Two Women, Two Crossings

Donna Spencer on The Village and ribcage: this wide passage

Two women come to Canada as immigrants. They come from different parts of the world and at different times in Canadian history – one from the 18th century and one the present day. They face challenges of survival, isolation and loneliness and yet, with determination they move forward.

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Tina Milo in The Village, image Una Skandro

Two women recognize the value of these stories and create theatre/performance works. Inventive, passionate and, yes, with determination Tina Milo’s The Village and Heather Hermant’s ribcage: this wide passage were developed and brought to the stage. When I heard about these two pieces celebrating the strengths of two very different immigrant women I was intrigued and wanted to share the spirit and vision of the works with Firehall audiences.

In Tina Milo’s The Village, we meet a recent immigrant from Serbia, who has left behind a successful career as an actress to move to Canada. Here, she becomes a young mother stuck at home with few friends and few outlets for her creative expression. She sinks into a depression common among female immigrants who are often left at home alone with family while their husbands go out to work. Lacking contact with the outside world, she struggles to improve her language skills and find a way back to the career she left behind.

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Heather Hermant in ribcage: this wide passage, image Tim Matheson

In a very different story, Heather Hermant’s ribcage: this wide passage celebrates the journey of a young Jewish woman, who arrives in Quebec City disguised as a male laborer at a time when women were not allowed to travel alone. Discovered, she is brought before authorities upon her arrival and faces life in a new country, alone and unsupported. When Hermant discovered this story of the first Jewish women to immigrate to Canada, she wanted to honor it and share it.

As International Women’s Day approaches, we would like to honor and share these hidden stories with you! – Firehall Artistic Producer Donna Spencer

The Village runs Feb 24 – 28 and ribcage: this wide passage runs March 3 – 8. 

Celebrate Chinese New Year at the Firehall!

“Chinese New Year is a celebration, and our piece is a celebration too”, says Wen Wei Wang. “A celebration of who we are, and making something together.” – Vancouver Sun

Join us for the long-awaited Vancouver premiere of Wen Wei’s newest dance work on the cusp of the Lunar New Year (Feb 18 – 21). Made In China is a breathtakingly  magical feast for the senses that opens a window to another world. This intensely personal interdisciplinary work is a shared biography of the artists’ experiences working amidst the Cultural Revolution. It is created and performed by Wen Wei Wang, Gao Yanjinzi (Beijing Modern Dance Company); Qiu Xia He (Silk Road Music); and video/sound artist Sammy Chien. Plus the Firehall’s own Donna Spencer has been brought on to Dramaturg the piece. The artists premiered the show at the Banff Centre in late January and while they were there created a fascinating behind the scenes short film.


Made in China by Wen Wei Dance explores cultural colours Vancouver Sun 

Wen Wei Dance’s Made in China digs into Chinese pasts – Georgia Straight

Wen Wei Wang and China’s immigrants of today – VancityBuzz


Made In China by Wen Wei Dance runs Feb 18 – 21 at the Firehall Arts Centre. More info.

Donna Spencer on Vincent Mantsoe

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Welcome Back, Vincent!  In honor of Black History month, internationally acclaimed choreographer and performer Vincent Mantsoe returns to the Firehall from February 11th -14th .  Vincent first performed on the Firehall stage in 2001, with three solo pieces created under the title, Meetlo, which in the Sesotho language means ‘traditions’.   This amazing work was Vancouver’s first introduction to the power of his work and audiences loved it. We invited him back in 2005 and once again his work was mesmerizing.  His ability to blend global dance forms while connecting to his heritage and honor his past in a manner that suffused the work with potent spiritual power brought audiences to their feet.

We are delighted that Firehall audiences will get the chance to see two solos, NTU// and Skwatta as part of his pan-Canadian tour to Montreal, Toronto, Peterborough and Ottawa’s National Arts Centre.  NTU// springs from the desire to embody the essence of personhood while Skwatta addresses the squalid hopelessness of life in the informal settings of the camps of South Africa’s townships.  Both are animated by Vincent’s connection to the Soweto culture of his childhood and are influenced by lessons taught by his mother and aunt, all ‘sangomas’ or traditional healers.

Vincent, who now lives in France with his wife and two children, is a artist with a unique talent to blend traditional African, contemporary Western, martial and Asian dance forms in his creations of artistic works that resonant in a meaningful way with his audiences.

– Donna Spencer, Artistic Producer, Firehall Arts Centre


“when Danceworks curator Mimi Beck writes that Vincent Mantsoe … is a dancer of “breathtaking virtuosity,” she’s just stating the facts. He’s incredible.” Mooney on Theatre, Toronto

“Mantsoe’s stage charisma is huge. Though relatively short and solidly built, he can move with gentle, feline grace or explode in a frenzy of flashing feet and combative arms.” – Toronto Star

NTU and Skwatta are on at the Firehall Arts Centre from February 11 – 14. Click here for more info.

Image – Vincent Mantsoe, credit Meinrad Heck.