Alberta Avenue to host diverse, interdisciplinary shows during SkirtsAfire

After 10 years, the SkirtsAfire Festival has spread to three neighbourhoods: Alberta Avenue, Old Strathcona, and downtown.

A big change is the different venue for theatre performances. Annette Loiselle, artistic director, says, “The league is great, but it’s so much work to build a theatre.”  

Maria Dunn performs at the Women’s Choir Festival at SkirtsAfire in 2018. | Supplied

So it makes sense that theatre programming moved to the Westbury Theatre in the Arts Barns in Old Strathcona. This year’s play, The Blue Hour, is a large production that demands a large theatre space.

Alberta Avenue still has plenty of programming. The festival, which runs from Feb. 27 to March 8, will have two main venues on Alberta Ave: St. Faith’s Anglican Church and the Nina Haggerty Centre for the Arts as well as singer-songwriters in The Carrot Coffeehouse and Otto Food and Drink, plus a belly dance workshop at Bedouin Beats.

The 2018 performance of Women’s Choir Festival in St. Faith’s Anglican Church. | April MacDonald Killins

At St. Faith’s, Songs in the Sanctuary will feature the Women’s Choral Festival as well as Maddie Storvold & the Moonlighters, a folk and alternative country band.

The church will also host dancing and drumming with the Beat of Her Drum. At the event, festivalgoers can enjoy performances from Sangea, a West African group; Warrior Women, an Indigeneous group; and KoRock & Jeon’s TKD Demonstration Team, a Korean group. 

“All will perform together at the end with drumming and possibly dancing,” says Loiselle. 

At the Nina Haggerty Centre for the Arts, four different dance groups will perform during She Moves. Dance fans can look forward to seeing Labanese, Colombian, classical ballet, and dance fitness. The ballet performance Coppéli-AI is a futuristic interpretation of Coppélia

Key of She at The Carrot Coffeehouse in 2018 featuring Marie Fontaine, Donna Durand and Roya Yazdanmehr. | Keanna Hiebert

“Apparently Coppélia is quite misogynistic, but she [the choreographer] turns it on its head,” says Loiselle.

For spoken word performances and music, Words Unzipped will take place at the Nina Haggerty Centre for the Arts. Following the festival’s theme of complicated, the two shows will be curated by Nisha Patel, the City of Edmonton’s Poet Laureate.  

Participants have an opportunity to join a performance with Garba Dance & Workshop. According to the SkirtsAfire website, “Originating from Gujarat, this folk dance celebrates the circle of life and the divine feminine energy. This Indian folk dance involves clapping, twirling, and simple footwork.”

A unique visual art and theatre presentation called the Queer Calendar Project is also taking place. Suspension, written by playwright Hayley Moorhouse, is essentially a radio play that participants can listen to live, on their own iPod, or on a rental device. 

Stephanie Harpe performing in Words Unzipped. | April MacDonald Killins

The visual art gallery will reflect the themes of complicated and suspension. 

“Stephanie Wilson has created a gallery of five artists,” says Loiselle. “People can listen to the play while taking in the visual art installation.”

Another theatre offering will be staged by the Tiger Hearts Collective. This all-female Shakespeare group will perform a play reading and 40-minute adaptation of Troilus and Cressida

Even after all the changes this festival has gone through, Loiselle says, “We hope to stay on Alberta Ave. We want to stay with our Alberta Ave roots.”View the full schedule online at skirtsafire.come and view the schedule for Alberta Ave in the RCP.

Featured Image: Peep Show! play reading of Baleti by Lebogang Disele at last year’s SkirtsAfire. | Gallican Buki