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A step back in time, two steps forward, with a hip swish

Last film in series focuses on Montreal's decades-long fabulous Black jazz scene.


Show Girls

Directed by Meilan Lam and Robert Paquin

52 minutes

The fourth and final film presentation in the St. Albert Public Library's Black Film Watch Party series.

Friday, Feb. 26, at 7 p.m.

Hosted by Celine Caruso Dixon

Attendance is free but space is limited. Pre-registration is required.

Visit to book yourself in.

The infectious rhythms, such great hair, those incredible outfits – you’ve never seen so many feathers – and wowee ... did you see those moves?

It’s all true: Montreal had a real swinging Black jazz scene between the 1920s and the 60s.

It was such a sight to behold, but could you imagine being there? The closest you’ll get now is the National Film Board documentary called Show Girls.

“To have been around back then was pure joy,” the narrator said.

It sure sounds like it. “No matter what, during the weekdays, people would go to work; they go into the nightclub afterwards. Some people go from one club to another and then go to work and start all over again,” said another commenter at the beginning of the film.

The documentary is set to be the fourth and final event held for the St. Albert Public Library’s Black Film Watch Parties. It’s practically a look into another world: a liberated world of dance.

It will be co-hosted by Celine Caruso Dixon, president of the Black Students' Association at the University of Alberta. She’s certain that you’re going to love watching it as much as she did.

“I really love music and I really love the culture that Black people have brought with music. Show Girls, to me ... it was more than just jazz,” she began, explaining that she chose this movie because of how it portrayed the beauty of Black women.

“Originally, I was hoping to partner with someone in the city because I really think that showcasing Black talent within the city is really important. I was really hoping to showcase someone from St. Albert or Edmonton. When that didn't come through, honestly I went through all of the films and Show Girls was just the one that caught my eye because of the way that a lot of people don't generally take not just Black women but Black people in certain settings as the champions of mainstream culture,” she continued, remarking on the styles of the people in the film, the real show girls, who had long nails and wore certain dresses, and had a particular vernacular to that time, place and culture.

The documentary focuses on three women – Bernice, Tina and Olga – who danced in the legendary Black clubs of that scene: Rockhead's Paradise, The Terminal and Café St. Michel. Their stories are told against a backdrop of the fascinating social and political history that made Montreal considered to be one of the world's hottest jazz spots for decades.

“Within Show Girls, you see it really present in the way that we today have certain trends. That's what caught my eye and what I really, really liked about it.”

Scott Hayes

About the Author: Scott Hayes

Scott Hayes joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2008. Scott writes about the arts, entertainment, movies, culture, community groups, and charities. He also writes general news, features, columns and profiles on people.
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