Traditional Kwakwaka’wakw mask courtesy of Le-La-La dancers. (Photo courtesy of PRAS) Traditional Kwakwaka’wakw mask courtesy of Le-La-La dancers. (Photo courtesy of PRAS)

Pacific Rim Summer Festival celebrates the arts

West Coast set for dance, poetry and visual arts.

Erin Linn McMullan

Special to the Westerly News

“Pacific Rim Summer Festival has been evolving to a Celebration of the Arts,” says PRAS president Mark Penney. “This year we are adding various forms of Dance, Poetry and Visual Arts to what has been primarily a Music-based festival.”

Adding to the West Coast’s draw as an arts destination, this popular local festival showcases visiting and local artists while fostering arts collaboration and connection between communities and neighbours.

“It’s the positiveness of celebrating our arts and culture that really connects us all together,” says Sue Payne, Interim Executive Director.

“I am most excited by the growth in audience for our programs, particularly with First Nations,” says Penney.

The Indigenous Culture Crawl features First Nations’ singer-songwriters from Winnipeg’s Tara Williamson to Ahousaht’s Kalilah Rampanen, the Le-La-La traditional Kwakwaka’wakw dancers as well as lessons in language and cedar basket-weaving—all set in a series of longhouses specially created by Hjalmer Wenstob and other Indigenous artists.

“I love the West Coast,” says Williamson, who studied law at UVic. “I’ll be performing solo at this show, so you can expect me to be show up ready to sing my heart out while accompanying myself on keyboard and guitar. My music crosses a lot of genres—pop, jazz, and a little musical theatre. My songs tell stories about my relationships to people and the land, and I love solo performances for the intimacy they can invoke.”

PRAS’s eight-person board has also worked hard to bring “world class ballet” into our community, according to Sandra Hinder, who studied with the National Ballet School and whose students will also perform.

“I can not say enough how lucky we are to have two of Ballet Victoria’s finest principal dancers grace our local stage and share their love of dance.”

“The audience is in for a treat!” says Andrea Bayne. “Luke (Thomson) and I will be performing the White Swan Grande Pas from Petipa’s Swan Lake. This 9-minute-long Pas de Deux is set to Tchaikovsky’s brilliant score. The movements are so slow and calculated, every finger, leg, foot has to be perfectly in place and this makes it extremely technical.”

“It is that unattainable perfection that fulfills me as an artist.”

Summer Fest’s spirit of collaboration pairs Tofino’s new Poet Laureate Joanna Streetly with jazz musician, Esther Celebrini.

“As a poet I am always looking for ways to bring images alive in ways that permeate,” says Streetly. “I particularly love the combination of musical refrain and word images. I’m delighted to be sharing work with Esther; her beautiful style and choice of music will make this a perfect way to kick off summer.”

“The night will be about poetry, rhythms, beautiful melodies all interweaving into stories of transformation and the lessons learnt from living here on the West Coast,” says Celebrini.

The weeklong festival kicks off on Canada Day with a free Tuff City Concert at the Village Green, thanks to District of Tofino partnering with PRAS.

Penney emphasizes, “PRAS continues to benefit from a spirit of collaboration and we have seen arts support grow within several west communities as well as multiple levels of government.”

Visit PRAS’s website for the full program: pacificrimarts.ca.

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