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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

Luminato: opening weekend free events

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Queen Street Celebration - Luminato

This year’s Luminato festival kicks off tomorrow and continues until June 15. Here’s a look at some of the best free, outdoor events happening as part of the festival’s opening weekend celebration.

WHAT: Nikki Yanofsky w/ The Count Basie Orchestra, plus a swing dance lesson
WHEN: Friday, June 6 at 9pm (dance lesson at 8pm)
WHERE: Yonge-Dundas Square

For Luminato’s first six nights, Yonge-Dundas Square is devoted to dancing. Bands performing a wide variety of dance music styles will be preceded by mass dance lessons. A comment on the tired adage that Toronto audiences tend to stand stock-still, perhaps?

Friday is swing night, with a lesson at 8pm and a two-hour set featuring 14-year-old jazz singer Nikki Yanofsky, backed by the Count Basie Orchestra, beginning at 9pm. This will be the first of three performances by Nikki in Toronto this month; she’s also playing a ticketed Luminato show at Massey Hall, and she’s taking part in the Toronto Jazz Festival later in June. The Montréal-born phenom sports and the kind of big voice and broad appeal that Yonge-Dundas Square was built to showcase. She’s sure to go down like gangbusters.

WHAT: Slow Dancing video projections
WHEN: Friday, June 6 ’til Sunday, June 15 at dusk
WHERE: Hoskin Avenue and Tower Road

If you’re looking for the polar opposite of swing dancing, though, head to U of T’s St. George Campus for “Slow Dancing” — massive projections of human movement captured on film in extreme slow motion. This exhibition happens every night of the festival at dusk.

WHAT: Queen Street Celebration
WHEN: Saturday, June 7, beginning at noon
WHERE: OCAD, 100 McCaul Street

One part homecoming and one part history lesson, the Queen Street Celebration is the can’t-miss centrepiece of Luminato’s opening weekend.

The event pays tribute to the music and art scene that sprung up along Queen West and at the Ontario College of Art in the ’80s. Some call this the pinnacle of Toronto’s musical and artisic underground, but regardless of whether or not that’s true, there can be no doubt that the high ranking on the independent culture index that our city currently enjoys could not have happened without the blood and sweat offered up by the people being celebrated here.

Inside OCAD, check out photos and artifacts from the era, along with videos, a panel discussion, and a “closing cabaret” by Andrew J. Paterson.

The lineup slated to perform on a stage near the college includes Mary Margaret O’Hara, The Parachute Club, Johnny & the G-Rays, The “B” Girls, Mojah, Lillian Allen, Micah Barnes and Telmary. Performances begin at 1:30pm.

WHAT: On the One: Luminato Funk Festival
WHEN: Saturday, June 7, beginning at 1pm
WHERE: Nathan Phillips Square

Live funk, all day, in front of City Hall? Awesome. There are more dance lessons, too, and the headliners are Morris Day and The Time and James Brown’s Soul Generals — “the funkiest band in the world” (but don’t tell George Clinton).

WHAT: Silent Dance Party (part of Light on Your Feet)
WHEN: Sat Jun 7/Sun Jun 8, 12am-2am
WHERE: Yonge-Dundas Square

Bring your mp3 player and headphones to Yonge-Dundas Square on Saturday night (or, technically, Sunday morning) and dance silently to a set compiled by DJ AC Slater, with interactive lighting by Gabe Sawhney, Patrick Dinnen and David McCallum. This event is (the coolest) part of the Light on Your Feet program of dance lessons and general movement encouragement happening on the square. To download the entire set, click the link below.
click here [155MB]

Photo of Mary Margaret O’Hara by Nigel Scott



  1. ‘Queen Street Celebration’: a street full of sold-out-to-the-Man bourgeois boomer ex-hipsters (shiver). One good bomb would free up a lot of residential real-estate to the market monopolised by this fully mortgaged crowd.

  2. aidan — Isn’t there a way to critique urban trends without resorting the ad hominem and violent acts you propose? I’d invite you to show up at the event and tell the people performing that yourself, in person. I bet you don’t. Guys (?) like you never say crap like this in person, or using your real name.

  3. Oh I used to, but people who have completely abandoned their youthful values generally don’t want to be reminded of it. Funny.

  4. Perhaps just not reminded of it by anonymous jerks. Happily, people like you are a minority in Toronto.

  5. Aidan,

    Are you clinging to your youthful values by choice or circumstance? Single? No kids? Life goes on.

  6. Youth, singledom, and righteousness are no excuse for such ignorance displayed by Aidan. Replace “hipsters” with any race, ethnicity or religion and Aidan should see the folly of his attitude.

    Just because a group of people like a certain type of art or performance — which you despise — does not mean it has any less value. Suck it up and ignore it if you don’t like it.

  7. Aidan> If you knew anything about the history of Queen Street you would know that the celebration is about the generation that came before the Gap et all when Queen Street was where you had to head if you wanted to find anything different than the mainstream.

    Many of these people, before the internet, and Spacing, were the leaders of alternative community based ideas in the city and remain committed today.

    I suggest you see “Art vs.Art” by VideoCab and the Hummer Sisters at OCAD as a lesson in what community activism looked like when artists were happy just to have access to a video camera let alone what is available today. Or Lorraine “Segato’s QSW: The Rebel Zone” which highlights what a cultural incubator the street was.

    We may not all like what Queen has become but Queen street for a solid 10 years lead the charge in this city from uptight wasp to multi-coloured inclusive.

    Time for you to hit the books, or better yet come out and groove.

  8. It looks like aidan touched a nerve. An actual bomb is a bit extreme – the buildings never hurt anyone – but the boring, pretentious, twee, trite, elitist Queen West pomo bobo scene is fair game for any criticism thrown its way. Comparing that to racism is just ridiculous. And it’s hard to ignore when it’s oozing across the city like an oil spill.

    And yes, the 80s and early 90s were the pinnacle, before the DJs, art directors and Authentic Lofts drove out most of the actual artists and musicians and smackheads. Though I always thought Queen West was pretentious, and more about the party scene than the art.

  9. Okay then: replace “hipster” with “poor” or “disabled.”

    It doesn’t matter what you put in place of it: derision of a certain “kind” of people is the exact same elitism that Aidan seems to loathe.

    Talking about the area being gentrified does not need to be based on a type of person who frequents it. I certainly think Luminato will have is fair share of greybeards who do not fit into the “twee, pomo, bobo” scene. In fact, Luminato is much more of a high-end art festival than something the Queen W crowd is into. Save your Queen West bashing for Nuit Blanche.

  10. Uh …

    Anyway, the swing dance event sounds great.

  11. Twenty years later, the “sold-out-to-the-Man bourgeois boomer ex-hipsters” actually seem rather grandparentally benign; notwithstanding the fact that, as even I quasi-agree, their so-called sellout could have been foretold from the start.

    Indeed, there’s something transcendent about the (inadvertent?) symbiosis between Segatoville on Queen and Morris Day in NPS. As long as they don’t go into 80s overkill by tossing Koodo hucksters into the mix as well…