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Art, music and sport collide as colour guard comes to this year’s Luminato

David Byrne performs in 2009. He, with help from a posse of other pop musicians, and Contemporary Color, a co-production with the Brooklyn Academy of Music, will bring ten colour guard teams from high schools across North America to Toronto’s Air Canada Centre as part of this year’s Luminato Festival.

BORIS GRDANOSKI/The Associated Press

Luminato Festival is cutting itself a big slice of deep-dish Americana this summer, with help from David Byrne and a posse of other pop musicians that includes St. Vincent and Nelly Furtado. Contemporary Color, a co-production with the Brooklyn Academy of Music, will bring ten colour guard teams from high schools across North America to Toronto's Air Canada Centre to interpret original pieces by Byrne and nine other musicians, including Nico Muhly (with broadcaster Ira Glass), tUnE-yArDs, Kelis and How to Dress Well.

Colour guard is a competitive movement display that is descended from U.S. military traditions, with a large dollop of the intricate Swiss sport of flag-swinging (Fahnenschwingen). Colour guards are commonly seen in the U.S. on football fields with marching bands, doing unison choreographed moves with flags, mock rifles and mock sabres.

Byrne, best known for his work with the band Talking Heads, was asked by a high-school colour guard for permission to use one of his pieces in 2008. After seeing what they did with it at a major colour guard competition, he began developing the idea for a whole program of flag-spinning and sabre-tossing, "with really great music."

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Each of Contemporary Color's ten invited teams (which includes one group from Longueuil, Que.) will perform with Byrne or one of his musical collaborators, and a 15-piece band, on June 22 and 23. No footballs will be thrown, but there will be sequins.

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