Last summer, legendary ex-Talking Heads musician David Byrne staged Contemporary Color, a music & arts event that took place in Brooklyn and Toronto. The concept brought together 10 world-class musicians - St. Vincent (who performed at POP together with Byrne back in 2012!), Nelly Furtado, Devonté Hynes, Zola Jesus, Ad-Rock, tUnE-yArDs, and Ira Glass, to name a few - with 10 Color Guard teams from across the United States and Canada, including Longueuil’s very own Les Éclipses. The Result? For you to find out during Film POP's Quebec premiere of the performance turned documentary. In the mean time, we spoke to Les Éclipses' general director Annie Pelletier to know more about the team's dream experience.
What is Color Guard all about? How did you develop a passion for this hobby that is at once an art and a sport?
Originating from drum and clarion marching bands at the beginning of the ‘70s and following in militarism’s footprints, today these choreography performances have become superb artistic productions complete with sets and magic.
A choreographic ensemble is a group of young people who compete in what can be likened to artistic / rhythmic gymnastics; a coveted Olympic discipline. These shows are performed using a soundtrack and usually, each ensemble takes on a theme of its own.
In addition to dance and theater, practitioners of this art must master the handling of certain equipment, such as flags, sabers, mock rifles and other accessories that may vary depending on the theme chosen by the choreographers.
Although artistic, this hobby is extremely physically demanding and requires maximum concentration from its performers. It has also been proven that the practice of this activity helps increase the ability to concentrate and may be recommended in some cases of attention deficit or hyperactivity in the young. Memory is also stimulated here, not to mention the benefits provided by teamwork, values of sharing, respect and perseverance, pride, independence, rigor, responsibility and pursuit of excellence that are prioritized in choreographic ensembles.
Personally, I discovered majorettes in the late 1970s. I had no doubt when starting this activity that I would develop a passion for it. Majorettes evolved to become drum and clarion marching bands and choreography ensembles. I did not stop practicing this sport until the age limit of 22. Afterwards, I taught and I have now been the Chief of Les Eclipses de Longueuil for the last 15 years. This activity brought me a lot, in terms of independence at a young age, sharing and respect.
How did you get selected to be a part of the Color Guard teams for the Contemporary Color shows? How did the preparation process differ in comparison to competing and what did you take away from this experience?
The groups were selected by David Byrne and his team. We received an email from our American federation to advise us that we had been selected to participate in this great adventure. In part, the groups were chosen because of their proximity to NY and Toronto. The selected groups were finalists in their categories and they could very well represent the choreographic ensembles.
We prepare a different show every year. The show is presented in a competition in January and in April of each year. We use pre recorded music and develop a choreography. David Byrne composed a new song to match our choreography. After our usual season, at the end of April, we continued rehearsals to adapt our choreography to this new song and integrated new people to the choreography, because not everyone was available to participate in this great adventure.
It was an extraordinary experience for the youth that participated. We usually have to compete and perform in gyms with pre recorded music. The fact that we performed in places as large, with lights harmonizing themselves to our show and a live band is a unique experience for us. The stress of the competition was not present, but different. We wanted to show everyone our art which is unfortunately very unknown.
Tell us about your work experience with David Byrne. How was it meeting him?
The first meeting with David Byrne took place at a competition in the United States. The team was impressed, although the majority had no idea who he was. He has an open mind, and is not intimidating but is still reserved. We unfortunately did not have the chance to be around him a lot because he was on stage during rehearsals / performances and we had little interaction. We still had the chance to have some discussions with him and he enjoyed the short moments spent with the team.