Last weekend I got a little literary on myself, and before I went to work on Saturday, I walked down to Hart House and went to the Stories That Bind Festival, a free event celebrating multicultural writing, dancing, and performance art.
I got there in time to hear Priscila Uppal, and Dae Tong Huh read some of their fiction and poetry, and to hear Al Moritz read a short story. It was refreshing to sit down amidst a crowd of people and listen to the authors read, but to not have to jot down notes at top speed. A bit like being read bedtime stories as a kid: totally recreational, and all you need to do is sit, relax, and ingest.
It’s been a long time since I’ve gone to a literary reading, and it sort of reminded me of Trampoline Hall, a monthly event held both in Toronto and New York where non-professionals give speeches about specific topics. Some past speeches that I’ve seen included topics like War Craft, Amazonian Exploration Mishaps, and Fungus. They’re a real lark, and surprisingly informative too.
Between the readings at Stories That Bind, several groups of dancers of all ages performed a number of colourful Korean Ham Mam dances. One of the dances involved about a dozen girls, whose dresses were adorned with sleeves that flowed down in streams of silk to about the bottom of their dresses, instead of ending at the wrist. When any one of them moved their arms, the sleeves replicated colourful wings or flags, flowing around the dancer. It made quiet the impression when they all moved in syncronocity. In another set the young dancers, all in layers of dyed silks, drummed along with the music while dancing around.
The event that got the most attention was a magic show put on by Jason McConnie. A lively crowd of both kids and adults sat around the room while he mysteriously put into play a number of tricks involving knives, boxes, and human heads, and all other sorts of fun.
Some of the other performances between readings included Axe Caporeia, Slovenian folk dance, two storytellers, and some music by the Sandy MacIntyre Trio.
I learned about The Stories That Bind Festival from the Open Book Toronto website, an organization that features and publicizes Toronto and Canadian writers. The idea behind Open Book Toronto seems to be to keep Toronto’s literary scene accessible through the promotion of readings and literary events, which can be found here. It puts a strong emphasis on independent authors and publishers, and on showing a wide range of authors. It also has a new writer-in-residence, Linda Rogers, who has a blog of her own (oh wow!), where you can ask questions pertaining to writing and get back personal responses. Events aren’t only literary, either. Although you find a lot about various reading series and book launches, the site also includes dancing nights, film festival showings, and art exhibits.