Frost Bites is breaking barriers in Hamilton and beyond. Presented by the Hamilton Fringe in partnership with City of Hamilton’s Winterfest, the city’s only site-specific winter performance festival is taking over two beautiful churches in downtown Hamilton from February 14th to 17th, with a line-up of eight artistic companies creating bite-sized performances in untraditional spaces at New Vision United on Main St W and St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church on James St S.
Frost Bites is not new to Hamilton. Now in its fourth year, the festival has seen a variety of venues, including the Cotton Factory, the Art Gallery of Hamilton, the Westinghouse Building, and Barton Village. However there is a reason behind the festival’s changing home. “Part of the goal of Frost Bites is to address barriers to participation in the arts,” says Claire Calnan, Executive Director of the Hamilton Fringe. “As an organization, we realize that a door to the theatre can be one of the first road-blocks that a person faces when taking in cultural events. Finding a new venue for Frost Bites each year gives us a chance to bring art into the community rather than asking people to come to us and to artistically explore Hamilton at a time when it is changing very rapidly.”
The two church venues are not the only elements new to Frost Bites. This year, the festival will feature a collaboration between Montreal music group Thanya Iyer and local choreographer Lisa Emmons. They will be performing in the Frost Bites ‘hub’; a place for audiences and artists to gather, meet, and enjoy a Woodhouse Brewing beer before they travel to see any one of the pieces taking place multiple times over the evening.
“This collaboration between Thanya Iyer and Lisa is about sharing the story of Hamilton beyond our borders and inviting artists from outside of our community to generate a creative reaction to our city,” says Claire.
Thanya Iyer is self-described as a ‘future-folk’ group using acoustic and electronic sound to create sparkling experimental pop. The group has toured Canada and the United States and has played at POP Montreal, MURAL Festival, and others. Their debut album Do You Dream? was released earlier this year. Their performance at Frost Bites will be their first time collaborating with a dancer.
But choreographer Lisa Emmons is no stranger to multidisciplinary work. Her company Aeris Körper (formerly FORM Contemporary Dance Theatre) has often worked with artists in other disciplines including theatre creators, designers, and musicians, and believes that it is an integral part of artistic community in the city.
“What I love about Hamilton is its warmth and interest in its artists. People are always asking what you are working on. That curiosity and desire to share is what collaboration is all about. So it makes sense that other artists from outside the city would want to be a part of that,” says Lisa.
The sentiment is shared by Thanya Iyer. “We have a super warm place for Hamilton in our heart and love going there. The community is so warm and vibrant. Even walking down the street I always feel like there’s something brewing in the air.”
While Thanya Iyer and Lisa Emmons perform in the Frost Bites hub, eight other companies are creating pieces exploring the spaces at New Vision United and St. Paul’s Presbyterian including 2017 Voaden Prize winner Michael Kras with Broken Soil Theatre, returning Frost Bites artists Peter Riddihough and Marilo Nunez with Hoffworks Productions, McMaster student group QT Collective, and Transgendant which is a new company in Hamilton with a focus on education, autism awareness, and LGBTQ2+ issues, as well as others.
“The energy that Frost Bites creates is something that audiences can really engage with,” says Lisa, who has been involved with the festival in past years as well. “Being able to take in all these performances in one evening is exciting, and you get to decide what you see. The audience is really on a hike together.”
No matter what path you take, Frost Bites promises a unique night out you won’t find anywhere else in the city.
Frost Bites runs February 14th to 17th, 2019. A single ticket is $25 (or $15 for children 12 and under) and grants entry into as many shows an audience can manage in a single evening. For those wishing to make return visits, Frequent Frost Passes are $40 and grants entry into the event for the duration of the festival.
The box office, located at New Vision United Church (24 Main St W.), opens at 6:30 pm with performances commencing at 7 pm. Tickets are available online or at the door. Service charges apply to credit card purchases.
No performance is longer than 20 minutes, and each show plays multiple times a night. Stairs are present at some venues. Audiences will be required to walk outside between venues and are asked to dress for the weather.
For more information, and to purchase tickets, visit hamiltonfringe.ca
Images courtesy of Dave Pijuan-Nomura