Last year the world lost a remarkable poet and musician. Montreal-born Leonard Cohen decks the halls of fame of Rock and Roll, Canadian music and Canadian Songwriters, for his opus of work spanning over sixty years. His folksy sound is especially resonant through his lyrics, which speak to love, loss, religion and political unrest. For their upcoming 2017-2018 seasons, two landmark Montreal dance companies will pay homage to him with a new work created to his music, and a gala danced in his honor. Dance Me, by the Ballets Jazz de Montreal, will premiere in December, and Les Grands Ballets will hold special gala performances, Soirée des Étoiles, the following June under the theme Dance Me to the End of Love, both companies taking their title inspiration from Cohen’s 1984 song.
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.
Summer may be the slow season for our regular dance houses, but it’s the hot season for the festival track. After big Montreal titles like Festival TransAmériques and Fringe Festival, there is another world-class happening just outside the city limits. Celebrating a quarter century this year, the Festival des Arts de Saint-Sauveur brings together dance and music in an oasis for artists and spectators alike. From August 3 to 13, intimate encounters with top performers take place in this quaint village at the foot of the picturesque Laurentian mountains.
Spring is always an exciting time. All the big companies reveal their upcoming season, filling us with anticipation for the year to come. This year, the Grands Ballets’ season launch goes beyond the usual excitement of revealing the shows that will fill our cultural calendars for 2016-2017. They have not one, not two, but a whole slew of news and events that really up the ante. Tuesday night at the Theatre Maisonneuve dancers, fans, and media all gathered to finally get the answers to our burning questions: what shows can we look forward to? When will the Wilder building be ready? And, the real nail biter, who will be appointed as the new artistic director?
In case you were wondering, Montreal’s ties with the homeland are as strong as ever. Case in point, Jean-Paul Montanari’s visit just yesterday to the Quartier Général of the Festival Transamériques to cross-promote the latest work by Benoit Lachambre and Fabrice Ramalingom with the 35th anniversary of Montpellier Danse. As director of this dance festival for several decades and collaborator since its very beginnings, who better than Montanari to spread the word on this international scale event, and who better to listen than the dance lovers of Nouvelle France’s cultural capital?
Yesterday marked the fourth annual Prix de la Danse de Montreal, a celebration of the city’s vibrant dance scene and the dynamic artists who give it life. Founded in 2011 by Marie Chouinard, the idea came after she was awarded a Bessie Award in New York in 2000. Seeing how this award ceremony supported not only the choreographers and dancers but also the cultural scene of the city in which they perform, Chouinard dreamed of establishing a similar event for her home base of Montreal. Today the Prix de la Danse de Montreal (PDM) boasts three fantastic awards in collaboration with the Conseil des Arts et des Lettres du Quebec (CALQ) and the Regroupement Québécois de la Danse (RQD).
This year The Australian Ballet said goodbye to one of its all-time stars, Lucinda Dunn. Retiring in late April after 23 years dazzling audiences across Australian stages and around the world, the company is now ripe for a new star to capture the hearts of their avid fans. There already seems to be within the ranks of The Australian Ballet a dancer fit to fill that void and then some, but it likely isn’t whom you might think. Lucinda Dunn has taken her last bow, opening the stage for a new star who has been steadily rising… and as the 2014 Sydney season has confirmed it, Chengwu Guo has earned his place in the spotlight as The Australian Ballet’s newest darling.