by Emmanuelle Walter
February 21rst, it’s winter, athletic and sulky teenagers spring into the hallway of Place des Arts station, wearing black sport pants with white stripes and light-coloured shirts. They don’t feel the cold and soon, neither will we. For three hours, we bear witness to a celebration of the city and of movement as they dance on a treadmill that starts and stops in conjunction with the subway trains underneath. Those of us who happen to be passing by in our rush to cook supper or pick-up the kids have stopped. We are transfixed and fascinated, swaying to the tone and electronic beat of the soundtrack that shouts, slows down, speeds up, bellows and waltzes to the whim of composer and choreographer, witty elf and playful brown-haired Tintin, Jacques Poulin-Denis. He imagines a subway that runs along the entire island with stations everywhere from Pointe-Claire to Rivière des Prairies, a dream we thought impossible in the 80’s. A voice says:
Next stations: Roxboro-Pierrefonds, Ville Mont-Royal, Beaconsfield and Pointe-Claire. Transfers between the Bright Orange line, Brown line, Gray line and Pistachio Green Dotted Purple line. Junctions with the Flower line, Striped line, Safari theme line, Fluorescent line, Rainbow line, Gold line, Chocolate-coloured line and Bright Pink line.
A series of dancers on a treadmill. There’s the dancer, out of breath, running with flowers he will never deliver; the beautiful bald girl wracked by nervous tics; the one in a hip hop trance wearing an orange shirt that dances to the chants of a voice naming imaginary stations and to the encouragements of a group of dancers gathered at the edge of the treadmill; the couple that twists and bends around each other as she slips from his grasp, harbouring unspoken anger; dancers crossing paths, avoiding and ignoring each other or pretending they haven’t noticed, just as all commuters do. After all, the best way to be promiscuous on the subway train is to avoid any eye contact.
Spectators gather around the camera, explaining how they identify with the dancers and sharing insights into their daily commute, revealing the poetry of a seemingly alienating experience.
Daniel Canty’s text oscillates between sound and movement, calling upon every meaning of the word transport and unfolding his fantasies. He dreams of an “unbreakable bubble” that could sail across the Lachine rapids, of an airboat gliding along the Canal, of a funicular swaying above Kahnawake, and of a “subway large enough for abandoned stations to exist (…)”.
The extraordinary resides in the extra-ordinariness of an ordinary subway passage and how daily routines can suddenly reveal their underlining whimsy, folly and fantasy.
“Last stop. Thank you for travelling with Waltz.”
says the voice.
They’re out of breath.
Thank you for the waltz.