Japan has always fascinated me. Whereas the unknown can often be synonymous with scary or intimidating, the Japanese culture evokes instead a delightful mystery. On one extreme, we recognize the Japanese in bright and daring fashion. On the other, we know them for being extraordinarily humble and quietly respectful. Their rich culture has evolved so differently from what the western world calls normal, and it has completely captured our imagination. Agora Tangente, the short name for the two-company neighbour-collaborators, indulges our fascination this month with a two-week focus on Japan, Dansu. Comprising three dance shows and a movie series, it’s a close-encounter with the wonderfully foreign scene of current Japanese performance.
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.
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?
Over the past couple years, I’ve come to know Manuel Roque the dancer, the performer, the mover. He is irresistible. He stands out in groups with his fragile expression, but solid stance. His compact, athletic body doesn’t compensate for any movement. Every muscle is familiar and isolated, allowing him to use every inch to really go in depth. Can you tell I have a bit of a crush? I was especially blown away by Manu’s solo Datawhich premiered at Usine C last December. All the elements I love about his performing were highlighted in it. Needless to say I was very much looking forward to seeing his next creation, which saw the stage last week at Tangente. Dena and Stéphane, respectively Tangente’s curator and general director, as just as big fans of Manu’s as I am. They introduced him before the start of 4-Or, focusing on how they gave him carte blanche in creating and presenting this work. I wonder, in doing so, what their expectations were.
After a long hot summer here we are right back in the swing of things. Already dancers, movers and creators of all kinds have taken back the stages of Montreal’s many theatres, ready to share and showcase their proud works. I was going to write a “what’s on” for the season, and maybe I still will, but for now we just have to dive and indulge in the mad mass of shows and soirees that have popped up in the last fortnight. This past Thursday night, Tangente kicked off its season at Monument National (maybe for the last time, as we look forward to the final construction of Tangente’s new home on the Place des Festivals in fall 2016) with a smartly curated, rock and roll double bill. Under the new presidency of Charles-Henri Paquette and with the fantastic Stephane Labbe strong at the helm as General Director, this night was all about stating the direction of the season loudly and boldly.
It’s been a tradition for over 20 years. Every September, five emerging choreographers showcase their work as five, 10-minute shorts that make up Danses Buissonnières. Being selected for that coveted bit of stage time can be the launch pad that propels new artists into recognized careers in dance. As we’ve chosen to devote ourselves to one of the most demanding and competitive art forms out there, opportunities like Danses Buissonnières that give new artists a platform to be seen by new publics and media alike aren’t taken for granted. As such, every year there are many amazing applicants, but only the crème of the crop make it past the jury of peers to take the stage at this annual production hosted by Tangente. This year presented an especially talented crew of new artists where some entertained and others blew our minds.