One look at the programming of this year’s Festival TransAmériques and the memo reads loud and clear: Montreal is back on the map as a major destination for contemporary dance. Only in its third edition since debuting as both a theatre and dance festival, the FTA has prepared a walloping feast for the city’s dance fans. Free shows, a new laboratory for live short works, a bustling festival headquarters and a mouth-watering lineup of top-flight and cutting-edge artists from around the globe signal the arrival of another signature Montreal event.
Never mind Star Trek, the film. The FTA’s summer blockbuster is as big as they come – the North American premiere of Éonnagata, an ambitious new dance theatre piece fresh from its London debut, created and performed by a veritable supergroup made up of Sylvie Guillem, the most infamous ex-étoile of the Paris Opera Ballet; Robert Lepage, the pioneering stage director from Quebec; and leading British choreographer Russell Maliphant. Channeling the magic of Kabuki theatre and the surreal costume stylings of Alexander McQueen, the three megastars join forces to tell the story of the Chevalier d’Eon, the 18th century cross-dressing French spy. Irresistible alchemy with impossible-to-predict effects.
The Who’s Who doesn’t end there. Sasha Waltz, the biggest exponent of German dance since Pina Bausch, is also in town with her abstract fresco of flesh Körper (image shown), arguably the pivotal work of a career that in 2000 marked her defiant departure from Bausch’s Tanztheater tradition. Then there’s Jan Fabre, preeminent agent provocateur of the Flemish New Wave, who presents his anarchic brand of dance theatre in the Canadian premiere of L’orgie de la tolerance, an ensemble work that takes nine performers to the extremes.
Dance highlights from the 18-day festival also include the raucous Singular Sensation by young Israeli choreographer Yasmeen Godder, a rising star on the international circuit, as well as Body-Scan, a meditative dance by Quebec experimental artist Benoît Lachambre and Su-Feh Lee, dancer and qigong specialist from Vancouver. Also on deck is a darling of the local scene, Frédérick Gravel, with his signature ‘best-of’ piece Gravel Works, featuring live music and big dollops of irony.
FTA shows its street cred with two fun, free outdoor shows. The first, Transports exceptionnels by French choreographer Dominique Boivin, is a romantic pas de deux for one man and – wait for it – a giant hoe-loader tractor, on view for five days at the Old Port. The second is an equally cheeky affair, a massive line-dancing block party Le grand continental, choreographed by Montreal mover and shaker Sylvain Émard. For three evenings, some 60 amateur dancers of all ages will invade Émery Street in a brazen and jubilant act of collectivity. Quebec Bollywood, anyone?
Adding to its slew of meet-the-artist events, public readings, films and cocktails, this year FTA inaugurates Microclimats, “a new short art forms event,” which puts 12 teams of multidisciplinary artists on display over two evenings as they inhabit every nook and cranny of the Monument National, transforming its stairwells, attic, basement corridors and closets into spontaneous sites of performance. The perfect outing for voyeurs. Run, don’t walk, as tickets to the big shows are selling fast.
The 2009 Festival TransAmériques runs May 20 to June 6 at venues across town. For dates, locations and video excerpts of all performances, visit www.fta.qc.ca.