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Live shows returning to YAC

Clockwise from top left: Alex Cuba, Kim Beggs, Ron Sexsmith, Crazy Smooth/In My Body, Blue Moon Marquee and Laila Biali.

By Amy Kenny

You can tell the Yukon Arts Centre loves you because on Valentine’s Day, it announced ticket sales for eight new live shows.

Those shows, all taking place in March and April, will mark the first time YAC has been open for performances since pandemic measures forced a closure on Dec. 21.

After the three-month hiatus, there’s a palpable buzz around the announcement, says Michele Emslie, director of programming at YAC.

“Among everyone,” Emslie says over the phone. “From all of us who work here, to our volunteers, to our patrons.

“We’re just so excited, really over the moon, that we’re open again for our shows, but also for other presenters like Whitehorse Concerts, that we can all bring live performing arts back again. It feels like a new day.”

The March and April line-up includes Juno winner Alex Cuba, a dance production called In My Body, concerts from Ron Sexsmith, Laila Biali with Jodi Proznick, Whitehorse’s Kim Beggs, Ryan McNally & Blue Moon Marquee, Jim Byrnes and a surreal performance from entertainer, Spidey the Mentalist.

Emslie says choosing one show she’s most looking forward to is like picking her favourite child, but she’s excited about Cuba and In My Body, partly because YAC is proud to have been one of five organizations across Canada that commissioned In My Body.

The performance features street dance company, Bboyizm, run by long-time Canadian dancer and choreographer, Crazy Smooth, who has been working since 1997.

The show is a co-production between the CanDance Network Creation Fund, Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity, Edmonton’s Brian Webb Dance Company, YAC, dance Immersion and Canadian Stage, and is supported by the Canada Council for the Arts.

Emslie says the show will have a local component to it, as Crazy Smooth is working with Yukon dancers through a partnership with Leaping Feats in Riverdale.

Other shows, including the one featuring local musician McNally and Biali’s, are postponements from previous months. Spidey the Mentalist, whose mind-reading act has been featured on The Today Show and TMZ, was originally scheduled to perform in 2020, right before the pandemic caused widespread closures of performance venues.

Emslie says YAC is planning more outdoor shows for the summer, just in case, but she’s cautiously optimistic about the spring. YAC can accommodate 50 per cent capacity. She says if people can book in bubbles, it will help with fitting the maximum allowed, as YAC seats groups with distancing measures in mind.

Emslie says experiencing something together, safely, in a space that offers the sound and sightlines of the Arts Centre will be a poignant experience after so much isolation this winter.

“It’s not the same as sitting in your living room in front of your laptop, clapping together and crying together and experiencing the same emotions, or experiencing different emotions?” she says. “There’s nothing that can replace that.”

The scheduled shows are as follows:

March 2 – Alex Cuba

Alex Cuba is a Latin Grammy/Juno winner who is a singer-songwriter not tied to tradition. His musical evolution for years was all about searching for the simplicity and soul in Cuban music – taking apart the complex arrangements, mixing it with North American influences, adopting the melodic simplicity of pop music and looking to Cuban folk traditions for inspiration.

March 10 & 11 – In My Body by Bboyizm/Crazy Smooth

Bboyizm is the premier street dance company in Canada, run by dancer-choreographer, Crazy Smooth. For In My Body, Crazy Smooth brings together an intergenerational group of dancers and an international creative team for an intensely athletic investigation of the evolution of self and the effects of aging on street dancers. March 10 will be for an older audience while the March 11 will focus on youth in Grade 8 and higher.

March 17 – Ron Sexsmith

A gifted singer and songwriter whose songs are by turns earnest and playful, Ron Sexsmith has won acclaim not only from critics but from fellow performers like Paul McCartney, Elvis Costello and John Hiatt. He has a talent for catchy but graceful melodies that’s matched by his skills as a lyricist, drawing compact sketches of love and the trials of everyday life that are heartfelt and compassionate even when he’s being witty, and warm without becoming overly sentimental.

March 31 – Laila Biali with Jodi Proznick

Laila Biali is a multi award-winning Canadian singer-songwriter, pianist and CBC Music national radio host. Her live show is eclectic and energetic, a true representation of her on and off stage. Melodies take thrilling left turns and pre-choruses give way to instrumental interludes. One minute Biali is soaring over a bluesy storm of handclaps and hard-charging keyboard riffs, the next she is pouring out her soul on an impassioned ballad.

April 2 – Kim Beggs

Popular Yukon singer-songwriter Kim Beggs will be joined by a quartet to perform music from her new, upcoming album. Beggs delivers a heartfelt darkness in a beautiful backwoods beat driven performance. Sincere, vulnerable, clear eyed and tough, Beggs has garnered seven Western Canadian Music Award nominations and three Canadian Folk Music Award nominations plus a nomination for Independent Music Award in the USA. Kim is currently working on her 6th album recording. She has toured with Buffy Saint-Marie, Chris Jagger and more. 

April 5 – Spidey the Mentalist

Spidey will perform his much-anticipated mind-reading show that has been a success on NBC’s TODAY Show, TMZ and Rachael Ray. He has performed on the stages of the Las Vegas Rio Casino and the iconic NYC Apollo Theatre. He was named US Mentalist of the Year 2017 and has performed for major celebrities like Jennifer Lopez, Steve Harvey, Simon Cowell, Neil Patrick Harris, Penn & Teller.

April 12 – Ryan McNally & Blue Moon Marquee

Originally slated for Feb. 16, this concert has been moved to April 12 instead. In partnership with Music from the Edges Canada, Yukon’s McNally will perform with swinging blues band Blue Moon Marquee.

Artists such as Lonnie Johnson, Louis Armstrong, Charley Patton, Howlin’ Wolf, Tom Waits, Memphis Minnie, and Django Reinhardt are deeply infused in the soul of Blue Moon’s music.

Ryan McNally puts most of his energy into his passion for studying acoustic traditional blues, jazz, and old-time music. This led him to spend a winter in New Orleans where he wrote the majority of the material featured on Steppin’ Down South.

April 13 – Jim Byrnes

Legendary blues icon and actor, Jim Byrnes has released numerous outstanding albums including producing many with Steve Dawson, one of North America’s most critically acclaimed roots music producers. Byrnes has been performing the blues for nearly 50 years, earning multiple awards and had the great good fortune to appear with a virtual who’s who of the blues: from Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker to Taj Mahal and Robert Cray.

Tickets will be made available at

To ensure safe, social distancing the Yukon Arts Centre will be only filled to 50 per cent capacity. Masks and proof of vaccination will be mandatory.