Connections across the decades - My Gay Toronto - Bellini's 8 1/2
Connections across the decades 03 November 2017.
One hundred years ago, more than 3,500 Canadian men died at the Battle of Vimy Ridge in France. Now, choreographer Laurence Lemieux presents her new work Jusqu'à Vimy at the Citadel: Ross Centre for Dance beginning Wednesday, November 15.
"You wouldn't pick contemporary dance as the first means of expression for this event," admits Lemieux, "so I decided to focus on the personal level. Every cast member was matched to a local soldier who had lived in and around the area where the Citadel is now. There was one young man living on Dundas, one on Gerrard, one on Berkeley. With the help of Veteran Affairs, we got files that each dancer could use to find out about that soldier. Some of their houses are still standing."
In April past, the company went to the Vimy Ridge ceremony in France to present a segment of the work. It was also a valuable opportunity for the dancers to understand their roles in an immediate way. "We went to their graves when we were there, and we would do a little ceremony and a minute of silence for each. We needed to make those connections."
Lemieux admits to being awestruck by the location. "When you get to Vimy, you feel it. There are many cemeteries and everywhere you look is a cross, a cross, a cross, a cross, these crosses are everywhere. German cemeteries, and Canadian cemeteries, and British cemeteries, so many people died. It was overwhelming." Now, she has the creative challenge of taking those feelings and instructing her one female and eight male dancers on how to interpret these events.
"Most of them were so young, and unmarried, so there aren't that many surviving family members," she said. "But The Citadel was built in 1912. Some of them might have visited here, or possibly even enlisted here because it was once a Salvation Army."
The score is by John Gzowski and the performance is augmented by an immersive multimedia installation created by Luke Garwood and Jeremy Mimnagh. I'll bet it will be impossible to sit through Jusqu'à Vimy and not get choked up.