Heading into the Scotiabank Centre for the Friday afternoon matinee of the Royal Nova Scotia International Tattoo, it was quite apparent that my wife and I were definitely on the lower end of the demographic scale. The room was largely packed with retirees and older folks looking to see the latest iteration of the Royal Nova Scotia International Tattoo. Celebrating its 40th year, the folks behind the scenes brought together a show featuring acts from every continent on the planet, while celebrating the prestigious military history that exists here in both Halifax and Nova Scotia.
You would expect that with such a rich and storied military history, the Royal NS International Tattoo would be a hot ticket year in and year out. For those with direct ties to those folks who have sacrificed a great deal to protect and serve our fair nation, it largely is, but outside of those directly tied circles, there usually isn’t a great deal of buzz. It’s one of those events that, I know personally, always felt like it was more geared towards tourists, and not so much the residents of Nova Scotia and/or Halifax. I recognize that this is largely a personal perspective, but whenever the opportunity arose to attend the event, I leapt at the opportunity. It wasn’t until this (my 3rd) time attending the Tattoo, that the feeling of appreciation and gratitude for those who have served our country really struck me. It was the realization that the numbers of those who served in WWI are extremely limited, and those who served during WWII are growing thinner with each passing year.
The inaugural Tattoo was staged to celebrate the visit of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother to Nova Scotia. Now it wasn’t always viewed as a “Royal” event, but in 2006, in commemoration of the Queen Mum’s 80th, she bestowed the Royal honour upon the Tattoo. Now in its 40th year, it is becoming increasingly important to showcase the esteemed Military history here in Halifax and across the country.
The spectacle that is the Tattoo, and its association with the military and monarchy, gives it a staid air, and while there was a degree of reverence and respect that was well deserved, there was also an injection of humour and excitement built into the show. That came from many corners of the globe, including a mesmerizing performance from the Jordanian Armed Forces Royal Guard and their silent drill training. The level of precision and attention was impressive, but to master the ability to remain completely silent was amazing. From Russia, there were the Nalmes State Dancers who wowed audiences with their elegant dance moves and flowing gowns. The way in which the men and women seemingly floated about the area floor was magical. It was a sensational tribute to traditional Russian dance.
Throughout the show, the Simba Zambezi Acrobats provided some much needed levity (and a bit of distraction while another act set up at the opposite end of the area). The globe-trotting troupe hail from Kenya, and wowed those in attendance with their limbo prowess, a cheeky jump rope routine, and with the elaborate human structures that they constructed. There was also Cores da Bahia, who hailed from Brazil and were awash in colourful feathers and some of the most hair-raising acrobatics of the evening. This group of performers amazed with their feats of strength and balance, in addition to their gravity-defying choreography. We also welcomed the beleaguered 2d Marine Division Band, who paid tribute to the music of John Williams from Star Wars, complete with formations that mirrored some of the major space ships you saw during the opening sequence of the movie, in addition to the well-known Imperial March. Fans of the movies would have recognized these musical numbers immediately.
Now, there were plenty of acts from abroad, but the show featured a fair amount of homegrown Canadian and Nova Scotia talent. Which included a couple of pipe and drum bands, and an army of highland dancers who danced in a few numbers over the course of the show. We also were treated to performances from acts such as Cyndi Cain, Heather Rankin, and a handful of military bands such as the Stadacona Band of the Royal Canadian Navy, the National Band of the Naval Reserve, the Royal Canadian Artillery Band and the 5 Canadian Division Brass and Reed Band. All of whom moved with clockwork precision and timing. When 10-year-old Harry Knight walked out with his guitar, he proceeded to drop jaws around the area with his instrumental wizardry, and his lovely collaborator Megan Hamilton who danced flamenco in time with Knight’s guitar work.
The Tattoo is an important showcase not only of international acts, but also a myriad of homegrown acts and military personnel. The roughly 120-minute runtime of the production gave a great insight into that aforementioned military prestige, and also it provided some backstory on the groundbreaking women who defied expectations and established themselves as role models for the strong, amazing women who would come behind them. The Tattoo is largely a show that should be school curriculum, to provide younger generations an opportunity to unify what they are learning from their text books, with what the narrative indicates. It also gives students another opportunity to pay tribute to those folks who fought for the freedoms and rights that they now enjoy so freely.