Jae Sterling and Contra Wrap Their TD Amplify Residency With a Red Hot Finale 

Through the Fire: This Cabaret Can Save Your Life utilizes modern cabaret as a canvas for unique collaboration.

by Christine Leonard

Through the Fire: This Cabaret Can Save Your Life revolves around five artists who will combine their master talents on stage for an interdisciplinary showcase fit for a queen. Or, in this case, a king in Calgary drag performer DeVery Bess, who joins a talented group of individuals lighting things up for the final instalment of the TD Amplify Cabaret series this season at Arts Commons Presents.

The evening has been curated by Jae Sterling and Contra (of Cartel Madras), two active members of the city’s underground arts community and inaugural Fellows of the TD Incubator program from Arts Commons. Using their connections in the arts community and proven street savvy they chose artists who would work well together based on their applications to create a spark on stage.

Thanks to the innovative series which highlights voices of Calgary artists from equity-seeking communities and artists who move between performance and visual art, DeVery Bess will join dancer and multimedia artist Rufi Oswaldo, experimental R&B musician and filmmaker Natalie Chai, Mexico-born Flamenco dancer Silvia Temis, and visual artist Bryan Faubert of Studio 34. Faubert will frame the evening’s vivid vignettes with his usual flare for generating unconventional eye-candy. You can take in his latest residency in the form of the decommissioned YYC LRT car/artspace that’s currently on display outside Loophole Coffee Bar in Calgary’s Downtown West.

“It’s quite eclectic with a variety of disciplines tumbling on and across each other in very interesting ways,” Oswaldo tells RANGE. “From my perspective, the work I’m doing is very personal and it’s coming from a very near and dear place to a stage filled with artists who are pushing the limits in their own crafts. It’s really exciting. A lot of the material I present is queer-themed and I’m happy to present these with a drag king. As a movement artist I’m also interested in seeing how my pieces relate to Natalie as a musician and Silvia as a Flamenco dance artist — there are going to be some fascinating intersections.” 

Celebrated for his innovative work as artistic director of Dancers Studio West and his commitment to championing inclusion of the LGBTQ+ community, Oswaldo (who is also PhD candidate in Performance Studies at York University) looks forward to stirring up sparks when he takes a leap through the flames with his dynamic troupe of fellow creatives.

“Contemporary dance has a reputation for being abstract and out there, but I’m excited to put my fun and personal spin on it while making it accessible in a thoughtful way. The pieces really come together to create a magical moment where it’s entertaining but also thought provoking.”

Soak up the sights and sounds of a cabaret that could save your life and keep your ear to the ground for the next wave of announcements of the 2022-23 TD Incubator Fellows at artscommons.ca/incubator.

Through the Fire: This Cabaret Can Save Your Life lights up on Saturday, June 4 at 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. in the Engineered Air Theatre at Arts Commons Presents. For more information, visit artscommons.ca/fire

By Ben Boddez

Musical director Veda Hille looks back on 10 years of the East Van Panto and what keeps audiences so devoted.