Rap, rock, dancing and drumming —Games cultural festival line up announced

Canada Winter Games sports tend to have the letter ‘S’ in their names — take skiing, skating, squash and synchronized swimming, for…

Canada Winter Games sports tend to have the letter ‘S’ in their names — take skiing, skating, squash and synchronized swimming, for example.

Meanwhile, the Games cultural festival, which will be held in conjunction with the sporting events, will be chock full of vitamin ‘B,’ as in big-name Canadian bands.

More than 50 names have already confirmed to attend including East Coast rapper Buck 65, Canadian super group Blackie and the Rodeo Kings, and world music phenomenon Boris Sichon.

And Yukon-born Stephen Kozmeniuk’s internationally renowned band BOY is coming back to Whitehorse for its first big show, said Games cultural festival artistic director Eric Epstein on Tuesday.

From the ranks of local performers there’s Barbara Chamberlain with Yukon Women in Music. Kim Barlow will release her new CD, Champ. Breakdance Yukon will be strutting its stuff on stage.

And the Northern Ballet Company will exchange slippers for boots, and don parkas instead of tutus for its eclectic performance.

Epstein gave reporters a sneak peek at the festival lineup during the official opening ceremony of the Games’ cultural venue, ATCO Place, on the Whitehorse waterfront.

“The first thing we decided is that the Canada Winter Games 2007 was going to have the biggest kick-ass cultural festival that has ever been done,” said cultural festival co-chair Michele Emslie.

“We think this festival will set a precedent for all other Games that follow in its size and in our vision.”

In between the opening and closing ceremonies, the ATCO tent will serve as a venue for the seven-day cultural festival running from February 28 to March 6.

“We’re the only venue downtown and we want this to be the place where people come whether its locals or visiting athletes or officials, whoever,” said Epstein.

At the entrance, there will be sculptures by local snow carvers and stone carvers from the Northwest Territories and Nunavut.

“You’ll enter the venue into a huge visual arts workshop gallery studio, you’ll meet the artists, you’ll be able to see their work, you’ll be able to buy their work,” explained Epstein.

There will be two interactive art installations, and a group creating Old Man Winter out of willow.

At the far side there will be a main stage with performances running on and off from noon to 10 p.m., and there will be another side stage for smaller, more-intimate performances.

“During the Canada Winter Games, the heartbeat of the North will resound across this country,” said Emslie.

And the cultural festival will become the heartbeat of the Games, she added.

Epstein is still waiting for some performers to confirm, but he already has an arm-long list of musicians and groups from the Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut in the line-up

There are the Arctic Bay Throat Singers from Nunavut, Serena Ryder from Ontario, Kate Weekes, Raw Element, Soir de Semaine, Haines Junction’s Dakwakada Dance Group, the Kwanlin Dun youth drummers, Nunavut’s Tanya Tagaq and dozens more performers.

“There’s a lot going on,” said Epstein, almost breathless from reciting the long list.

“And it’s all free,” he added.