This article is published through our Regional Reporter Program. We acknowledge the support of the Canada Council for the Arts through the Digital Now initiative.
The 275-person village of Marsoui, Que., glided into 2022 with some of Canada’s top hip-hop artists for a series of free workshops, discussions and performances for local and online communities, reaching as far as Korea.
From Dec. 27 through Jan. 10, the local organization Mandoline Hybride hosted the collective Sweet Technique in residency at Salon58. The collective provided workshops alongside Sesei H, a Quebec City rapper; QO52, a Gesgapegiag-based Miꞌkmaq rapper; and Monsieur Nokturn, a Gaspé-based DJ.
The resulting documentary-performance by director Jonathan Gaudreau will stream online Jan. 26-31 featuring Sweet Technique, formed by Victor “Vicious” Sono, Léo “Fleau” Caron and Sovann “Promo” Rochon-Prom Tep.
In a region where dance opportunities are rare and the chance to learn about hip hop and break even more so, the residency and public outreach opened the door for the uninitiated into an often misrepresented art form. Such access to artists is central to developing the artistic community in Marsoui, according to Monique Campion, cultural director at Maison de la culture in Ste-Anne-des-Monts, which helped produce the events.
Campion admitted to having previously misunderstood break as a superficial dance form but seeing and hearing the artists as they were filmed brought new insights that she plans to carry into future projects.
“To see them so intimately,” she said, “all the movements … their warm-ups and their artistic approach was a huge plus for me, for what we can offer in the future.”
She recognized values of perseverance and resilience in break that she finds beautiful and hopes will resonate with young people.
“When you channel your energy in a certain way, it allows you to build a self-respect, create relationships and move forward,” she said.
The flurry of training, performance and public outreach that preceded the upcoming screening was all about connection. It allowed the b-boys of Sweet Technique to exchange with people in the Gaspé region and beyond. For Priscilla Guy, artistic director of Salon58, it was essential that the public outreach contextualize break, rap and hip-hop music for participants by connecting them intimately to the world-class artists.
“Sure, people will remember the performance, but they will especially remember a conversation they had with the artist that really touched them,” said Guy.
François Houle, who attends nearly all the residency showings at Salon58, attended the workshops with Sweet Technique.
“I really appreciated the attention from the three coaches … to support and encourage each participant online,” said Houle. More than 30 participants attended the workshops online, from as close as Gaspésie and the Bas-Saint-Laurent region and as far as India and Korea.
Guy hopes that making the documentary-performance available for free online will keep building this connection with a heterogeneous public. Rather than attempting to recreate the battle originally planned for online and risk losing a feeling of exchange and collectivity, Guy and Gaudreau leaned into the documentary-performance form to maintain a sense of intimacy.
For b-boy Promo, sharing with youth and community is intrinsic to how break happens, and the Marsoui residency was a rare professional opportunity in a discipline where artists’ income generally comes from winning battles rather than being paid to practise or perform.
“It really motivated us to think about the future,” said Promo, “and how we want to vary our activities and think about our work differently.”