With the streets of Montreal calling, a multitude of artists will pirouette, cartwheel, or moonwalk (as may be the case) into town for the summer festivals. While we all know and love Just for Laughs and the Fringe Festival, here’s a look at some of the lesser-known but equally mind-blowing offerings the warmer months ahead have to offer.
Digital arts and strobe lights find themselves a wedding bed at the Elektra festival, a celebration of all that is flashy, artsy and has a damn good beat. Since its inception in 1999, Montrealers and visitors with a penchant for digital art have had the chance to experience the latest from the obscure yet all-too-alluring world of new technology as interpreted through visual arts, electronic music, digital animation, and even dance. Last year’s festival saw almost 9,000 heads bob to electronica while following the graphics flashing from video installations. After recently unveiling some of the artists who will be participating, this year’s edition promises to deliver a good dose of space-age-inspired arts. From a performance by 12 robots that will emulate The Tiller Girls (think can-can, but performed by artificial-intelligence-fuelled robots that resemble clothing racks) courtesy of Louis-Philippe Demers, to Tasman Richardson’s visual arts presentation featuring fuzzy TV screens and mysterious beats, festival-goers should prepare themselves to keep their jaws from dropping too often. This year, its 12th on the scene, Elektra will give even more people the chance to witness raw, avant-garde art forms by taking over the Darling Foundry and Eastern Bloc, in addition to its usual haunts of Usine C and Oboro.
Elektra runs from May 4 to 8. Pre-sale student passes are $30, available until April 15. Check out elektrafestival.ca for more.
With a name change and a new slew of performances, Festival TransAmÃ©riques is out to prove that a little change is just the thing to keep one’s feet moving. Giving festival-goers a taste of modern dance and theatre, FTA seeks to expose the work of both aspiring and established writers, choreographers, dancers and directors. The artists slated to perform in the festival’s fifth edition come from everywhere around the world, from New Zealand to Brazil. This year’s festival will feature 31 performances and events over 17 days, an offering that FTA claims is its most ambitious to date. Aside from the usual showcase, the festival will present performances that cannot be classified under just one art form, such as Bodies in Urban Spaces, a free outdoor performance which will start off at the Planetarium and feature multicoloured bodies moving across the city in a tangled swarm. With many other free shows and performances, festival-goers are sure to get their groove on, dancing shoes optional.
Festival TransAmÃ©riques takes place from May 6 to June 11. For a full schedule and tickets, go to fta.qc.ca
If Fringe is the over-achieving, doted-upon daughter of festivals, Infringement is by default its feisty little sister. Launched in Montreal in 2004 by renowned theatre activist Donovan King, the festival is now held in five cities across Canada and the U.S., and just keeps on growing every year. With its roots firmly set in activist art, Infringement seeks to subvert the tradition of festivals that lose creative freedom under the thumb of corporate pressure. Following its mandate to allow all artists to perform free of charge, the festival includes (but is certainly not limited to) a mix of theatre, visual arts, films, poetry and music by basically “anyone wishing to artistically infringe on the monoculture that creeps into every corner of our lives,” according to its website. Notable events from the past include a vernissage held in an alleyway, and a musical performance followed by a bring-your-own-instrument music party. Preparations for this year’s installation of Infringement are underway and anyone who wants to contribute is welcome.
Infringement takes place from June 16 to 26. To find out how you can get involved, visit infringementfestival.com/montreal
International Festival of Circus Arts
Those who feel a pang of nostalgia every time they see a careless, freckle-cheeked young thing in the playground hanging upside down from the monkey bars can get their acrobatics fix at the International Festival of Circus Arts. Now in its second year, the festival is coming back for more with over 200 artists hailing from all over the world. This summer’s lineup includes Australia’s Tom-Tom Crew company, which will present its mix of acrobats, beatboxers and hip hop, as well as Victoria Chaplin (daughter of the famed Charlie) and Jean-Baptiste ThierrÃ©e’s Le Cirque Invisible. For those who love themselves a clown but not their price tag, the festival will offer free activities as well. The festival’s website says its goal is “to be an event that unifies and mobilizes people,” and there is reason to believe it is achieving just that. After all, there might be no better way to bond with a fellow festival-goer than by collectively gasping as the acrobats leap onto the tightrope.
The International Festival of Circus Arts takes place July 7 to 24. The full schedule will be up on April 18 at montrealcompletementcirque.ca
Everyone knows at least one person who celebrates major landmarks with a marathon of George A. Romero’s Dead film series and who can also effortlessly quote lines from Repo Man on command. Montreal gets a glimpse into their world every summer with Fantasia, one of the biggest celebrations of genre films from all around the world. The festival aims to expose North Americans to films they would have otherwise never even heard of, and going into its 15th year, it just keeps growing. Each summer, cinema lovers are treated to hundreds of films in just three weeks, with last year’s count reaching 370 films. However, movie buffs are not just drawn in for the films themselves, but also for the guest appearances, which have famously included Malcolm McDowell (of A Clockwork Orange fame). The festival holds true to its promise of offering variety by screening films in various venues, including Concordia since 2003, as well as having outdoor screenings. If getting lost in a round-the-world trip of cinema is your thing, this is a festival you won’t want to miss. Ask your movie-savvy friend to go. Chances are, they’ll already have their tickets.
Fantasia runs from July 14 to August 7. For schedule and tickets, go to fantasiafestival.com