Banquet: Art as Music and Dance


by Cindy Lapeña

Banquet may be the most fleeting of art installations, lasting all of 30 minutes, but delivering an impact achievable only by that delicate balance between music and dance. It is the first extended composition choreographed by PEI’s Mark Sampson, who made us proud in 2013 when he made the cut and was accepted to the prestigious Juilliard School of Dance in New York.

He collaborated with island violinist Christine Bouey, who graduated from the Manhattan School of Music in 2013 to produce a unique art installation interpreting the birth of the Confederation in music and dance, to commemorate 150 years since the 1864 Charlottetown Conference.

Bringing together three of his American Juilliard peers, Daniel Ching, Zoe MacNeil, and Cleo Person, the young and very talented Mark Sampson forged an expressive work executed with mastery that won the admiration of their gala audience, a fitting way to start the Charlottetown Festival sesquicentennial celebration.

Amid a stark set of four chairs and four tables in the centre of the Confederation Centre Art Gallery’s third floor gallery, the piece wove dancers and musician in a web depicting the interactions and conflicts among confederation delegates as they experienced feelings of alienation, homesickness and loss before finally achieving harmony that led to building a community in agreement. The whole piece made effective use of the intimate space corralled by limited seats. The proximity of the performers to the audience treated spectators to a stark view of the raw power and control exercised by the artists. All together, the space, sets, music, and movements brought to light a facet of confederation that has not been explored in other performances.

Bouey‘s music is as passionate and powerful as Sampson‘s choreography, and equally groundbreaking. She matches the energy of the dancers with her dexterity and mastery. Her composition conveys as much range of emotion as that depicted by the dancers so that one cannot imagine the dance without the music. That is how intricately and ingenuously the two arts are woven together; the audience is constantly reminded of this as musician and dancers rotate around the four corners of the performance space and, at other times, weave among themselves and the sets. In fact, Bouey‘s blocking throughout the performance is as intrinsic to the performance as the sets are; this juxtaposition is intensified in the end, emphasizing the attainment of unity.

These young artists represent the future of dance and music and bring with them enthusiasm, talent, and passion for their craft. It is they who will keep art and culture alive and thriving, along with the support of organizations that make such creativity possible. Thanks to PEI Energy Systems, PEI audiences will be able to enjoy this truly innovative artistic experience.

Banquet runs at the Confederation Centre Art Gallery until June 26, 2014 with show time at 7:30 p.m.