Dancing in public: Danse Danse’s outdoor program presents Caroline Laurin-Beaucage’s work

How Danse Danse brought the performance to you

The Place des Arts Esplanade became an exploration space this weekend for performers in the dance creation titled Habiter nos mémoires by Caroline Laurin-Beaucage. The performance was part of Danse Danse’s outdoor program called Hors les murs kicked-off their fall season. On Friday and Sunday — Saturday had to be cancelled because of the rain — each of the eight performers spent an hour in an open cube that had been set up for them in the public space. The performances lasted from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. for passersby to watch.

This performance followed Laurin-Beaucage’s solo piece that was initially titled Habiter sa mémoire. The artist’s idea was to bring the rehearsal space closer to the audience. Laurin-Beaucage said that her goal for this project was, “to bring my dance studio outside, to give me a new challenge and to explore what it means to work outside while generating an authentic dance.”

For Habiter nos mémoires, the artist shared her process with eight women aged between 25 and 60. Carol Prieur, Brianna Lombardo, Angélique Willkie, Ariane Levasseur, Susanna Haight, Marie-Reine Kabasha, Claudine Hébert and Marine Rixhon wore red clothing and started each moment in the cube by recording their voice. The improvisation that followed aims for the dancers to connect to the way their bodily sensations inspired them to move in that moment. Each hour was concluded by  recorded personal messages recalling what happened during the last hour.

Sound creator Larsen Lupin created a soundscape for the performances putting together the artists’ voice recordings. Visitors were able to access the soundtrack while watching. For Laurin-Beaucage, this was an important part of the presentation. She discovered that “the way we speak seems to fit the rhythm of our dance and it actually works, the soundtrack of our voice really accompanies our movements.”

Laurin-Beaucage’s process in the initial version of the project also included the same open cube and voice recordings. Laurin-Beaucage admitted that there is a kind of vulnerability that comes with presenting non-prepared movement propositions in front of an audience. She explored that vulnerability a lot as she presented the improvised outdoor exploration 32 times in the last five years in different locations and countries. Each event lasted approximately four hours, like a typical dance rehearsal would. She transmitted the knowledge she had gained in that process to the eight performers of Habiter nos mémoires when they were preparing for the event.

Habiter nos mémoires is one of the three dance pieces that are being presented by Danse Danse in the public space this fall. For Danse Danse’s artistic co-director and director of development Caroline Ohrt, the Hors les murs programming “gives audience members the freedom to wander […], it grasps the attention of people who do not necessarily come in the theatre.” The dance diffuser hoped to present an outdoor program last year, but the COVID-19 restrictions changed their plans.

Hors les murs started on Sept. 24,, with choreographer Sébastien Provencher’s piece Children of Chemistry presented in the windows of the 2-22 building on St-Catherine Street. Habiter nos mémoires followed on Oct. 1 and 3, alongside Sylvain Émard’s work Préludes, which was presented in the afternoon of Oct. 3. Émard’s outdoor presentation preceded his new show Rhapsodie, which is coming up in February 2022.

For more information on all of the pieces, please visit Danse Danse’s website.


Photo courtesy of Thomas Payette   


Finding strength in simplicity: reading and redefining dance

Needle and Thread is an ode to those who were lost

Every stitch, every letter spelled out during Needle and Thread retrieves the memories of 600 Holocaust victims. “We’re not going for spectacle,” Mindy Yan Miller said. “But authenticity, experience, feeling…”

Needle and Thread is a collaborative, commemorative performance by Mindy, a professor in the department of fibres and material practices at Concordia, and her sister-in-law, Suzanne Miller. Suzanne is a contemporary choreographer and dancer, whereas Mindy works primarily in installation and sculpture with used clothing, cowhide and human hair.

In this performance, Suzanne uses her body to spell out the names of the 600 Holocaust victims, wearing a long, patchwork skirt, which Mindy is tirelessly adding to. The massive garment is composed of many shirts, dresses, skirts and pairs of pants joined together with a simple blanket stitch. The names of the victims are recorded in the “Pages of Testimony” submitted to Yad Vashem World Holocaust Remembrance Center in Jerusalem.

Mindy is the ground, my anchor, the base note [of Needle and Thread,] and I am the air,” said Suzanne.

Suzanne trembled, sweat gleaming off her chest, as she embodied the very lives and the stories behind the names she spelled. Her movements are not that of conventional dance, but of a gestural language that can only be understood through witnessing.

She reaches in, towards her chest, falls on the ground, covers her eyes with one, then two hands. She looks back, then up, she twists, clasps her hands, touching her elbow to her side.

Mindy stitches, never looking up, she is static. Only moving to reach into her tool pouch to thread a needle.

The names are spelled on a blackboard, as a man whispers them to the writer. She writes quickly, the name is spelled out, on the board, and by Suzanne. The writer erases, and moves on to the next. This takes 10 seconds.

“It’s not about provoking,” Suzanne said. Needle and Thread is jarring. The power of their actions resonate with the audience.

The sister-in-laws were invited to perform this piece in the Musée d’Art Contemporain as part of Off Parcours Danse, a dance conference that took place from Nov. 25-29 at Place des Arts. Needle and Thread was developed last year at “Jews and Jewishness in the Dance World,” part of a series of Jewish arts conferences held at Arizona State University, and has since been performed close to Jewish sites across North America and Europe. Each time, something changes, is lost or added, effectively creating a different experience for viewers. The skirt grows, bit by bit.


Photo by Britanny Clarke.


Syria from the point of view of Syrian art

New exhibition at Skol showcases Syria through a different lens

In a small white room near Place des Arts, the work of five Syrian artists portrays what they perceive as the reality of living in and being from Syria during the current civil war. The multidisciplinary exhibition, featuring photography, film and ink drawings, shows a different view of war-torn Syria than what we’ve seen in Western media.

The exhibition is called Internal Landscape, a title that references both the geographical landscape of Syria and the internal landscape of the artists’ minds and memories, according to the exhibition’s curator, Delphine Leccas.

The goal of the exhibition is to capture “the impression we have of a country that we have left and the image we have of this country in the back of our brains, the emotions we continue to hold of this country,”according to Leccas.

The main themes that come through the various art pieces are nostalgia and a will to return to a normal life, yet these seemingly clash with the courage, strength and pride that emanate from the works of art. “People continue to live in Damascus. They have dreams, and they want to have a future like [everyone] else in the world,” said Alma Salem, cultural advisor. The exasperation and defiance of the Syrian people comes across in the exhibition—both emotions blend together in the featured works.

Leccas is the co-founder of the non-profit organization AIN, which supports young Syrian artists. She lived in Syria from 1998 to 2011 and worked with many artists, showcasing them in exhibitions organized by the association. She said that, before the revolution, the artistic scene in Syria was mostly underground.

“The majority of foreign artistic directors who came to Damascus came face to face with the official art scene that didn’t interest them at all, and they would leave saying, ‘Syrian art is very academic. It’s not very interesting,’” Leccas said. “But they didn’t have access to all the workshops where artists were working in the shadows.”

She said that the revolution and war pushed many artists to different parts of the world and social media helped to propagate Syrian art and make it known. Leccas said there was “a need, a vital necessity” for the artists to produce art and share it in light of what was happening in their homeland.

“There is a real danger in creating art, and we forget that because we have a tendency in Europe and in the Western world of seeing the artist as someone who entertains themself,” Leccas said. “We forget that the artistic act can be a strong political act and that it can put lives in danger.”

The four artists featured in the exhibition are Aiham Dib, Muzaffar Salman, Randa Maddah and Monif Ajaj. All of their works were created when they still lived in Syria during the civil war and three of the artists still live and produce art in Syria.

Internal Landscape runs until Feb. 25 at the Centre des arts actuels Skol.


Revenge, lust, love and loss: A night at the opera

Don Giovanni brings the story of a womanizer’s crusade to Place des Arts

Don Giovanni is no gentleman. He is a smooth-talking womanizer on a crusade to bed as many women as he can, be they young, old, married or even unwilling.

Written by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Don Giovanni premiered in Prague at the National Theater in 1787. The opera is sung in Italian with English and French surtitles, and lasts three hours. It tells the story of a man obsessed with loving as many women as he can, unrepentant and unaware of the path of destruction he leaves behind.

The opera starts with Don Giovanni (Gordon Bintner) attempting to force himself on Donna Anna (Emily Dorn). Desperate, Donna Anna cries for help. Her father, the Commendatore (Alain Coulombe) comes rushing in. Drawing his sword, he challenges Don Giovanni, who pulls out a gun and shoots the Commendatore point blank in the chest, murdering him.  Upon seeing her father’s body, Donna Anna swears to get revenge on her assailant.

This opening scene sets the tone for the rest of the opera. Don Giovanni is a ruthless womanizer, using his charm to get what he wants. He doesn’t care about class, weight, height or looks. So long as they are women, he is attracted to them. His assistant, Leporello (Daniel Okulitch), keeps a detailed notebook of his conquests: 1,003 women in Spain alone.

While Don Giovanni might like to bed women, he certainly doesn’t keep in touch. While lounging around a café, he spies a woman angrily searching for the lover who scorned her. Sauntering over, he tells Leporello he wishes to ‘console’ her, to which Leporello scoffs. He’s clearly done this trick before. The woman, however,  is Donna Elvira and the lover she is looking for is Don Giovanni. She reprimands him for leaving her  broken-hearted and pregnant.

For the rest of the opera, Don Giovanni continues on his quest for conquests, instructing Leporello to keep the notebook handy—but ultimately, not even Don Giovanni can outrun his sins forever. While he is busy chasing every woman he meets, a group, led by Donna Anna, is plotting Giovanni’s downfall.

The opera is a cautionary tale, in that it warns sinners that eventually their crimes will catch up to them. After years of lying, cheating and abusing women, Don Giovanni’s injustices finally catch up with him, as the Commendatore comes back from the grave and asks him to repent. Upon Don Giovanni’s refusal, the Commendatore claims his soul and casts him into the depths of hell.

The opera deals with very real and serious topics: revenge, murder and sexual abuse. The serious nature, however, is offset slightly by Leporello and his interactions with other characters. His wit and innocent charm, as well as his dejected nature towards his master’s activities, counter-balance the heaviness of the rest of the opera.

Don Giovanni will be performed at Place des Arts on Nov. 17 and 19 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets start at just under $60 for the show and are available on the Place des Arts website.


More than just glass slippers and a love story

Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella offers a fresh take on a beloved story

When you think of a knight in shining armour, it typically doesn’t mean an actual knight in sparkly armour—but that’s exactly what Prince Topher (Hayden Stanes) wore as he strutted on stage. Not long after his entrance, he began to fight a gigantic monster while simultaneously looking rather dashing.

Rodger and Hammerstein’s Cinderella, the 2013 Tony award-winning Broadway musical, was at Place des Arts last week for a limited showing. Featuring a talented cast of singers and dancers, the magical show had a hopeful lightheartedness about it—while also featuring very real, self-reflective moments of social commentary.

The show recounted the fabled and beloved story of Cinderella (Tatyana Lubov)—a handmaid-turned-princess who wins the heart of the dashing prince with the help of her fairy godmother, a pumpkin carriage and a handful of white mice-turned-horses.

Although the plot focused on the prince’s search for his princess, Cinderella was so much more than just a love story about two characters destined to find each other. While keeping the classic essence and framework of the fairy tale, the Broadway musical brought a witty and comedic twist to it and delved into the characters’ hopes, dreams and fears.

Beneath the traditional romance lies the story of a lost prince who must rule his kingdom while keeping his parent’s legacy alive; of a bureaucrat trying to ensure the prince’s comfort and way of life at the expense of the citizens; of a mother who wants the best for her daughters; and of a hopelessly unromantic guy who just wants to take the girl of his dreams out on a date to serve soup at the soup kitchen.

Cinderella is hopeful, despite being used and abused by her stepmother and stepsisters. She is a young woman trying to find herself in a world that keeps putting her down, and she maintains an overt optimism and kind spirit despite her plight.

Prince Topher has just returned from university and wants to rule his kingdom as his parents did before him—in a just and fair manner. His associate makes it easy: hand over the signet ring and he’ll take care of the boring, dreary paperwork. The prince’s naïve trust for his advisor, Sebastian (Ryan M. Hunt), leads to political corruption—unbeknownst to the prince. After a lifetime of being molded by the people around him, he is eager to try and find himself.

The cast included a multitude of zany characters, including the passionate political activist Jean-Michel (Chris Woods) and Marie, a sometimes crazy and eclectic friend who ends up being Cinderella’s fairy godmother (Leslie Jackson). The characters’ witty dialogue and funny interactions all added to the comedic element of the show.

The strong cast, relatable characters and fantastic quips and dialogue were all brought together by the incredible set design. Without missing a beat, the stage transformed from a forest to a town square to the interior of a palace. These switches were so well executed that they were almost invisible—as if by magic.

Be sure to check out Place des Arts’ website for updates and information about other upcoming shows.


Backstage at the show

There’s a very human touch to the éLoges s’expose (avec Inédits) photography exhibit that is occupying the George-Émile-Lapalme cultural space at Place des Arts. Martine Doucet, the photographer, has decided to showcase her love of women by building an exhibit in collaboration with famous “québécois” celebrities, depicting these actresses preparing to mount the stages of massive productions. Through door openings and even via close-ups, the photographer documents the preparation process necessary for these actresses to embody their roles on stage.

Doucet had actually published this collection of photographs as a coffee table book, with the publishing house Les éditions du passage back in 2006. The book is stunning, but the selection of photographs that is being showcased in the actual exhibit also includes brand new snapshots from the show Les Belles-Soeurs, the theatre adaptation of Michel Tremblay’s play, which is currently under production at Le Monument National. The experience is also utterly incomparable when you blow these pictures up to a bigger size, as opposed to having them in a smaller format of a book.

Essentially, the exhibit is quite particular in the sense that it plays on the development of the antithesis of the photographic portrait. Doucet delves into the world of intimacy of all these women, who welcome her into their space as they prepare to be seen by thousands. The transformation that some of these actresses undergo is remarkable; layers of colorful makeup and outrageous wigs can be seen throughout the entire exhibit. The common theme in all the images on display is the mirror. Doucet clearly enjoys exploring the moment of introspection and dialogue with oneself that occurs when we see our reflection in the mirror.

Though the exhibit is by no means immense, the content of the pictures is incredibly lively. Sophie Cadieux, Guylaine Tremblay, Anne-Marie Cadieux and so many more familiar faces contribute to making this exhibit so alluring. Doucet is, in that respect, a genius. Human curiosity will always get the better of us and we are all curious about what’s required for these women to invest themselves so profoundly in the magic of theatre. The affinities that exist between the photographer and her subjects are almost palpable, which is so refreshing in this age of distanced, contemporary art.

There’s also something more personal in the works. Doucet does an excellent job at catching some of these grandiose artists in a moment of vulnerability, as they contemplate the task that awaits them on stage, the shoes of the characters they’re about to fill. Sometimes exhaustion looks like it may get the best of them. Other times, the photographer’s lens is filled with the amused look of one of these women reading a line in their script that particularly pleases them. There’s no camouflage here and that was clearly the photographer’s goal: total transparency.

éLoges s’expose (avec Inédits) can be viewed until Dec. 2 at Place des Arts, in the George-Émile-Lapalme cultural space. For more information visit


Wicked finishes its run on a high note

The standing ovation seemed to go on forever. It felt as though all of Place des Arts was on its feet, genuinely thrilled and grateful to the immensely talented actors and production team who had made the evening a truly magical experience.

The beloved story, The Wizard of Oz, was given new life in writer Gregory Maguire’s 1995 novel, Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West and has since been adapted for the theatre by Winnie Holzman with music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz. The musical follows the story of The Wizard of Oz’s Wicked Witch of the West, before she was villainized and was still known by her birth name, Elphaba.

Elphaba is a feisty young woman, who has been misunderstood all her life because of the unfortunate green tinge of her skin and wants only to be like everyone else. At Shiz academy, where she is sent to study, she finds an unlikely friend in Gallinda Upland, a popular blonde queen bee, who later becomes known as Glinda the Good.

Elphaba has always dreamed of meeting the revered leader of Oz, the Wizard, but when she finally gets the opportunity she discovers things are not as they seem. Determined to save Oz from the corrupt Wizard, Elphaba vows to fight the injustice being done and is forced to flee the city. Painted as a rebel and a threat in the press, it is not long before everyone is forced to choose, are they with her, or against her.

At its heart, Wicked is a touching story about friendship and loss, and choosing a path in life before one is chosen for you.

The songs by Schwartz, which have become so iconic in the world of musical theatre in such a short time, were the best part of the musical, standing out above the stunning set, excellent choreography and fast paced and clever script. Big dance numbers like ‘Dancing Through Life’ were executed perfectly with practiced ease while touching ballads like ‘For Good’ really drove home the core messages and themes of the show.

The moment I arrived and took my seat in the balcony, I was shocked by the lavish set. I expected a lot from a show as celebrated as Wicked, but this was something else. There was an enormous dragon sculpture perched at the top of the elaborate set which spanned the stage with its wings. As the show began I was amazed to see its eyes begin to glow and its head to move menacingly along with the action. It was simply awesome to see how much work was put into this detail which had no actual bearing on the plot.

The cast was led by Stephanie Torns as Elphaba, and Jeanna De Waal as Glinda. Both actresses were incredibly energetic and lively, considering the show has been running since Aug. 1.

Torns was listed in the program as a standby for Christine Dwyer the usual lead, and it was announced just before the show that Torns would be taking the stage. If there was any doubt in my mind beforehand at having to watch the standby instead of the original casting choice, it was erased as soon as she opened her mouth. She was amazing. Torns definitely blew everyone away with her fantastic voice. She drew out her low melancholy notes, she belted her fierce high ones. She was by far the highlight.

It is always so refreshing to see songs which are so well known like ‘Defying Gravity’ and ‘Popular’, be given new life. A new twist or turn in the melody or in the way the actors deliver a certain line. Both female leads did a great job of this, staying very close to the cast recording that has been played over and over while still giving the songs personality.

The only major downside of the production was the character of Fiyero, who was played by Billy Harrigan Tighe. His singing was plain awful. Thankfully he only had two songs, but being the main romantic lead that eventually drives a wedge between Glinda and Elphaba, he was a let-down. He sang flat most of the time, which proved painfully noticeable and lacked the breath control to make it through the challenging songs gracefully. It’s possible that towards the end of the run, he simply threw out his voice, but he ruined one of my favourite songs, and that is unforgivable for a professional.

The supporting cast however, a group of about 28 actors, who played Ozian officials, students, flying monkeys, as well as larger characters like the wizard, were very strong. They all knew exactly what they were supposed to be doing and made it look easy.

Overall, the entire production quality was through the roof. The show far surpassed my expectations for a touring show! It was well worth the sixty-some dollar ticket.

When I was leaving, I heard one little girl say, “I would come see this musical everyday if I could.” I think that says it all.


The Box rocks for the young and old

Photo: Andrew McNeill

An impromptu snowstorm certainly didn’t scare The Box junkies away from Montréal en Lumière’s downtown festival site Friday night.
At long last, a festival experience where cigarette toting twenty somethings are outnumbered by miniature humans dressed in technicolor Ewok snowsuits.
Quebecois baby boomers wrapped up their wee ones, lugged them up on their shoulders, and marched through clumping snowflakes to Place des Arts to rock out to the ‘80s New Wave band that once topped the charts and dominated the airwaves.
The Box assembled in 1981 at the hands of Jean-Marc Pisapia, one of the first members of Men Without Hats. The band hit mainstream success in 1987 with their album Closer Together, disbanded in 1992, but reassembled in 2002 to spin out a few new tunes and reunion concerts.
The Box is mom and dad pop-rock in its most uncomplicated format. Its sound is stereotypically New Wave, and dependant on upbeat yet playful male-female vocal harmonies and catchy choruses. Despite its harmless and agreeable disposition, The Box’s sound didn’t survive the turn of the ‘90s, as listeners looked for something darker—and found it in grunge.
But while The Box’s denim cut offs, hairspray, and Jheri curl days are over, they still know how to get the crowd shaking. Friday’s show was for older fans and their obligatory offspring.
The Box knows they won’t be reigning any new converts, but their live show keeps all the energy of late-’80s Canadian New Wave intact. Dragging toddlers out in the snow past bed time isn’t easy, but this was clearly a show families didn’t want to miss.

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