With a title like SPARK: Artistic Urban Safari, you know that you’re in for exploring new ground.
SPARK, a five-day event put on by Montreal’s Studio 303, represents an innovative way to showcase performance art and also ventures into uncharted territories. The artistic director of both SPARK and Studio 303 Miriam Ginestier describes the event’s offerings as “primarily dance-based but very heavily interdisciplinary.”
“SPARK is more like a circuit,” said Ginestier. “If people go to everything, not only will they see an amazing cross-section of this fresh generation of performing artists, but they will also visit lots of key smaller-scale venues and festivals [Les Escales Improbables, Festival Transatlantique MontrÃ©al] that are all going on in the next five days.”
SPARK is just the latest initiative by Studio 303, an organization that focuses on supporting and producing performance artists who are engaged in interdisciplinary work. All of the performers who were asked to participate are artists with whom Studio 303 has had ongoing relationships. Ginestier explains that the organization itself has grown together with the careers of these artists, many of whom are now ready to take their own work to the the next level and start touring.
In addition to public performances, SPARK also includes press-only daytime programming. Studio 303 has invited 12 international promoters from Europe to witness some of the best and brightest of Montreal’s performing arts scene as a way to give them larger exposure. By combining these media forums with shows open to the public, the audience gets to discover the work of these innovators right along with them. “If you want to actually make a living and survive as a dance company it is almost impossible unless you tour in Europe,” Ginestier explained, “it’s a showcase, not for the organization but for the artists.”
For those involved, this SPARK is just the beginning.
Dancer and choreographer Dana Michel is just one example of the type of artists the project is designed to promote. After graduating from Concordia in 2005 with a bachelor of fine arts in contemporary dance, Michel has been busy developing her creative practice, all the while gathering critical acclaim. She first became involved with Studio 303 after winning an award for choreography during the Montreal Fringe Festival. This week she will be performing solo in a dance show called “Short and Sweet” as well as presenting a collaborative piece with interdisciplinary artist and photographer 2fik.
Michel and 2fik decided to work together after clicking at the first production meeting to organize SPARK. Although they each work in different mediums, 2fik and Michel both identify gender and sexuality as one of the driving themes in their art. 2fik’s main focus is photography, in which he sets up scenes, dresses himself up as all the characters and then blends it all into one image (see above). To him gender is “something that you can never finish analyzing because it depends on which country, which culture you are in.”
Michel, who is a first-generation St. Lucian, and 2fik, who has lived in Morocco, France and Canada, each credit this cross-cultural experience to their sensitivity to how people carry themselves according to gender. Using their bodies to “talk” about the subject allows them to engage the audience in a more immediate and tangible way.
For their show they will each perform their own work first, then finish with a piece called “Ball of Both,” which explores gender identity and sexuality through movement. Michel described it as a structured improv in which the two go back and forth, switching between masculine and feminine states.
“It’s really blurring the identities,” said 2fik. “Who are they? Are they a man or a woman? She looks like a woman but she moves like a man…”
“Are they coming on to each other?” interrupted Michel.
“It’s a full question performance and I like that,” 2fik added.
It no doubt fits with Ginestier’s objectives.
“My goal with this event is that people who don’t go see this type of work come and try it out,” said Ginestier. “It’s a good time to try something risky.”
SPARK runs from Sept. 8 to 12. For more information visit www.studio303.ca/en/events/spark
Dana Michel and 2fik will be performing together at MAI on Sept. 10 and 11.