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.
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.
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.
Usine C is not your typical venue. It is, as the name lets on, a converted factory, located halfway between the Gay Village and Parc Lafontaine. You turn down a semi-residential street, make your way through an uninviting alley, and enter into a warm and creative space that erases any hesitations you had before crossing through the doorway. I headed over here last week to catch Au sein des plus raides vertus by Montreal’s own Catherine Gaudet. Since premiering at the Festival TransAmériques back in 2014 it has also been staged at Theatre La Chapelle, and continues to live beyond its excellent reviews. Now, demand wants this show to be seen again.
There are as many types of dance as there are people who dream of dancing. Those pieces that make it to the stage though often only represent a small portion of the rich variety of styles and expressions that are out there. In an effort to broaden the horizon of theatre-worthy dancing and offer professional opportunities for street dancers, two young ladies founded 100Lux. Already recognized as a staple dance festival in Montreal after only 4 years of existence, 100Lux speaks to the artists’ needs and the public’s desires. For this year’s edition, four unique nights took place from December 2-5 showcasing respectively solos, in situ work, short creations and long creations. I was among the lucky few to snag a ticket for the shorts showcase.