Tag Archives: Dance

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.

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.


Tanya Howard, Photo by Sian Richards

Mary Ballerina

Me as a ballerina circa 1991