Contemporary dance and the Roundhouse community connected recently, during auditions for PuSh Festival’s 2015 production of Le Grand Continental®. For those who are unfamiliar with PuSh, it is a multi-disciplinary, international performance smorgasbord that celebrated its 10 year anniversary last winter. I look forward to it each year as a bright spot in the post-Christmas lull before the arrival of spring. The performances are smart, thought provoking, assumption challenging, sometimes very funny, sometimes very puzzling, and always well worth seeing.
Le Grand Continental® is the creation of choreographer Sylvain Émard who drew his inspiration from contemporary dance and line dancing. The production was originally developed and performed as part of the 2009 Festival prom dress Transamériques – a Montreal-based festival celebrating theatre, dance, and performance pieces. Since 2009, it has been performed twice more in Montreal, as well as in Mexico City, New York, Philadelphia, Portland, Boston, and Ottawa. This month, the show will come to Vancouver. This outdoor performance will be 30 minutes of choreography consisting of eight sections of music including R&B, techno, and ballroom. Le Grand Continental ® is very unique in that these performances use more than 100 synchronized dancers who are recruited from the general public, not from professional dance.
Our audition at the Roundhouse began with us completing forms and waivers, having our photos taken, and receiving numbered stickers to wear on our shirts. A diverse range of people waited eagerly for the session to begin. From uber-confident twenty-something “danceperts” to retirees looking to keep busy, the common bond was an interest in dance and performance. Sylvain spoke to the group and provided a brief introduction to the project. Our task for the evening was to learn a portion of the choreography. We watched Sylvain demonstrate the first phrase of movement and then tried it ourselves. Our fast-paced session continued as we learned the next phrase and then another. As the session moved on we got better and better and it became more and more fun. We concluded by stringing the phrases of a section of music together and having the finished product videotaped.
Those who took up the challenge went through intensive bi-weekly rehearsals in November and December. After taking a little break for the holidays, they will resume their dance rehearsals in January. You will be able to come down and see the results of their efforts during free performances January 24 – 25 (1pm and 4pm) at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre Plaza – 650 Hamilton Street.
By Karen Clare, Roundhouse Blog Team. Karen has a background in psychology and human resources. She is an active volunteer in the arts community and she is inspired by all things creative.