PuSh Festival Review: Some Hope For the Bastards


Photos courtesy of Stephane Najman

The PuSh International Performing Arts Festival has occurred annually in Vancouver for the last 14 years, celebrating theatre, dance, music, film, and multimedia arts. This year’s Main Stage shows feature the works of groundbreaking artists from around the world, and to kick it off on January 16th, was Some Hope For the Bastards, a music-dance hybrid show from Montréal’s Frédérick Gravel.

The production married the experiences of being at a live rock concert to being in someone’s living room for a party with friends, all to make you acutely aware of how music can shape our moods, actions, and communication. This show highlighted how art can invoke a multitude of reactions in any individual, and how different people can experience the same piece of art in such diverse ways.

The production married the experiences of being at a live rock concert to being in someone’s living room for a party with friends

As the audience filtered in, the nine performers dressed in plainclothes mingled slowly about the sparse stage and into the audience. The set included only a few chairs, and a small platform upstage for the band to play on. At once, the audience were included in the gathering. All that could be heard was a low electric bass line, quiet at first, then growing into a louder sonic hum.

Photos courtesy of Stephane Najman

As the noise in the Queen Elizabeth Theatre increased in intensity, the dancers began the organized chaos –that is, how the human body responds to the power of music. The house lights were still on when the dancers began to pulse, together, but in their own ways, moving to the rhythm of the electric beat slowly around the stage. As the audience was still illuminated and sharing the space with the performers, a sense of intimacy was created, and a sense of deeply intriguing discomfort. 

a sense of intimacy was created, and a sense of deeply intriguing discomfort

After watching the dancers convulse on the stage to each beat for some time, the music went down and the 3 members of the live band came out, one of whom is Frédérick Gravel, Director and Creator of the show.

Continuing to break the fourth wall, Frederick addressed the full house directly, saying: “There’s a lot of work to put into a show, so it’s nice when people come.” He went on to muse about art itself, saying that we as the audience were free to leave when we’d had enough or feel uncomfortable, as art should be consensual. He then said that the show will be starting once again, and we can choose which beginning we liked more as an audience, making the audience chuckle, and feel more at ease.

The music started up again and the bass picked up more and more over classical string melodies. Watching the performers felt much like people-watching different personalities at a party, and being able to see what gives each one of them pleasure.

Photos courtesy of Stephane NajmanThroughout the show the music explored different genres, all prompting different dance styles from the performers. The performers would leave the stage, come back, change clothes, watch each other, watch the band, rest, and dance with one another. The choreography was thoughtful and powerful, with the uniting feature of the pulsing in unison of all the performers. As the rhythm climaxed, so did the dancers, yet each performer reacted to the music in slightly different ways.

We all just experienced what it means to be alive in a new way

The conclusion of the show was a big thrashing finale as the band and the dancers threw themselves around the space. The audience had nothing to do by the end except rise to their feet and give a standing ovation, simply because it felt like we were clapping for everyone in the entire theatre. We all just experienced what it means to be alive in a new way. We could thank Frédérick Gravel for letting us inside his beautiful mind, and for indeed giving us some hope, at least for the future of Canadian dance.

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