During my time in Montreal I went along to the weekly live music sessions at L’Escalier. The pub is a real musical hub and it wasn’t long before I got know many of the local musicians and dancers (interestingly, on my first night there I met three other Scots - one of whom was a Gaelic speaker!). I had planned to travel to Ontario to learn about Ottawa Valley step dancing, and also to travel further north to Quebec City to meet Normand Legault and other dancers, but my time in Quebec was short and I decided to focus my attention in Montreal, rather than loose time in travel days. I did, however, travel to Joliette to meet with dancer Melisandre Tremblay Bourassa and attend the trad music session at the Albion, where I met a few local legends and bumped into members of De Temps Antan. I also spent some time working with Martine Billette who had learned from Serge Mathon, Martin Duheme and Gilles Roy, and had many of the Ottawa Valley steps in her repertoire. By this point in the trip I really didn’t want to leave! Melisandre told they have an artist residency programme in Joliette, linked to the Festival Chants de Vielles, so already my thoughts were turning to future plans to return and collaborate with local artists!
Back in Montreal, I went along to an outdoor music session in a park organised by EspaceTrad. There was a piece of wooden staging just beside the where the musicians were playing, so I pulled it a bit closer and jumped on to dance to their music. There was a lovely moment when a lady came up from her chair to play beside me - everyone else had gone quiet and it was just the rhythm of my feet and her on the jaw harp - she said it was her first time playing for a dancer and she was absolutely delighted. Another lady told me that they had been taking this piece of wood to the session all summer in the hope that a dancer would join them - and here I was at their very last gathering of the summer, doing Scottish steps to their Québécois tunes! Here is a comment from one of the musicians: “Quel bonheur d’y avoir participé! Ce fut un moment magique pour moi d’accompagner Sophie cette merveilleuse danseuse écossaise au seul son de ma guimbarde! Quel feeling extraordinaire de se sentir en symbiose rythmique avec des pas de gigue si joliment interprétés! Espérons que ces belles rencontres trad reviennent l’été prochain!” Irrelevant of language, age or background - it’s amazing how music can bring us together and create bonds.
In my final weekend, I attended concerts and social dances as part of Festival La Grand Rencontre. This was a great opportunity to meet both local and international artists. I really enjoyed watching ‘Galant tu perds ton temps’ - an a cappella vocal group, singing traditional work-songs, dance songs and call and answers songs, with vocal harmonies and a strong rhythmic drive. Another band from Quebec was É.T.É. which brought together vocals, instrumentals, foot percussion and traditional Quebecois step dance in a way which was fresh, vibrant and up-lifting. The other big revelation for me was the dance calling! I attended two social dances - one was called by Ghyslain Jutras and the other by Pierre Chartrand. The have the most amazing way of calling for social dances in Quebec - they make up tongue twisters which explain the moves of the dance, which they sing to the rhythm of the melody - it’s almost like puirt-à-beul, which I found quite exciting!! (I also attended a Breton social dance hosted by the Breton community in Montreal, which was a nice wee extra bonus to my trip!)
My trip to Quebec was extremely beneficial to my professional development. As well as learning new techniques which directly informed my practise, I was also able to network with other professional dancers and musicians. Before my trip, I had in mind bringing together Quebecois and Scottish step dancing along with mouth music in Gaelic and French. When I returned I got in touch with Donald Shaw at Celtic Connections, proposing a show which brought together artists from Scotland, Brittany and Quebec. I was delighted that Donald was keen on my idea! For the show I brought together TradBeats with É.T.É and Krismenn & Alem for a collaboration comprising singers in 3 different languages, 3 instrumentalists, 3 beatboxers and 2 dancers - it's was a lot of fun! Thank you to Tasgadh for the initial professional development grant which provided the foundation for this collaboration.