By Eric Andrew-Gee
David Byrne is coming back to the Luminato Festival — and this time he’s bringing an army.
With the help of other musicians including Nelly Furtado, St. Vincent and Kelis, the former Talking Heads frontman will be burning down the house with the world premiere of an unusual, two-day spectacle highlighting the competitive art form called “colour guard.”
Derived from the marching band and pep rally traditions, colour guard consists of coordinated team dancing that blends cheerleading and military manoeuvres. It’s most widely practised in American high schools and universities.
Contemporary Color will pair big-name musicians with 10 high-school teams to create original routines that will be performed at the Air Canada Centre on June 22 and 23. There will be one Canadian team, from Longueuil, Que.
Other participating artists include tUnE-yArDs, How to Dress Well, Dev Hynes, and Nico Muhly with radio host Ira Glass.
The collaboration between Luminato and the Brooklyn Academy of Music will go on to play the Barclays Center in Brooklyn on June 27 and 28.
Luminato artistic director Jorn Weisbrodt said the show was meant to be accessible to a mass audience, and to attract people who wouldn’t normally attend Luminato events.
“There’s no high or low art, there’s only good or bad art,” he told the Star. “To me, it’s not really a conscious decision, like I want to make something more family friendly. But I want to open people’s minds and make them understand that art can touch anyone.
“It is definitely a show for the entire family.”
It’s a change from last year’s festival, with sex as its unofficial theme.
Byrne discovered the colour guard in 2008 after a team asked him to contribute a musical composition for one of their performances. When Byrne saw a DVD of the result, he was impressed.
“I was stunned at what I was seeing,” Byrne said in a media release. “Contemporary Color is the artistic culmination of my interest in colour guard as a piece of Americana and as a competitive art form.”
Byrne returns to the festival after debuting last year with a role in Rufus Wainwright’s If I Loved You: Gentlemen Prefer Broadway – An Evening of Love Duets.
Although typically a competitive medium, the ACC show won’t have winners and losers.
“It’s not going to be a competition,” said Luminato spokesperson Ashley Ballantyne. “The high school kids aren’t pitted against each other.”