Highlights from the conference held this October in Summerside
by Carol Little
Contact East is a four-day festival of theatre, music and dance that takes place in a different maritime city every two years. Performers at the industry trade show have twenty minutes of stage time with which to catch the attention of delegates from around the world, in hopes of securing future bookings. Summerside was host to Contact East 2005 from October 16-19, attracting talented performers for over fifty diverse showcases.
While all the artists offered their best material, given the short amount of time allotted them, there were a few performances that stood out for me. The first of these was The Atlantic Ballet Theatre of Canada’s Amadeus, one of only three troupes given the opportunity to present a full-length production. Amadeus is a dramatic portrayal of Mozart’s turbulent creative life told through emotional dance, blending the music of Mozart and Salieri. The story masterfully highlights Mozart’s difficulty to connect with society despite his vast success as a composer. Amadeus features eight classically trained dancers from around the world, with artistic direction by Igor Dobrovski. Amadeus will be returning to PEI April 22, 2006 at the Confederation Centre of the Arts.
Matt Andersen took the stage late in the evening on October 17th to an audience of delegates and fellow artists. A roots, rock, rhythm and blues singer and guitarist, Andersen had unwavering control over the audience with his maniacally precise guitar playing. Andersen will perform March 30th and April 1st at the Confederation Centre of the Arts with Charlie A’Court. Anderson and A’Court along with Dan Rubin (Atlantic Union) and Brad Conrad (who performed with Nathan Wiley) gave a brief glimpse of their combined talent in an after-hours jam at the Shipyard Market following Nathan Wiley, who performed his twenty-minute set to an energetic hometown audience.
The Polyjesters entertained on the final evening at the Jubilee Theatre and gave an extended impromptu performance after the closing ceremony at the Shipyard Market. The Alberta natives delivered an eclectic blend of expertly wielded instruments, original music, and powerful vocal stylings, including Jason Valleau’s near perfect Louis Armstrong pitch. Valleau described the quartet’s innovative, infectious blend of bass, baritone ukulele, fiddle and percussion as “swingin’ folk chunk.”
Twenty-year-old Halifax native Mitchell Hunter walked onto the stage with only a Roland keyboard and his drummer Steven Harris on guitar, but as soon as Hunter’s fingers graced the keyboard it was obvious that he would have no problem engaging the audience. Hunter’s powerful voice, original lyrics and inspired keys proved that the newcomer will have a lasting career.
Another memorable performance was by the Chad native multilingual group H’Sao, who gave a breathtaking, energetic performance, creating an eclectic sound combining funk, soul, gospel and harmony singing with rhythmic beats and dance.
Other performers included Madviolet, Timothy Chaisson, Shanneyganock, Isaac and Blewett with Hot Toddy, bilingual comedy stylings of Chuck & Albert, racy comedy of Sketch 22, and the full length play honouring Canadian military veterans, Two Minutes of Silence—A Pittance of Time by Terry Kelly.