Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Mayor Sam Needs Your Help!..actually, not your's

A couple of headlines caught my interest in the local papers today, "High Profile Katz Boosters", in the Winnipeg Sun and "Mayor gets Celebrity Help" in the Free Press. In case you can't link to these articles, Mayor Sam Katz announced that Canadian champion curler Jennifer Jones and Grammy Award nominated hip hop artist Fresh IE will be his honorary campaign co-chairs for his upcoming re-election bid this fall. Katz said their roles will be largely "ceremonial" and that he will rely on them for advice and they will accompany him to campaign events along with having their names and photos on campaign promotions.

I know politicians love having the endorsement and support of athletes, celebrities and musicians, but naming them as "honorary" campaign chairs reeks of a desperate cry for attention. Let's see we have Fresh IE, a multi-racial christian hip hop artist whose life sunk deep into substance abuse and crime before it was turned around by finding god and creating music. A perfect role model for the less-advantaged demographic that Katz would like us to think he cared about.

Then we have Jones a very good looking blonde champion athlete who combines amateur (pro?) sport with her professional career in the Law field. Wow! what young voter wouldn't aspire to those lofty goals she set for herself? Hey, if they support Sammie, he must be the man for ALL of the people! Other possible recruits to the Katz celebrity party.... How about a former Jet, everyone loved the Jets, how about Thomas Steen? He has had some ties with Salisbury House, another Katz associated business and how about Mr. Sals himself Burton Cummings, he's always looking for publicity. Hey, didn't Katz give the key to the city to Brad Pitt? Wait, actually I think that was Shannon Doherty. Is this transparent attempt to be popular by association necessary? Judging by his competition this election, one wonders if he really needs to say or do anything at all. We have journalist activist Kaj Hassalriis, who I've never heard of before and 62 year old Ron Pollock, who is best known as former mayoral candidate/trash-ebrity Natalie Pollock's creepy brother. I've never been a Katz fan, he seems like the wimpy kid that got his ass kicked in Jr. High, who seeks personal vengeance by being a bully businessman and his most gratifying revenge of all, the Mayor of the town.

I'm sure Sam has good intentions and just wants to add some interest to this lame upcoming civic election. I suppose it could be worse, Natalie Pollock still has time to name her candidacy for Mayor, right?

Saturday, August 26, 2006

A Final Word- Folklorama '06

It's been a week since Folklorama finished and a full two weeks since the Japanese Pavilion wrapped up. Though my memory is cloudy about the details of the week of August 6th to 13th, so I'll try to summarize the week from an entertainment point of view...well, as briefly as possible.

The week was highlighted by many fabulous performances, all from local performers. Hinode Taiko ,which was founded in 1981 has been the cornerstone of the Pavilion's main stage show. I'm not sure how many years they have performed at Folklorama, but it's been a long time since they didn't. They played 3 shows a night for all 7 days, and in each show they opened and closed the show, as well as a collaborative piece with Martial Arts and the entire entertainment cast for finale number, Ejanaika.

Special thanks to our hard working Adult Ambassador's Megan and Stacy and the Youth Ambassador Alex. They were kept busy every night greeting our visitor's to the Pavilion as well as touring other Ambassadors' and the many many tour buses. As well as their Ambassador duties, the girls also danced 3 or 4 nights each and their tireless enthusiasm was evident in how they proudly presented themselves as the Pavilion representatives.

As I mentioned throughout the week, a pleasant surprise this year was the performance of our singers, Shayna and Brent. With little experience in the Japanese language, they both learned the Japanese lyrics and songs with very little preparation time. Keep an eye out for upcoming performances by both singers, as it would be interesting to hear them perform some of their other songs.

The Aurora and Kaede Dance groups split the week, adding much colour and flair to the stage show. It might be interesting to have members of both groups perform on the same nights, it would add some variety for the visitor's that attend only one night. Thanks to both Lucy (Aurora) and Carol (Kaede) for preparing the groups with a few new pieces this year.

The Martial Arts portion of the show went well, as members of Kendo and Judo presented action packed fighting to the heart thumping beats of Hinode Taiko. Due to scheduling conflicts there wasn't as many performances as originally planned. To fill in, Sumi, Shig and Mitsuko performed a spirited dance with Taiko.

I didn't have a chance to visit many other Pavilion's during the second week of Folklorama, but I did check out the Krakow-Poland Pavilion and met Adult Ambassador Jesika Nagamori. Jesika who is also part of our Japanese-Canadian community, performed at their Pavilion as part of their Polish Dance group. I know when she visited the Japanese pavilion she was greeted by many family friends and was made to feel right at home.

All in all the week was without any major problems. Throughout the week there was talk about what may or may not happen next year. Rumors of no Pavilion and the possibility of Hinode's absence were all based on assumptions and jumping to conclusions, obviously the Folklorama committee has lots to discuss before any plans for next year are finalized. The new venue seemed to have many advantages such as air conditioning and food/entertainment in one room. The display and cultural display room always seemed busy and having them all in one larger room (jr. gym) guaranteed more visitors. The gym never seemed uncomfortably crowded nor did the ambiance seem unattractive and I never heard any negative comments from any of the visitors. The gym will never compare to the theatre at Tec Voc for sound or lighting quality, but Folklorama is more than the show and the overall package, food, show and comfort must be considered.

Special thanks to my Entertainment co-coordinator Sumi! Without her the show wouldn't have run as smoothly as it did and her enthusiasm kept me interested and committed to produce a quality show. I would be interested in doing this again, only if I was able to work again with Sumi. Hope to you see next year!

Monday, August 14, 2006

A Look Of Pain Or Pleasure?

Is the look on Pavilion Co-ordinator David Murata's face describing how he felt during the week of Folklorama? Is he having a good time or is he in a great deal of pain? Actually, it was the audience that was in pain, enduring his stinging rendition of "Just the Way You Are", that sap dripping song by Billy Joel. Yes, he is partaking in the fine tradition of song butchering, also known as Karaoke.

The highlight of the Volunteer Appreciation party on the last night of Folklorama is fast becoming the Karaoke party, which gives everyone an opportunity to show why they are NOT part of the main stage show. It's quite entertaining actually, seeing grown adults living out their rock'n'roll fantasy on stage, complete with lights and big sound. You know people are enjoying themselves when they don't need an over indulgence of alcohol to get up the courage to sing. I know with me it helps cause I never made it up on stage til well after most people left, I guess 2am is kind of late. To be honest some singers were really good, the duets were the best, but the larger groups were often hard to bear mainly because only one or two people had mics and everyone couldn't see the TV screen with the lyrics.

To compliment the entertainment, our cook Sergio (who did an excellent job all week in the Volunteer room keeping the troops fed all week!), served up some tasty treats highlighted by a large portion of roast Pig. It was nice way to wind down this stressful, yet strangely enjoyable week full of non-stop excitement, well maybe for some.

Big Finish!

Saturday night marked the end of week one of Folklorama. The Japanese Pavilion closed the week with spectacular crowds and another tremendous stage show. With the long hours and many personal sacrifices volunteers endured, the hard work paid dividends as the Pavilion was another overwhelming success!

Hinode Taiko completed the final show of the evening with an arousing display of intensity despite performing every show, every night this year, as well as past years.

Judo featured 2 pairs of combatants, and kept the crowd guessing on whether they would end up on the hard floor in front of the stage. Many of the flips and bodyslams convinced the guests seated up front, that this wasn't fake.

Shayna sang beautifully again and the Aurora Dancers were as stunning as ever. All good shows should have colourful visuals (Aurora/Kaede Dancers), sweet music (Shayna/Brent), violence (Judo/Kendo) and sounds you feel thumping in your chest (Taiko). With closing and opening night M.C. duties, Keiko Saito-Hanssen did a graceful job provided much background to the pieces performed and some facts about the Winnipeg Japanese-Canadian community.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Dancing the Week Away.

It's Friday night, and it's time to come to Folklorama! This was especially true at the Japanese Pavilion as the crowds finally came in full force. The 8:15 show (second show of the night) was probably the largest crowd of the week! The stands were full, all the seats at the tables were taken and there was only standing room in the back. The first show was also well attended and the last show (9:45) had the largest audience of the late shows. If only the Pavilion was open next week as well, as the second week traditionally draws bigger crowds. As far as next year goes, I'm not sure what the plan is for next year, I'll ask around and see what I can dig up.

The Aurora Dance Group performed a variety of numbers as they were split into two groups. Sumi and Mitsuko combined impeccably together for a dance, without Shig, on the combined piece with Taiko as well as a visually beautiful dance with pink flappy ribbons, that had camera's a' flashin'. Wow!! The rest of Aurora swept gracefully through a scarf dance that captured the quiet elegance of Odori dance.

Shayna seems to get better every night, if that's possible. I listened carefully tonight and I'm blown away of how she can hold a note. She sings so effortlessly and with 12 performances for the week after tomorrow, I'd have to say she's mastered the song. Shayna will have a chance to perform this Japanese song again at the MJCCA Gala on September 30th and possibly Nikkei Heritage Day, September 24th. Check this blog for more updates.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Flipping Fantastic!

Day 5 featured a first and a few lasts for the week. Judo made it's first appearance of the week filling the slot occupied by Kendo and Dance, performing along side Hinode Taiko. Much like Kendo the previous night, Judo was a one on one sparring, exchanging flips and manoevers to the battle beats of Taiko. The two fighters are members of the University of Manitoba Judo Club, under the guidance of Wayne Yamashita and David Oye.

Thursday was the last night to see the Kaede Dancers as the Aurora Dancers round out the week on Friday and Saturday. Brent Hirose also performed for the last time for Folklorama this year. His outstanding vocal talents were greatly appreciated this year and he was such a trooper to take on learning a song in Japanese over just a few days. Look for Brent to perform more songs at the MJCCC Gala dinner at the end of September as well as possibly participating (acting, music or art?) in the Nikkei Heritage Day show on September 24th.

Art Miki emceed for the second time, I honestly can't remember the last year he wasn't a MC during Folklorama. His experience is priceless and with his knowledge of the J.C. community, it is always a comfort when he is on stage.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Only Three More Days to Go!

We are now past "Hump Day", the midway point, so I'm sure the rest of the week will fly by quickly. Wednesday night's 6:45 show was packed, a capacity crowd of well over 500 people, witnessed another fine show from the Japanese Pavilion.

The early show was similar to last night's, with the exception of Shayna Paulicelli singing instead of Brent. Shayna once again sang beautifully, as she captivated the audience with her flawless performance (I should find out the name of the song). The lovely Connie Tamoto from Global Television was the Master of Ceremonies and she moved the festivities along very smoothly with her usual professionalism. Birthday wishes went out to 50-something Shig Saito, who has to be one of the fittest guys his age I know. In celebration he performed with Hinode for all 3 shows, but left Sumi and Mitch to fend for themselves on their combined piece with Taiko.

During second and third shows of the evening, the Manitoba Kendo Club performed a demonstration to the sounds of Hinode Taiko and their song "Odaiko". The Taiko drums provide a drama building soundtrack as the piece integrates the music and movements well together, especially the sparring between the two armored combatants. More Martial Arts tomorrow, Judo!

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Hot On The Outside, Cool On The Inside

Yes, it was another 30+ degree day in Winnipeg, but you wouldn't know it inside of Sisler High. The air conditioning kept the Gym cool, but the entertainment continued to heat up with one major change to the line-up, the Kaede Dancers. It's the 18 and under dance group led by Carol Matsumoto, and they performed 2 pieces a show. They will continue to do so until Thursday, as the Aurora Dancers return Friday. Kaede's dances are a visual treat, bright pink Kimonos, fans, cherry blossom branches, umbrellas and little cute kids, what more can you want?

Brent Hirose returned for his second night and turned in another stellar performance. Mitsuko Miyamoto kept things rolling with her easy going M.C. stylings as well performing in that high energy dance again with Shig and Sumi.

Opening and rounding out every performance during the week is Hinode Taiko. During their last piece during the last show, a lady in front floor centre unleashed a series of extra bright flashes from her camera. She was warned about the possible hazard it can pose to the Taiko performers, as that piece involves a succession of spins and well timed manuovers involving the whole group on stage. It's one thing to take one or two flash photos (I'm as guility as anyone), but to unleash a rapid fire flash is rude and dangerous. Later in the week I'll write a more in depth piece on Hinode and their legendary status as the Japanese Pavilion's "house band".

Sushi For Breakfast

This week on Breakfast Television (CITY-TV) the show highlights one Folklorama Pavilion per show, Tuesday's theme was Japan . Adrienne Silver did her on-site piece at the Children's Museum attempting to make and fly a "Japanese"-type kite. Her giddy, obviously caffeine fueled personally fits in perfectly with the Children's Museum, possibly a future job opportunity if her CITY-TV gig disappears.

Junior Ambassador, Alex Miki was in studio with resident funny man host Jon Ljungberg demonstrating Origami. Sending a 13 year old kid alone to a television show without any instruction or preparation is kind of irresponsible on behalf of the Folklorama organizers, but it may have been out of their control. Why are we the only Pavilion with only 3 Ambassadors, instead of the standard 4? You'd think that we would have known better from last year's experience with only Brian Kawakami and Alex Allen as our lone representatives. Alex presented herself very well despite finding out minutes before being on camera that she would have to do a live Origami demonstration.

Outside the studio, Mitsuko Miyamoto spoke to Ljungberg during a Kendo demonstration. She too was given short notice she would be doing this early morning TV spot, but she spoke smoothly and informatively. Full marks to Ljungberg for both interviews as he seems to allow his guests to feel comfortable on camera. He's done other spots for the Japanese Pavilion and Asian Heritage Month, and he seems to have a genuine interest in Japanese culture.

Beer Drinking Dancer Tells All!

What she said can only be seen by Shaw Cable subscribers, unfortunately for me I'm paying the big bucks to MTS TV and forced to watch Jim Ingebrigtsen programming his VCR, on continuous loop ...damn! Actually Shaw TV's Tracy Koga dropped by the Japanese Pavilion, herself dressed in Kimono, to capture the sights and sounds of Folklorama. She spoke to a numerous volunteers including performer/Entertainment co-chair Sumi Saito. As a member of the Aurora Dance Group, Sumi for the second straight night, appeared in three different dances per show ( 3 shows a night!) as well as the show finale, "Ejanaika", which includes all the performers of that show. The tireless Saito credits good beer and great genes as dad Shig performs double duty, with a dance on 5 nights (see yesterday's post) and as a member of Hinode Taiko who perform every show this week.

The Japanese-Canadian community in Winnipeg is blessed to have so many talented performers and singers, tonight the Asian Idol winner from last year Shayna Paulicelli had the audience mesmerized with her soft, delicate, yet powerful voice. She has been involved in musical theatre for the past 7 years and that is very evident in her stage presence, connecting with the audience with her facial expressions and body movements, she's quite cute as well, so that helps. Personally I would like to hear more from Shayna, perhaps in english and maybe a little more upbeat. She is performing in a musical in February '07, try to see her perform, as I think she has lots of potential.

All in all another fine night, not to full capacity yet, but the crowds should grow as the week rolls along.

Monday, August 07, 2006

One Down, Six To Go

Folklorama day one is over and it went off pretty much without a hitch. The venue, Sisler High School seems to have many advantages to Tec Voc, the biggest difference being air conditioning. Granted it wasn't exactly scorching or the high humidity it was a week ago, but it was cool, comfortable and I'm sure it will stay that way the rest of the week. The other major advantage is the fact you can eat, drink and enjoy the show all in one room. I know when I visit a Pavilion I find when the food and entertainment are in two different rooms, it always feels rushed and frenzied. You have to find somewhere to sit twice and particularly at the first show (6:45), the food lines are endless.

Despite the uncertainty of the Entertainment schedule, the main stage show went surprisingly smooth. It especially helps having Chris our sound and lighting guy for his 4th year, because he knows how the show flows and he knows the performers and their pieces. The show itself always seems to revolve around Hinode Taiko, which in some ways may be why certain people attend this Pavilion. I personally enjoy the dance groups, tonight the Aurora dance group performed two pieces while "the man-dance" with Shig Saito (also a member of Hinode) along with Sumi and Mitch (of Aurora), did a collaborative number with Taiko. This was a new piece that worked beautifully as the music and Taiko's beat complimented each other quite well.

Another pleasant surprise was singer Brent Hirose's strong vocal stylings who seemed to hit all the right notes. Once he abandons his Japanese lyric cheat sheet, I'm sure his confidence will soar and will allow him to showcase his full potential. The multi-talented Hirose is coming off performing at the Winnipeg Fringe Festival in no less than 3 plays, his one-man play, "Jesus Christ, I'm Sorry" was a best of Fringe Play.

It's a long week, so it's no reason to celebrate yet, in the upcoming days I will try to profile more of the performers at the Japanese Pavilion for Folklorama.