Ensemble Topaz is a Toronto-based music and dance company dedicated to performing traditional and contemporary cultural forms from South and Central Asian traditions. Founded by dance artist Paromita Kar and composer Mike Anklewicz, Ensemble Topaz performs a variety of dance and musical traditions, currently focusing on Afghan, Iranian, Central Asian and Rajasthani cultural forms.
Ensemble Topaz has performed at numerous events in Toronto, Ontario and beyond. Highlight performances include the Tirgan Festival (2019), the First Five Festival and the Pop-Up Artist series at the Aga Khan Museum (2019), Small World Music Centre, Toronto International Dance Festival (2018, 2017, 2016), TD Songs of Summer in Oakville (2018), Canada Day celebrations at Yonge-Dundas Square hosted by Community Folk Arts Council of Toronto (2018), Culture Bridge Festival (2018, 2017), Niagara Folk Arts Festival (2018), Ontario Heritage Festival at Ontario Place (2017), Canadian National Exhibition International Stage (2016), Taste of the Hill in Richmond Hill (2018) and Klezmer Brunch at the Free Times Cafe.
In 2019, Ensemble Topaz performed Kazakh music and dance at Bombardier Commercial Aircraft, celebrating the delivery of the first Q400 aircraft for Qazaq Air, the Kazakh national airline. They also performed on the Concert Stage at Toronto’s Harbourfront in the Tirgan Festival and at Gulhaaye Rang a Rang, a concert that featured Ensemble Topaz and renowned rubab player Qais Essar. Ensemble Topaz performed at Emerging Young Artists’s “A World Away” Music Festival, collaborating with Chinese musician Huiming Li while creating a new music/poetry work for the event called “Mountain Bloom,” performing at Revolution Recording and at Lula Lounge in Toronto.
Highlights of 2018 included Pomegranate Garden, produced in conjunction with the Noor Cultural Centre in Toronto, marked their first international collaboration as Topaz joined forces with visiting dancer Akmaral Kainazarova from Kazakhstan. Ensemble Topaz also joined with Iranian setar player Fariba Hedayati in the concert “Hands in Harmony” along with Toronto-based percussionist Araz Nayeb Pashayee and Burlington, Ontario-based setar player Hamoon Zamani at the Small World Music Centre in Toronto.
Ensemble Topaz has also conducted several outreach and educational workshops with students and the public as part of Ontario Culture Days at the Toronto Public Library in 2016, 2017 and 2018, and presented a dance-music-costume exhibition for South Asian Homelands Festival at Toronto Public Library in 2018.
Ensemble Topaz is the recipient of an Ontario Arts Council Recording Grant in 2019.
The Artists of Ensemble Topaz
Paromita Kar – dance
Paromita Kar is the first to complete a PhD degree in Dance Studies in Canada (York University, Toronto). She is the recipient of Canada Council Grant to Professional Dancers (2015), Shastri Indo-Canadian Fine Arts Fellowship for Dance (2012), and the Lawrence Heisey Award for Fine Arts for Dance discipline (York University, 2009). In addition to classical Indian dance, she is also a member of the Saucy Tarts, a Toronto-based nouveau can-can troupe which performs frequently across Toronto and Montreal, Ekakshara Dance Creations, which performs traditional and contemporary South Asian dance work as well as Bollywood, and Dilan Dance Company, which performs traditional and contemporary dances from Turkey, Middle East and Central Asia. She is also the lead dancer in Ensemble Topaz, a Toronto-based music and dance ensemble dedicated to performing an original fusion of arts from Turkish, Jewish, Romani and Balkan traditions.
While performing actively, Paromita is also actively involved in dance research and scholarship. She has presented her research at conferences such as the Society of Dance History Scholars (SDHS) at Berkeley, California, and Peabody Institute, Maryland, the International Council for Traditional Music Conference in Astana, Kazakhstan, and Initiative for Romani Music Conference in New York City, Recombinant Creativity Conference at OCAD in Toronto. She has also been published variously in international dance publications.
Mike Anklewicz – saxophone and clarinet
Mike Anklewicz is a versatile musician who performs, composes, arranges, and teaches in many different areas of music, ranging from classical to jazz to klezmer to the avant-garde. He has recorded and performed with distinguished artists in all of these genres.
Mike’s project, KlezFactor, has garnered international acclaim for their three albums. “Europa,” the band’s latest CD was released in the summer of 2016 after recording in Germany and Canada. “Klezmachine” has topped university radio charts in Ontario, and has also been played in Canada, the US, Argentina, France, Portugal, Spain and Russia. Mike can also be heard on Prague-based band Eggnoise’s latest album, Yolk, and Ondřej Galuška’s solo album, O.G. and the Odd Gifts, released in the Czech Republic.
As an active freelancer in Toronto, Mike has performed in some of Toronto’s top venues including Massey Hall, The Rex, and Harbourfront Centre. Mike has been on faculty at the Royal Conservatory of Music as their saxophone instructor since 2005 and he is the recipient of a Chalmers Professional Development Grant from the Ontario Arts Council.
Mike holds a Bachelor of Music degree from Queen’s University at Kingston, Ontario, where he studied composition and saxophone performance. He also holds a Master of Music degree from the New England Conservatory in Boston, Massachusetts in saxophone performance. He has completed his PhD in Ethnomusicology from York University in Toronto, Canada with a dissertation entitled Musical Hybridities and the Klezmer Revival.
Angelica Marrett – dance
Angelica has been studying Flamenco dance under Esmeralda Enrique for the past 14 years. She has performed with Fiesta Flamenco at numerous event. She also spent two years performing with Sanskriti Arts Ensemble, with whom she performed at various events, including the Sherbrooke Festival du Monde in Quebec. Angelica has a love of vintage dance, and following this passion, in 2010 she co-founded Disco Revolution, a small dance group dedicated to keeping alive the funk and groove of 70’s Disco dance. She also enjoys Charleston/vintage Jazz and 60s style Go-Go dance, and dances the neo-cancan with the Saucy Tarts. She has been a dancer with Ekakshara Dance Creations since 2014.
Paisley – dance
Paisley has been in Ensemble Topaz since 2018 and performs with a unique grace.
Wares Fazelyar – rubab, Haris Fazelyar – tabla
Wares and Haris Fazelyar have been performing music all their lives. Their father, Abdul Wahid Fazelyar, was a well-known musician in Kabul, Afghanistan and he escaped to India, and then came to Canada in 1989. Wares, the elder brother, was born in 1994 and studied some tabla and classical piano as a youth but after seeing his uncle play the rubab, decided to learn the traditional Afghan stringed instrument. Haris is an accomplished musician in the Toronto Afghan community, playing tabla, piano and singing.
Wajma Soroor – vocals
Wajma Soroor is an Afghanistan born Canadian singer and Registered Nurse. She comes from a family of Afghan artists, including several brothers and a sister-in-law who all perform music. She has been involved in the making of music and expression of Afghan culture through the arts since childhood. She has performed for the Afghan diaspora in Germany, USA and Canada. She has supported Canadian theatre productions of The Kite Runner, Homebody/Kabul as well as CBC Radio One’s Afghanada. Her latest work is Land (2018 winner of the Montreal world film festival) and cultural consultant for The Cuban, (now in post-production).
“The troops of over 30 countries are in Afghanistan; the Afghans, the soldiers, families on each side and the entire world need the healing music of Afghan souls.” Wajma Soroor
Jarek Dabrowski – bass, guitar
Born in Poland, Jarek Dabrowski is a guitarist and multi-instrumentalist (bass, cello, strings, percussion, and trumpet) based in Toronto, the GTA and Southern Ontario. He is also a composer, songwriter, arranger and independent music producer and is the author of several full-length albums and has recorded on 13 albums by other artists (jazz, pop, world music, worship). He has written songs for artists in Canada and abroad and produced underscores to two documentary films. Jarek is the artistic director, arranger and event coordinator for TWM Entertainment and is on the music faculty at Centennial College.