Photo courtesy of James Parker.
It’s not just any day you get the chance to tour around Russia, fiddling for an internationally acclaimed Irish dance troop. Unless you’re name is Meaghan LaGrandeur, that is.
“It’s kind of a wild story,” says the recent University of Ottawa graduate about how she started touring with The Rhythm of the Dance.
LaGrandeur was playing in a pub in Galway, Ireland, in 2010, when she met the mayor of Stirling, Scotland, and his wife. The couple invited her to live on their farm in Trossachs and to perform at a festival they were organizing the following week.
There she met a dancer from Rhythm, who suggested LaGrandeur submit an audition video. A year later, she was offered a short stint in Japan, as part of a residency tour.
In November 2013, LaGrandeur left to tour with the troop once again — this time travelling from Russia, to Japan, to Sweden.
Glue caught up with the fiery red head as she made her way across Asia and Europe. Our conversation was not easy — plagued by a busy schedule and lack of Internet connectivity. But such is life on the road.
Glue: Can you walk me through a typical day on tour?
Meaghan LaGrandeur: The brilliant thing about tour life is that no day is ever the same — we are in a new city and new hotel every night. In Russia, we would barely sleep. Bus calls were often at 1 a.m. and then we would have to drive to a rural airport and take two flights to get to our next location for the show that night.
We would be in the Arctic Circle one day and then on an island above Japan the next. It was exhausting; I lost seven pounds because there was barely time to eat!
G: What’s the craziest thing that has happened to you on tour?
ML: There are so many stories it’s hard to remember them all. But I’d have to say the wolves — definitely the wolves. It was 3 a.m. and we were driving overnight in Siberia after one of the shows. Everyone was partying and having a great time and eventually we stopped for a routine pee break. I remember it was windy and there was nothing but snow and brush outside. Right before the first inebriated dancer stepped out of the bus the driver yelled “No!” and slammed the door. There was a pack of hungry wolves right outside.
G: That’s insane. Did he just start driving again?
ML: Yes, he did start driving again. Really fast!
G: While in the Moscow Airport you decided to “partake in some law-breaking” by recording a pro-gay video. What inspired you to do this?
ML: The pro-gay video definitely came from a place of frustration. I wanted to find a way reach out to youth in a humorous way. I felt humour was important because it is a great way to undermine corrupt leadership; it reduces legitimacy and then evokes critical thinking. I believe if you can laugh at the system, you can overcome it.
I also realized I had a unique opportunity whereby I was only in the country for a short time and might as well do something illegal. I could launch a video and not worry about being arrested once I left. There are incredible groups of Russian activists who would have to risk everything to launch a video like that. So I figured I may as well.
Politicians and journalists can continue to fight the good fight on their front and I thought I could contribute in some small way by doing what I do best — music.
G: Now that you’re headed back to North America, what do you think you will miss most about Europe? And what can you not wait to do when you get back home?
ML: I love the history. Every day we were in a new city; many were small medieval villages with old stories to discover. Often I would have the chance to explore after sound check. Stumbling upon ancient nooks and crannies while having the opportunity to interact with locals was by far the highlight for me.
I do miss Ottawa a lot. I’m really looking forward to getting home and rocking out with the girls in my band, The Musettes. We have our EP launch party in June, so that’ll be a blast. I’m also looking forward to our east coast tour this summer and swimming in the sea.