Raising Funding and Awareness for Arthritis through the Power of Movement

For those who suffer from arthritis or other autoimmune diseases, even everyday activities can become a chore. Pain and reduced mobility are common symptoms of those who suffer, and while there are treatments that can help address the symptoms, like cancer, there are many forms and classifications of the disease (in fact, there are over 100 different types such as Fibromyalgia, Lupus, Gout, and Mixed Connective Tissue Disease), which makes it difficult to find a single cure or multiple cures.

The Power of Movement started in 2005 when a yoga teacher used her yoga breathing exercises to help her through an extended hospital stay when she was diagnosed with Lupus. She wanted to share her experiences with other people who might benefit from using yoga to manage their autoimmune illnesses, as well as to help raise money to try to find a cure. Thus, with support from the Arthritis and Autoimmunity Research Centre Foundation, she was able to start something special.

To date, the Power of Movement has raised over $700,000 and hopes to reach the $1 million dollar goal with this year’s campaign.

Power of Movement is now a national event, hosted in 12 different cities across Canada. On the last Sunday in February, all of the participating cities host a mega-session where yoga gurus from Canada’s leading yoga studios teach classes accessible to everyone designed to build a healthy balance of strength and flexibility, in order to raise funds for research and raise awareness of arthritis and other autoimmune diseases.

Calgary is no different, and Power of Movement Calgary will host their third annual mega-session on Sunday, February 27 from 11 a.m. to noon at Eau Claire Market.

Open to the public to participate or watch, many local celebrities and personalities have pledged to support the event. The Calgary Stampeders’ Joffrey Reynolds will be showing off his yoga mat skills as he stretches and bends in the name of finding a cure. Local singer/songwriter Janelle Miller will be serenading participants before the event, and CTV Calgary anchor Camilla Di Guiseppe will be taking part too.

All proceeds raised through this event will help benefit the Arthritis and Autoimmunity Research Centre Foundation and the Canadian Arthritis Network.

It’s not too late to register if you’d like to take part. There’s still some room available and to register, visit the Power of Movement main site.

Why I’m now a fan of the High Performance Rodeo

Would you believe that I’m a born-and-raised Calgarian, but never in its 25 years of existence, have I ever attended the High Performance Rodeo?

I mean, I had heard of it, obviously. One Yellow Rabbit is an institution of sorts in Calgary, and when you’ve been around for a couple of decades, one tends to cement a place in Calgary’s cultural scene.

But because, other than a couple of theatre shows I caught as a kid, theatre in general was never really a big part of my upbringing (low-to-middle class family, entertainment dollars had to be spent wisely), I was never really conditioned to check out local theatre as a form of entertainment, a mindset that has stuck with me even today, where I’m self-sufficient and successful enough to have a little disposable income to play with.

Now, it’s not because I’m adverse to theatre in general. On the contrary, the shows I saw as a child (for example, a production of Into the Woods that took place at Theatre Calgary) I really enjoyed, and ironically, I enjoyed watching theatrical productions on television (especially musicals; I love musicals!). I took Drama class in junior-high where I was cast as the lead in my school’s production of Aladdin, had a blast doing it, and would have continued on if not for a quirk in Grade 10 class scheduling that forced me to drop Drama as an option. It’s just that local theatre as an entertainment activity has just never, ever entered my mind.

After some insistence from friends, I was persuaded to catch Catalyst Theatre’s production of Nevermore. I had heard good things about it, although I didn’t know much other than it had something to do with Edgar Allan Poe.

I didn’t know what to expect and did no research prior to attending so I was able to watch it with an open mind. I had heard it was a biography of sorts. In fact, as showtime approached, “musical biography” was a term I had heard thrown around a lot.

I’ll admit: I was intrigued.

What I saw amazed me.

It was a full-on musical production about the life of Poe. Surreal at times, relatable even by today’s standards at others, without reading a synopsis on the life of Poe beforehand, I couldn’t tell what was based on real-life fact and what was creatively interpreted, but the performance grabbed me in the sense that I couldn’t help but feel sorry about the difficulty and tragedy that Poe the child must have went through growing up. It made me revisit that age-old question about “Nature vs. Nurture” and made me wonder if Poe had a different upbringing, would his life have been different? If I had a different upbringing, how different would I be right now? Pretty heavy stuff, right there. Didn’t expect to be thinking about those sorts of things by the end of the night.

And what I learned about the production astounded me. There are over 200 lighting and sound cues and 25 costume changes that the cast and crew have to contend with. The vast majority of the costumes and props are made of masking tape and tissue paper, which requires an obscene amount of maintenance after every performance to ensure they’re always ready for the next show. There is so much pride and passion put into this production on-stage and behind-the-scenes by the cast and crew, and every loving bit shines through in the performance.

Suffice it to say, I was hooked. As soon as I got home, I hit my computer looking for the next show to see. I managed to catch the last showing of Billy Bishop Goes to War, a two-man act portraying some of the exploits of the legendary Canadian war hero. I was thrilled to see there were musical elements involved in the performance, and having studied Canadian military history in school, proud that they were able to come up with a performance that wasn’t just entertaining, but a fitting tribute to our Canadian war heroes as well.

My first-ever experience at the High Performance Rodeo was a good one, and I have to say that I’m now a fan. As I was exposed to the Rodeo rather late in the festival, I realize that I’ve missed a lot of performances, and missed a few shows that I’d probably enjoy.

However, when next year rolls around, I’ll definitely make time for the 26th annual High Performance Rodeo and plan accordingly.

There’s still some time to catch Nevermore at the Vertigo Mystery Theatre. It runs until Sunday, February 6, 2011.

New West Fest: A Refreshing Take on Celebrating Western Culture

As a born-and-raised Calgarian myself, when it comes to the Stampede, believe me, I’ve heard it all.

On Friday, I came to the realization that I haven’t seen it all. And what I did see, I liked.

New for this year and taking place in the late afternoon and evening at Olympic Plaza and on Stephen Avenue Walk, New West Fest was a celebration of Western culture and heritage, but what was neat about it was that it wasn’t just looking at the traditional image of the West that one associates with Stampede time. It was a celebration of Western culture in Calgary throughout time, from the Wild West to now and all points in between, looking at our heritage and where we’ve come from, where we are now, and where we have yet to go.

Presented by Calgary Arts Development, CJSW 90.9FM, the Calgary Exhibition and Stampede, the Calgary Downtown Association, and The City of Calgary, it was a collaborative effort that tried to bring together many of the different parts that makes Calgary a vibrant place when it comes to culture in general and celebrate them.

There was live music at both Olympic Plaza and on the West Stage at 1st Street SW and Stephen Avenue with acts such as Jay Crocker, Seven Story Redhead, The Smokin’ 45s, Lorrie Matheson, and NQ Arbuckle with Carolyn Mark performing, and CJSW DJs spin danced jams from Stephen Avenue for most of the evening.

The highlight of the night for me was PechaKucha Night at Olympic Plaza. For those who are unaware, PechaKucha Night events consist of around a dozen presentations with each presenter having 20 slides and 20 seconds to talk about them.

It was the first PechaKucha-type event I have ever attended, and the range of presentations at New West Fest was what impressed me the most. The theme for this year was “The West” and how people interpreted that theme and presented them was as diverse as the background of the various speakers.

Yes, Tracey Read, Centennial Manager from the Calgary Stampede, gave a presentation on the Stampede story, telling the audience how the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth came to be and where it’s heading as it celebrates it’s centennial in 2012, but others gave their unique views on the West as well.

Naturalist and author Ben Gadd talked about the Rocky Mountains from a geological perspective, Travis and Rachel Gert talked about a road trip that they went on and what it meant to be truly “rich,” and David Down, Senior Architect/Urban Designer with The City of Calgary talked about Calgary, where it needs to go as a city and what we need to do as citizens to help this city reach its potential.

Many questions were raised, some answers were given, and calls to action were made.

The presentations were inspiring and eye-opening, and it made me proud to have been born and raised in this city. It was definitely refreshing to see something different during Stampede week that still celebrated Western heritage at a time of year when Olympic Plaza traditionally has never had anything going on past 1 p.m.

Organizers said they would look at this year’s efforts and evaluate, but I hope that New West Fest makes a return next year. It was a fresh and different take on celebrating and promoting Western heritage and values, but equally relevant.

Photo Credit: Reginald Tiangha