Gateway to the Rockies – Vancouver’s Performing Arts
Vancouver, British Columbia
By John McKiernan
With the Winter Olympics arriving in Vancouver next year and an array of outdoor activities to make you dizzy, you could be forgiven in thinking that Vancouver is all about sports. However, this mountain city at the base of the Canadian Rocky Mountains has an undercurrent of cultural events to make any city jealous. If you are heading to the natural beauty of Banff National Park and its surrounds, why not stop off for a few days in Vancouver and experience the depths of performing arts it holds.
Nicknamed Hollywood North as it is third only to LA and New York in the film production stakes, Vancouver plays a huge roll in international cinema Not only is it the setting for countless movies, it also hosts the annual Vancouver International Film Festival. It runs for 17 days with 300 films, 50 countries and 9 venues. There are more than 130,000 attendees and if you don’t see some stars then it might be the time to switch glasses.
Although this is the biggest film festival of the year, Vancouver doesn’t disappoint during the rest of the year. There is an incredible selection of films being screened all year round including foreign films, underground films and independent films. Movie types and theatre sizes are wide ranging and very popular throughout Vancouver. Daily matinees and evening shows are accessible in most major theatres around the city, while many of the larger theatre complexes offer a selection of films every single hour. In short, this is paradise for cinema buffs.
Although Montreal currently carries the torch in Canada as the dance centre, Vancouver is hot on its heels. The city’s dance scene continues to grow, showcasing talent from all over the globe. Whether it’s the National Ballet of Russia or a local dance school, Vancouver has it covered.
It is a little known fact that Vancouver is a literary hub in Canada and indeed in the world. It’s the centre of a largely unheralded publishing industry that produces 250 books per year and also hosts an annual International Writers Festival. More than 1,500 authors live in British Columbia so don’t worry if the guy at the coffee shop keeps staring at you while writing something down. Statistics Canada says that BC has the highest number of book-reading people in the country!
Canada as a whole has a great reputation for producing great new music. Whether it be one of the many quaint cafes that showcase live music or one of the mega stadiums ready for huge international acts, Vancouver has it all. Keep your eyes open in the local media for upcoming acts. If you play music, there are heaps of pubs and cafes that allow you showcase your talents. Note: Vancouver is the only remaining North American city with its own radio orchestra – the Vancouver CBC Radio Orchestra.
Vancouver is home to an unbelievable 32 professional groups, a major international theatre festival (The Fringe), two outdoor theatrical events (Bard on the Beach and Theatre Under The Stars) and more than 21 venues. Theatre is taken very seriously here and it is considered a major cultural activity in Vancouver.
The locations for theatre have been improvised over the years and it is now possible that one night you could watch a play in an old firehouse while the next you may listen to a musical in an old refurbished church. The choices are endless. Make sure to book your accommodations early if you are planning to visit during one of the bigger events, hotels book out fast!