Le super méga continental
375 Montrealers perform a gigantic Continental in unison on a colossal dance floor, the biggest line dance ever. Sheer bliss!
First he presented a big version, then a bigger one, then an XL… and now he’s back with a super mega version! Sylvain Émard will be inviting the public – in September this time – to a gigantic Continental performed by 375 extremely enthusiastic amateur dancers. No doubt about it, the Super méga continental will transform Place des Festivals into a colossal dance floor featuring the biggest line dance in Montréal. Sheer bliss!
After electrifying nine other big cities around the world, the event created in 2009 at the FTA is coming back home. Citizens of all ages and backgrounds and from every neighbourhood will assemble to perform in unison an undeniably contemporary line dance, a grand twirling and very human kaleidoscope, a unique and entertaining collective experience. Chances are, as often happens, the party will continue after the final bows with an energetic post-show propelled by DJ Poirier for the evening performances. Party time indeed!
Produced by Sylvain Émard Danse
Choreographed by Sylvain Émard
Professional dancers Nathalie Blanchet + Maryse Carrier + Claudia Chan Tak + Stéphane Deligny + Mark Eden-Towle + Audrée Juteau + Nicolas Labelle + Nicolas Patry + Amélie Rajotte + David Rancourt + Julie Siméon + Catherine Viau + Daniel Villeneuve
Sound design Martin Tétreault
Lighting design Bruno Rafie
Rehearsal coach Nathalie Blanchet
Co-produced by Festival TransAmériques
An event part of the official programming of the 375th anniversary of Montreal
Co-presented by Sylvain Émard Danse + Festival TransAmériques
Written by Mylène Joly
Translated by Neil Kroetsch
Premiered at Festival TransAmériques, Montreal, on September 15, 2017
Sylvain Émard (Montreal) Sylvain Émard Danse
Sylvain Émard is at the forefront of contemporary dance in Canada. Initially adopting a theatrical approach, his works soon took on the formal, poetic aesthetics for which he is well known.
He has created some thirty choreographies to date, notably the impressive Climatologie des corps trilogy consisting of Pluie (2004), Temps de chien (2005) and Wave (2007). He has also collaborated with other artists in theatre, opera and cinema, including the choreography for Demain matin, Montréal m’attend, presented this spring at Théâtre du Nouveau Monde. His prolific career has been rewarded with numerous distinctions such as the Jacqueline Lemieux Prize from the Canada Council for the Arts (1990) and the Jean A. Chalmers Award for creativity and excellence in the arts (1996).
In 2017 Sylvain Émard is reconnecting with both the intimate and the monumental, returning to the stage after a 15-year absence to present at Agora de la danse his new solo Le chant des sirènes, followed by a plunge into the invigorating energy of Super méga continental and its 375 participants. It is an offshoot of Grand continental (FTA, 2009), a performance remounted the two following years to the delight of festivalgoers, growing in size from 65 dancers in 2009 to 210 in 2011. Whether small, intimate works or large-scale ensemble projects, the dance is always rich in refined movement, imbued with profound humanity.
What strikes many is the communal nature of your Grand continental concept even though, as you yourself have said, it is first and foremost an artistic project. How does Le super méga continental fit into your overall artistic approach?
People often say to me “What a beautiful community outreach project!”, although that was not my intention. Maybe it’s one of the consequences of the project, but at the outset it was an artistic project I had been thinking about for some time.
Despite appearances it represented a high level of difficulty, requiring many, many hours of rehearsals in the studio and at home to cobble together all the choreography. Not only that, but some of the dancers abandoned the project, for it demands real commitment from the amateur dancers, far beyond any community outreach activity.
The vocabulary that I develop in my work with professional dancers is also influenced by social dancing. It is perhaps less noticeable, because the dancers I work with are technically accomplished, which gives a more virtuoso aspect to a piece. I do like navigating between extremes, however, going from small, intimate works to large-scale projects.
I recently created a solo, and thus I’m now shifting from a project for one dancer to a piece for 375 performers. Generally speaking, working in smaller formats helps me understand what I can do with a large group and vice-versa.
Le super méga continental presents an extraordinarily diverse range of bodies, given that the cast consists for the most part of amateurs. The professional dance scene, however, often seems to feature bodies that are very similar, if not identical. What can a choreographer learn working with such diversity?
In Le super méga continental diversity is expressed not only by body type but also by age, which means varying degrees of coordination and motor skills. While the movements performed are not precisely the same from one dancer to the next – some can only bend their backs a little bit, for example, or the arms of others won’t be at the same height as the other dancers – they do manage to move in unison, which is marvellous in itself. Despite the difference in execution due to age or physical ability, the choreography works because of the group effect. Each person’s identity is preserved in the crowd, and that’s what makes the dance so interesting.
This time round, 375 participants will dance to celebrate the 375th anniversary of Montreal. I insist on recruiting them from different neighbourhoods throughout the city so as to reflect the plural origins and cultures of the city. More than ever, diversity will be key to the beauty of the performance.
I would add that working with non-professionals has led me to become less strict with professionals. I have always insisted on great precision from my dancers. I used to be relentless in attempting to create perfect lines, so that things would look graphically impeccable. I still have high standards, but am less rigid as regards the plasticity of the movement.
Where did the idea of celebrating social dancing come from?
Looking at people on a dance floor having fun dancing for hours at a time is fascinating – that vivacious energy and pleasure, those invigorated dancers. It is very touching to see for it is unique, impossible to reproduce onstage. A person can’t hide when he or she is dancing, and what is most beautiful in humanity emerges.
When I first came up with the Grand continental concept, I imagined a mass choreography. Then when the first participants showed up, I discovered the people who would make it come to life. By moving with them, observing their clumsiness, their discomfort at times or their sudden joy at mastering a movement, I once again found the vulnerability that I have always found compelling. For me dance is a source of hope, particularly social dancing, which is often treated with disdain.
Best of 2015, Top 5 dance: “Sylvain Emard’s epic community dance project was unlike anything else we saw in 2015.”
Deborah Meyers, The Vancouver Sun, about the Grand continental in Vancouver,
Andrew Boynton, The New Yorker, about the Grand continental in New York, United States, 2012-12-17
“[The dancers] are delightful to watch. (…) And the shy, flirtatious smiles many of them presented to the audience were absolutely winning.”
Claudia La Rocco, The New York Times, about the Grand continental in New York, 2012-06-24
“It was a grand sight. Both music and choreography were as infectious with community spirit as a holiday parade.”
Victor Swoboda, The Gazette, about the Continental XL in Montreal, 2011-10-21