It was an evening of dance and music from three different cultures – Nordic, Quebecois, and Cape Breton-style Celtic – at the handsome performance hall Strathspey Place in Mabou, a former coal mining center on Cape Breton Island’s north shore. The house was very nearly sold out of its approximately 500 seats for a program that had to be adjusted at nearly the last minute due to the injury of one of its headliners, dancer Nic Gareiss, who was to be accompanied by American fiddler Brittany Haas.
Among the most intriguing performances was from Norwegian dancer and choreographer Hallgrim Hansegård. His two solo dance offerings combined modern and classical dance with gymnastics, martial arts, Cossack-style knee-bends and kicks, and more – lurching, juddering, swooping and spinning across the stage to the accompaniment of hardanger fiddler Olav Luksegård Mjelva. Scottish contemporary folk band Breabach played driving jigs and reels with lots of “bottom” due to the double bass of James Lindsay and a modified cajon with a kick pedal, played by guitarist Ewan
Robertson. Fiddler Megan Henderson also moved front to do a little Gaelic-style step-dancing, which fit nicely with the evening’s theme.
The Quebeois band Raz de Marée played a mix of French-Canadian tunes, and were accompanied by the lightning-quick Quebec-style step-dancing of both Pierre Chartrand and Normand Legault. Rachel Aucoin, the pianist for Raz de Marée, also sang one lovely song. And fiddler Shelly Campbell and pianist Allan Dewar, both from Cape Breton, played local tunes to accompany the dancing of the Pellerin Brothers Bill and John, from Antigonish on mainland Nova Scotia, whose roots go deep in Cape Breton.