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Celebrating Canada’s Linguistic Duality: Rhodnie Désir’s BOW’T TRAIL

Photo by Safira Mereira.
Dance and choreography by Rhodnie Désir. Work: BOW’T-Brasil, from the BOW’T TRAIL project carried out in Brazil as part of the Francophone programming at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games.

In 2019, Canada is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Official Languages Act. As Canada’s public arts funding organization, the Canada Council for the Arts is a proud champion of Canada’s two official languages, promoting them through tangible commitments like its fund for official language minority community artists.

An unmatched voice

Rhodnie Désir, a Montréaler with Haitian roots, is a dancer, choreographer, businesswoman, executive producer and speaker who seeks to tell captivating stories through her art and give voice to the voiceless. With degrees in communications and marketing, business start-up and professional and artistic training in contemporary African dance under her belt—not to mention several internships with internationally renowned dance masters—Rhodnie is a sought-after dance specialist, having collaborated and participated in events held by the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, UNESCO and former Governor General Michaëlle Jean, to name but a few. She has won many prizes and is a frequent contributor to the Canada Council’s peer assessment committees, as well as those of other Canadian arts councils.

A project that stands out

BOW’T TRAIL is an international documentary and choreography project undertaken in 2015 that focusses on the rhythmic heritage of African and African-descended peoples in the Americas to tell stories of resistance with relation to the slave trade and suffuse the world’s modern societies with the rich contribution of African histories and cultures. Through this project, Rhodnie explores the consequences of colonization while casting a new light on movements of hope that continue to emerge as peoples’ awareness is raised. Over five years, BOW’T TRAIL has travelled to six countries—Martinique, Brazil, Haiti, Canada, Mexico and the United States—to observe and share in local culture. Rhodnie spends one monh in each location recreating the rhythms and choreographies of her 2013 project, BOW’T, by interacting with local musicians, collaborators, dancers, historians, anthropologists and other specialists in each country she visits and infusing her choreography and storytelling with their contributions. A Web documentary, a web series and a feature film focussing on this 43,000 km journey will be produced in 2019 (directed by Marie-Claude Fournier, produced by KNGFU with associate producer, Rhodnie Désir Créations). A cumulative show, BOW’T TRAIL Retrospek, will also be presented in Montréal in 2020.

Where official languages and cultural diversity intersect

The Canada Council is pleased to support the projects of artists with diverse cultural backgrounds, as this aligns with its commitment to fostering equity in the arts sector. The Council was proud to support BOW’T TRAIL through its New Chapter program, as it was a National Arts Centre co-production that also received the support of the Canadian Commission for UNESCO. BOW’T TRAIL has been a success both across Canada and abroad, resonating with audiences around the globe.