Culture & Conversation

FTA Offers A Full Card

Montreal’s biggest dance theatre festival, Festival TransAmériques, asserts itself among the city’s slew of summer events with a hearty, adventurous fourth edition with several exceptional dance offerings.

The Festival’s opener alone is an historical must-see: the Merce Cunningham Dance Company’s sole Canadian date as they make their final world tour following the great choreographer’s passing last July. As stipulated in the company’s legacy plan, the troupe will disband indefinitely on New Year’s Eve 2011.

Whether or not one enjoys Cunningham’s work is quite besides the point, and always has been. The visionary American choreographer, who died last year at the age of 90, ranks alongside Martha Graham and George Balanchine as one of 20th century dance’s defining innovators. Cunningham’s revolutionary experiments with chance procedures, his famous collaborations with composer John Cage radically divorcing dance from music, and later, his site-specific dance “Events” and his pioneering work with computer-generated movement and film trace the astonishing career, spanning almost 70 years, of a modernist giant. His piece Nearly 90², which premiered last year in New York as a celebration of his 90th birthday, will be presented at Théâtre Maisonneuve May 27 and 28 and is stunning evidence of a master artist who continued to invent until the end.

Also on the bill this year are two exciting contemporary African programs, both North American premieres, to be presented at Usine C. Congolese dancer, choreographer and rising international star Faustin Linyekula will perform, alongside two dancers and an onstage band, his explosive choreographic concert More more more … Future. Then, hailing from Ouagadougou, veteran choreographers Salia Sanou and Seydou Boro will present Poussières de Sang, a shattering, exorcistic movement piece that puts on full display the visceral styles of new West African dance.

Another irrefutable FTA highlight is the return, after a 10-year absence from Montreal stages, of acclaimed Japanese dancer, choreographer and visual artist Saburo Teshigawara. Renowned for his otherworldly sense of imagery and mesmerizing, liquid movement style, Teshigawara will perform his solo Miroku, a chiaroscuro work contemplating harmony in conflicting states.

FTA’s 2010 roster of Quebec artists includes Ginette Laurin and her company O Vertigo, performing the world premiere of Onde de choc; a collaboration between the prolific, unpredictable Benoît Lachambre and music and dance artist Clara Furey in Chutes incandescentes; a double program featuring the incomparable Louise Lecavalier, famous muse of Édouard Lock; and the highly-anticipated return of Montreal’s resident enfant terrible Frédérick Gravel with the world premiere of another work of signature irreverence, Tout se pète la gueule, chérie.

And last but not least, back by popular demand is Sylvain Émard’s irresistible free outdoor block party, Le grand continental, when some hundred amateur dancers will crowd Émilie Gamelin Square in one massive groove for the masses.

In a city of gridlocked festivals, Festival TransAmériques and its consistently world-class programming is one of Montreal’s most ambitious and admirable events. Last year’s edition was a sell-out high; let’s see how it fares this year as it now goes head-to-head with the Spectra blockbuster Les FrancoFolies, which was moved from August to June.

Festival TransAmériques’s 17 days of performances, meet-the-artist events, films and parties take place at venues across town. The festival runs from May 27 to June 12. Visit their site for schedules, ticket information and video clips of performances.

Photo: Clara Furey.

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