I promise: dance shows are not pretentious.
It’s not all tutus and pink and dainty little things en pointe (though it can be that… check Danse Danse’s Dada Masilo for something you’re not expecting). It’s not all psychotic brooding competitive types who stab themselves at the height of their performance. The Bouge d’Ici festival makes it clear that dance comes in 32 flavours and then some. Over eleven days, up and coming choreographers and dancers, most from Montreal, show you just how creatively they can move and simultaneously, move you.
Now in its seventh/eighth year, the festival continues to stretch in new directions. I asked festival co-directors Amy Blackmore and Allison Burns to introduce the festival, especially to those who are new to watching shows about dance.
Burns explains that the heart of the festival are two types of shows. The first is the Bouge d’Ici’s flagship showcase, L’Espace Commun (Common Space) which features ten different works by twelve different choreographers. “Each piece is ten minutes or less. They are pieces that were performed previously and have been reworked with a mentor that we pair them with,” Burns says. Blackmore adds, “L’Espace Commun is really popular. It is so diverse. There’s Chinese pole piece by Bailey Eng this year, all kinds of modern dance. It’s a mixed bag that a lot of people are looking for.” (L’Espace Commun takes place January 13-15, 8 p.m., January 16 4 p.m., $15/12)
The second highlight, says Burns, are two long form performances, also part of the opening week. “We’re doing a double bill with a piece called Fuck It, based on grunge music and style, and Finale au sol, inspired by Lilianne Moussa’s background as a gymnast and sports competition. The long form is a new thing at Bouge d’Ici.” (January 6-8, 8 p.m., $12/10).
“Come to a talk back night if you’re a first timer,” says Blackmore. “See the show and have the experience. Afterwards, ask questions of the artists or just listen to others ask the questions. Be in the room as the conversation happens.” (Talkback nights are January 7 and January 14).
The choreographers in the festival are both up and coming artists as well as others that have performed in the festival before. “The fun thing is that we’ve been able to see these artists grow and evolve,” says Blackmore. The artists are juried and Bouge d’Ici specifically looks for artists whose pieces that have been performed before, whether in a workshop or as a work in progress. Burns explains that its a difficult process to choose the applicants. “We sit down with them. We want to know how they will rework the piece, where it fits into their career. We’re interested in artists who are re-opening their process and want to keep working on a piece.”
“It’s hard to define what kind of choreographers we end up working with,” says Blackmore. “There’s no cookie cutter type and they come from a varied background — UQAM, Concordia, L’École de Dance Contemporaine de Montréal. We have a choreographer who has a background in the visual arts. We support artists who are actors and find movement in things like clown.”
“We geek out over process,” says Blackmore.
The mentorship is a unique feature of the festival too. Each choreographer is paired with a mentor who provides guidance. Burns explains that the mentors are “a beautiful community of people active in the dance industry with experience under their belts.” She says that the choreographer and the mentor are put in touch and “It’s up to them how to negotiate how to work together. There will be things like going for coffee, talking about themes, going to the studio, telling them what they’re getting across, giving them suggestions, just helping them get closer to their goal. We also have a feedback session mid-process. All the artists present their works in progress and the mentors come and we all feed off each other.”
“We may make a documentary of the festival process,” says Blackmore. “It’s a long process and a lot of work goes into it. The artists are pouring their hearts out on stage.”
Another important aspect of Bouge d’Ici are the workshops. Burn’s workshop on How to Contemporary Dance is back by popular demand. “It was a huge hit,” explains Blackmore, “It’s a question for a lot of newbie contemporary dancers — ‘How do I get into this?'” (January 10, 3:30 p.m.) There is also an introductory tap workshop with Jessica Alley (January 9, 4 p.m.). “We’ve had tap every year of the festival since it started,” says Blackmore. “My boyfriend takes it every year. It’s his one tap class.” Blackmore is offering a grant writing workshop. “We haven’t done a lot of things like this. Grant writing should be something we talk about more as a group instead of alone in our offices at 4 a.m. when we’re writing them.” (January 9, 3 – 5 p.m.) The workshops are offered in a pwyc format, making them accessible to everyone.
The festival also has a number of special events, such as an evening dedicated to films about dance, Cinédanse Bouge d’ici (January 10, 7 p.m., pwyc). The highlight is the Cabaret Bouge d’ici, when festival organizers, mentors, collaborators, and friends perform and things eventually transform into a dance party. Stephanie McKenna is hosting. (January 16, 8 p.m., $12/10). One other cool thing is that Bouge d’Ici is working with the Wildside Festival to bring Co.Venture by Brooklyn Touring Outfit. Co-Venture won the Bouge d’Ici award at the Fringe Festival in 2015. “There’s a lot to be said about having a dance show in a theatre based festival,” says Blackmore. “People want to see more dance and they’re curious.” (Co.Venture is at the Centaur Theatre, 453 ST Francois Xavier, $16; tickets HERE)
If you’re ready to find out what makes dance fun, check out the Bouge d’Ici festival at the Mainline Theatre (3997 St Laurent) January 6-16. See the facebook page HERE and the website HERE for tickets and schedule information. Tickets for events range from pwyc-$15.