Montreal’s fall dance season: Agora, Festival Quartiers Danses take the lead

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Danse Mutante — featuring Riley Sims, left, and Francis Ducharme — consists of three variations on a piece choreographed by Mélanie Demers. “My premise was to see if it was possible to loop and to remix and to reinvent a dance piece,” says Demers.

Mathieu Doyon

Before Les Grands Ballets and Danse Danse take their giant leap into the fall season next month, there are several smaller but still spectacular steps to watch out for throughout September.

Agora de la danse, the 28-year-old contemporary dance organization now resident and performing in the Wilder Building (1435 Bleury St.), opens its season with Danse Mutante (Sept. 17 to 21) by Mélanie Demers, the one-time O Vertigo dancer who formed her own company, Mayday, in 2007. Her latest is a fascinating experiment in accelerated cross-cultural evolution. Having created a duet called Cantique last year, she has handed it off to three choreographers around the world to create their own variations on the piece.

Speaking from the Netherlands, where the Montrealer is overseeing the final touches to what she calls her “international choreographic relay,” Demers explains: “My premise was to see if it was possible to loop and to remix and to reinvent a dance piece. It’s something you often see in theatre and film (Montreal audiences might recall Centaur Theatre’s production of the multiverse drama Constellations a few years back, and of course there’s Groundhog Day, Sliding Doors and the like), but it’s not something you really see in dance. I was very interested in seeing how different political and historical contexts would show up and be reinterpreted in the same work. I was very surprised at how radical the changes were.”

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The “troublemakers and free spirits,” as Demers affectionately calls the trio of choreographers she has chosen for the project, are Rotterdam’s Ann Van den Broek, New York’s Ann Liv Young and, from Bamako, the Haitian-born Kettly Noël.

Agora follows Demers’s show with Antichambre (Sept. 23 to 28), Aurélie Pedron’s combination of installation and dance. The audience is admitted at intervals, four at a time, equipped with vision-disorienting specs, and enjoined to immerse themselves in a spectacularly lit environment peopled by four dancers.

For more on Agora’s complete season, visit

Sharing the Wilder Building with Agora (and Les Grands Ballets) is Tangente, the “laboratory” for contemporary dance. Its fall season opens with Danses Buissonnières (Sept. 26 to 29), a showcase for the next generation of Quebec dancers. For full details of Tangente’s season, visit

The 17th edition of Festival Quartiers Danses opens Sept. 6 and continues to Sept. 15 with a packed program of performances, exhibitions, workshops, films and lots more. The festival’s aim since its beginnings in the early 2000s has been to make the contemporary dance world more accessible.

Most performances take place at Cinquième Salle of Place des Arts. For instance, on Sept. 8 there’s an evening of works from Anne Plamondon, Anne Dryburgh, Jane Mappin and Gargoyle Dance Club; on Sept. 11 there’s a triple bill from Lo Fi Dance Theory, Maya Orchin and Next Zone.

There are many free outdoor events, too, most of them on Ste-Catherine St. between Place des Arts and Complexe Desjardins, but also ranging far and wide throughout the city. Take, for instance, My Urban Nature by Indigenous dancer Barbara Kaneratonni Diabo, which plays on Quai 5160, 5160 LaSalle Blvd., on Sept. 8, then makes its way to La Forêt Urbaine, 2175 Victoria St., on Sept. 11 and Square Victoria on Sept. 12. Watch out, too, for local street dance favourites Tentacle Tribe, who bring their new piece, Puzzle, to Place des Festivals on Sept. 10, Jardins Gamelin (next to Berri-UQAM métro) on Sept. 12 and Place d’Armes on Sept. 14.

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Focus Cia de Dança’s Still Reich is designated as the festival’s closing-night show; it plays Sept. 14 at Cinquième Salle and features choreographic pieces inspired by the music of American composer Steve Reich. Strictly speaking, though, it all comes to a close the next day at 2:30 p.m. with the same company’s baroque celebration Focus Danse Bach, at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts’ Bourgie Hall.

For full details on Festival Quartiers Danses, visit

Katie Ward’s Imaginationreality is one of two contemporary dance offerings at La Chapelle this month.

Svetlana Atanasova

The first show of Danse-Cité’s season is Inscape — l’autre maintenant, which plays from Sept. 11 to 21 at Verdun’s Stationnement Éthel, 4015 Wellington St. It sees five dancers, under Milan Gervais’s choreography, taking over the multi-storey parking lot to combat its sterile atmosphere with something more sensorial. Full details at

La Chapelle (3700 St-Dominique St.) hosts two contemporary dance shows this month, beginning with Imaginationreality (Sept. 16, 17 and 20), which sees Montreal choreographer Katie Ward fracturing reality in a piece for four dancers. This is followed by Anima/Darkroom (Sept. 26, 27, 30 and Oct. 1), a freestyle solo piece in which choreographer Lucy M. May collaborates with award-winning Krump dancer 7Starr. Call 514-843-7738 or visit

And finally, there’s an intriguing project happening at the MAI centre (3680 Jeanne-Mance St.) through Sept. 22. Camille: un rendez-vous au-delà du visuel is a blend of dance and theatre in which we follow the protagonist through a landscape of emotions and memory. As the title suggests, it takes the audience beyond sight and into something more tactile. Audrey-Anne Bouchard is a visually impaired artist and choreographer, and her show has been designed for a visually impaired audience. However, all are welcome, with blindfolds being provided where appropriate. Call 514-982-3386 or visit




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