(This story is sponsored by the Pride in Art Society.)
Noam Gagnon intended to dance for only one year after his completion of art school at Concordia University but life never goes as planned. Instead, he’s spent the last 39 years travelling the world with dance companies and teaching others how to express themselves through movement.
Gagnon will be performing his latest piece, This Crazy Show, at this year’s virtual Queer Arts Festival (QAF), which takes place from July 16 to 26. The inclusive festival features thought-provoking visual and performance art, workshops, panels, artist talks, and screenings, and will be accessible online this year because of the pandemic. Festival attendees have two opportunities to view his fascinating performance: July 25 at 7 p.m. and July 26 at 2 p.m. All events at the QAF are by donation and people can RSVP through Eventbrite.
This will be Gagnon’s second time performing at QAF with his dance company, though the story told through This Crazy Show differs greatly from his previous performances. “This show is about using the power of imagination as a source of survival,” says Gagnon. “This Crazy Show tells a story about the past in order to understand the present and I feel that the male character in this story uses his imagination in a way to survive.”
Within the emotionally charged show that he choreographed himself, Gagnon will explore different gender roles and how the imaginations of children go on to shape their identities. According to him, this childlike curiosity and gender exploration is something that needs to be better accepted within our society.
“Through This Crazy Show, I wanted to create an experience for the viewer that will help them use their imagination to travel with me in this wild world that I find completely compelling and entertaining—it has many colours,” says Gagnon. Those who tune into the livestream performance can expect unique gender-bending costumes, lively music, and an impressive 16 disco balls.
During a phone interview with Gagnon, it became remarkably clear that he grows as an artist by thinking outside of the box and challenging himself in new ways. He attributed his fiery motivation behind This Crazy Show to a quote by Albert Einstein:
“The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.”
Through exploring his emotions, physicality, and inner psyche, Gagnon was able to create dance sequences that encourage viewers to challenge their pre-existing beliefs and feelings. “I find that as we get older, we have this black and white preconceived idea of right and wrong, and how the world should be,” says Gagnon. “But what we really remember are the experiences we’ve had that sparked emotion and sensation, and who we shared those experiences with.”
He hopes that viewers will leave the livestream feeling emotionally charged, inspired, and eager to discuss the storyline of the show with others. This social discussion can help people challenge their traditional beliefs and values, which will ultimately foster a more accepting and inclusive society. “There are many young people who were just like me at one point and they need to see themselves represented in a way that is positive and possible for them,” says Gagnon. “I am constantly pushing to create an element of visibility and I feel blessed that I’m able to educate others and challenge their strong preconceptions of what they think the world should look like.”
Despite his passion for performing, Gagnon believes that it’s time for younger generations of talented dancers to shine, which is why he will be taking a step back from the spotlight. “The last few pieces that I’ve done were created with 10 young phenomenal dancers,” he says. “Being able to use my 35 years of knowledge and share it with newer generations of dancers is incredibly exciting and perhaps even more rewarding than performing.”
But he refuses to call his QAF performance his “swan song” as he can’t promise that an enticing opportunity won’t arise in the future.
Gagnon chose the QAF livestream for what could be his last public performance for a multitude of reasons. “I feel that the QAF and Pride in Art Society fight such powerful battles for all of us, queer or not,” he says. “The organization works to make all of our lives a better place, a place where love exists.”