~~The weather was perfect this afternoon for the final performance of Le Grand Continental, a celebration of movement, community and public space. Created by the Montreal-based company Sylvain Émard Danse, Le Grand Continental is an idea that transcends locales, dance and musical style, age differences; in doing so it turns public spaces such as Copley Square into a site of exuberance, togetherness, and vitality.
Boston is one of the five cities where Le Grand Continental has been staged; the others are Montreal, Mexico City, New York, Philadelphia and Portland, OR. The project integrates line dancing with contemporary dance, giving the whole spectacle an urban, spontaneous quality.
The dancers’ age ranged across seven decades– all amateurs, all here for the sheer joy of dancing together. The more than one hundred dancers, all from Boston and its surrounding communities, had rehearsed for several months for this weekend’s performance, and they came in a colorful assortment of costumes, footwear, and makeup. In less than 30 minutes, a space made ordinary by local and tourist foot traffic was inhabited by dance. It’s as if Copley Square and the Boston Public Library shrugged history off for something of the moment, something vernacular, something for all.
The whole thing was a blast, and Copley Square, for all its farmers’ markets and festivals and rallies and street commerce, had never looked this alive, pulsating with a fiery energy which is not typical for this town of ours, telling us–dancers and spectators–that the streets and squares are made for togetherness: Two women saved seats for us while we went meandering, a gentleman distributed ear plugs, another led a handicapped man to a safe seat. We were together, gathered by this most ancient of human activities re-made in the image of the city, a harbor for all.
There’s a lot of talk these days about cities becoming centers of renewal (I will not use the word vibrant; it’s so overused as to have lost all meaning…). Boston has doggedly continued, sticking to its ways, relying on its natural beauty, intellectual capital, and long memory. This weekend’s dance spectacle was so terrific as to make us all wonder if this dizzying mix of color and sound and movement may be a harbinger of things to come to our city, our shores.~~