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Arts Umbrella students showcase current work

Expressions Festival 2016 presents series of performances

Arts Umbrella presents its annual Expressions Festival May 11 to June 12 at various locations. Visit for a full schedule of events.

Arts Umbrella is marking the end of the 2015/16 season with a public showcase of budding creative talent.

The annual Expressions Festival, which runs for the next month, provides an opportunity for students of the non-profit youth arts education centre to share what they’ve been working on in recent months. The festival brings together multiple disciplines including dance; theatre and music; and visual, applied and media arts, and features a lineup of performances and exhibitions on Granville Island and beyond.

“I like to think of Expressions as a celebration of all things Arts Umbrella, really,” says Paul Moniz de Sa, artistic director of the school’s Theatre and Music Program.

As part of the month-long event, Moniz de Sa is spearheading the Theatre and Music Expressions Festival, which runs May 11 to 22 at the 225-seat Waterfront Theatre on Granville Island and lifts the curtain on teens in the pre-professional theatre program. This year’s theatre and music portion of the Expressions Festival has been extended to two weeks and features five productions: Dangers of a Total War, an original creation by the Laboratory theatre troupe; The Drowsy Chaperone, by the musical theatre troupe (and featuring North Shore resident Matthew Tucker); Julius Caesar, by the senior theatre troupe; Story Stew: A Fairy Tale Revue, by the junior theatre troupe; and Theatre and Music Showcase, by theatre intensive program students.

“It’s professional-quality work that’s happening and I’m excited to share that with Vancouver audiences,” says Moniz de Sa, explaining he decided to lengthen the runs this year “because the work should be seen.”

“These are the actors that are really going to be pushing the limits in the years to come and it’s really exciting to see them as they’re starting out.”

Outside his job at Arts Umbrella, Moniz de Sa works as a professional actor, something he’s been doing for more than 20 years. But he didn’t always have the stage and screen in his sights. Back in high school, he was taking advanced placement courses in hopes of studying science at university. Those plans changed when he took an acting class at Arts Umbrella.

“When I was at Arts Umbrella as a young teen, it sparked something in me that I feel like I’ve continued to take with me my entire life,” he explains.
There, he met like-minded students from across the Lower Mainland and grew the confidence to pursue acting as a career. Now, back to where it all began,

Moniz de Sa says one of the best parts of his job is following his former students on social media to see what they’ve gone on to achieve.“It’s heartwarming because for me, it very much is a family.”

Other highlights of this year’s Expressions Festival include the Visual, Applied and Media Arts Expression Exhibition June 9 to 12 at Boca del Lupo on Granville Island. And young dancers will take the Vancouver Playhouse stage for a season finale May 26 to 28 and a recital June 9 to 12. The year-end recital, featuring the entire Arts Umbrella dance school, is a presentation of The Gilded Bat, based on a story written by Edward Gorey, while the season finale features the select 80 dancers in the Arts Umbrella Dance Company, including 19-year-old North Vancouver resident Stephanie Jamieson.

Artemis Gordon, artistic director of the Arts Umbrella Dance Program, has to pinch herself when she looks at the list of Canadian and international guest choreographers who have created works for this year’s recital – names like Crystal Pite, Aszure Baron and Sharon Eyal, to name a few.

“These are some of the top female choreographers in the world right now and that we’re doing work with them is just extraordinary,” Gordon says. “Most people can’t believe that we have so many incredible choreographers in one season.”

The repertory dance company will present a total of 14 pieces spread over three different shows, all innovative hybrids representing the best of classical ballet and modern dance.

“The choreographers are all firmly rooted in the history and esthetic of classicism, but are contemporary,” Gordon explains. “We’re not reproducing something that happened in 19th-century Russia.”

For anyone who may shy away from watching dance, Gordon encourages them to come out and see what the Arts Umbrella Dance Company can do.

“I think dance, and really great dance, is probably the one art form that connects to everybody, every walk of life, every taste, every style.”

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