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Luminato's splashy finale

'Luminat'eau: Carnival H{-2}O ' finds inspiration at the lake

Special to The Globe and Mail

In case you haven't caught on yet, Luminato is all about themes.

The Toronto arts festival - launched last year around the concept of light - will wrap up its second run next weekend with "Luminat'eau: Carnival H{-2}0," a three-day event with much ado about water.

Luminat'eau runs next Friday, Saturday and Sunday as part of the sophomore festival's finale, and will feature installations, concerts and more than 20 dance acts, each with water-inspired performances.

In keeping with the theme, Luminat'eau takes place at the Harbourfront Centre, with a boat ferrying patrons east along the lake's edge to the Distillery District. Toronto police will flaunt their marine unit - which includes boats and helicopters - as part of the children's exhibit, swimmingly titled "Eau La La Land."

There will be film screenings (including, naturally, Deepa Mehta's Water), canoe rides and wakeboard demonstrations. And among the long list of musicians will be Toronto's States of H{-2}Orchestra, a group of musicians with instruments spouting, yes, water.

You get the idea.

"People can get that feeling of the water, even though a lot of the programming is on land," says Sandra Whiting, project co-ordinator at the Harbourfront Centre. "We have this wonderful resource, so we should honour it."

The dancers, artists and musicians hope to "turn everyone's gaze south" to the lake, organizer Melanie Fernandez says. "It's just a different focus of celebration."

There will be more than a dozen performers at Harbourfront, with styles and sounds from across the world, including Afro-Caribbean, jazz, folk, bhangra, qawwali, calypso and children's music. Most events are free.

Steve Mann, the brain behind the H{-2}Orchestra, is a musician whose work perfectly fits the theme. A University of Toronto engineering professor and maverick inventor, Dr. Mann conceived the first parts of his orchestra more than 20 years ago when he started experimenting with dihydrogen monoxide (science speak for water). Today, his orchestra builds unique melodies using water in four stages - ice, liquid, gas and plasma, which Dr. Mann describes as the fourth state of matter (in the case of water, plasma is a more energized form of steam vapour, which leads to lightning and thunder). The orchestra's main feature, the hydraulophone, spouts water through holes, which, when covered up, play certain notes, like a big water-fountain flute.

Dr. Mann jumped at the chance to bring the instruments (which he sells commercially) to Luminat'eau, where children and adults will also be free to give them a try. "It's sculpture that allows the user to become a participant in the art," he says.

Over in the Distillery District, where the lineup is more earthbound, Luminato's final weekend will boast a long list of performers, including Edmonton hip-hop starlet Kreesha Turner and Toronto soul singer Divine Brown.

The Young Centre for the Performing Arts has brought in exclusively local dancers and performers to give them exposure during Luminato, which drew a million spectators overall last year.

The Distillery will also host "One City, One Table," Luminato's only gourmet-street-food festival. Chefs from around Toronto, such as Jamie Kennedy, will prepare a series of gourmet foods for under $5 during a street party all Saturday afternoon.

"After all, restaurants are the ambassadors of the city, are they not?" says Phil Sabatino, one of two men behind the food festival.

Organizers at the Distillery and Harbourfront, between which shuttle buses will run, hope to build upon the success of last year's inaugural festival, which lured twice as many guests as organizers had hoped for.

"It allows all the many Canadians to come and feel a part of the city," Ms. Whiting says, touching again on the water theme. "We expect Toronto to come down to the lake."

Luminat'eau runs June 13 to 15 at the Harbourfront Centre. For more information and schedule information, visit or

Playing at Luminat'eau

DJ Rekha, a.k.a. Rekha Malhotra

A New York-based emcee, Rekha mixes hip hop and bhangra, bringing contemporary beats to the sounds of South Asia. She will host a collaborative Basement Bhangra night to close out Friday at Harbourfront, and is excited to play the festival crowd. "I never do the same stuff twice," she says. "I just like to make people dance."

Iré Omó Afro-Cuban Drum and Dance Ensemble

The Toronto-based drum and dance group, founded in 2000, will perform its tribute to Yemaya, the Goddess of the Sea, in one of two shows next Sunday. Featuring five dancers and three drummers, the performance will emulate the motion and spirit of the water in the Afro-Cuban style for Luminat'eau's wide audience. "Everyone has their own space here to be themselves, and to spread their culture in so many different ways," says Sarita Leyva, 39, the group's Cuban-born founder, who teaches in Toronto. "It's pretty nice."

Kaha:wi Dance Theatre

Kaha:wi Dance Theatre will stage a shortened version next Sunday afternoon of A Story Before Time, a piece the company premiered last year. Using five dancers and a storyteller, the piece tells a classic Iroquois creation story, and has played across the country. "I wanted to share that story with kids," says choreographer Santee Smith, who is Mohawk. "Whatever background people are from, they can take some universal meaning from it."

Josh Wingrove

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