Two very athletic men had the audience at Bengough School mesmerized with their performance on the evening of Nov. 14th, 2009. The Acadian performers, Chuck and Albert entertained the crowd with a foot-stompin, musical, mixture of mime, traditional Acadian music, and high energy antics.
Chuck explained that in Acadian tradition standing and dancing was seen as a sin, so the people developed their own form of dancing while being seated that uses heels, toes and percussion. He and Albert then went on to treat the crowd to a seated dance where the two men knocked heels with each other, moved chairs around each other and faced each other, all in perfect timing. Their facial expressions changed with the tempo of their steps.
At one point they encouraged folks to join in to what seemed to be very basic steps. Toe, toe, heel, toe, toe heel. Nothing about that could be very hard. I watched footwork of those sitting close to me after I'd given up trying to keep up. What looked so simple was anything but!
Audience participation came again when Albert took a walk through the tables of folks and chose Greg Welburn to join them up on stage. They had Greg take off his shoes and then proceeded to have him dress in many layers, each one more colourful and silly than the one before it. And of course he was also encouraged to dance. Everyone cracked up. It was great fun, even for Greg.
Throughout the performance both Chuck and Albert acted out skits, one generally playing music while the other mimed the story. They also made use of other recorded sound effects. One example was a skit where the pair were getting up and ready to head off to work. Chuck's morning went pretty well. He got up with a smile on his face and his day continued in that mode. Albert, on the other hand, got up on the wrong side of the bed and his day continued true to form. There were sound effects as they got out of bed, shaved, made toast (and in Albert's case, burnt it), and left the house for work. Chuck's car starts and off he goes. Albert steps out the door to be walloped by the newspaper as it arrives. Then his car won't start but the car radio works and Achy Breaky Heart blares out at him. He tries other stations but no matter what he tries Achy Breaky Heart is all he hears. Albert finally gives up on his car and decides to thumb a ride to work, only to be splashed by the next vehicle that passes by. The body language and facial expressions employed throughout the skit had the audience in stitches.
Though much of the songs the pair sang were in their native French language, it didn't matter whether one understood the words or not. The music had a life of its own. Traditional instruments were used; fiddle, guitar, harmonica, jaw harp, triangle, a rod and saw, and Albert wowed everyone when he played "bones". They used a drum made from a vintage suitcase and a cymbal from an angel food pan.
Rarely did the pair slow down. The one ballad offered was sung by Chuck and he introduced it by saying, "Sometimes it is easier to say things face to face." This Acadian ballad was about a returning soldier and his love Rose. When the soldier arrives home he discovers his Rose has moved on to a new love while he was gone. This ballad was offered using a mournful fiddle and guitar with none of the foot stomping energy found in the rest of the show. It demonstrated another side of the two performers.
A highlight of the duo's performance was what Albert referred to as their "Acadian style Circus Ole" routine. It was fast moving, high energy dance filled with jumps, spins, slow motion movements, Chuck lifting Albert numerous times, even above his head with spins thrown in.
This was a performance that is very difficult to put in words. It was a treat to see and educational in Acadian tradition.
Oh, and Chuck had a message for Arlene Sjogren. He announced that Arlene "has the best buns around."
There was a 50/50 draw and Marci Zabotney of Kayville went home $152 richer. The door prize was won my Zina Harris of Big Beaver.
Watch for the next show of the winter season brought to Bengough by BMAC and OSAC. Tickets are available at Bengough Drugs.