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Traditional Valley dances performed on the Montreal stage

Back in November of last year, a Gleaner article talked about dancer and choreographer Kerwin Barrington’s trip to the Valley in search of the dances of her ancestors.

This search resulted in an evening of dance early last November, where Barrington and her group had the opportunity to spend time with Pierre Savaria and Les Loisirs Folklorique, as well as the folks from Brysonville Schoolhouse.

The fruition of this research was presented last weekend as part of L’Université du Montreal’s recreational program “Synapse” in a 20-minute performance entitled Suivre les Racines Pour Trouver la Terre.

Synapse is an extra-curricular course led by Barrington that is open to the public and allows people from any program or walk of life to experience performing in dance.

The premiere took place at the J. A. De Séve Pavillion; it was beautiful to watch the free-flowing forms in recognizable traditional patterns. The music, made up of drums, electric guitar, and cello, was similarly both completely different and perfectly fitting for the choreographed pieces.

During a question-and-answer period after the show, Barrington explained that they took the reels and other tunes from their evening in the Valley, then they selected the proper timing for each segment of the performance and built their music from these rhythms. The key was to honour and embody the rhythm.


Dancers from the Synapse course at the Université de Montréal who were led by Kerwin Barrington premiered their work inspired in part by Valley dances in early April PHOTO Myrian Guerin and Jonathan Latour


One section, called The Moon and the Sun in the Centre, held a special symbolism with the total eclipse that occurred last week.

The group spent six months practising call and response, improvisation, and varying speeds and volumes of the music to achieve their final result.

Barrington also noted how the dancers realised they were referencing each other; that is, were becoming aware of the group as a whole, rather than just their position on the stage – something to which square dancers can quite relate.

Barrington would love to complete the circle of this project. She is now hoping to find an occasion or venue to share their performance here in the Valley.

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