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All photos from the Ottawa Children's Festival website.

Children’s Fest launches with a bang

By She Who Must Be Obeyed on May 12, 2016

She Who Must Be Obeyed (but rarely is) blogs about food, travel and homeschooling five kids at travellargefamily. On May 24, you’ll find her dispensing travel tips at the Westboro Brainery.

The 31st installment of the fabulous Ottawa Children’s Festival is kicking off.  Back in the day when I only had three kids, we used to buy day passes to the festival, allowing us to see whatever shows we wanted for a fixed price of about $15 per person.  We’d spend the day, moseying from tent to tent until our butts were numb from the metal bleachers that comprised the venue seating.  When the festival understandably changed its pricing structure, we sadly had to bow out.

After years as a lapsed festivalgoer, I attended the 2016 opening night, which launched with a bang.  Literally.  RAW Metal is an Australian dance company that has toured extensively and has even preformed (gasp!) on Broadway.  The four athletic individuals who make up the troop, got the blood pumping with their stomping.  The group’s promo material describes them as tap dancers but that hardly fits the bill.  This is no Fred Astaire show.  Foot percussionists would be more accurate.

After the requisite but seemingly interminable speeches (festival organizer followed by Magic 100, followed by city councillor, followed by chair of the board of something or other), the show could finally begin.  If the adults were zoned out by this time, the kids were positively crawling up the walls.  Either that or they were kicking me in the back.  Just saying.

Luckily RAW Metal rocked the house for 50 straight minutes.  I continued to be kicked by the six year old behind me but I sensed a shift from bored kicking to uncontrollable excitement kicking within minutes.  Even the embarrassing observation of kicker-boy towards the end – “Gross, I can smell their sweat!” – did nothing to dampen his enthusiasm.  My 10-year old daughter was equally captivated.  The show was LOUD but the babies in the audience seemed to take it in stride.

One quibble I had was that the show was billed as being non-verbal.  It was very verbal.  All of it in English.  I felt bad for the Francophones in the audience until I realized that with the heavy Australian accents, many Anglophones probably had no clue what was being said.  The show can be thoroughly enjoyed without understanding English but calling it non-verbal is unfair.  There was a lot of banter from the performers and audience participation with spoken cues was a key part of the show.

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RAW Metal tapped in metallic shoes, flip-flops and even scuba flippers.  One of my favourite segments didn’t involve tap dancing at all.  Instead the guys dribbled basketballs in an impressive choreography.

I may have complained about the speeches but they did highlight the notion that live performances are special.  Today’s wired youth crave the performing arts, as evidenced by the enthusiastic crowd.  This week, consider abandoning Netflix and Candy Crush and taking your sprogs to RAW Metal.  Or any other show at Ottawa Children’s Festival, for that matter.

NOTE: While staff members were accommodating of those with mobility issues, the tents are cramped and seating is on narrow bleachers with stair access.  There are no indoor washrooms, only Porta-potties.  Those with young children will be happiest if they leave bulky strollers and bags at home.

The Ottawa Children’s Festival is on until May 15 at LeBreton Flats Park (in front of the War Museum). Tickets are $13 or see three shows for $30.