Twist, Shout & Be Moved! – A Curatorial Statement on Le Grand Continental® by Joyce Rosario
January 17, 2015
Professional dancers train their whole lives to perform in full-length works upwards of 60 minutes. Even a three minute music video choreography requires a level of skill and experience only career dancers possess. Then, there’s Le Grand Continental®: a public dance piece performed en masse by 75 Vancouverites. This uplifting, seemingly happy-go-lucky 30 minute choreographed performance is different because the dancers aren’t the kind you’d come to expect from the 2015 PuSh International Performing Arts Festival – they’re folks from all walks of life. Some have never danced before, and all of them have been coming together twice a week, for 10 weeks to learn Sylvain Émard’s contemporary reimagining of the traditional line dance.
Before embarking on Le Grand Continental® Vancouver, I was struck by the sheer idea of a mass of people taking over a public space, and animating it with dance. I’d been following the show since it was presented at Festival Transameriques in 2009, 2010 and 2011; and subsequently in New York, Philadelphia, Portland, Ottawa and Boston. I have also seen flash mobs before, but this is a piece of choreography by a professional from the performing arts. I thought it would be a gift to bring this work to the 2015 PuSh Festival, to give participants the experience and the opportunity to perform, and to have it be a free show for our audience.
Instead, the office workers, sales representatives, academics, grandmothers (and more!) have all surprised me by transforming themselves into committed dancers. These volunteers demonstrated their commitment to the performance, Sylvain, PuSh, and most of all: to each other! The word ‘community’ is often overused, but Le Grand Continental® is a true lesson in what it really means. The real gift has been being able to witness community grow out of the project; watching the heart, dedication and enthusiasm that each person brings to every rehearsal; and the generosity of Sylvain, Lara (our rehearsal director), Caroline and Anna (our rehearsal assistants), and Emily (Associate Producer and intrepid intern at PuSh!). You can read dancers, Peter Dickinson and Cheryl Rossi’s accounts of the rehearsals process for more insight into the performance.
Let’s all do a sun dance before Le Grand Continental® on January 24 & 25! It is the very first winter edition of the performance, despite the many incarnations of it all over the world. This is Vancouver after all, and though it doesn’t get all that frigid, it does get wet! Cross your fingers for a dry Le Grand Continental®!
P.S. Also, stay tuned for a documentary about the process of making Le Grand Continental® for the 2015 PuSh Festival in Vancouver. Filmed by the same team of filmmakers who brought us Kiss the Rabbit, the documentary about the 10th anniversary PuSh Festival in 2014, this new production will air on Telus OPTIK later in the year. Here’s a sneak peek of what to expect:
Come and support your fellow Vancouverites, as all 75 of them dance their hearts out at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre Plaza, January 24 & 25 at 1:00PM and 4:00PM. Le Grand Continental® is a free public performance – performing rain or shine!