Cirque du Soleil “Varekai”: A Mystical Experience

After saving up for a (very!) long time, my significant other and I were finally able to go on a big trip last year. So, over the holidays we went to Las Vegas. Family and friends all told us that we needed to see a show—which show, they were not specific. It seemed to be the trend down there to indulge in Cirque du Soleil. The variety was definitely there—seven shows in total.  It was to the point that we thought if we did not see one of these amazing shows here, it would never happen. Fortunately, when we got home we discovered that the newest Cirque du Soleil show Varekai was coming to Copps Coliseum.

Cirque du Soleil shows have been brought to Copps in the past and have not disappointed (check out Ryan McGreal’s review from Raise the Hammer of last year’s Dralion) 

For someone who has never seen a Cirque du Soleil performance, it is hard to describe exactly what you are feeling the whole time. The common identifiers include “incredibly strong performers”, “dazzling costumes”, and “astonishing acrobatics”. Given these identifiers, this first-time Cirque viewer was surprised by so much more than what she was expecting when Varekai began.

Once you see a performance, you realize that the company does not identify as a circus for nothing: Varekai was really a variety show. Performers prove multi-talented as acrobats, singers, slapstick magicians, and a juggler grace the stage. Interludes from the main storyline (such as a Vegas-like magician and his assistant) were quite jarring but it became apparent quickly which characters were outside of the world of the magical forest.

The pre-show pulls the audience in gently to what will be an overwhelming medley of music, movement, and stunning visuals. The stage is initially basked in a cool blue-green glow and we can tell the set designers were utilizing materials that could be found in a real forest. A ram-shamble wooden bridge wound its way above the stage while stable bamboo-like poles served as tree trunks, making the stage the forest-bottom. A fantastical array of dream-like creatures crawl and writher around the stage as hypnotic tones complement their movement.

We are first introduced to the class clown of the forest and his cart of gadgets and whats-its. His cart transforms everyday modern sounds (such as a ringing telephone and an airplane taking off) into the sound of birds chirping. A moral evident given this skit is that we need to slow down in our modern lives and pay attention to nature—if we do, it will truly astonish us. Indeed, the natural creatures of this forest astonish and awe from start to finish.

The acrobatics that Cirque du Soleil is so famous for did not disappoint. From a fallen angel who shows elegance and strength in a piece with a versatile net, to a beautiful butterfly showing focus and agility with controlled movements on thin pedestals. There were times when, as an audience member, I forgot to clap because I was so entranced by the quiet elegance of the movement pieces. Live harmonics complemented the movement pieces and showcased the diversity of artistic talent that Cirque du Soleil employs.

A standing ovation solidified how happy Hamilton is to have the opportunity to be entertained by a troupe of talented artists. Varekai was a refreshingly impressive performance and served to create a memorable night out.

6 Valentine’s Day Events Happening In Hamilton

Find out what’s Happening in Hamilton this Valentine’s Day:

1. Valentine’s Day Waterfall Illumination

tumblr_inline_n0wcvtKrlt1qftoaqThe City of Waterfalls is a wonderful Hamilton organization that not only has a website with information about ALL of the waterfalls in Hamilton (visit the website here), but also illuminates various waterfalls in the Hamilton area.

A Valentine’s Day waterfall illumination is scheduled for this Friday, February 14th. Safety is very important to the City of Waterfalls, so the illumination could be cancelled depending on the weather.

2. ArtCrawl

James Street North hosts an art crawl every second Friday of the month, where artists will début and display their artworks.

3. Comedy

On February 14th, comedians Lawrence Morgenstern and Paul Haywood are lined up to perform at Yuk Yuks in downtown Hamilton. Comedy can be a great way to ease the tension of a first date or spend Valentine’s Day with friends.

4. Skating

tumblr_inline_n0wecsMwAI1qftoaqWith Friday forecasted as a mere -5, outdoor skating may be an excellent way to spend Valentine’s Day. The Hamilton Waterfront has a beautiful outdoor rink surrounded by the Festival of Lights and the warm Williams Café. If you don’t feel like venturing too far from your house, there are many outdoor rinks located throughout the city.

5. ‘The Heart of War’

Visiting the Dundurn National Historic Site for their new exhibit is a unique way to spend Valentine’s Day. The Hamilton Military Museum exhibit, entitled ‘The Heart of War’ explores the impact that World War I had on soldiers and their families. Visitors can view artifacts such as letters, postcards, or photographs from WWI soldiers.

Meet Our New Contributors!

Happening Hamilton is excited to welcome to our team new Hamilton-lovers! Meet Krista and Michael, enthusiastic students wanting to learn more about our lovely city and write about it along the way. Look forward to more coverage of great events and their own perspectives on living in Hamilton.


I came to Hamilton in 2011 to attend McMaster University, but I first discovered the City of Hamilton itself when I accepted a volunteer position as a tutor at the N’Gen Youth Centre in downtown Hamilton. My experiences there made me curious to discover the rest of the City.  Now that I’ve been living in Hamilton for almost three years, I can say that I truly love what Hamilton has to offer, especially the beautiful trails and waterfalls that line the escarpment.

When you move to a new city it can be difficult to become part of the community, and it can be even harder if you are a McMaster student who is afraid to leave the campus. Happening Hamilton made it easier for me to get to know the city, and I hope to help others, both new and current residents, become involved in their community.

When people first heard I was moving to Hamilton for university, many inquired and wondered why I was doing such a thing. “McMaster is a great school and all,” they said, “But HAMILTON? Really? You want to be stuck for the next four odd years in the armpit of Ontario?” At the time I found it ironic to be hearing these comments from Winnipeggers, as they are known to loath the city of their residence with a passion when living there, but miss and crave it when they are gone. However, I always felt that people were always a little hard on my hometown, not giving it a chance to prove itself, of exploring it enough to find the true secrets and gems to be found. That’s the way I feel about Hamilton. Perhaps that’s why I felt almost instantly at home when I moved here 2011.  There is so much to see, so much to uncover. What better time than now to go out and find more reasons to fall in love with Hamilton, the city that has been, and will continue to be, my home.

Funking Shift Up Sideways; Exhibition Closing Night Featuring Dirk Quinn Band

Keisha Neoma-Quinn’s solo art exhibition at Sealed Art is coupled with a fantastic line up of live music upstairs at The Loft. The free Gallery viewing opens at 6pm, where paintings and sculptures by Keisha Neoma-Quinn are on display. This body of work is engaging, energetic and expressive of pure creativity. It draw from the experience of live music, relationships with the natural world, and automatic free associations. With her art, Keisha aims to instil a positive feeling, a sense of fun and play for those who view the work, to remind them of the possibilities of silliness and imagination, and to enjoy life. The pairing of her creations with live music is naturally cohesive. And the line up compliments it well.

At 9pm the live music upstairs begins. Cover is $20 and it is a BYOB event.

Charlie Banjo Bean kicks it off; you might have met her under the name Keisha, or she might have said Charlie. Artist by day, Bluegrass Queen by night. Whichever name you know her by, Charlie Banjo Bean is definitely cool beans. When she straps on her five string, she’ll pick it pretty and belt it loud. Next up is Itzkotron, who you may recognize as the bassist from the Toronto band Must Stash Hat, with a progressive experimental looping set. Hamilton’s own Toadhouse will then get you hopping with their jammy beat. And to top it off, all the way from Philadelphia, Dirk Quinn Band! The whole band – including saxophonist Max Swann – is coming to town. this high energy funk/jazz band has developed a unique style that has attracted the direly committed attendance of fans ranging from jam band hippies to jazz snobs. With impressive melodic sensibilities, rhythmic experimentation and an accessible modern edge, these talented musicians will lay beautiful and delicate movements on your ears before drawing you through evil dissonance and into the hard driving funk at its core.
Prepare to feast your eyes on enriching visuals and dance your ass off!

Non-Stop Nordic Night

The summer is coming to an end and so we at Happening Hamilton have thought that we should bring back one final Nordic Night. A final night of dancing, cheap drinks and great people!

Hosted by two people who are definitely not DJs, Daniel and Brianna, this night will showcase the amazing music from Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland and Iceland. They will be playing tracks by your favorite Nordic artists and some that you have never heard, paired  up with $3 drinks all night!

Open Auditions For Beautiful Souls Orchestra

Attention Musicians:
The Beautiful Souls Orchestra (BSO) is excited to announce its first round of auditions for vocalists and instrumentalists.

The BSO is a non-reading, non-traditional ensemble in which musicians of all backgrounds can come together with a focus on developing our personal experience of the music we play. Our mission is to inspire others by first inspiring ourselves. Instead of reading sheet music, weekly rehearsals are recorded and made available to members for practice and memorization purposes.

Plans are in place to expand the group by approximately 50 members for September. If you are looking for a positive community to embrace your creative musical voice then please join us for auditions at The Corktown in Hamilton.
We are auditioning all instruments but we’re especially looking for strings, woodwinds, brass and voices for the choir. “Unconventional” instruments are also welcome.

Auditions will be held on Sunday, August 21st and Sunday, August 28th at from 9:00 am until 12:30 pm. Advance registration for auditions is not necessary.

Che Burrito & Lounge

What are the first things that come to your mind when you think of Che Burrito & Lounge? It may be drinking PBR, too many $4 tequila shots, dancing to DJs and maybe even falling down their patio stairs. Sadly, despite its name, ‘burritos’ generally aren’t associated with the place—and they should be. Maybe it is reaching the ripe old age of 22 that is making me realize that Hess offers so much more than opportunities for young people to make fools of themselves. Perhaps this epiphany also occurred once I started taking advantage of their patios during the day. This summer I have indulged in daytime pints at Celidh House, sushi at Koi—and burritos at Che.

Family Fun Night – Musical Fundraiser for the Fix Our World Festival

Two stages packed with talented local musicians to entertain you and your family all night long. The first stage features a Jazz n Blues lineup starting with the soulful R&B/Rock and Roll of Black Rose with singer Joe Rhodes an act proclaimed to be the best blues band around, also on that stage isGinger St. James with a spicy performance and throw back twang, and finally blending folk pop and bluegrass, David Lum. The second stage is more of a high energy dance party; first up the diverse catchy sound fresh off the Burlington punk rock scene All For Nothing,  followed by the rock and rollers Pull Start Rockets and trip hop from Blake Bliss.

Admission is $10 per person, all proceeds go towards the third annual Fix Our World Festival on the weekend of September 9th.  Food and refreshments will be available for sale.

Great Canadian Burlesque At The Casbah

This Wednesday night, come out and do something different.  You could go listen to someone singing in a bar, you could watch Idol, or you could come to the The Casbah for a night of burlesque, that titillating form of entertainment from the Jazz Age.  Hosted by Mysterion and featuring Tanya Cheex, the first inductee into Canada’s Burlesque Hall of Fame, the night is sure to be hot hot hot!  Also on stage, some of Canada’s best: Fionna Flauntit, Chaos Divine, Esther De Ville, Frenchie Fatale, Dolly Berlin, Karen Gaulin, and Vivianne La Vamp.  The show will also include comedians Blair Streeter and Anto Chan, mentalist and psychological entertainer Mysterion, and singer Christian Dee.

Acoustic Night At The Sky Dragon

This Friday night 10 performers will be honouring what many consider to be the most influential rock and roll band of the 20th century: The Beatles. If you are a fan come sing along to your favourite Beatles classics. If you’ve never heard of them you really need to get yourself up to date and all the help you need will be at the Sky Dragon. The far reaching tendrils of colourful sound emanating from The Beatles long past creative genius have been missing for no time and nowhere, man.