a Survivance: An Evening Celebrating French Canadian Heritage will be presented at The Stadium Theatre, 28 Monument Square, Woonsocket RI 02895 on Sunday, October 30, 2022, at 5:00 pm. La Survivance: An Evening Celebrating French Canadian Heritage promises a night filled with original dance and live music celebrating the vibrant Franco-American history in the Blackstone Valley. Admission is $21 and can be purchased at the Stadium Theatre Box Office or by calling 401-762-4545 and online at www.stadiumtheatre.com.
The event is produced by Nicole C. Laliberté, artistic director of Freedom Dances and current producer of L’Echo Musical (aka The French Program) on WNRI Radio. Laliberté created the production to honor both the French Canadian heritage she shares and the legacy of her father, RI Radio Hall of Fame broadcaster, Roger Laliberté, lifelong host of L’Echo Musical.
Literally translated, the French phrase “La Survivance” means ‘survival’ and is used to describe the movement to rediscover and perpetuate the French Canadian language and cultural traditions. It held an especially important foothold within the New England Francophone communities who relocated here to work in the mills during the 19th & 20th Centuries, pressured to assimilate, yet holding fast to their language and faith.
“In current times,” Laliberté states, “La Survivance refers more to the deep desire and commitment of the French Canadian community to preserving our shared history and heritage.”
La Survivance: An Evening Celebrating French Canadian Heritage begins with a new dance work entitled Souvenirs de Jeunesse, presented by Freedom Dances. Choreographed by Laliberté, with movement generated by the dancers and participants, Souvenirs de Jeunesse is a community piece based on recently collected oral histories from the local Franco-American community.
Members of the groups Parlons Français, The American-French Genealogical Society, Richelieu Club of Woonsocket, Northern Rhode Island Council of the Arts, and listeners of L’Echo Musical radio show have generously shared their stories toward the creation of this new work.
The second piece of the night is entitled La Survivance – Chère Mémère, a multimedia dance biography about Laliberté’s paternal grandmother, Maria, also performed by the members of Freedom Dances. La Survivance – Chère Mémère is based on research from books, archives, photos, videos, and hours of recorded interviews with Laliberté’s parents, Roger and Claudette.
Laliberté states, “La Survivance – Chère Mémère explores the French Canadian experience of migrating to the Woonsocket area as represented by the story of my Mémère, showcasing audio recorded recollections of my family’s history, video projections, and French-Canadian music from my father’s massive music library.”
The Woonsocket premiere of this piece is especially meaningful to Nicole. “The piece premiered in 2004, in North Carolina, with my parents in attendance,” she says, “Since then, it has been my dream to reproduce this piece in Woonsocket, the place from where it was birthed.”
Both pieces performed by Freedom Dances feature local dancers Sara Brownell, Julie Carver, Madeleine Francoeur, Elizabeth Griffin, Aubrie Howard, Lily Kingsbury, Analia LaVallee, Caitlin LaVallee, Anna Soifer, Joshua Turner, and Joseph Van Harn, with a guest appearance by Rhode Island actor Carol Drewes.
The evening concludes with a live performance from French Canadian musicians Josée Vachon and Daniel Boucher. Noted quadrille caller Colette Fournier will lead attendees in French-Canadian square dances, or quadrilles.
Funding for La Survivance: An Evening Celebrating French Canadian Heritage was provided in part by a grant from the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts, through an appropriation by the Rhode Island General Assembly, a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts; The American-French Genealogical Society; Navigant Credit Union; and the Woonsocket Rotary Club.