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Luminato’s Contemporary Colour

Who knew? I encountered a new world tonight – the world of Colour Guard at the Luminato show that opened tonight, Contemporary Color. (This is Canada, I groused, it should be Contemporary Colour. But most of the performers are American and it’s on its way to New York after here, so we lose our ‘u’. A slippery slope. Phooey!)

I would never have chosen to go on my own, since I knew nothing about this – but it turns out my dear neighbour Richard, a man of many many skills – among other things, he’s the Canadian expert in royalty and etiquette and is often on television explaining royal behaviour – has a long history with Colour Guard and was for years one of the event’s judges, which requires a huge amount of expertise.

Who knew?

If I had to define it, I’d say Colour Guard is democratic spectacle. David Byrne of the Talking Heads, who conceived this event, calls it “a vernacular art and performance form that evolved outside the influence and pressure of media gatekeepers in big cities.” Some of the groups tonight were high school students of all shapes and sizes, some who definitely did not look like dancers, and yet there they were, dancing joyfully all over the stage and spinning colourful flags in unison and tossing spinning rifles and sabres high in the air. I gather this competitive event came out of drum and bugle corps, marching bands and the military tradition, which explains why they dance with flags, guns and sabres. Rather than batons, as Richard was quick to point out. NO BATONS, and they do not twirl, they spin. These distinctions are important.

So as an esteemed honcho in this world, Richard was given tickets, and I was invited. It was at the vast Air Canada Centre, for God’s sake, where I saw Paul McCartney! David Byrne enlisted a bunch of A list musicians, including Nelly Furtado, Ad-Rock from the Beastie Boys and Ira Glass, my fave, from NPR, to produce original music played by a superb band, and, in Glass’s case, a documentary sound track of the performers talking about what they’re doing, as they do it.

It’s hard to convey the spectacle, because it’s about synchronous movement, flags in the air, rifles tossed extremely high and caught, fancy dance moves, costumes, concept, music … Two of the groups were Canadian, definitely the junior partners here, the Americans were phenomenal. But I tried to imagine explaining this event to my French friends. Difficult.

And then at the end, all the ten groups came on together and spun their flags. Marvellous!

But, as I confessed to Richard, now that I’ve seen Colour Guard once and enjoyed it very much, I might not go out of my way to see it again.



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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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