Day sixty

International Dance Day

After many rehearsals, it was finally the day of the flash mob!  At Metro Hall Square (just east of King and John) today at 12:10pm, we surprised everyone by bursting in to dance!  Organized by the National Ballet School as a tribute to International Dance Day, about 130 dancers took over Metro Hall Square.  I wanted see the looks on everyones face when we started to dance, but I was paying so much attention to getting to where I needed to be (accidentally bumping into two different dancers in the process – oops) and getting the steps right, I didn’t have time to look around me!  Luckily the weather cooperated for us and although a little chilly, the sun was out – we were worried it would be raining and no one would see us.  The official video of the event is being edited and will be put up on You Tube on Sunday.  They have asked that we don’t publish any video until the official one is released, so in respect to the choreographer Matjash Mrozewski and NBS, I will wait to post the footage of my experience until Monday.  But here’s a little sneak peek of me before the dance, filmed by the very kind Nico Szidiropulosz:

Day fifty-nine

Wrought iron

The flower hook Casey made, with a little help from me!

I’m more than excited to say that I helped make that beautiful hook yesterday!  Casey Deane invited me to spend the day seeing how he works with wrought iron at  the Toronto Blacksmith Shop Ltd.  It was so much fun!  And Casey is a fountain of knowledge, so I spent the afternoon listening to all his tidbits of information on the blacksmith trade and watching him create art out of iron poles.

The process of making the rose and hook began with the iron poles in the forge (a giant oven used to heat the metal so it is malleable).  Rotating between texturing (with the ball end of a ball-peen hammer) and cutting the petals for the rose and bending the hook (by hitting the pole on an anvil with a hammer and cooling certain areas in a drum full of cold water called a  quenching bucket), the process takes patience and skill.  The time between when the iron is taken out of the forge, until it stops being hot enough to be able to work with is called a “heat” (hence the saying “in the heat of the moment” and “strike while the iron’s hot”).  Traditional blacksmiths pride themselves on how much they can get accomplished during one heat.  It was interesting to see how the metal sheds its coating during each heat, like layers of skin flaking off.

Then the flower was created by bending the iron into a spiral and welding on the petals.  A blowtorch and vice were used to mold the petals into shape and to twist the hook section into the curve (this is the part I helped with!!!!).  The bracket was made by drilling the holes, countersinking them, and welding it into place.  Finally the whole thing was sanded, polished and coated with a clear coat to keep it from rusting.  It all took about two and a half hours to make and I love it!

Casey started learning the trade after discovering that he couldn’t find certain custom parts for his motorcycle.  After an apprenticeship with some very accomplished (and old school) blacksmiths and a few years experience, Casey opened the Toronto Blacksmith Shop to create custom furniture and home decor.  Check out some photos of Casey’s amazing pieces on the facebook page here or on torontoblacksmithshop.com.  Everything is beautiful and he does custom work, so if you need a unique, hand-made piece for your home, then look him up!

Here are some photos of my experience and some of Casey’s work:

The forge

Casey making the rose petals with a safety message on the wall in the background

Using the blow torch

Wine rack by Casey Deane

Iron bird by Casey Deane

Lamp by Casey Deane

Tonight I had the dress rehearsal for the International Dance Day flash mob!  The flash mob will take place tomorrow at 12:10pm in Toronto.  If anyone’s interested in coming out to see, send me a message and I’ll let you know where it is (as long as you pretend you don’t know it’s going to happen!).

Dress rehearsal for the flash mob. 12:10 tomorrow. If you know where this is, come see the dance on your lunch!

Day fifty-eight

Stop Motion Animation


Stop motion (also known as stop action) is an animation technique to make a physically manipulated object appear to move on its own. The object is moved in small increments between individually photographed frames, creating the illusion of movement when the series of frames is played as a continuous sequence. (wikipedia)

That was so much fun and I love my little video!  Although way harder than I thought it would be.  There are so many things to consider when making a stop motion animation: subject, story, props, lighting, set, camera angle, computer program.  Once that is all decided, then each movement needs to be made and a photo is snapped.  I took two photos for each movement so it was a bit easier and flowed a little better.  To get a realistic human look, traditionally 24 frames per second are used.  However, to get the choppier, more playful look that happens in my video, we made the video at 15 frames per second.  In this eight second animation, there were 134 photos.  Then the photos were uploaded on to my friend’s computer, made into an animation on iStopMotion, then added the title, credits and sound on iMovie.

It was an exercise in patience to move the figures only slightly, take a photo, then move them slightly again, and take another photo.  I can’t imagine the work that went into Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993), or King Kong (1933)!

Here’s a fun clip I found on Smashing Magazine “50 Incredible Stop Motion Videos” (a fun time-waster if you want to check out some other cool stop motion videos):

And my friends Mere and Dan’s claymation video they made last year (they were obviously mad at the raccoon in their yard!):

Day fifty-seven

The Wrecking Ball

Four actors walk onstage – one with a Quebecois accent, one with a white napkin taped below his nose as a moustache, one brown-haired guy in jeans, and finally one with his hair slicked to the side.  Yes, Canada’s four major party leaders are in the room and they are in therapy together.  “Michael, I’d like you to use the ‘when you do that, I feel…’ when you are speaking to Stephen,” says Gilles, the moderator of the therapy session.  A hilarious skit making fun of all of the party leaders opens the Wrecking Ball 2011.

Next comes a spoof of Laureen Harper to talk about her life as the “queen of housewives, at home baking cookies for the kids.”  Then a very moving, serious piece on lack of free speech in an unnamed country where women are raped, then threatened if they speak of it to anyone, especially the foreign press.  Two writers-in-exile read letters they have written to Canada reminding us not to take our democracy for granted.  Then a final very silly scene between Stephen Harper and his stylist that ends in Harper, covered in clown makeup, singing Tomorrow from Annie while walking up and down the aisle.

Twitter feed on the screen at the Wrecking Ball 2011

The scenes above were separated with quotes read by the organizers about democracy, information about websites involving the arts and politics, and referring back to the live tweeting happening and what they can find on Twitter about a possible Yoko Ono sighting at the Ottawa Wrecking Ball.

This is the twelfth Wrecking Ball since 2004 – all in response to a political need.  The set-up: a group of writers are given one week to write a 10-minute play and one week to rehearse, in response to certain themes or questions.  For Wrecking Ball 12 – the second ever national wrecking ball, happening in Victoria, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal at the same time – the playwrights were given two questions: What is leadership? And what is democracy?  This year Marcus Youssef, Vancouver playwright, had his piece performed in every city (the leaders in therapy), with different local writers filling the rest of the evening.  The Toronto writers were: Sean Dixon, Ava Homa, Ayub Nuri, Colleen Wagner, and Jean Yoon.

In this year’s Wrecking Ball live tweeting was introduced in order to connect nationally, all under the hastag #wreckingball2011.  You can check out what was said by searching #wreckingball2011 and #wb2011 on twitter.com.  My favourite tweet of the night, though, was by praxistheatre: “Apparently Montreal #WreckingBall2011 used puppets for “In Treatment”. Puppets! In gov’t? Never. #WB2011”  

Day fifty-six

Religious Art

Christ of Saint John of the Cross, Salvador Dalí, 1951

In honour of Easter Monday – religious art.  I’ve always been fascinated by religious art and architecture. Because religion is so important to so many people, the art created in this love is made with such passion and devotion it is always so rich and beautiful.

In the Sydney Morning Herald (Sydney, Australia) on Friday, there is a great article on art based on the Easter story that I would recommend reading if you are interested in this topic.  Briefly, though, the article touches on how the universality of the story of Easter has provided inspiration for some of the greatest Western art.  It also talks about some controversial artists who depicted the story of Easter in extreme ways, like: “in 2000, English artist Sebastian Horsley travelled to the Philippines to be nailed to a cross as part of preparations he was making for a painting based on the death of Jesus.”

Every religion has its own art that I can’t begin to describe in a short blog post.  However, no matter what the belief system, religious art touches me emotionally and aesthetically, even though I’m not religious.

I’m not going to be creating any religious art, but I felt it needed a say in my month of 30 Days of Art.

One of my favourite buildings in Toronto:

St James Cathedral, 65 Church Street Toronto, built in 1853

Tonight I am going to the Wrecking Ball, “an attempt to bring the headlines to the theatre. We ask acclaimed Canadian and international playwrights to dramatize the world we find ourselves in today … right here … right now.”  As the twelfth Wrecking Ball since the first in 2004, it is a response to the federal election coming up on May 2nd.  The hope is that it will increase national conversation about the issues surrounding the election.  There are Wrecking Balls in Victoria, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal tonight, with some live tweeting involved.  Follow the conversation on Twitter to see what’s happening: #wreckingball2011. More about this tomorrow…