Category Archives: Performing Arts Prizes

Sound of Dragon

I love music! Growing up, I took piano, voice, and music theory and went to everything from the opera to rock concerts. Now, I find myself intrigued by world music and want to learn more and more about how various cultures express themselves through musical performance and song. This interest led me to enter a Georgia Straight contest to win a VIP admission to the Sound of Dragon music festival. This is the first year that the festival honouring Chinese, Taiwanese, and international music has been held.

Fortunately, I won! My pass gave me access to 20 concerts from May 9th to 11th. There were also free activities provided. I chose to attend several concerts on May 9th and 10th, as well as visit the “instruments petting zoo,”which allowed visitors to try traditional Chinese instruments and hear them demonstrated. I enjoyed all of the musical performances, but especially liked the one given by Little Giant Chinese Chamber Orchestra.

A Taiwanese orchestra focusing on Taiwanese contemporary music
Little Giant Chinese Chamber Orchestra – performing contemporary Taiwanese music

It was wonderful to hear instruments that I had never seen before produce music I’d never heard. It was also really inspiring to see so many young musicians passionate about performing their country’s contemporary music. I often find that contemporary music is best when it paints a picture in the listener’s mind of a central image. And, for the most part, I felt the music Little Giant Chinese Chamber Orchestra performed did just that. Pieces like “Slow Rain” and “Between Water and Clouds” allowed me to connect to the natural world in a very unique way.

The other performances I saw highlighted how effectively western instruments and international instruments can harmonize with Chinese or Asian instruments. For example, the Oliver and Yu Duo combined the classical guitar with the ruan, otherwise known as the Chinese moon guitar. When listening to the pair play a song like “A Dream of Africa,” the experience is truly imbued with international flavours.

The instruments petting zoo was also a great way to interact with all of the fascinating musical instruments. I especially liked the guzheng, which is like a Chinese zither and many of the percussion instruments.

The carving detail on the guzheng
The carving detail on the guzheng
The Instruments Petting Zoo
Percussion at The Instruments Petting Zoo

So, if you have an opportunity to attend next year’s festival, I would highly recommend it. I strongly feel that it is important to step out of one’s comfort zone and be open to learning about how other cultures express themselves through the arts.

A note about the contest blog: The Sound of Dragon festival pass was worth $70. My total winnings this year add up to approximately $130. I hope to win many more exciting contests this year, but will be taking a hiatus for the month of June. Will see you all back in July!


A Night with the Mythbusters

The Mythbusters
Tonight, we made our way over to the newly renovated Queen Elizabeth Theatre to spend the evening with the Mythbusters. Well, thousands of others joined us, but that was okay. I’d been looking forward to this show for some time, as I’d won the tickets late last year, courtesy of miss604.
My husband is a great fan of Mythbusters and I became interested as well when Grant Imahara built a robot for The Late Late Show in 2010.


I watched with fascination when Adam Savage lay down on a bed of nails and had a cinder block smashed on his stomach. I cringed when I saw footage of his previous injuries and heard about the 40 stitches he’d had in his hand. I cheered when an audience member put on a suit of armour and got shot multiple times with paintball guns and emerged unscathed. I was thoroughly entertained.

Then, I started to think about why this show attracts so many people, especially parents and kids. I came to several conclusions. First, it makes science look cool. Blowing stuff up is chemistry. Hitting the high striker with the right amount of force and the right size hammer is physics. Other than biology class, which I enjoyed due to a morbid fascination with dissection, science was something I just tried to get through in school. I never saw it through the eyes of Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman. Also, Mythbusters makes you ask questions about questions. For example, “How tall is the mountain?” The Mythbusters pointed out that the answer all depends on the answers to other questions, “Where do you start measuring? From the Earth’s core? From sea level?” Making these inquiries helps propel us on journeys of discovery. Instead of sitting in the cave, we’re exploring the valley. Rather than staring at the TV screen, we’re becoming something worth watching. Finally, Hyneman told us never to underestimate the importance of play. I found this a profound and almost radical statement in a world that applauds us for crossing items off our to do lists and nods understandingly at us for our sedentary pastimes, but raises an eyebrow at any other activity that doesn’t fall into either of those two categories.

All in all, a fun and memorable evening that gave me some deeper things to think about than I expected. So now I’m off to test the myth that bodies decompose more slowly because we eat preserved foods. I’ll need two mice. One will eat only preserved foods and the other healthy food. Then, I’ll have to kill them…just kidding! Mice are cute and they scare elephants-really! The Mythbusters told me so.

Note: For those of you who have been following my contest odyssey, I will give you two quick updates:

1. I miscalculated and really did have 12 wins in 2011; I forgot my Avon prize pack for being the second quickest person to complete a word search at my sister-in-law’s bridal shower.


2. This year, I am entering contests on my own and have won two already – a 200K Canucks T-shirt from @VanCanucks and entrance to the premiere of Arctic Air, which sadly I was not able to attend.


International Dance Day – “Taking Your Experience for Mine”

Luck seems to be on my side lately as I have won my fourth prize since I began this blog back in January! I entered to win tickets to the April 29th show of “Taking Your Experience for Mine“, a dance performance that was part of International Dance Day.

I entered this particular contest because I wanted to see my first modern dance performance live. Also, I must confess that I am a terrible dancer and have great admiration for anyone who can use their body expressively, rather than clumsily.

The basis for Taking Your Experience for Mine was described as follows in the program:


“Throughout the creative process I have explored many questions surrounding the relationship between the body and technology. Is there a new language? Is the renegotiation of skill being forced upon our state of being? What will happen if we always connect through a device? If we are always collecting and deflecting information in such an obsessive manner how long before it becomes part of our neural make-up?” (Sara Coffin, choreographer and director)


I think choreographer Sara Coffin effectively presented these questions. I was especially struck by a couple of sequences in the performance. In the first, two dancers move to the music, pausing to photograph their actions and facial expressions. I was reminded of the film Shadow of the Vampire when the fictionalized F. W. Murnau asserts that if something is not on film it does not exist. Also, I have often thought that one can get so wrapped up in photographing an event that the enjoyment of the moment becomes lost in the desire to commemorate it.


The second sequence that struck me was when one performer was watching a series of film clips on a T.V. and was describing what was happening while the other performer tried to dance in response to what she heard. I think technology does manipulate us and we will inevitably struggle to keep up.


All in all, the evening was very enjoyable and thought-provoking. The reception canapes were also delicious. I’m certain that this will be the first of many modern dance performances I will see.

The Talking Stick Festival

Yesterday, I worked for nine and a half hours without a break and on about five hours sleep. When I emerged from the light of the office into the darkness of the night, I felt motivated to do only one thing: collapse. However, I knew I had the opening at the Talking Stick Festival to attend. So, I mustered up enough energy to make my hair presentable and entered The Roundhouse.

I was greeted by ladies with trays of appetizers which included venison sausage on bread and buffalo sliders. As I munched happily away, I looked at the beautiful photography on the wall. The stress of the day started to melt away and by the time I entered the cabaret room and sat at my table I was ready to enjoy and learn from the performances I was about to witness.

I entered to win tickets to the Talking Stick Festival opening because I always enjoy the arts and like to support local talent. However, I also entered because I really wanted to become more knowledgeable about aboriginal culture. The evening’s performances of dance, music, and spoken word were beautiful, enlightening, and powerful. The positive energy in the room and the delight and pride in aboriginal achievement was palpable. The Honourable Steven L. Point and his wife were also in attendance. The lieutenant governor’s words were inspiring and moving as he explained he was there not so much as the Queen’s representative, but as a member of the aboriginal community.

This evening’s tickets were truly a wonderful prize. I won a lot more than tickets to dinner and a show. I won the opportunity to watch and interact with amazing people with incredible talents. As I left and received a cedar paddle on a cord chain, I knew I would always remember what a great evening this had been.