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Three review picks from the International Children's Festival of the Arts

Every year, the International Children’s Festival of the Arts challenges itself to book strong culturally based, youth oriented productions.

Every year, the International Children’s Festival of the Arts challenges itself to book strong culturally based, youth oriented productions.

And this year it has succeeded in spades with diverse talents that touch all the arts from music, dance and story telling to puppetry, visual arts and the circus arts.

Running full-throttle until Sunday, June 2, the festival is packed with feature shows, workshops, roving artists, a massive Toddler Town and performers galore strolling through the St. Albert Place plaza.

Festival organizers are continuing the popular Sensory Inclusion Program first introduced last year. It is designed for individuals with sensory processing difficulties such as autism or particular sound and light stimulation. For more information, inquire at the information desk set up in St. Albert Place plaza.

Mainstage shows and workshops are $15 each. However special packages are available reducing rates. Tickets are available at the Arden Theatre box office in person, at 780-459-1542 or at

Won’Ma Africa

Kalabanté Productions
Arden Theatre
Runs until June 2
All ages

It’s impossible not to feel the infectious djembe rhythms of this African/Québécois circus troupe like your own heartbeat dancing and smiling in your chest. In fact, one of the most difficult things about watching this show is simply sitting in one’s seat. As the five men and two women take the stage in turn, they treat the audience to the sometimes gentle, sometimes thunderous pounding of the drums while and the transporting quality of the stringed kora, all of which is pure delight on the ears and the eyes too as the performers dance in their colourful garb. But then, the agile gymnasts take over as they jump, tumble and pose in elaborate acrobatic floor sculptures that gave me neck strain just watching them. These feats of strength and balance are enough on their own to justify the price of admission. To call this a muscular stage act would not do it justice.

Won’Ma Africa is a real crowd-pleaser with music, dance and gymnastics, with a friendly host on the mike leading the audience participation to make sure that everyone enjoys the show as much as possible. Mission accomplished.

–Scott Hayes

Koo Koo Kanga Roo

GoNoodle Network
Arden Theatre
Runs until June 2
Suggested 4 years and older. Loud music and songs.

The elementary school crowd erupted as Koo Koo Kanga Roo walked onto the Arden Theatre stage and never let up throughout the 45-minute performance.

Brian and Neil hail from Minneapolis and have made celebrity style waves with the junior crowd.

It’s no wonder. The duo creates a full-blown interactive dance party with catchy songs and full-blown showmanship.

Most of the songs have the energy and compactness of punk rock with repetitive lyrics that are easy to pick up after the first line.

And the topics delight kids – eating sandwiches without crusts, cheesy pizzas, stinky farts, campfires and unicorns.

KKKR orchestrated uncontrolled chaos inviting kids to get up in the aisles and imitate its spastic blend of hip-hop, rock and twist. And about 95 per cent of the audience did, laughing through it all.

This show is loud, light-hearted and funny. Just park your cool at the door and live it up.

–Anna Borowiecki

Li Liu

St. Albert Curling Club Stage
Runs until June 2
All ages.

“Wow!” That was one word that kept ringing throughout the audience watching Beijing trained acrobat Li Liu.

A trim, petite woman with a high-wattage smile, Li Liu first appeared on stage spinning six ceramic plates simultaneously. She then upped the ante and performed a handstand with her body tipping at an angle while spinning three plates.

It was a mesmerizing moment of all-body balance, agility, motor co-ordination and strength. Every extraordinary feat, whether balancing acts, ribbon dancing, yo-yo tricks or bicycle rides, were performed with graceful, nimble moves.

Not only did Li Liu display her arsenal of acrobatic achievements, she also invited a substantial amount of students from the audience to learn the basic technique of plate spinning and ribbon dancing.

Although a bit worried about what to expect, students’ frowns morphed into wide smiles at conquering a hairy new challenge.

Liu also added personal touches throughout the show to talk about her circus family, the arduous Chinese circus school she attended, and the cultural importance of ribbon dancing at New Years, traditionally a 15-day festival.

Prepare to be amazed.

–Anna Borowiecki