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PuSh Festival 2024: Our Picks of the Fest

Vancouver’s leading performing arts festival is providing theatregoers with some of the most experimental and thought-provoking shows of the season. 

by Ben Boddez

Bringing 18 shows spanning across theatre, dance, music, circus, performance art and everything in between, Vancouver’s PuSh Festival has been known to liven up the winter months with content that stretches the boundaries of theatrical forms – as well as the imaginations of the audience. 

Described on their homepage as presenting “edgy, controversial explorations of the new frontiers of performance in the blended arts,” PuSh Festival’s slate this year is themed around social change. One production in particular being choreographer and dancer Rakesh Sukesh’s because i love the diversity (this micro-attitude, we all have it), wherein he tells the story of his own journey through a powerful semi-improvisational, trance-like movement.

Running January 18 to February 4 on various stages all over the city, tickets can be purchased online here. But before you decide on the performances that you’ll let blow your mind this year, let RANGE offer some of our picks of the fest. 

DECIPHERS (Jan 26-28 at Scotiabank Dance Centre)

A collaboration between dancers Naishi Wang and Jean Abreu, Deciphers is a two-man dance performance interested in language barriers – something that can be overcome through the universal language of dance. Blending cultural aspects of the two performers including Chinese folk dance and Brazilian dance styles, the performance also includes aspects of spoken word and inked paper. As the two dancers come together and interact on stage, they begin to perform the act of deciphering each other. TICKETS 


THE SHADOW WHOSE PREY THE HUNTER BECOMES (Online and Feb 1-3 at The Cultch’s York Theatre)

Presented by Australia’s Back to Back Theatre and directed by Bruce Gladwin, this witty and political play has already been receiving accolades around the globe since its 2019 debut. Presented through the lens of the meeting of a town hall, discussions of human rights, sexual politics, disability advocacy and the looming rise of artificial intelligence all pass through the itinerary. The question at the centre of the piece asks how decisions are made that best benefit all members of society.  TICKETS 


PLI (Feb 2-3 at Vancouver Playhouse)

Mixing together the worlds of circus, dance and performative sculpture, French production company Les Nouvelles Subsistances’ Pli has been praised for its visual presentation style: a shifting, changing set constructed entirely out of paper, which the circus performers at the centre of the show move through, telling a story of transformation, strength and vulnerability. With some impressively elaborate set pieces that send complex paper structures skyward, undulating in waves or strewn wildly through the air, it’s not to be missed. TICKETS 


DARKMATTER (Jan 29-31 at SFU Goldcorp Centre for the Arts)

From the mind of Dutch dance experimentalist Cherish Menzo, DARKMATTER finds her at the intersection of astronomical science, discussions of body image and chopped and screwed hip-hop. Featuring rap choirs which are interspersed into the performance, the performers use the stretching tempos of the Houston rap style to “stretch the notions of time,” contemplating black holes and dark matter through an afrofuturistic lens at the same time. First and foremost, the show wants to eradicate personal biases of how they perceive their own bodies and their relation to the world. TICKETS


RAMANENJANA (Online and Jan 19-21 at Scotiabank Dance Centre)

From Tangaj Collective and choreographers Simona Deaconescu and Gaby Saranouffi, who was born in Madagascar and brings her personal experience documenting the history of dance in her nation to the piece, Ramanenjana is termed as a docufiction performance, blending dance and theatre, about colonial misconceptions about a so-called “dance fever” or “dance epidemic,” taking place in Madagascar in 1863. As thousands beat drums and danced in the nation’s capital for weeks on end, this show brings to light the role of dance in society and the historic performance’s roots in sacred ritual. TICKETS 

The PuSh Festival runs January 18 to February 4. Tickets and more information can be found online here.