Saturday, May 13, 2017


An ensemble of all female dancers presented a variety of works from the past decade, including a segment from the 2009 production of Lorca (choreograhy by Juan Ogalla) as well as a world premiere of Que Es El Amor? (Buleria) - choreography by Ana Morales. All of the work held the signature power and relentless rhythmic drive that Enrique’s own choreography (Latidos - World Premeire) and the onstage musical accompaniment, embodies from start to finish. 
Prolonged periods of casual concert-like musical interludes gave the program a necessary pacing that allowed the dance to linger long after the dancers had left the stage. Atmospheric vocals and passionate musical ensemble work gave the event the kind of wholistic, integrated, and skillfully brilliant environment one has come to expect from the company. 

And upon their return, after lone musical bliss, the dancers, in a myriad of costume and colour, added further intensify to the movement, the emotion, and the delineation of highly skilled bodies working vigorously and beautifully aa they portray a range of emotion filled with potent narrative gestures. 

The classic Flamenco gown found many variations in this recent anniversary event, and yet perhaps the most evocative moments, among many, were when the dancers appeared in simple black pants with a fringed tunic like upper section falling just below the waist. This allowed the lower body to flow within a more exposed, corporeal realm that past Enrique creations have not always taken part in. This moment of gendered variation - taking the traditional ‘dress’ from the female dancer, subtly (perhaps unconsciously) linked a brief segment during the curtain call when one of the male singer/musicians, encouraged by Enrique herself, danced briefly onstage and continued to do so as the ensemble exited. This slight gesture of a mixed gender experience in specific choreographic forms was a a wonderful tribute and testament to the ways in which Enrique’s work and her company continue to incorporate both older and newer physical/narrative forms within their consciousness. As they say, clothes make the man, and the woman, and all of the gendered movement that exists between men and women as they create and interact within classical and traditional forms that, within a contemporary aesthetic, begin to address and undress the powerful structures that lurk and lie beneath.

Esmeralda Enrique’s An Iconic Journey; 
A Celebration of 35 Years 
ran at the Fleck Dance Theatre, May 5-7, 2017 - HARBOURFRONT CENTRE, 207 QUEEN’S QUAY W TORONTO

Saturday, April 29, 2017


Bang bang you shot me down
Bang bang I hit the ground
Bang bang that awful sound
Bang bang my baby shot me down

I grew up competing in martial arts, an art form steeped in and influenced by violence. From this training, there was heightened stress upon the needlessness of most violence and that one should only enact violence when pushed to the final point of survival. At this same point of development in the late 80's and 90's, I was living through one of the highest points of martial arts inspired action movies. My passion for these violent films mixed with the respect of violence supported by my martial arts training creates a very interesting background to explore this topic.

With the aid of a huge projection screen filling the entire back wall of the performance space, RADICAL SYSTEM ART begins its latest production with a series of action scenes that set the tone for a sixty minute tour de force. GLORY elegantly and enigmatically represents forms of intimacy, violence, interplay, and a segment of group bondage enforced upon a single body in a way that is simultaneously playful, intense, and laced with a touch of electrifying live action summoning images of laser duels, Star Wars, comic book heroes and street fighting. 

A segment featuring the recorded song 'Bang Bang' sets two female dancers apart from the male performers as the women portray a kind of cool and collected (almost comic) framing agency and authority over the men's physical struggle. 

The choreography is stunningly executed throughout the entire show as bodies seamlessly execute moves that twist and turn with immaculate and mesmerizingly sharp precision - at times inspiring a kind of awe at the human forms ability to magically synchronize itself with other bodies as it flies away, in fits and knots, from shockingly close encounters.
Although the entire ensemble bears incredible facility within each tightly choreographed segment, there is one particularly muscled body that appears, disappears, then reappears according to the tightness of his costume. He is frequently disguised in less tightly contoured apparel as an effective disguise from his full bodied moments. In the bulked up form fitting ensembles he is dragged across the stage, at times upright and at times on all fours or limb-less-ly horizontal, like a sinewy puppet who, although fully disabled by his controlling cohorts, still manages to perform beautifully shaped movements and rapture like contortions as the strings his company pulls around him act as gorgeous lifelines for this unique and exhilarating choreographic ployful play.
Other segments include romantic duets replete with an iconic red dress and ensemble members joining the duo for a kind of Romeo and Juliet denouement that is riveting - deceptively embroidered with a joyfully melancholy testament to a community of mourning, reinvention and recovery.

Ultimately, it is this varied play of 'violence' that becomes the most startling and exciting through line for the overall effect of GLORY. Sections part way through take this complex/deceptive effect, and through the use of an onstage camera held by other dances who use their hands to guide the performer they are filming, create yet another captive subject not unlike the puppet strings of an earlier segment. Pinocchio's nose has grown and the aesthetic truths and lies it tells are put forth through the eye of the camera lens.  

By projecting the live image upon the huge back wall, depicting the hands of the film maker in a way that spectators cannot fully see on the stage, produces a simple yet incredible double layered effect whereby relationships (the beckoning of camera holding hands close to the dancing subject) between the performers are strengthened and multi faceted. This contributes further layers to the overall sense of violence as a diverse act of love, joy, terror, and control. Perhaps there is a better word for this effect, not violence, perhaps elegant intensity better suits the end result of this program that SHAY KUEBLER RADICAL SYTEM ART has named GLORY, and articulated in a brief definitional moment in the program; listed below, beneath the promo photos for this complex and highly entertaining show -


Thursday, April 27, 2017


Naomi Beth Wakan brings us another ground-breaking book, The Way of Tanka. It gets to the heart of this developing form and includes not only the author’s insightful commentary, but also quotes from some of the most eminent scholars, publishers and writers of the form today. This comprehensive introduction to tanka includes an in-depth look at contemporary tanka through the author’s explication of tanka written by a number of poets, along with many other fine examples and commentary. This is Naomi Beth Wakan at her best, as teacher, motivator and therapist. At last, a comprehensive guide in one book, sure to inspire both beginners and seasoned poets.
Carole MacRury, In the Company of Crows: Haiku and Tanka Between the Tides. Board member: United Haiku and Tanka Society

Written in a lucid and readable style, Naomi Beth Wakan's The Way of Tanka is a highly practical guide that instructs readers on how to write tanka. She not only provides a good sampling of published tanka that represents a broad spectrum of stylistic and thematic varieties, but also includes her detailed comments on some of the tanka that are thematically or structurally significant. I particularly like the section on “Pivot Lines and Last Lines.” Her book gives readers a renewed appreciation of this minimalisitc yet highly expressive genre -- tanka, “the perfect vehicle for capturing the swift, direct pulse of emotion.”
Chen-ou Liu, Award-Winning Poet, Translator of NeverEnding Story

Naomi Beth Wakan, a very talented poet, and eager reader of poetry books and journals, is intelligent, and always curious, so it’s no wonder her new book, The Way of Tanka, is simply brilliant. 
Kozue Uzawa, editor GUSTS: Contemporary Tanka

Naomi Beth Wakan casts her fiendishly curious and observant mind to the world of tanka. In her witty, conversational way, Naomi guides us through the many possibilities and permutations English-language poets have brought to the tanka tradition.
Ann Graham Walker (President of the Federation of British Columbia Writers, poet and journalist)



Naomi Beth Wakan is the inaugural Poet Laureate of Nanaimo (2013-16) and the inaugural Honorary Ambassador for the British Columbia Federation of Writers. She has published over fifty books. Her essays are in Late Bloomer: On Writing Later in Life; Composition, Notes on the Written Word; Book Ends: A Year Between the Covers; A Roller-Coaster Ride: Thoughts on Aging (all from Wolsak and Wynn Publishers); and On the Arts (Pacific-Rim Publishers). Her poetry books include Sex after 70 and Other Poems and And After 80 . . . (Bevalia Press) and Bent Arm for a Pillow (Pacific-Rim Publishers). Wakan is a member of The League of Canadian Poets, Haiku Canada, and Tanka Canada. She lives on Gabriola Island, British Columbia, Canada with her husband, the sculptor Elias Wakan.

pause Kindle Edition

Tuesday, February 7, 2017


"Sandra Shamas is a brilliant comedic storyteller who pokes fun at her own (and our own) foibles in an earthy, engaging, honest and deadly funny way, never losing sight of the fundamental importance of loyalty, affection, and love. In book form, her three smash hit shows— My Boyfriend’s Back and There’s Gonna Be LaundryThe Cycle Continues; and Wedding Bell Hell— published as A Trilogy of Performances, were shortlisted for the Governor General’s Award and the Stephen Leacock Award for Humour.

In Wit’s End, Shamas faces life’s next hurdle after marriage, divorce— and moves from the city to a farm. Urban angst meets the real darkness of nature in a delightful story of healing and creating a new life."

Held over until February 19th, at the Fleck Dance Theatre (Harbourfront Centre), Sandra Shamas' new show, The Big What Now is a two-hour tour de force (one intermission) that fills its audiences with a mixture of boisterous laughter and soul searching emotional power. 

On opening night Shamas had to stop long enough to speak jovially, lovingly and  directly to a woman in the audience whose laughter became a non-stop, fabulous soundscape that the performer appreciated, but had to take control over in order to continue her monologue. 

Shamas has an incredible knack for simultaneously and aggressively putting her audience in their place and endearing them to her every move and every word as she takes full command of a blank stage - one stool - and tells the stories of her life. Years ago, at the Winter Gadren, or was it the Elgin, I recall a cell phone going off in the audience and Shamas simply stopped, looked out, and said something scathing, bawdy, hilarious and beautiful, and then continued her work. I hesitate to repeat the line for fear of getting it wrong, but it has never left me.

Self-proclaimed, in her current show, as a performer who is both a comic and dramatic artist, she makes fun of everything from septic tanks to men, menopause and treacherous ice storms. And she does it with a seamless intensity that takes on an elegant and varied energy form start to finish. 

Beginning her performance with a framework that never falters as she tells her audience that she is there, onstage, during these particularly difficult times, to do something about the global mess so many of us are finding traumatizing. She does just this by creating personal stories about her life in the country, as a hardworking farmer, and how she finds the power and the energy to make her way through all of the joys and the challenges that her life as a straight, single woman present her with. 

Lightly making fun of lesbian camaraderie, mildly mocking certain forms of manly behaviour with a direct and hilarious tone that allows the male member to laugh at  and to examine itself, she inserts a rich and casual plethora of social and sexual themes into the essential and microcosmic rural world that inspires so much of her work. And she does it with the skill of a gifted performer who knows how to hit all of the physical and vocal peaks and valleys that make her voice and her presence so irresistible and engaging,

One segment is populated by memorable characters from community meetings in the small town near where Shamas lives. Memories of elderly characters who question her status as an unmarried fifty-something woman, are filled with vim and vigour, and come out of Shamas with comic force and dramatic import. She is a truly great storyteller, a dramatist, and standup comic, and a meditative, lightly guru'ish persona who has not lost an ounce of power in the three decades that she has shared her life, and her art, onstage, with enthusiastic audiences. 


Tuesday, January 3, 2017

from ‘The Meaning of Life 
and Other Fictions’* 
- a novel in progress by Tom Cho

from Tom Cho's BLOG - Posted by  on 18 September 2010 in Blog | 0 comments
I’ve been going through a “Let’s write about robots” phase.
I really enjoy writing about robots. However, surely I’m not the only writer to fantasise about getting a robot to do my writing for me?
Nominated by Prism International for a Pushcart Prize,** Tom Cho’s “Are You There God? It Is I, Robot” is an extremely engaging and unique take on iconic texts and age old themes. Citing the central relationship in the musical My Fair Lady as a misogynist connection between “a phonetics professor and a Cockney flower girl” was a striking moment in a fall reading at Glad Day Bookstore’s Naked Heart Literary Festival. This was a refreshing reminder of how intertextuality can unite the old and the new - the past and the future.

A complex, intricately woven narrative, described by Cho as - "written from the point of view of an unnamed protagonist who encounters Robot Judy Blume, who shares [with him] a novel she has written...thereby leading into the story-with-a- story featuring Robot [a robot named 'Robot' who represents another protagonist character within Cho's novel]."


Cho’s direct and very effective performing style, while reading from the excerpt, matches his writing style - as seen in Prism - as an at times spare and engaging tone describing the dilemma of the central character who finds herself in the midst of futuristic connections to historic authors from the past.

"At this point , a beam of light emits from Robot Judy Blume’s chest, projecting an image of a page before me, projected at a perfect reading height."

Later a robot protagonist (named Robot) finds herself watching an old Hollywood musical on television depicting the relationship regarding the flower girl and the phonetics prof who attempts to teach “her to speak a variety of English that's accorded high prestige.” Cho’s use of the class and gender relationship that the My Fair Lady reference evokes is a clever device that draws readers into the text and keeps the actions and the thought processes of his unique characterizations moving forward in fascinating and entertaining ways.

"Although she did not have access to a misogynist and classist professor of phonetics with an authoritarian teaching style, Robot knew that this was okay. She had already worked out that if this film was anything to go by, the only tolerable way for her to learn what was required of her was distance education or some other approach that emphasized self-directed learning."

The subtly comic tone of this segment - giving the young female robot a kind of independent feminist agency - and the overall excerpt, is an exciting indication of what the overall novel embraces as it journeys through “The Meaning of Life and Other Fictions.”  

Truth and fiction unite in a way that gestures toward the blend of what was once sic-fi (Robot narratives) and a contemporary environment where the presence of robots begins to blur with our sense of 'human' self identity. The varied truths of humanity, artificial intelligence, and multiple meanings for various life forms are welcome themes in a world where the meaning of life becomes less and less clear as each new day trumps our sense of hope with yet another dire forecast. Like his earlier work in a collection of frequently whimsical and enlightening flash fiction (LOOK WHO'S MORPHING - see above image) Cho’s new work breathes life - and hope - into literary forms both old and new.

* from Prism International's Spring 2016 issue, excerpted from Tom Cho's novel in progress "The Meaning of life and other Fictions' - section from novel in progress entitled; ARE YOU THERE GOD? IT IS I, ROBOT 

for further info go to -

**The Pushcart Prize is an annual US literary competition that honours work that has been published in small presses.

The Routledge Fourth Wall series specializes in short books about famous plays. Poet, arts journalist, and acclaimed musical theatre expert, Keith Garebian has neatly combined queer theory, biography, and his own special brand of accessible, engaging writing that adds a unique perspective to the presence of a great play that became a great musical. He doesn’t shy away from the intimate personality details that mingle with the characters that both Julie Andrews and Rex Harrison brought to their interpretations of the pivotal roles of Eliza and Henry. Nor does he mince words about Moss Hart’s presence as a closeted homosexual director who brought the kind of vigour and skill necessary to push this iconic score through arduous rehearsals, revisions, and a variety of fascinating behind the scenes scenarios. My favourite is Hart’s wife Kitty Carlisle, a woman who rose (at one point in her varied career) to miniature fame as a panelist on the television game show To Tell the Truth when I was a growing fairy. There was something both regal, smug, and endearing about her old world, socialite grandeur in the midst of a kind of hybrid precursor to the rampant reality television we find ourselves drowning in today. 
 Having heard rumours of his [Moss Harts’s] bisexuality, Carlisle once asked him: “Are you homosexual?” To which he replied: “Absolutely not!” (29)
In light of a later insertion in Garebian’s text, Carlisle had her truth and Hart had his - according to a close friend  Hart once exclaimed “If I could love somebody, I wouldn’t care if it was a man, a woman, or a pig.” (28)


I mention this variegated 'truth' in relation to Garebian’s new book because it bears an indirect relation to the ways in which the movement from classic play (Shaw’s Pygmalion) to popular musical theatre (My Fair Lady) and the mixture of life and art that Garebian inserts into his novella sized essay - how it all blends in delightful and provocative ways. Telling the truth in the light of late twentieth century queer theory, with the aid of extensive research and impressive knowledge of the musical theatre genre, Garebian gives his reader a delightful and enlightening new look at an old somewhat “politically incorrect” text. Not to dismiss the beauty of the songs, or the romance of the tale, and yet Garebian himself speaks directly to the misogyny of the text, to Harrison’s reputation as a somewhat abrasive ladies man, Andrews trained 'innocence' and "chaste femininity" that had to be sculpted carefully by Hart, not to mention the subtly crafted homosocial triangle that occurs between the two men vying for the attention of the fair lady.

If it is an exaggeration to call the situation [between Higgns and Pickering] homosexual, its s certainly fair to call it “homosocial,” as Stacy Wolf does…but I prefer to call it homo-social. Borrowing Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick’s theory of triangulation, Wolf illuminates the central developing relationship of Higgins and Pickering in order to reveal how this “homo-sociality” delightfully undoes heterosexual presumption”…despite, I would add, the machismo of Rex Harrison  and the chaste femininity of Julie Andrews. 

It is the mixture of machismo, innocence, and a severely delineated class strucutre - the division between the rich and the poor - that creates the dramatic tension - a tension that is simultaneously heightened and alleviated through song (courtesy of the genius of Lerner and Loewe) that gives Garebian's text such a lively and engaging tone - contributing to an ongoing discussion regarding one of the most popular pieces of 20th century musical theatre. 
postscript: Oh how I long for an all lesbian version of the musical, or a gay male version, or a transgendered version. Shaw already had his say about the musical before it hit the stage when he openly refused to allow any of his plays "to be degraded into an operetta or set to any music except its own." A 'drag' version may set him rolling in his grave, humming along, and perhaps thanking musical theatre for keeping Higgins and Eliza alive and well and singing about the proper way to speak...


photograph of Keith Garebian by Elisabeth Feryn

by Alec Butler 

In Alec Butler’s Rough Paradise (Quattro Books, 2014) there is a fable/parable like quality that uses the authors seamless knack for creating a frolicking air that wafts though a tragic - yet somehow uplifting - series of events.

Like Butler’s seminal play Black Friday, nominated for a Governor General’s award in 1991, dialogue rolls off the tongues and through the thought processes of provocative and loveable protagonists like rhythmic love lists wrought from the consciousness of people constantly fleeing from the drudgery of oppressive perception, violent taunts, and restrictive sex/gender labels. Aboriginal images and stories mix with the presence of Tiresias, Sappho, and Artemis - making the overall narrative a rich tapestry of mythology, folklore, and profound historical/familial knowledge passed down through the ages yet not so easily retrievable in an environment that only honours present greed and buries past hope.

The writing is seamless and breakneck as the reader is propelled thorough 124 pages of relentless pursuit and retreat. In a quick exchange, one fell swoop, Butler manages to engage with playful language that quickly and concisely spells out the gender being simultaneously embraced, resisted, and re-arranged into a more comfortable space for bodies to live, breathe, and fuck within - 

as usual, Darla knows just what to say; “Ummm, nice man boobs, Pussy Boy. Let’s call them ‘moobs’ shall we? Or would you prefer chesticals?” We laugh so hard we piss ourselves, literally. We are a hot, wet teenage mess…

And then there’s the erotic segments. Not to be missed as Darla and Terry find a way to spell out the love that dare not speak it’s name in an environment where the syntax of sexuality is a restrictive two pronged pitchfork that destroys difference and flattens the potential diversity that transgendered experience embraces.

I love fucking the silken walls of her pussy, steady and firm, in control, as she writhes on the end of my arm. Amazed when she comes, squeezing my fingers inside her, over and over. My hand is soaked with juices. It smells like strawberries…

Or the very direct missives between lovers when the question of gender is posed in a world that makes room for only the most traditional socio-sexual gender formations. 

If you feel like a boy, you’re a boy. Doesn’t matter if your father makes you wear a dress or if he makes you shave. It’s how you feel inside that counts.

If Rough Paradise wasn’t so X-Rated it would be a young adult novel written for all ages. In the right hands it can be both, passed among readers as an accessible, joyful, painful, fast paced read that re-affirms one’s belief in hope for future genders - future sex…

Alec Butler's film trilogy "Misadventures of Pussy Boy" where the character of Pussy Boy from Rough Paradise originated, won the best short/audience favourite at TranScreen (International Transgender Film Festival, Amsterdam) for further info about Alec Butler's work see