© PHOTO SPECIAL TO THE GUARDIAN BY NIR ARIELI
P.E.I. native, Mark Sampson, left, is leading a new interpretation-in-dance collaboration called Banquet, which kicks off the 2014 Charlottetown Festival on May 31. From left are fellow Julliard School dancers Cleo Person, Zoe McNeil and Daniel Ching in rehearsal. It’s co-presented by P.E.I. 2014.
The Charlottetown Conference is an important chapter in Canadian history.
Filled with lively discussions, banquets and parties, the 1864 meeting set the wheels of Confederation in motion.
Now, 150 years later, it’s become the impetus for the Charlottetown Festival’s newest creation, Banquet.
Co-created by dancer/choreographer Mark Sampson and violinist/composer Christina Bouey, it celebrates the historic conference through interpretive dance.
“I’m excited, anxious and nervous, feeling so many emotions right now. It’s my first endeavour and it’s so wonderful to have the premiere here in Charlottetown,” says Sampson of the show which will be performed on select dates from May 31 to June 7 at the Confederation Centre Art Gallery.
In the show, a dining room table, representing P.E.I., stands isolated in a performance space. Various chairs, embodied by Sampson and three fellow dancers/classmates — Daniel Ching, Cleo Person, and Zoe McNeil — all from The Juilliard School in New York, are invited to the table.
Unlike plays or musicals that come with a written narrative, this story will be told through music and movement.
“It’s a celebration, in dance, of people coming together. It depicts, through dance, how we bring communities together at a table. And how ideas of union are expressed through dance,” says Lynch, creative consultant for the project.
“By simply watching dancers’ body language, audience members will be able to determine the storyline. It will be evident, once you see it, in the way that people come together, get along and move as one. Or, other times, how they might run up against each other or be unable to communicate or move in unison.
“You won’t be able to say, ‘aha, there’s Sir John A. MacDonald’ but you’ll get the idea that a successful union takes work.”
Bouey is excited about bringing her skills to the table.
“I’m bring my originality to the composition, my own take on the Charlottetown Conference so you’ll hear that in the music,” says the classically-trained violinist who has written a 30-minute piece of classical music that she will be performing live, during the show.
“Mark had very strong ideas about what he wanted. There are six sections total, including the beginning, which is silent. He wanted very specific characters of music for the different movements. And he told me what he wanted for each movement, character-wise. So that gave me an idea about what to write for it,” says Bouey, a member of Shattered Glass, a string ensemble performing at Carnegie Hall in New York City on June 13.
The music will evoke a variety of emotions.
“It’s about conflict and resolve, how the Fathers of Confederation came into agreement with each other. Usually my music is tonal. But it’s not always that way in this piece.
“In the first movement, there’s definitely some tension in the harmonies. Then, as the movements go on, it becomes a lot more beautiful, more tonal which is to represent everyone coming together, in a much more harmonious way.”
Bouey hopes that Islanders will show their support by taking one of the performances.
“It’s going to be something that people have never seen before. And Mark is an incredible talent and a blossoming choreographer. So I think that both of us coming together have a lot to share with P.E.I.”
AT A GLANCE
If you are going
Where: Confederation Centre Art Gallery, Charlottetown.
When: May 31 and June 4-6, 7:30 p.m., June 2-7 at 1 p.m.
Details: Production is approximately 30 minutes in length and will be followed by an audience question and answer session.
Box office: Admission is free.