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Arts and Culture Across the Waterfront this Summer

Jun 29, 2017

Irene Cortes, Mary-Dora Bloch Hansen and Zach Olesinski performed this ecstatic dance as part of The Gata: Water Ceremony at Sherbourne Common.

Last summer, arts and culture enlivened Toronto’s waterfront. Irene Cortes, Mary-Dora Bloch Hansen and Zach Olesinski performed this ecstatic dance as part of The Gata: Water Ceremony at Sherbourne Common. (Photo credit: Connie Tsang)

By Christopher McKinnon

As part of our commitment to animating our waterfront parks and public spaces, and reconnecting Torontonians and visitors to the lake, Waterfront Toronto is proud to present another summer of fun and participatory arts and cultural events. 

Today, we announce our first round of events – stay tuned for more announcements as summer unfolds!

This summer’s program of arts and cultural events includes a range of activities for all ages – dance, music, theatre, performance, and community-engaged artwork. Many of the selected programs also take on important themes like building community, placemaking, civic engagement, education, health and wellness, and the environmental.

All events listed below are funded through Waterfront Toronto’s Animating Our Waterfront sponsorship program that facilitates individuals, organizations, collectives and groups who wish to present free arts and cultural programming in selected parks and public spaces in our city’s waterfront neighbourhoods.

All the events are free, open to the public and suitable for all ages.

Tales and Dances Around the Baobab
Lua Shayenne

Poster for Tales of the Baobab

Free interactive performance exploring traditional African dance, drumming and storytelling at Corktown Common. 

Tales & Dances around the Baobab invites you to become a part of a tale with Anansi the Spider and the Mighty Baobab tree as its main protagonists. The Baobab tree otherwise known as “The mother of the Sahel” or “Tree of Life” is steeped in a wealth of mystique and legend in Africa. As the story unravels, you will sing, dance, and make rhythm with Lua Shayenne and percussionists Walter Maclean and Adekoya Adefunmi Clark. The story includes call and response and encourages YOU to fully experience this awesome journey. This is a family friendly event!

Sunday, July 2 from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.
Sunday, July 9 from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.
Sunday, July 16 from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.
Sunday, July 23 from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.


Uke Can Sing 
K Funk & Lady Ree

Image of K Funk and Lady Ree playing ukuleles at Corktown Common.

Free beginner ukulele and singing workshops with Toronto’s infamous “singing ukulele ladies." K Funk and Lady Ree return for their second season outdoors on the central lawn of Corktown Common. (Photo credit: Angela Wong)

Uke Can Sing is a series of free outdoor workshops that gather people in the park and teach them how to sing and play the ukulele. Led by K Funk and Lady Ree – the infamous singing ukulele ladies of the TTC Subway Musicians program – Kristin Fung (K Funk) and Sheree Spencer (Lady Ree) are both professional musicians, performing artists, certified teachers in Toronto with more than ten years of fun music-making experience. By the end of each 90-minute workshop, absolute beginners will have learned how to play and sing a full song on the ukulele. 

Up to 30 ukuleles are available for loan to participants free of charge for use during the workshop. 

Wednesday, July 26 from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Wednesday, August 9 from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Wednesday, August 16 from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Wednesday, August 30 from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.


Voguing for Vitality
Robert Halley

Image of two leads for Voguing for Vitality.

Free community workshops inspired by the Ballroom culture of Voguing, combined with Yoga Postures and self-affirming written and vocal exercises to build confidence and creative self-loving expression at Underpass Park.

Voguing for Vitality is a series of public, participatory workshops that harness the power of Voguing to help participants find their own meaningful and purposeful existence. Come uplift yourself and remember that Vitality is your Birthright!

Drawing on the rich tradition of Voguing – established in the 1980s through the Harlem Ballroom Scene by Black & Latin queer communities – workshops will draw on this freestyle form that uniquely fuses modelling, theatre, and dance. Lead artist Robert Halley will be joined by guest artists to guide participants through a celebration of the many facets of life and human diversity, perfect for the cosmopolitan array of people in Toronto. Fuelled by our heart’s imagination, participants will explore musical rhythm, aerobic warm up, fun character acting role-play, modelling, poise, eye-contact, strutting the catwalk (with a rack of clothing and props to choose from) and geometric arm coordination patterns (think human Tetris).  

Halley’s unique background as a professional dancer and certified yoga teacher and health coach takes the class “beyond the sass” to incorporate exercises that are structured and guided to empower confidence, explore self-expression, and surrender to gracious self-love. Yoga asana ‘power posturing’ and ‘positive affirmation vocal scripting’ will help reinforce positive, confident feelings about who you authentically are or want to be.

Friday, July 28 from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. 
Friday, August 4 from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. 
Friday, August 11 from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. 
Friday, August 18 from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. 
Friday, August 25 from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.


Ol’ Time Carnival: The Story Must Be Told!
Cajuca Mas Arts Producers

Image of costumes at Ol' Time Carnival.
A live showcase celebrating and retelling the story of Caribbean Carnival at Sherbourne Common Pavilion.

In honour of the 50th anniversary of Toronto’s Caribbean Carnival celebrations, the award-winning Cajuca Mas Arts Producers will present their special 2017 project Ol’ Time Carnival: The Story Must Be Told. Costumed performers, live narration, drumming and Calypso will tell the story of the African origins of Carnival, with traditional characters like Soucyant, Jab Molassies, Moko Jumbies, Dame Lorraines, and more. Come join us to celebrate Carnival and the important history that has brought this unique celebration forward, from slavery to the streets and stadiums of cities around the world! Come Dingolay with us!

Saturday, August 12 from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.


Underpass Block Party 
Parks N’ Wreck

Image of people dancing at Block Party.
A day-long block party celebrating street culture and social dance at Underpass Park.

Collective of independent artists Parks N’ Wreck will transform Toronto’ Underpass Park into a day-long block party featuring dance battles, cyphers, live music, showcases and social dance – all in celebration of the city’s vibrant House dance culture. Modern street dance culture is inclusive and diverse, bridging individuals across generational, gender, socio-economic, and ethno-cultural divides. Dancers of all stripes will “rep” their cultural backgrounds, hometowns, and lived experiences and exchange their artistic prowess through movement. Underpass Block Party will showcase the positive aspects of street dance culture – helping to demystify this culture that is often misrepresented in popular media – by celebrating the artistry that exists in Toronto, and promoting physical, emotional, environmental, and community well-being.

Details coming soon… Check our Facebook page for updates.


Listening Choir
Adam Kinner & Christopher Willes

A group of people participating in Listening Choir tour.
A group of people walk without speaking for an hour. Together they form a kind of silent choir, listening as they walk, their movements becoming songs. They hear loud things, and unheard things, what’s been drowned out or quieted; the endless refrain of a city.

Listening Choir is a project that takes participants on listening walks in public spaces. Join artists Christopher Willes and Adam Kinner for an audio tour in the West Don Lands that considers how sounds intersect the histories, policies, and affects embedded within city spaces.

Throughout the walk each participant carries a small cardboard loudspeaker, which plays localized sounds along the way. These sounds are choreographed (listened to) in various ways throughout the walk, evoking the immediate past, the sonic dislocation of objects and voices onto others, and the folding of histories and places on top of one another. Agreeing to drift without speaking, audiences are led into an encounter with a continually fractured soundscape that reflects on notions of public space, citizenship, and how a city changes. 

Thursday, September 14 from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. 
Saturday, September 16 from 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. 
Saturday, September 16 from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. 
Sunday, September 17 from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. 

A project by Christopher Willes and Adam Kinner, with print designed with Jeremy McCormick. Supported by Videofag. Photography by Dahlia Katz.

post contributor

  • Christopher McKinnon

    Christopher McKinnon was previously a communications and public engagement Manager at Waterfront Toronto. He’s passionate about art, cycling in the city, public transit and building really amazing parks.