the words too. The RAA plays songs about Alberta, so I kinda love that they have this international following of totally Canadian music. They did try to play a show in Spain but were held up due to the volcano. But Amy said she couldn’t really complain about being stranded for a few days in Barcelona. I wouldn’t complain either.

The RAA will be playing at the Winnipeg Folk Festival in July so be sure to stop by if you’re in the area. Right now, the RAA is in Toronto, working on their next album and I can’t wait to hear it. I like to live vicariously through Amy. I hope she continues to have these amazing adventures and I can continue to listen to her awesome stories and pretend they’re mine.

Calico Cafe Garden The Calico Café garden

Fashion Designer and Project Runway Canada Winner Sunny Fong

17 May

Date of lunch:
Monday, May 17, 2010

The company:
Sunny Fong was the winner of Project Runway Canada Season 2. Since winning, he has shown at Toronto Fashion Week twice with his Vawk clothing line, including his debut show at the Art Gallery of Ontario. I remember watching Project Runway and Sunny’s designs were always pretty amazing. I’ve never lunched with a fashion designer before so I knew this could be a great opportunity to learn about a profession that I know little about.

The food:
We ate at Sambucas on Church. It was actually quite difficult to find a place to eat, as a lot of the restaurants on Church are closed on Mondays. Who knew? I had the pasta special, which was a chicken pesto blend of delishness. It also came with a garden salad and garlic bread (which I did not have room for). Sunny had stuffed French toast, which came with bacon, fruit and fries. The portions at this place are ENORMOUS! I had a diet Coke and he had an iced tea. Total bill was $26 with tax.

The lunch lesson:
Sunny talked a bit about his research process when he is designing. He chooses something as his inspiration and then builds from there. His most recent collection was inspired by mushrooms after Sunny was watching Planet Earth. He said he would look online for images and information on mushrooms. He then went back and watched Planet Earth again and the documentary spoke about decay during the mushroom section. He then started looking at images of decay and the inspiration grew and grew until it was an entire collection – all started with mushrooms. This creative process is one of Sunny’s favourite parts of designing. As someone who also works in a creative industry, it’s always interesting to hear how others go through the process and get inspired.

The lunch:
If you watched Sunny when he was on Project Runway, you would know that he came across as really nice and genuine and he is just like that in person. A really great person to lunch with!

Sunny and I soon figured out that we both went to Ryerson. He studied Film and I took Radio and Television. His fashion and design knowledge is all self-taught. His sister studied fashion and Sunny let me know that he did read some of her textbooks. Filmmaking was another creative outlet for Sunny and he also has taken some of the skills from this to build his own web design company that has helped bring in funds allowing him to focus on fashion designing.

Since I know little about how one does put a line together, I asked Sunny if he sewed all of his own clothes or simply created the designs and had others put them together. He says at this stage of his career, he likes to sew everything on his own. This way, through the process he can figure out if the design works, what does, what doesn’t and fix along the way. He says someone like Karl Lagerfeld, who has so much experience designing, can simply draw a design and trust that it will work. Sunny still sees the whole process as a learning experience.

As Lagerfeld was mentioned, it got us to talking about the stereotype of the fashion industry, with Lagerfeld, Anna Wintour and The Devil Wears Prada, that you need to be mean to get ahead. Again, Sunny doesn’t really fit this stereotype. Fashion is a business like anything else, he said, so you do need to have that killer instinct, to stand up for yourself and be assertive or you’ll be left in the background. But like any stereotype, there is some truth and also some fiction in these fashion industry assumptions.

I asked Sunny about his favourite designers. He couldn’t narrow it down to one. He looks to Alexander McQueen for construction (we agreed on our love for his lobster claw shoes), Cavalli and Gucci for the sexiness and his list went on. It seems that Sunny is able to take inspiration from all sorts of designers, which again speaks to his creative process.

Having lunch with Sunny and speaking to him about his work was really quite amazing. He has such a passion for what he does and such a strong commitment to doing it well. Sunny is at the start of a really exciting career and I can’t wait to watch him succeed. And of course, I can’t wait to buy one of his pieces!

National Ballet of Canada First Soloist Tanya Howard

15 Oct

Lunch with Mary 024

Date of lunch:
Thursday, October 15, 2009

The company:
Tanya Howard is a first soloist with The National Ballet of Canada. In other words, she is a professional ballerina! I would have done anything to be a ballerina when I was a kid. If my 11 year old self could see me now, having lunch with a ballerina, I might have passed out. Tanya is originally from South Africa and joined The National Ballet of Canada in 1998 and became a first soloist in 2007. I have been hoping to have a lunch with a dancer ever since my boyfriend took me to see Romeo & Juliet earlier this year. So I just wrote to The National Ballet of Canada and asked. And here we are!

 

The food:
We ate in the cafeteria of the Walter Carsen Centre for The National Ballet of Canada. Les Louises catering provides the food in the cafeteria. While waiting in line to get our food, I realized that I recognized the woman behind the counter. Turns out we went to elementary and high school together in Ottawa and her and her sister started Les Louises. I had a delicious prosciutto sandwich with chevre and figs and Tanya had a chicken sandwich. We each had salad, a Limonata and cookies for dessert. The salad and sandwich were both delicious (and obviously so was the cookie), with that homemade gourmet flavour. Justine and Sara of Les Louises graciously gave us our lunch ‘on the house’. Although I can’t go eat at The National Ballet of Canada’s cafeteria on a regular day, Les Louises does sell frozen meals that anyone can order – I think I will definitely try one soon.

 

The lunch lesson:
Tanya explained that for Sleeping Beauty, as they are performing based on the original choreography of Rudolf Nureyev, there have been a small number of repetitors worldwide who are assigned the task of ensuring that Nureyev’s choreography maintains it integrity. This week at The National Ballet of Canada, one of the repetitors is here from New York for three days to watch rehearsals and make sure everything is up to snuff. It’s always interesting to understand how the art of choreography is preserved over time and how these classic ballets are able to amaze audiences year after year.

 

The lunch:
Tanya is busy rehearsing for Sleeping Beauty which will play in Toronto at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts this November. During our lunch, she had her “rehearsal tutu” with her for afternoon rehearsal. I was jealous.

Tanya recently returned from maternity leave. Her daughter Lia is usually her date for lunch at the cafeteria. Today, she was lucky enough to not have any rehearsals in the morning so was able to stay home with Lia and go to playgroup with her, so I don’t feel as bad about taking over Lia’s lunch spot.

Tanya talked quite a bit about life as a dancer. Her job depends on her fitness and keeping her body in shape. It’s important to take care of herself. The National Ballet of Canada has a physiotherapist and masseuse on staff for the dancers to use anytime. She tries to fit in extra palates classes when she can and makes sure to eat nutricious and healthy foods.

But it’s not all about discipline, it’s also a lot about variety. For some ballets, Tanya’s role is more in the group numbers while in others, she is front and centre in the spotlight. She says it’s different for each role, but for a ballet such as Swan Lake, which The National Ballet of Canada is putting on in March 2010, it doesn’t matter what your part is, everyone is dancing their butt off.

Speaking of dancing your butt off, she also talked about an upcoming short ballet she is doing called Glass Pieces. She says in this performance, the audience can really see how difficult some of their movements are. She said the beauty of ballet is that everything looks effortless and beautiful and the audience follows the story. But no one is noticing that a ballerina has been on one toe or held their leg up for five minutes. Because I did take dance when I was younger, I think I have a great appreciation for how hard ballet is – when I was watching Romeo & Juliet I was blown away by the skill and ease in which the dancers were doing the craziest things that I never in a million years could ever pull off. But Tanya is right, they make it look so easy. I definitely want to see Glass Pieces and see and appreciate a different ballet.

For the whole lunch, I couldn’t get over that Tanya dances for a living, I think it’s so amazing. As we were leaving, she took me into the rehearsal space for a quick peak as the rest of the company was preparing for the afternoon rehearsal. I left Tanya there as she had to work and I headed back to my office to work, at a chair, in front of a computer. It’s just didn’t seem the same. I think I might start dancing in my cube.

HOWT_2009_1_(300)

Tanya Howard, Photo by Sian Richards

Mary Ballerina

Me as a ballerina circa 1991

Photographer Eamon MacMahon

20 Apr

Lunch with Mary 014

Date of lunch:
Monday, April 20, 2009

The company:
Eamon is a very amazing photographer. You may have seen his work in The Walrus, at Pearson in Terminal 1, New York magazine, National Geographic, Toronto Life and more and he was even featured on the Bravo television series Snapshot. I first met Eamon two years ago when working with the CONTACT Toronto Photography Festival. Since then I find myself often reading articles in a variety of magazines and then noticing that the beautiful photographs that accompany the story are by Eamon. I email him periodically to update him on where I see his work, I hope it doesn’t annoy him. Eamon often goes on “adventures” to get his photographs and I wanted to take him for lunch to hear about where he’s been and what he’s seen.

The food:
We ate at Ciros in the Bloor-Lansdowne area. It’s a bit of a strange place, like an oxymoron of itself – seemed like many opposites blended together. However the service was quick and very friendly and the food was fresh and good with enormous portions. I had chicken fingers and fries and Eamon had pad Thai with tofu. I drank diet Coke and Eamon had a cranberry juice. I have also learned after I returned from lunch that it has one of the city’s best beer selections – neither of us drank beer but I might return now that I know this. Total bill was $28 with tax.

The lunch lesson:
I don’t know if this is a lesson exactly, but I always find it refreshing to meet and talk with someone who knows what their passion is and have found a way to do it for a living. It’s something I wish that everyone is able to do with their lives. It’s actually something that is becoming a theme with the people I take out to lunch.

The lunch:
As mentioned above, Eamon always seems to be on an adventure. I had originally asked Eamon for lunch back in early March but got an auto-reply that he would not have access to email until the end of the month. So first things first, I had to ask him what he was up to. Nonchalantly, Eamon tells me that he was helping a friend deliver a sailboat… from the Galapagos to HAWAII! Who does that? So awesome. For anyone who knows me well, knows that I love animals and would be in HEAVAN in the Galapagos and I love beaches A LOT, so Hawaii would also be a dream. The 31 days of open-sea sailing without seeing land, those who know me would also know, I would not love that at all.

One of my favourite series of photos that Eamon does is his Aerials – taking photos from planes and helicopters over forests, Alberta’s tar sands, glaciers, oceans, communities and more. You can check them out under the aerial section of his site. With a pilot friend that he works with, Eamon also often flies into landlocked communities where he meets the people and photographs their lives. Again, check out his site under the Landlocked project.

For a New York magazine story, Eamon went to Wasilla, Alaska during the height of last year’s presidential campaign, two weeks after Palin was announced as McCain’s running mate. At the time, Palin was being made out to be a bit of a caricature and I think Wasilla and Alaska were getting a bad rep as a bit of a backwards, backwoods kind of place. Eamon said he was taken aback by the friendliness and openness of the people of Alaska and how it was quite the opposite of any stereotype that was being portrayed by the media. Seems like a place that I would like to visit.

The next adventure that Eamon is heading out on is back to the Alberta Tar Sands for a magazine story. He also plans to go to Europe this summer. Due to his success, Eamon goes from project to project and is also able to fund his own work – it’s great to see someone succeeding at something that they love so much. Like me and my lunch blog ;)