Mu­sic and dance go hand in hand

On­tario woman forms con­nec­tion with Is­landers through Aca­dian tra­di­tions

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - FEATURES - BY MIL­LI­CENT MCKAY

It’s an hon­our Meghan Forsyth wasn’t ex­pect­ing; she just wanted to share the sto­ries she’s ac­cu­mu­lated over the years.

“Is­landers wel­comed me into their world shar­ing their sto­ries about tra­di­tional Aca­dian mu­sic, I saw this as a way to give back to the com­mu­nity it means so much to,” said Forsyth of her PhD work that in­volved chat­ting with lo­cals about the evo­lu­tion of Aca­dian mu­sic.

Forsyth, an On­tario na­tive who cur­rently re­sides in St. John’s, N.L., is an eth­no­mu­si­col­o­gist, some­one who stud­ies mu­sic and its re­la­tion to cul­ture and so­ci­ety.

While work­ing on her PhD on Aca­dian in­stru­men­tal mu­sic, for the Uni­ver­sity of Toronto, Forsyth heard nu­mer­ous sto­ries of step and set danc­ing.

“I spoke with gen­er­a­tions of Is­landers about mu­sic, and quickly it was ap­par­ent that mu­sic and dance go hand in hand.”

On Tues­day, Forsyth was pre­sented the Prix Gil­bert Buote award from the Aca­dian Mu­seum in Miscouche.

“It’s re­ally some­thing to be af­fil­i­ated with some­one who holds so much pres­tige in the com­mu­nity,” said Forsyth.

Upon com­plet­ing her dis­ser­ta­tion, Forsyth con­tacted some lo­cals and from there the group col­lab­o­rated to put to­gether “Dansez: Aca­dian Dance Tra­di­tions on P.E.I. Past and Present.”

“I had this strong feel­ing that ev­ery­one should be able to see these videos and hear these sto­ries. The only way I was able to was be­cause of the re­search I was do­ing.”

So, Forsyth ap­proached the Aca­dian Mu­seum with her idea of a multi-me­dia ex­hi­bi­tion. The mu­seum’s di­rec­tor of the time, Cé­cile Gal­lant, wel­comed the pro­ject.

It de­scribes the tra­di­tions of step danc­ing and set danc­ing. Step danc­ing refers to a per­cus­sive, fast paced dance fea­tur­ing in­tri­cate foot­work in a rou­tine close to the floor and is per­formed with tra­di­tional fid­dle, ac­cor­dion, har­mon­ica and vo­cals. Set danc­ing was a party of­ten held in the kitchen, as it was the largest room in the house.

Danc­ing would start after sup­per and last un­til dawn with as many danc­ing pairs as the room could fit ac­com­pa­nied by a fid­dler and har­mon­ica.

Forsyth went to work to find the nec­es­sary grants to fund the re­search and pro­duc­tion, not only of a multi-me­dia ex­po­si­tion, but also of a web­site. To help with the re­search, she reached out to many col­lab­o­ra­tors on and off the Is­land.

Fi­nally she called upon her hus­band, Wilco Van Eik­eren, a pro­fes­sional graphic de­signer, to de­sign both the bilin­gual ex­hi­bi­tion and web­site.

The ex­hibit opened at the Aca­dian Mu­seum in June.

“I hope ev­ery­one had a chance to see the ex­hibit. We tried to make it as in­ter­ac­tive as pos­si­ble. There are videos and iPads that are set up to pro­vide in­struc­tion for the var­i­ous dances. There are also short es­says and old pho­tographs that re­ally cap­ture the mem­o­ries and joy be­hind the tra­di­tions. It’s re­ally some­thing to cel­e­brate and re­mem­ber.”

Some of Forsyth’s favourite mo­ments in­clude see­ing the ex­pres­sions on faces as peo­ple told their sto­ries and the emo­tions ex­pressed in old pho­tographs.

“There’s one with an older gen­tle­man step danc­ing on a float. The look on his face has al­ways stuck with me.”

For more in­for­ma­tion on the ex­hibit go to http://dansea­ca­di­enne.ca.

“I hope ev­ery­one had a chance to see the ex­hibit. We tried to make it as in­ter­ac­tive as pos­si­ble. There are videos and iPads that are set up to pro­vide in­struc­tion for the var­i­ous dances. “Meghan Forsyth

MAR­GUERITE GAL­LANT/SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

P.E.I. res­i­dents en­joy a kitchen party dance in Cap-Eg­mont.

ELVA ARSE­NAULT/SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

Ar­cade Arse­nault of Baie-Eg­mont en­ter­tains a group at an Aca­dian kitchen party.

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

Meghan Forsyth, a St. John’s res­i­dent, spent time on P.E.I. chat­ting with Miscouche res­i­dents about the evo­lu­tion of Aca­dian mu­sic for her PhD.

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