“How many people went to the parade today?” (audience cheers.)
“How many people were in the parade today?” (BIG audience cheers.)
“This will be the parade everyone remembers,” Jay Craven continued, as he introduced the night’s feature at the Flynn.
It was a wet one alright. The parade for the Quadricentennial had been scheduled to start at 5 and end around 7. By the time I came into downtown around 6 driving through a heavy downpour most of the way in, I knew it must be cancelled. The standing traffic barriers on all of the sidestreets said otherwise. Sure enough – it was on, in the pouring rain.
Bands, floats (no irony there), the Vermont French Antique Car Club, Bread and Puppet, they were all rolling along as normal down the parade route even as onlookers had to move closer to the middle of the street to avoid the small streams flowing down the gutters. Burlington’s Taiko drummers kept the beat at the end of the lineup, smiling and dancing in rain ponchos made luminous in with the backlighting from the following patrol cars.
Somehow fitting that a celebration of Lake Champlain should include so much water.
Tonight’s feature at the Flynn was the new collaboration commissioned for the Quad celebrations, From the New World, choreographed by the French/Algerian dancemaster Heddy Maalem. It’s a dance interpretation of Samuel de Champlain’s arrival at the Lake, set to Dvorak’s Symphony #9 (“From the New World”). At least mostly. Did I miss something? Like the last movement of the symphony, which was replaced for the final dance tableau by a movement from Dvorak’s “American” Quartet? No one ever promised a complete performance of the symphony for tonight’s show, true, but when the performance concluded without that last movement ever playing and the lights came up there seemed to be some brief confusion in the audience. For a moment everyone looked at each other, I heard a few “Is that it?” and “Is it over?” comments, and then the applause began.
It did feel inconclusive, but then again this Quadricentennial celebration also is not the end of the story for the Lake region, it’s but a milemarker in the region’s history.
A lot of preparation and hard work went into these shows (tonight’s and the premiere, last night), which never could have been realized without the vision of Jay Craven and Heddy Maalem, the commission from Burlington City Arts, the nearly 40 dancers, and many contributing organizations and sponsors.
What will they do for the 500th? I can’t imagine, but I’ll have my umbrella ready for whatever it holds.