Acadian Dance and Theatre Teacher, Choreographer
Anne-Marie Comeau has achieved artistic excellence in two fields: dance and theatre. La Baie en Joie, the dance troupe she has directed since 1979, has won international acclaim. As an actor, she has for many years portrayed the character "Rosealba," a much-loved figure in Acadian communities throughout the Maritimes.
Anne-Marie was born in 1942 in Saulnierville, Nova Scotia, and was educated at Université Sainte-Anne. Her theatrical roots go back to her school days, when she often performed comic monologues. After marrying, she left theatre behind, until the early 1970s when she was approached by writer Michel Thibault. Together they created the character of Rosealba, at first a young woman but later a poor, elderly Acadian widow and mother of 19 children. Anne-Marie has presented this humorous personage through more than 40 monologues, some of them created for particular occasions. Ms. Comeau does not work from a written script; learning the Rosealba monologues for each performance is a feat of memory.
As an actor, Anne-Marie Comeau is also well remembered for her roles in the Acadian film Les Gossipeuses and the National Film Board film La Cabane. In addition, Anne-Marie choreographed the musical "Evangeline" and has been part of the cast since its inception.
As a choreographer and dance teacher, Anne-Marie is widely respected and an important influence not only on her students but on the entire Acadian community. She was 30 years of age before she decided to take courses in step dancing, tap, jazz ballet and jig. In 1976, Anne-Marie received a diploma from both the British Association of Teachers of Dance and the Canadian Dance Teachers' Association; she opened Anne-Marie Comeau's School of Dance that same year. In 1979, she earned a diploma from the Canadian Association of Dance and founded La Baie en Joie.
La Baie en Joie is a flagship performing arts troupe in Nova Scotia. Their precision footwork, the inventiveness of the choreography, and the sheer joy that the dancers exude on stage have earned them a place at many major public and state events. Anne-Marie turned the rustic art of traditional step dance into brilliant showmanship long before the recent popularity of such dancing.
The dances of the Acadians evolved to blend with those of the general population from the simple circle and line dances of the 1600s through the longways sets in the 1800s to the quadrilles (square sets) which are still popular in both Acadian and Scottish communities in Cape Breton. An important part of many of these dances was a clogging or battering movement of the feet that we have come to know as step dancing. By speaking with elders in her community and recalling dances she had seen in her youth, Anne-Marie made it her life's work to re-create and, where necessary, re-invent a distinctively Acadian dance style. She thus elevated the dance from a recreational and social cultural mélange to a distinctively Acadian, dynamic performance art that has thrilled audiences across three continents.
As a result, Anne-Marie has become a cultural heroine to the Acadian community and has won international recognition for La Baie en Joie. More importantly, through La Baie en Joie, she has passed on her knowledge and her passion for dance to generations of Acadian people on Nova Scotia's French shore.
Anne-Marie has received multiple awards and honours. She was named a Chevalier (Knight) in the Ordre de la Francophonie in 1992. In 2003, Anne-Marie was awarded the Acadian community's highest accolade: the distinguished Prix Hommage, bestowed on her by the Académie des arts et des lettres de l'Atlantique. The Moncton audience then gave her a standing ovation, acknowledging her work both as a choreographer and as an actor/writer. The following year, she received an honorary doctorate from Université Sainte-Anne and became a member of the Order of Nova Scotia.
Conseil culturel acadien: Artistes acadiens de la Nouvelle-Écosse. "La Baie en Joie."
(accessed December 14, 2007). In French
Government of Nova Scotia. "Order of Nova Scotia: Past Recipients — 2004."
(accessed December 14, 2007).
Jacquot, Martine. "Anne-Marie Comeau: L'autre visage de Rosalba." Femmes d'Action. Vol. 23, No. 5 (June-August 1994), p. 13-14.
Lumley, Elizabeth, ed. "Comeau, Anne-Marie." Canadian Who's Who. Volume XLI (2006). Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2006.
Milligan, Dianne. Personal correspondence. November 2006-April 2007.
Université de Moncton: Centre d'études acadiennes. "Anne-Marie Comeau."
(accessed December 14, 2007). In French