Friday, August 10, 2012

Alouettes!


Not one wardrobe malfunctioned during the half-time show of the 1977 Grey Cup game in Montreal. I know, because I was there; right there in fact, on the field with hundreds of other dancing girls. We were dressed respectfully in long black pants, long-sleeved white turtlenecks and thin beige canvas sneakers. These did nothing to keep out the cold; but that didn’t matter, since we were on the move with our balloons and scarves. 

The show was put together by the same team that, the year before, had choreographed the Olympic closing ceremonies. My two sisters and I were friends with a pair of sisters who had been in that show, with its own tale of wardrobe malfunction; although in those days this kind of thing was deliberate, and called “streaking”. When the call went out for girls to perform in the Grey Cup halftime show, these sisters talked us into doing it. We did not need much arm-twisting.  It sounded like a whole lot of fun… and at the end of weeks of practice, frustration, anxiety, tears and drama, it was.

We trained in a studio in groups of ten, each group performing in a box-shape. At our two day-long dress rehearsals at the Olympic stadium, all of these well-practiced boxes spread themselves out on the field.  I have no idea how we managed to remember where on the field we were supposed to be; and it’s miraculous that the choreographers got us all to dance in unison.  But on Grey Cup day, the show was a success.

Each of us arrived on the field with a colourful helium balloon clutched in our fists.  After a fast dance, the music switched to the slow-moving “Colour My World”; which was the signal to slowly let out our balloons’ lengthy string…releasing them into the air (to cheers from the crowd) at the end of the song.  We then performed the final fast dance with colourful scarves. These had been dispensed to us with instructions to stuff them down our pants.  As we leapt into our next routine, we whipped them out, thus cleverly giving the illusion that they appeared out of nowhere.

There was a lot more to that particular Grey Cup that I didn’t notice at the time; but word-on-the-street and the CFL Website easily make up for a teenage girl’s selective memory.  I remember that it was a cold day and that my hands froze during the balloon slow-release; which wasn’t remarkable to me because it’s usually cold in Montreal in November… and my hands usually freeze.  But that particular day was actually quite cold.  It was also the first blizzard of the year…. another detail that escaped my notice, since it usually snows in Montreal in the winter.   The Olympic stadium was still ten years away from actually having a roof, and so the snow ended up on the field.  Stadium staff put salt on the field, but as the snow decreased, so did the temperature, and the water left behind by the snow turned to a lovely layer of ice.  Therefore, one of the nicknames given to this Grey Cup game is “Ice Bowl”.

If I noticed at all that the football players were slipping and sliding, I would have figured that this is just typical of football.  But the Montreal Alouettes were quite clever with that ice, and gunned some staples into the bottom of their shoes.    I guess those staples roughed up the field nicely during the first half of the game, because us half-time dancing girls, though foot-frozen, didn’t slip and slide.

In return for dancing in the show, we got to keep our outfits… and were each given a red-and-white souvenir Grey Cup tuque.  I loved mine and wore it for years.   We were also allowed to stay and watch the whole game.  This was especially thrilling because the Montreal Alouettes won!