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.
Sometimes it’s all in our perception. I went into Dream Away not expecting much – I know that Stephan Toss’ work isn’t always my cup of tea, but that Les Grands Ballets’ dancers always find a way to move me – whereas my date for the night had very high hopes. In the end, I loved everything she couldn’t stand, and vice versa, and yet we are young women with similar taste! Sometimes you realize mid-dream that you are in fact dreaming, and it wipes away the magic of what you had been experiencing. Sometimes you even wake up, losing that dream world completely. In Dream Away, Stephan Toss captured both these sides of the dream, and where I was fully swept away, my companion was wide awake. Which side will you see?
Crossing the country to Montreal, Vancouver’s own Company 605 was at the Agora de la danse last week presenting brand new work. Premiering at the Vancouver International Dance Festival in March, they performed their latest piece, Vital Few, across western Canada before embarking on the eastern phase of this country-wide tour. Company 605, previously Collective 605, is know for blending urban and contemporary dance to create athletic work that uses the body language of the millennial generation. They make no exception in Vital Few, inspiring themselves from break dancing that blends seamlessly with the dancers’ more formal dance training.
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?
A wonderful thing about Quebec artists is that most people can’t guess where they’re from. Our style is a mishmash of European and American influences, with an international flavour that combines hints from around the world. There is often something otherworldly about our creations, and no one embodies this more than the living deity herself, Marie Chouinard. Accompanied by the Orchestre symphonique des jeunes de Montréal, Compagnie Marie Chouinard returned to the Theatre Maisonneuve in Montreal last week as part of the Danse Danse festival, performing Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune and Le sacre du printemps.
In a time when contemporary dance has left most of the actual dancing to the wayside, it’s a relief to see work that gives dancers a chance to move. Although Montreal choreographer Audrey Rochette likes to add a political layer to her pieces, she doesn’t let the intellectual take away from the physical. Her piece Cake filled five nights at Theatre La Chapelle last week. I saw it first a couple summers ago at Zone Homa, and since then Cake has continued to evolve with input from Rochette, the performers, and a collective of outside eyes. Though clearly the same work at its core, Cake has evolved in ways I didn’t expect, ways that have fundamentally affected my appreciation of the show.