Every culture tells a story, but sometimes the stories are clearer than they might otherwise be.
At the Pavillon Canadien-Français, story was central as performers not only sang and danced, but also shared the folklore, food, artwork, and stories of some of the earliest European settlers in this country.
During its week-long run at the Centre Culturel Franco-Manitobain in St. Boniface, the Pavillon Canadien-Francais celebrated the French-speaking communities of Canada, both past and present. The presentation was in the form of a bilingual play that took listeners on a train journey across the country to experience the sights and sounds of French Canadian culture.
Most people know the story of Cinderella and her late-night dance with the prince in the traditional fairy tale, but they might not know the French Canadian equivalent, one of the stories included in the program.
In this version, the young woman risks more than just embarrassment when she dances with a stranger while her fiancé is away; she risks her soul when it turns out her dancing partner is actually the devil in disguise.
Lessons in life were integral to the storytelling at the Pavillon Canadien-Français as the narrators tied each portion of the program together with commentary on the meaning of each tale or musical number.
Despite the sometimes heavy subject matter, the mood of the play was light and cheerful, giving the sense of a culture that can be serious but which also knows when to laugh at itself.
An appreciation for enjoyment was also evident in the many food choices available at the pavilion, from tourtière to pea soup and bannock.
For audience members, the event was a chance to compare what they thought they knew about French Canadian cuisine with what the local people know of the stories behind their traditional foods.
The cultural display gave presenters the chance to show various aspects of the French Canadian story, whether in the art of weaving traditional sashes or in the history of some of the first people who sailed from France to establish colonies in North America.
However, the display and the program were not just about the past but also about the continuing story of how the French in Canada continue to contribute to the life and culture of the places where they live.
With its ties to Canada’s history, as well as its modern culture, the Pavillon Canadien-Française gave visitors a chance to see an aspect of their country they might not have known before.
Although it was perhaps not the most spectacular of the shows in the first week of Folklorama 2016, it had its own unique, understated quality that made it well worth seeing.