Dance grad guides Catwoman in movie scene

There’s a scene in the new Catwoman movie where Halle Berry’s feline character has to pounce between colourful aerial dancers performing in a theatre to escape from police. The scene looks like it’s been ripped from one of Cirque du Soleil’s numerous productions, reported Canadian Press in a story printed July 24 in Brantford’s The Expositor. “It looks like Cirque because it’s me,” squealed Debra Brown, the circus troupe’s resident choreographer. The Brantford-born York dance alumna, who guided Berry and the other actors through that particular scene, said the work thrilled her even though the film has been trashed by most movie critics. “I just can’t wait to see my scene. I thought Halle was fantastic,” said Brown. “Everything I saw was fantastic.” Brown, who’s been working for Cirque since 1987, says being on the Montreal set for Catwoman was inspiring. “I loved it. It’s something new that I’m breaking into. Hopefully I’ll do more.”

With two films under her belt in the past year (the other was Van Helsing), Hollywood is the latest conquest for the versatile artist whose skill set includes gymnastics, ballet and jazz dance. Brown was a competitive gymnast for 13 years before quitting at the age of 21. She then studied physical education at the University of Western Ontario in London before moving to Toronto to study fine arts and dance at York University. After graduating with a bachelor of fine arts in 1978, she relocated to Vancouver to perform with an experimental dance group and train gymnasts at Flicka, a gymnastics club where she was able to blend her love of dance and gymnastics.

Rexall Centre shares media spotlight with tennis stars

From July 23 to 26, newspapers and television reports described the new Rexall Centre at York University in glowing terms as it beamed the spotlight upon the 2004 Tennis Masters Canada competition.

When the Tennis Masters Canada tournament gets going at York University, some of the top men’s players in the world will be enjoying the comforts of the spanking new $38-million Rexall Centre and the surrounding six-hectare tennis complex, reported the Toronto Star July 24.

The Winnipeg Free Press said the hard courts at York University’s new Rexall Centre would be inaugurated in style as the world’s best men’s players vie in the Tennis Masters Canada.

CP24-TV’s “Nightside Weekend” reported on family day Sunday at the Rexall Centre and said the new facility will draw nearly as much attention as the matches themselves. Broadcast News reported July 26 that the doors opened for the first time at Toronto’s Rexall Centre, a 12-thousand-500 seat tennis stadium in the north end of the city at York University.

The Star reported July 24 that local youths are already benefiting from the new centre near York. A relationship has already been developed with one school in the area, Driftwood Public School, which used indoor and outdoor courts at the old tournament site at the other end of the campus starting last winter, said the Star. With the opening of the $38-million Rexall Centre, there’s a grassroots push to expose local schoolchildren – many of them from disadvantaged backgrounds – to the sport on a larger scale, even playing regularly at the new, state-of-the-art tennis complex.

Major newspapers across the country carried news that the match between three-time champion Andre Agassi and Germany’s Tommy Haas would be the first round of the US$2.5-million Tennis Masters Canada tournament. Canadian Press reported July 26 that the few hundred fans on hand for Saturday’s draw at the new Rexall Centre at York University let out a cheer when the matchup was announced.

Marsden on Godfrey

York University President and Vice-Chancellor Lorna R. Marsden, who has known John Godfrey for years, points out, “He has an absolutely marvellous sense of humour and doesn’t take himself too seriously. There’s not a pompous bone in his body,” reported The Globe and Mail in a July 24 profile of the new federal minister of infrastructure and communities.

Godfrey, the 61-year-old MP for Don Valley West, is the closest Canada has to a public intellectual, said the Globe. Lanky and professorial (and not to be confused with Paul Godfrey), he spent his career in the media, academe and advanced policy research before jumping into federal politics in 1993 at the age of 49. It’s likely, too, that he will come to be seen as Toronto’s voice around the cabinet table. Regarded by those who’ve worked with him as sincere, inquisitive and keenly attuned to social and cultural issues, Godfrey is a thinking person’s Liberal, said the Globe.

Variable-rate loans are luring home buyers

Variable-rate mortgages are tempting a growing number of Canadians with alluringly low interest rates, some of them below three per cent and promising substantial savings over fixed-rate mortgages, reported Canadian Press in a story printed by the Toronto Sun July 24. The key element of variable-rate borrowing is the link to banks’ prime lending rates, with special discount offers. “Although I’m not sure I’d call it a gamble, it’s certainly speculative,” says Moshe Milevsky, finance specialist at York University’s Schulich School of Business. “You have to realize that taking the smaller number sometimes means that it may become bigger later.”

Goddard reviews shows by York artists 

On July 24, the Toronto Star’s Peter Goddard reviewed two art shows by York University artists.

If you want to get obsessed about anything, there’s no better way to start than by exploring someone else’s obsession, he suggested in a review of York visual arts graduate student Peter Kingstone‘s One A Day at Prefix Institute of Contemporary Art. The show documents an entire year in the life of the emerging Toronto artist. One A Day depicts some pretty revealing personal stuff as you amble about the gallery space, flanked by several walls of photographs and video monitors. “Actually, I’m just being very productive,” Kingstone said. “People say I am obsessed that way. In the last year I’ve made 20 single-channel videos, and put on one installation, where I took over an entire house at 195 Bellwoods Ave. where there were 15 videos in it.” That installation was called The Strange Case of Peter K and was his Master of Fine Arts thesis at York University.

York alumnus Andrew McPhail‘s new show, Plumbing Installation, has to do with the Toronto artist’s penchant “for repeating the same images over the years,” dealer Robert Birch told Goddard. His gallery, now in the Distillery District, has represented McPhail over the years. Birch pointed to McPhail’s piece in the gallery, a collection of wonderfully sweet-tempered colouring book-like representations of the building’s exposed pipe system. Drawn on various square chunks of Mylar, the pipes connect this way and that almost like living things burrowing happily away. You feel, said Goddard, that McPhail would have happily continued the drawings beyond their Mylar squares letting them creep up and down the walls, the way real pipes do. A York University graduate – “I’m 43 but I look younger” – McPhail (BFA ’84, MFA ’87) finds a lot of his artistic get-up in cheapo colouring books found at the corner store, said Goddard.

Rapier Wit teaches the perilous art of stage fighting

At Rapier Wit on Wellington Street in Toronto, actors of all levels come to learn the craft of stage combat, reported the National Post July 24. “Stage combat isn’t safe,” said artistic director Daniel Levinson, who started Rapier Wit after graduating from York University’s theatre program in 1991. “But much like driving a car, we make it an acceptable risk.” Levinson said it’s as important to the actors to execute good theatre as it is to execute one another. Stage combat, he added, “isn’t about the fighting, but about the acting.” Levinson, a fight director who also teaches at Erindale Theatre (a joint U of T-Sheridan College theatre program), says a fight that works requires even highly trained actor-combatants to rehearse at least 10 hours for every minute of stage fighting. Given their modest budgets, many production companies cannot afford to hire a fight director. So Levinson tries to impart his skills to his students.

Ontario PC leadership hopeful visits north

John Tory visited several northern Ontario communities, including Timmins, Sudbury, New Liskeard, Kirkland Lake, Cochrane and North Bay, in a bid for leadership of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party, reported The Daily Press in Timmins July 26. The York law grad has never been an MPP, but has extensive experience in Ontario’s political backrooms, having managed campaigns for Kim Campbell and former Toronto mayor Mel Lastman. During the 1980s, Tory was principal secretary to then premier Bill Davis. The millionaire businessman, who graduated from York’s Osgoode Hall Law School in 1978, has served on boards ranging from cable giant Rogers Cable Inc. to the Toronto Blue Jays Club, reported the Daily Press.

OSAP changes will improve student access

“The changes to OSAP [Ontario Student Assistance Program] will go a long way towards helping a large number of post-secondary students in our community and across Ontario access higher education, many of whom attend Seneca College and York University,” says Ontario Finance Minister Greg Sorbara (BA ’78, LLB ’81) reported the Richmond Hill Liberal July 25. The Vaughan-King-Aurora MPP was referring to the province adding $20.9 million to the Ontario Student Assistance Program, a move that would reduce the required parental contribution amount; revise the definition of “independent student”; introduce a debt-reduction repayment program; extend OSAP to accepted refugees; and waive the 12-month residency rule for immigrants.

On air

  • Martin Shadwick, defense analyst with the York Centre for International & Security Studies, talked about the federal government decision to replace the Sea King helicopters with 28 new Sikorsky helicopters, on CBC Radio’s “The World at Six” July 23.

  • One highlight of the Brott Summer Music Festival is the pairing of the resident orchestra and York University opera students, reported Hamilton’s “CH News” July 25.