In the past two years as Delegate General, I have had the opportunity to see Québec artists come to New York City to share their art and their craft. Not all have the notoriety of Robert Lepage, Yannick Nézet-Séguin or Cirque du Soleil to grace the stages of the Lincoln Center or Radio City Music Hall. Yet, all are able to draw audiences who leave impressed and satisfied that they have been entertained.
Last Saturday, I attended the 7 Doigts de la Main (Seven Fingers) show called Traces at the Union Square Theatre. This is a more intimate form of circus arts. No large tents with high wire trapeze acts. No fancy costumes or exotic music. Just down-to-earth artistic skills, fully entertaining and very connected to the audience. What a night!
Set in an off-Broadway theatre, you get a feel unlike Cirque du Soleil productions. Actually, it is difficult to make comparisons between Traces and the usual Cirque du Soleil show. They are just different. But the entertainment value of Traces makes it a show not to be missed. Its run ends at the end of December, but it will clearly be spreading around the world in other venues.
In the weeks ahead, the Association of Performing Arts Presenters (APAP) annual members’conference will hold a five-day conference in New York. It is the world’s leading forum and marketplace for the performing arts. Over 3500 members will attend with thousands of performances and showcases. Québec artists are expected to perform, including the increasingly popular "musique trad" (traditional music). Québec Cultural Minister Christine St. Pierre will be in attendance for the third time in four years.
For many American presenters, Québec’s vibrant traditional music scene is one of the best-kept musical secrets. With their intensive U.S. touring and successful participation at major folk festivals, groups like Genticorum, Le Vent du Nord, and La Bottine Souriante have proven that American audiences really appreciate the uniqueness and quality of Québec’s traditional music.
Add to this La Pieta, Les Violons du Roy and films like Curling and you get a sense that Québec artiste see no bounds to their creativity and their range as artists. New York City is the venue of choice and the U.S. remains the country of challenge. This is why spreading and promoting culture is such an important part of our mission here.
I have repeatedly said that creativity and art make for great diplomacy. Our presence on NY stages and beyond goes a long way to reinforce the links between Québec and the U.S. In other words, “Traces” at Union Square Theatre is but a small sample of what Québec intends to bring to the stages of NY and elsewhere in the U.S. in the years to come.