Close to the Floor
at Strathspey Place, Mabou, Cape Breton
(12 October 2010)

This dance-focused concert has become a Tuesday night standard during Celtic Colours and is presented by the Chestico Musuem of Port Hood. It features the traditional stepdancing of Celtic Cape Breton but has, in the past, showcased Highland dancing, Irish dancers, sean nos dance and square sets. I especially remember the energy and footwork of North-Carolina band Cucunandy in 2003.

There's the idea that if you follow the good dancers, you'll find really good fiddling, and that was true with Kinnon Beaton and Dougie Cameron, Margie Beaton and Dawn Beaton sharing that bill this year.

The large stage was set with the grand piano perched close to the front on the left, musicians' chairs set to the rear, and the front of the stage was wide open for the dancers. The golden symbol of the island on a black backdrop hung brightly over the stage reminding us all of the great festival taking place on this little island.

The concert delivered what the lineup promised. As expected, the Pellerin Brothers stepdanced with lively precision. Stephanie Aucoin and Sylvie Doucet, two accomplished Acadian dancers from Cheticamp, showed some interesting combination steps using stools and sticks, but their smiles expressed such enjoyment of dance that I thought those their best accessories.

Celtic Colours is a busy time for musician Dawn Beaton but she worked triple time on stage: partnering on master of ceremonies duties with Derrick Cameron, fiddling and stepdancing with her sister Margie. A dancer I hadn't seen before was Maureen Fraser from the Antigonish area with parental roots in Black River and Boisdale. She was especially energetic and a really, really memorable addition to the night's performances.

Kinnon and Betty's jig set, Melody Cameron's stepping solo, the Mabou Reel Dancers, Maxim Cormier's guitar playing and Calum MacKenzie's piano work were solid performances that again, lived up to audience expectations.

I remember concerts from many years ago, when a piper was a standard feature -- and if the piper couldn't be there, a piping tape would sometimes have to suffice for dancers. A little more attention was given to the dance music tonight. Just a light reminder about the music, whether it's piping or fiddling, reminds us of what a special combination and relationship it has with dance. We were especially reminded of this by the group Seudan. It was a real pleasure to hear and see their lively piping and I look forward to hearing the combination of pipes and dancers more often. The experienced Allan MacDonald, musical director with Seudan, accompanied himself on some Gaelic singing. I heard this this at the opening, and again at this concert, and both times this set seemed much too short.

There was solid traditional Cape Breton stepping balanced with new musicians and dancers (new to me at least) and somehow it was still totally traditional. Lots of acts were packed into a short time and that sometimes left me wanting more, but mainly, it was a night full of music and dance that passed very quickly and very enjoyably.

review by
Virginia MacIsaac

13 November 2010

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