PuSh Blog

PuSh International Performing Arts Festival 2020 Presents Vibrant Line-up of Experimental Artists

November 28, 2019

Three-week festival presents emotionally honest, politically daring program of visually arresting dance, eclectic music, and genre-crossing theatre.

Vancouver, BC — PuSh International Performing Arts Festival (PuSh) presents its 16th annual edition from January 21 to February 9, 2020 at various venues across the Lower Mainland. Featuring 27 works from 24 companies from nine countries — including six world premieres — the festival line-up is dedicated to creative risk-taking and dynamic interdisciplinary collaboration. PuSh 2020 is a poignant reminder of art’s power to bring communities together and effect change.

“As we enter into the next decade of the 21st century, we’re taking a look back at the cultural shifts we’ve seen around the world since the turn of the millennium — from the election of Donald Trump south of our border to Brexit in Europe — and the important impact and meaningful conversation PuSh has ignited,” says Franco Boni, Executive and Artistic Director of PuSh. “In that reflective mode, we are thrilled to see the return of some of the festival’s most critically acclaimed and socially charged artists: innovative choreographer Dana Gingras and her company Animals of Distinction with FRONTERA, Vancouver’s own theatre company The Chop with KISMET, things have changed, and Halifax’s 2b theatre and their presentation of Old Stock: A Refugee Love Story. PuSh embodies an unrivalled spirit of creative agency and challenges established social conventions in a generative way.”

“This year, PuSh looks to subversion in its many forms — from the playful to the political — to remind us of our shared humanity, to encourage us to wonder, and to reignite a sense of curiosity about the world around us,” says Joyce Rosario, Associate Artistic Director. “The 2020 festival program encompasses works that were originally conceived in 2015 and 2016, marked by the rise of populism and nationalism that continues to shape our everyday realities. Audiences will be exposed to experiments in democratic social models, responses to racial and religious discrimination, stories of heroic yet marginalized women, border wars, and more.”

PuSh presents six world premieres, all from local artists and companies: Anywhere But Here by award- winning Electric Company Theatre; BERLIN: The Last Cabaret by period-focused City Opera Vancouver; Flying white -飞白 by contemporary dance company Wen Wei Dance with the Turning Point Ensemble; High Water by multidisciplinary performance artist Robert Leveroos under his moniker Macromatter; Idealverein by contemporary artists Mike Bourscheid and Justine Chambers; and Skyborn: A Land Reclamation Odyssey by Musqueam playwright Quelemia Sparrow with the Savage Society.

The festival also includes the North American premiere of Free Admission by UK-based provocateur Ursula Martinez, in which she builds a real brick wall on stage. The five Western Canadian premieres will be presented by Gingras’ Animals of Distinction, choreographer and performer Dana Michel, Toronto- based 6th Man Collective with The Theatre Centre, interdisciplinary collective PME-ART, and three-time Dora winner d’bi young anitafrika.

This year Club PuSh, the festival’s platform for the most edgy and experimental work, features Myles de Bastion, DJ Deaf Wish, CymaSpace, Crystal Precious, House of La Douche, and Pearle Harbour. The free opening weekend party includes performances by De Bastion, DJ Deaf Wish, and CymaSpace following the premiere screening of The Democratic Set at the Roundhouse Community Arts and Recreation Centre. The always anticipated Closing Night party will be held at Central Studios.

PuSh Assembly will stimulate dialogue through free talks for the public and industry networking events. And new for the 2020 season is the PuSh Scholars-in-Residence program, which invites festival artists as well as Indigenous and disabled artists and curators to ask foundational questions about how performance can intervene in the age of crisis. The inaugural scholars-in-residence are Dylan Robinson and Keren Zaiontz.

PuSh Passes and single tickets for the 2020 PuSh Festival are on sale now.


The Democratic Set — Back to Back Theatre (Australia)
Presented with Neworld Theatre
Open Set: Jan 21–23, 2–4:30pm + Jan 22–23, 10am–1pm | Roundhouse Community Arts and Recreation Centre
Film Screening and Artist Talk: Jan 25, 7pm
This is not a performance — it’s a model for the way we could live. In The Democratic Set, members of the local community are invited to help make a movie. Each cast member gets a brief rehearsal for their 15-second video portrait; each portrait is captured in a single take, with the camera moving across the set in the same direction each time. What emerges is a wonderful paradox: a group vision of individual expression.

Little Volcano — Veda Hille with Theatre Replacement (Canada)
Presented with Music on Main
Jan 21–23, 8pm | ANNEX
Veda Hille’s new work is a musical memoir, a testament to maternal love, a joyful embrace of nature and much more. The singer, pianist and songwriter takes us through her life using stories, Bach preludes, a selection of her own music and some unique and surprising recordings, redefining autobiography as she goes along.

Idealverein — Mike Bourscheid and Justine Chambers (Canada) Presented with Western Front
Jan 22–24, 8pm | Western Front
World Premiere
Six dancers, some very distinctive costumes and a set of unspoken rules; those are the basic elements of this performance, but listing them doesn’t begin to do justice to its humour, sophistication and originality. Idealverein is a game of sorts; it’s played in teams of three, and it involves a mixture of improv and strict rules.

Skyborn: A Land Reclamation Odyssey — Savage Production Society (Canada)
Presented with The Cultch
Jan 23–25, 7:30pm + Jan 25–26, 2pm + Jan 28–31, 7:30pm + Feb 1, 2pm, 7:30pm | The Cultch Historic World Premiere
A black hole, hungry ghosts, a Grandmother wolf — Quelemia Sparrow’s Skyborn is an epic odyssey grounded in Indigenous ancestral knowledge. Guided through the universe on a river made of stars, Sparrow makes a journey by canoe to recover her lost soul from the land of the dead. This adventure invites the audience to bear witness to a reclamation of culture, land and self.

BERLIN: The Last Cabaret — City Opera Vancouver (Canada)
Presented with City Opera Vancouver | In association with Sound the Alarm: Music/Theatre
Jan 23–25, 8pm | Performance Works
World Premiere
This political cabaret celebrates the subversive power of art and offers a warning to those who would take freedom for granted. 1934: As Nazism tightens its grip on Germany, a satirical cabaret troupe faces physical danger and a moral crisis. Members have disappeared under suspicious circumstances; the five that remain have to decide whether to bend to intimidation or perform their work uncensored.

Old Stock: A Refugee Love Story — 2b Theatre Company (Canada)
Presented with Touchstone Theatre and UBC Theatre and Film
Jan 24–25, 7:30pm + Jan 26, 1:30pm + Jan 28–30, 7:30pm | Frederic Wood Theatre
Wild, witty and wonderfully inventive, this fusion of concert and drama tells the true tale of Chaim and Chaya, Jewish refugees from the pogroms of Romania. They meet in 1908, while awaiting medical inspection in Halifax’s Pier 21 immigration centre; the story moves forward to their lives as a couple in Montreal and backward to the horrors of the Continent.

Ikigai Machine: A Disability-Arts Vaudeville Experience — Myles de Bastion / CymaSpace (USA) / OPENING WEEKEND PARTY
Jan 25, 8pm | Club PuSh at Roundhouse Community Arts and Recreation Centre
Canadian Premiere
Deaf curator, advocate and artist Myles de Bastion is here to rock the building with a dose of music, moving images and light. Working with the CymaSpace production team, de Bastion lays down optical effects in conjunction with beats and melodies; the result is an accessible, inclusive and altogether enthralling experience. DJ Deaf Wish gets the party started right; then comes de Bastion with an immersive visual narrative set to live ambient, hypnotic soundscapes, followed by a return performance from Deaf Wish.

Gardens Speak — Tania El Khoury (Lebanon/UK)
Jan 28–Feb 1, 12:30pm, 2pm, 6pm, 7pm, 8:30pm, 9:30pm + Feb 2, 12:30pm, 2pm, 5:30pm, 6:30pm, 8pm, 9pm | Roundhouse Community Arts and Recreation Centre
Canadian Premiere
In today’s Syria, oppression and violence are so far-reaching that even burial and mourning have become subversive acts. In this immersive sound installation, artist Tania El Khoury pays tribute to that subversion, and to 10 people whose lives have been lost in the regime’s brutal response to dissent. In groups of 10, audience members are led to a garden space marked by graves. At each grave, one person will hear a story — the reconstructed history of an individual killed in the conflict.

Tell Me What I Can Do — Tania El Khoury (Lebanon/UK)
Exhibition Open: Jan 28–Feb 2, 12–9:30pm | Roundhouse Community Arts and Recreation Centre Canadian Premiere
Gardens Speak has had 30 showings across 5 continents, and many of them have included a special request, with El Khoury asking her audiences to write letters. Here, she offers a selection of them to be uncovered and read. “Tell me what I can do” is a sentence that recurs throughout the handwritten texts, and those six small words reflect so much: empathy and caring, but also anguish, confusion, even desperation.

She, Mami Wata & The Pussy WitchHunt — The Frank Theatre (Canada)
Jan 28–31, 8pm | Performance Works
Western Canadian Premiere
d’bi young anitafrika takes on gender, sexuality, divinity and more in this erotic solo piece. Whether playing a church pastor, a pole dancer or a child in a schoolyard, d’bi positively glows with fervour; the spirit of protest runs strong through the multiple characters, shifting timelines and changing settings of the narrative. Telling the story of four friends and their lives in present-day Jamaica, the artist paints a picture of lust, love and the forces that would seek to deny them.

The Fever — 600 HIGHWAYMEN (USA)
Jan 29, 7pm + Jan 30, 6pm + Jan 31, 11am, 6pm, 9pm + Feb 1, 6pm, 9pm + Feb 2, 12pm | Annex
How much can we trust other people? How do we form our conceptions of them? What does it take for us to work together? The Fever takes issues like these and makes them the stuff of riveting theatre. It all begins with the character of Marianne, who has just held a party; from there, the performance builds into a study of community, caring and mutual reliance.

FRONTERA — Animals of Distinction (Canada), Fly Pan Am (Canada), United Visual Artists (UK) Jan 30, 8pm | Queen Elizabeth Theatre
Western Canadian Premiere
This powerhouse multimedia performance unites post-rock masters Fly Pan Am with choreographer Dana Gingras and her Animals of Distinction dance company. The remounted version of The Holy Body Tattoo’s monumental played PuSh 2016, and if you saw it, you surely remember its spectacular fusion of sound and motion; here, again, are live music and dance in the service of metaphor. The guiding ideas are borders and surveillance: how do they define us, and when do we dare challenge them?

Flying white –飞白 — Wen Wei Dance and Turning Point Ensemble (Canada) Presented with Turning Point Ensemble and Wen Wei Dance
Jan 31–Feb 1, 7:30pm + Feb 2, 2pm | SFU’s Goldcorp Centre for the Arts
World Premiere

This dynamic, intercultural performance features six dancers from Wen Wei Dance, as well as 12 musicians brought together from Turning Point Ensemble and Little Giant Chinese Chamber Orchestra. The title refers to a rare form of Chinese calligraphy in which the brush touches the paper in long, light strokes, evoking grace and delicacy but also powerful velocity.

Free Admission — Ursula Martinez (UK)
Jan 31–Feb 1, 8:30pm + Feb 2, 4pm | Scotiabank Dance Centre
North American Premiere
Uncouth, uncensored and…undressed? Ursula Martinez gets personal, political and philosophical in this soul-baring solo performance. Call it a monologue with a meta twist: though it’s honest and unsparing, Free Admission comes with a commentary on its own limits, and on the politics of spectacle. As Martinez holds forth on the paradoxes of life, the absurdity of contemporary living and her own intimate feelings, she builds a wall between herself and the audience — a brick wall, to be exact.

High Water — Macromatter (Canada)
Presented with Vancouver International Children’s Festival
Feb 1–2, 11am, 4pm + Feb 3–4, 10am, 12:30pm + Feb 5, 6pm | The Nest
World Premiere
In this playful, resourceful performance, one solitary soul uses consumer products to build entire worlds inside a fish tank, working on the spot against a rising horizon of water. Rockets, cityscapes, satellites and more are created from the interaction of aqua and everyday objects; audiences may never look at clothespins, CDs or turkey basters the same way again.

Agit-Pop! — Pearle Harbour (Canada)
Feb 1, 8pm | Club PuSh at Central Studios
Western Canadian Premiere
Drag innovator Pearle Harbour comes for the kill with this tragicomic cabaret concert. Featuring reenactments, renditions, stories, tirades and more, Agit-Pop! is a mixtape of bangers fashioned from years of live performance at clubs, theatres, karaoke bars and drag shows across the nation.

Cuckoo — Jaha Koo (South Korea/Belgium)
Feb 3–5, 8pm | Waterfront Theatre
Jaha Koo folds 20 years of South Korean history into this bittersweet narrative. An economic disaster and its ripple effects are conveyed in an onstage performance by the artist and some very special com- panions: a group of talking rice cookers. Re-programmed to speak, these devices serve as a token of Jaha’s alienation and a metaphor for the most absurd, most comical aspects of the recent past.

KISMET, things have changed — The Chop (Canada)
Presented with The Cultch
Feb 4–8, 7:30pm + Feb 8, 2pm | The Cultch Historic
“What do you believe in?” Ten years ago, four artists in their late 20s travelled across Canada asking that question. Their 100 respondents ranged in age from one to 100, and the answers became part of an acclaimed touring show. Now the artists are back at it, only this time with a different query for the surviving interviewees: “How do you cope?”

What You Won’t Do for Love — Why Not Theatre (Canada) Presented with Anvil Centre
Feb 4, 8pm | Anvil Centre
PuSh-in-development, Passholder Exclusive
They’ve researched, they’ve taught, they’ve publicized, they’ve protested…but above all, they’ve loved — each other and the planet. Drs. David Suzuki and Tara Cullis are activists and life partners, and on this special evening, they take the opportunity to share with us a lifetime of stories. This workshop presentation is a casual, conversational piece of theatre, powered by the warmth and affability of the couple, but it carries with it a message of the utmost importance.

A User’s Guide to Authenticity Is a Feeling — PME-ART (Canada)
Feb 5, 8pm + Feb 6, 6pm | Western Front
Western Canadian Premiere
After 20 years with PME-ART, co-artistic director Jacob Wren felt he should mark the occasion with something special — so he wrote a book. In keeping with the collective’s practice, Authenticity Is a Feeling blurs the lines between several genres: personal memoir, official history, manifesto…In the end, Wren and his co-conspirators decided to turn this book about performance into a performance itself.

Monday Nights — 6th Man Collective and The Theatre Centre (Canada) Presented with Anvil Centre
Feb 6–8, 8pm + Feb 8–9, 2pm | Anvil Centre
Western Canadian Premiere
Who you are on the court reveals who you are off the court; in this basketball-theatre mash-up, we invite you to lace up your sneakers and get in the game! Every Monday night for over a decade, five men came together to play basketball. Friendships were formed, bonds were strengthened; they shared each other’s victories and losses, triumphs and heartbreaks. Born from those games, Monday Nights is an interactive basketball/theatre experience where those same men explore how a simple game can help us understand ourselves and connect to community.

CUTLASS SPRING — Dana Michel (Canada) Presented with The Dance Centre
Feb 6–8, 8pm | Scotiabank Dance Centre Western Canadian Premiere
Dana Michel gives us all she can in this subversive, achingly personal show. Using physical choreography, vocal contortions and some truly outré symbolism, she enacts a psychological excavation onstage. Her goal is to investigate herself as a performer, a daughter, a mother and many other things— including and especially as a sexual being.

Footnote Number 12 — Spreafico Eckly and Theatre Replacement (Norway/Canada)
Feb 6, 8pm + Feb 7–8, 6pm | Performance Works
Western Canadian Premiere
A deep dive into the politics of language and the dynamics of privilege, Footnote Number 12 turns the act of reading into riveting theatre. You could call it a subversive piece of literary criticism; it takes a celebrated essay by the late David Foster Wallace and breaks it down in a series of seriocomic monologues by James Long, playfully modulated by sound artist Nancy Tam.

The DJ Who Gave Too Much Information — PME-ART (Canada)
Feb 7, 7pm | Western Front
Western Canadian Premiere
One turntable and dozens of records, each one with a story behind it. That’s the simple premise of PME- ART’s party performance; it’s all about the ways in which music helps to organize our memories, beliefs and perceptions. Romantic triumphs and catastrophes, moments of political awakening, tearful valedictions…so many events in our lives are tied to a particular tune.

Bring Your Own Record/Listening Party — PME-ART (Canada)
Feb 8, 7pm | Club PuSh at Central Studios
Western Canadian Premiere
Audience members who especially love the song/story format of The DJ Who Gave Too Much Information are invited to the Bring Your Own Record/Listening Party the following day; it’s a chance to get in on the fun. Choose a record and story of your own, and bring them on down to share.

Things I Shouldn’t Tell You — Crystal Precious (Canada) / CLOSING NIGHT PARTY
Feb 8, 8pm | Club PuSh at Central Studios
Canadian Premiere
This cabaret extravaganza throws new tracks from local dancer, diva and rapper Crystal Precious in with striptease, stand-up, musical parody and stories from a life lived on the burlesque circuit. Visually, it’s a fantasy mash-up of various retro styles, and the sonic backdrop ranges from two-step to trip hop.

Portrait of My DNA — House of La Douche (Canada) / CLOSING NIGHT PARTY
Feb 8, 8pm | Club PuSh at Central Studios
Canadian Premiere
Look at us: conflicted, constricted, still suffering under the yoke of sexually repressive mores. Here comes House of La Douche to the rescue, with drag, dance and the subversive power of the spoken word in their arsenal. This crew has a mandate to entertain, to arouse and — above all, and for the love of humanity—to liberate.


PuSh Passes are the best way to experience the PuSh Festival. Pass holders save up to 25% off single tickets. PuSh Passes are flexible so Passholders can book tickets online at anytime. Limited quantities.

FourShow Pass $119 SixShow Pass $176 Industry Pass $249 Industry Series Access Only $75 Youth Four-Show Pass $20


Single tickets start at $15. To buy tickets, visit pushfestival.ca or call the PuSh Festival Audience Services info line at 604.449.6000.


Pick up the comprehensive 2020 program guide at any location of JJ Bean and other select locations. You can also reach us at pushfestival.ca, info@pushfestival.ca or 604.605.8284.

About the PuSh International Performing Arts Festival (pushfestival.ca)
The PuSh International Performing Arts Festival is Vancouver’s signature, mid-winter cultural event, taking place over three weeks each January in theatres and venues across the city. PuSh presents groundbreaking, contemporary works of theatre, dance, music, and multimedia by acclaimed local, national, and international artists.

LISTING INFORMATION: PuSh International Performing Arts Festival

Dates: January 21–February 9, 2020
Ticket Prices: From $15
Location: Various Vancouver Venues
Audience Services: 604.449.6000 / tickets@pushfestival.ca
Website: pushfestival.ca


For further media information, contact:

Ines Min | T. 604.558.2400 ext. 506 | C. 604.440.0791 | imin@mpmgarts.com