By Jason Herring, January 8 2015 —
Giddy up, cowboys and cowgirls — the High Performance Rodeo (HPR) is back in town.
For four weeks starting in January the festival will bring the performing arts to venues around Calgary.
The HPR is put on every year by Calgary’s One Yellow Rabbit theatre company. This marks the festival’s 29th year. Even though the festival takes place annually, HPR managing director Ann Connors says scouting for talent and booking shows is a process that can take years to complete.
“We’re often working for other partners in other areas of the country to make all the pieces of the puzzle fit,” Connors says. “It can take three years to get an act or a performer or an artist you want.”
The hard work has paid off with an impressive lineup of performances. Festival opener Chelsea Hotel is a show that pays tribute to the work of Canadian songwriter Leonard Cohen while bringing something new to the table.
“It’s a little goth, a little cabaret in its interpretation,” Connors says of the show. “But there are five musicians who play 16 instruments, so it’s musical theatre. They go through a lot of classic material and thread it into a story.”
Another exciting performance is Inuit throat-singer Tanya Tagaq in concert with Nanook of the North on Jan. 17.
Winner of the 2014 Polaris Music Prize for best Canadian album, Tagaq, along with percussionist Jean Martin and violinist Jesse Zubot, aim to re-envision the 1922 silent film’s problematic representation of First Nations people in Northern Canada.
Other performances include Untitled Feminist Show, a play performed in full nudity that aims to “reveal and challenge the viewers’ assumptions about gender politics.” There is also the comedic play Anything, an adult-oriented production, featuring Canadian clown duo Mump and Smoot, that relies on improvisation and crowd participation.
Connors advises students to “take advantage of student ticket prices, and see whatever you can.”
The festival has affordable options for students looking to attend, including rush tickets available at the venue’s box office five minutes before show openings. There are also student deals for shows staged by the festival’s co-presenting partners.
“The beauty of the rodeo is that it brings in a critical mass of work, so you can see lots of performers from across the country and around the world within this four week period,” Connors says. “It’s always great to see other people’s work [and] just get a view of what other people are doing in the world.”
The High Performance Rodeo runs from Jan. 7–Feb. 1 at venues throughout the city.