Inspired by Dior’s intimate fashion shows of the 1950’s, Centre PHI hosts a celebration of inhibition.
A runway, but no models. A public that doesn’t know what to expect. A funny yet moving performance. Dancers in wedding gowns, rubber rings and underwear. A drag queen singing a cappella. Wigs, hats, high heels and bare chests. These were some of the ingredients to the recipe of PARADE.
PARADE, advertised as a playful and experimental performance by its creators, was hosted at Centre PHI on the night of Sept. 21. The public had been promised something unusual—a mash-up of dancing, singing, drag, fashion and much more. Yet nothing could have prepared the audience for the level of artistic freedom displayed on the runway.
“It’s a celebration,” explained Frederick Lalonde, producer of PARADE. “It’s about identity: without any shame or inhibition—who is your true self? We tried to answer that question through the artists’ performance.”
The idea of PARADE first came to creative initiator Carole Prieur during the pandemic. The project had been in the works for at least three years on the night of the performance. The inspiration for it came in part from Dior’s fashion shows in Paris in the 1950s, which often took place in apartments, and from the urge the pandemic created to reinvent oneself. It started out as a small project, likely to be presented in the privacy of an apartment, among friends only, but as it grew and brought more and more artists together, Prieur and Lalonde decided to take a different approach and made the show open to the public.
The public was driven to feel a whole range of emotions during the show: guest artist Klo Pelgag’s rendition of Voyage, Voyage had some people pulling out their handkerchiefs, while other segments made the public laugh out loud by their sheer provocation and absurdity. At times, the sexual tension on stage was so palpable that everyone seemed to be holding their breath. All masks fell—there was only authenticity in the showroom, on the part of performers and audience alike. For an hour, in this Old Montreal venue, anything was possible.
The artists’ performances were vulnerable, open and fluid. The performers offered themselves wholeheartedly to the audience, inviting viewers to abandon themselves in return. Since the show took place on a runway, the performers moved through the crowd, transforming the experience into something very personal through eye contact and physical proximity. Sometimes, a gown or a wig would even brush against a spectator’s leg.
The idea of a “celebration” evoked by the producer took on its full meaning when, at the end of the show, the dancers invited everyone in the room to come and dance with them on the runway. People of all ages, sexes, genders and ethnicities stood and crowded onto the dancefloor, swaying to the beat of the music, glued together, smiling, their heads full of art and freedom. It may well have been the most authentic and touching performance of the evening.