Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Cirque Du Soleil

       As the grand finale of the semester, we saw the Cirque Du Soleil show Totem. I don't think that I have ever witnessed a more imaginative performance. The show began with a person dressed in a sparkling suit (a human disco ball) descending from the ceiling into the midst of other performers on a giant turtle shell frame. Later, this same performer twirled while dangling from the ceiling once again. A giant blue laser was shot at him, causing dazzling light to play around the inside of the tent.


        At one point in the show, a group of performers marched out onto the stage dressed in science fiction helms and suits that glowed under black light. They launched each other into the air using giant bamboo springboards. This was by far one of the most tense acts of the show as it seemed that the performers were just barely able to stop themselves once they had built up momentum.


        My favorite performance was the interaction between two trapeze artists. They dangled together from the ceiling, sharing a single hanging rod for support. Their choreography utilized each other's bodies as props. They spun and caught each other just before falls and were constantly in motion and fluidly shifting. In my mind the most incredible aspect of this was that they were telling a love story through their physical motion.


        From what I heard after the show, a lot of other students found that their favorite performance was also the most emotionally charged. It was certainly one of the most unusual as well. It involved a man and a woman roller skating on a small circular platform. This act almost seems physically impossible, but the two performers told an intimate love story by twirling and circling each other atop this tiny platform. The man often lifted the woman from the ground to carry her during the high speed spins. The performance carried with it an air of intensity as the woman appeared to be in constant danger of having her head dashed against the ground, but the man always saved her at the last second.
        Performances that truly tied Totem together for me were the ones that focused on first nations themes. There were several in which a first nations performer danced on the stage to first nations folk music. He used painted wooden rings to create instantly transforming sculptures that were both abstract and symbolic of different animals.


        Shortly after the show began, I realized how technically impressive the performance was. The stage was capable of many movement necessary to reveal different props. Props would often descend from the ceiling for performers to use. Specific parts of the stage were also fully articulated, allowing for transformations that allowed this part of the stage to curl back on itself, slide forward and backward, and raise and lower. The music for Totem was truly unbelievable. It was all live music. It became quickly apparent why the show would have been impossible without live music. Much of the music reacted to the performance, with beats being in-sync with actions on stage. In addition, the first nations folk music was also fantastic. Having seen Totem, I can certainly say that I have never seen anything like it before and could not have asked for a better grand finale to an incredible semester abroad!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

A Historical Walk Through the Old City

In the two semesters that I have spent in Montreal, I have been able to experience many of the different liberal arts classes that Champlain has to offer. All of my liberal arts classes in Montreal have been great experiences, but there is one that stands out among the rest; Human Rights and Responsibilities, taught by Jim Manson. This was a class with a global scope. We were tasked with researching and exploring the topic of human rights throughout the history of the whole world. And yet, in spite of this lofty scope, professor Manson always found a way to relate the content of the course back to the historical development of Montreal, information that was most relevant to the culture in which we were living and our current study abroad experiences. The course culminated in a historic tour of the old city.

To begin, we all walked down to Le Champ-De-Mars, an old military parade ground. At  Le Champ-De-Mars, the remnants of the defensive wall that served as the city's fortifications is still visible.  Le Champ-De-Mars was also the location at which capital punishment was given to criminal citizens in the form of hangings. It was a wide-open park, clearly able to accommodate thousands people at once. 

 The remnants of the old wall can be seen in the background

Next, we walked closer to the port, passing three flags flying side-by-side along the way and Nelson's Column, and entered Place Jaques-Cartier. At the top of the square is the City Hall, and at the bottom, the old port.

Next we stopped at the Place d'Youville to view the Pioneer's Obelisk. It is a tall structure, bearing the names of Montreal's founders.

The short walk to our final destination brought us up several of the winding and cobble-stoned streets of the old city. We arrived in the Place d'Armes beside the great Notre Dame Basilica. 


The Place d'Armes is bordered on all sides by incredible architecture of many different styles. One building, a post modern structure stands on the left side of the Place d'Armes. On the other side, the Aldred Building stands in the art deco style. 

The Place d'Armes represents a blending of many different historical periods in Montreal's development.

Our Final Get-Together

This semester has been an incredible experience for many of us. It is Montreal campus tradition to have one last get together with all of the students. It was decided that we would all meet up at Chez Cora for brunch. Genevieve, Stefi, Wesnide, and Jim Manson joined us; all people who have made our semester abroad a positive and memorable experience. 

Many of us ordered elaborate crepes. They were adorned with delicious fruit and chocolate sauces. 

I enjoyed a refreshing banana-strawberry smoothy. The meal was very enjoyable and was accompanied by laughter and excited conversation. Although the outing was really fun and relaxing in lite of our busy end-of year studies, it held a feeling akin to a last family reunion. 

I don't doubt that all of us will miss the other members of this “Montreal family” until we meet again.

Photos provided by Stefi Brazzeal