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.
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?
It felt like the beginning of the end as I took my seat for what is sure to be one of the last times at the Agora de la danse. I’ve often said it is one of my favourite venues in this city. It has the ability to transform from bright, open classroom with windows that give views all the way to the mountain, to intimate, floor-seating only theatre, to grand space with high ceilings and a steep slope of seats to match. Soon the Agora will be moving into the newly constructed Wilder dance building. Until then, the countdown begins. Opening the new year this week at the Agora is an interdisciplinary work by Isabelle Van Grimde, Symphonie 5.1.
Just as I was thinking that I wasn’t going to try to understand what I had just seen, I overheard the girls in the row behind me:
– “J’ai pas compris.”
– “Mais ce n’est pas une affaire de comprendre, mais d’interpréter…”
So I guess I wasn’t alone in not quite grasping all the little and big messages hidden within George Stamos’ piece. And I have to agree with the second girl, sometimes it isn’t always about understanding, but interpreting our own experience of a show. On this night, it was George Stamos’ piece Situations that had us searching for meaning. Presented at the Agora de la danse from September 30 to October 2, it questions conventional definitions of masculinity and proposes we drop simplistic gender stereotypes in favour of something a little more open-minded, something a little more of our time. And who better than Stamos, a unique breed of man in his own right, to fuel this discussion.
Will we ever tire of love as a muse? You couldn’t count the amount of dance works based on love or infatuation, yet you’ll never hear someone say, “oh, not another show about love!”. Is it societal or primal, our love affair with love? Who knows (I’d say it’s both), but it’s clear that love is a bottomless well of inspiration for artistic work, and one that audiences can’t get enough of, either. Tuesday night at the Agora de la Danse I had the pleasure of assisting the premiere of an in situ work on the grimmer side of this beloved topic. Heartache and the distress of unrequited love drove Karina Champoux and Philippe B in their co-creation Les Enchaînés (literally, the chained ones). In the open space of the café-bar, transformed this week into a cabaret-style venue, the echoing beat of the metronome led Philippe’s fingers on the piano and Karina’s delicate body in a dance murder mystery, with love as the villain.
The snow has only just melted, yet here we are already talking about winter again. Le Cinquième Hiver (which translates as The Fifth Winter) made its second premiere at the Agora de la Danse in Montreal just last night. This duo by María Muñoz and Pep Ramis looks at the passage of time with winter as a marker. Though a very young piece, it is heavy as thick snowfall, and mature like a weathered landscape. I couldn’t imagine a better way to close the Agora’s season than with a reflective and wise piece such as this.