Chinese Montrealers join mass dance performance for city's 375th anniversary

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.

Chinese Montrealers 375

Xing Q will be performing at Place des Festivals as part of the the Super Méga Continental dance show. (Anna Asimakopulos/CBC)

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.

Chinese Montrealers 375

Jasmine Sun immediately saw the potential of being part of the project. (Anna Asimakopulos/CBC)

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.

Chinese Montrealers 375

Yuxi Ma and Sandy Liu say the experience has made them feel like they are really part of Montreal. (Anna Asimakopulos/CBC)

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.

Chinese Montrealers group shot

About 20 Chinese Montrealers signed up for months of twice-weekly rehearsals, first in a church basement, and now in the bowels of the Olympic Stadium. (Submitted by Anna Asimakopulos)

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. 

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