There’s a collection of photos, group shots of some 15 smiling and sweaty friends. Shots taken at the end of every rehearsal for the Super Méga Continental.
Xing Qi is collecting the photos, documenting her community’s involvement in the dance show celebrating Montreal’s 375th anniversary.
“It’s like history, and memory, and we’re so proud for that,” Qi said.
Qi and her friends are among 375 dancers who will perform a blend of contemporary dance and line dancing in a series of free performances at Place des Festivals this September.
The company behind the show, Sylvain Émard Danse, made a concerted effort to reflect Montreal’s diversity, putting the word out at several Maisons de la Culture, cultural community publications, and holding auditions in different parts of the city, spanning from Notre-Dame-de-Grâce to Montreal North.
Jasmine Sun was one of the Montrealers who answered the callout for dancers. She works for Montreal’s Chinese media, and immediately saw the potential of being a part of the project.
“Because it’s the 375th anniversary and we have become Montrealers so we must integrate and join in,” she said.
She recruited Qi, who put the word out to other Chinese Montrealers. Twenty of them signed up for months of twice-weekly rehearsals, first in a church basement, and now in the bowels of the Olympic Stadium.
Yuxi Ma joined for his wife Sandy Liu.
“My wife really likes dancing, but me, I am quite shy. But [Xing Qi] told us they needed more men, so if I come, then my wife can come. So I come for my wife.”
Like their friends, Ma and Liu had never done any kind contemporary dance before, but they practise at home and they get to rehearsals early to practise with one of the professional dancers hired to coach everyone.
Now as the opening night looms closer, that diligence is paying off, they are confident and proud.
“I called my mother in China and said we were part of a performance for celebration of Montreal, and my mother is so happy for me,” Liu said.
“We now really feel we are a member of Montreal,” Ma added.
He also has several hundred new friends, fellow Montrealers learning the steps to a 30-minute dance performance alongside him, and sharing the journey towards a moment in the city’s cultural history.
This is the second of Anna Asimakopulos’s chronicles of the path to opening night on Friday, Sept. 15. She will be sharing her story and those of fellow dancers.
The performances of Super Méga Continental will be Sept. 15, 16, and 17 at Place des Festivals.