We have never had so much to celebrate in a single year. 2017 marks important birthdays for Canada and Montreal, 125 and 375 years respectively, and is also the inaugural year of a world-class cultural hub right here in la belle province. Opening on the Place des festivals in the heart of the Quartier des spectacles, the Édifice Wilder Espace Danse regroups Quebec’s leading purveyors of dance under one roof. Agora de la danse, Tangente, École de Danse contemporaine de Montréal and Les Grands Ballets will share this 10-story building with the Ministry of Culture and Communications, the Conseil des arts et lettres du Québec and the Régie du cinéma. Where there used to be designated events for artistic entities to exchange, there will now be daily encounters between people from every perspective of the dance community. And with its central downtown location, the Wilder building will also open its doors to the public to explore and interact with the arts like never before.
The Wilder building’s construction dates back to 1918, when the original owner was the furniture manufacturer H. A. Wilder. I couldn’t imagine a more fitting name for a home to dance than this one, Wilder, that evokes curiosity, daring and, by its heritage, a foundation in history. The current extensive renovations began in 2014 after the building had been abandoned for several years, and finally the first new occupants have taken residence within the revamped walls at 1435 rue de Bleury. The original structure mostly makes up offices and administrative areas, while new additions house large creation spaces, common areas and more. By summer, the building is expected to be complete, all occupants moved in, and all operations under way. Already, the east-facing glass facade was included the annual Luminotherapie happening with giant projections reflected upon it to brighten the dark winter nights.
Agora de la danse and Tangente are the first to set up shop in their long awaited new home. Among hardhat-wearing construction workers, these two companies decided to end the wait and launch their winter/spring seasons in Espace Danse. Melanie Demers and her company MAYDAY will have the honor of baptizing the building with its first performance on February 22, Animal Triste, presented by Agora. Wilder will have already heard its first applause, though. During a private tour on January 25th, the media and select artists got a peek at the two companies’ new quarters, meeting in each new space the person for whom it was named: Françoise Sullivan, creator of the consequential Canadian performance art piece Danse dans la neige, Florence Junca-Adenot, founder of Agora, Dena Davida, co-founder and curator of Tangente, and Paul-Andre Fortier, recipient of the Governor General’s Performance Arts Award for lifetime achievement in dance. As we discovered each space, we applauded in excitement of seeing the project so near completion.
Propelled by the energy of the collective, Espace Danse is the answer to a mountain of needs within the dance community. Performance spaces will now be owned, instead of rented, allowing for more shows and more creativity in how they are built, performed, and received. Each space has its custom technical set up and set of features, whether that be a wraparound hall to extend an experience beyond the traditional four walls, or giant windows allowing passersby to peer in on the creative process, the possibilities and combinations are endless. More artists are already benefiting from residencies, and more will be creating work in the very rooms in which they will later perform. Audiences will be able to take dance classes or stop in for an afternoon coffee in the same building where they attend their favourite shows. Dance is literally taking its place in the heart of Montreal and inviting everyone to join the movement.