This week, we may not have the nice temperatures we enjoyed last weekend, but we do have a virtual transdisciplinary exhibition, a live virtual concert and a movie about the making of the 2009 POP Montreal music festival.

Let’s get started:

Van Grimde Corps Secrets’ Virtual Exhibition Embodiment 2

Dance company Van Grimde Corps Secrets has been all about collaborating with other artists from different milieus since the early 2000s. Their latest project, a virtual exhibition called Embodiment 2, is no different.

In 2015, the group founded by Isabelle Van Grimde began sharing its research into the EVE 2050 triptych with other artists to foster collaboration and discussion. The result was the EVE 2050 web series.

Now, they have combined that series with Brad Necyk and Gary James Joynes’ film The Birth of the World to create this virtual exhibition.

Embodiment 2 is available as a virtual exhibition from April 8-May 8 on the Van Grimde Corps Secrets website

Sean Kosa Plays Ctrllab’s Esc Series

Ctrllab is an art gallery and performance space, though during the pandemic, the venue on St-Laurent has been functioning mainly as a media production company. This Saturday, they welcome back one of their favourite in-person guests for a virtual performance.

Electro Minimal Tech artist Sean Kosa has been part of the music scene since he was 14 in Toronto. Over the years, he moved to Montreal, then to Asia and now back home to our city where he has performed in various venues all across town.

Here’s some of Kosa’s music:

Ctrllab Esc Series 008 with Sean Kosa streams Saturday, April 17 at 7pm on Twitch, Facebook Live (on the Ctrllab page), Mixcloud and YouTube 360. This is a FREE performance

The POP Movie Now Streaming

In 2009, Andi Slate had just completed a feature film and decided to go back to basics. The filmmaker shot over 55 hours worth of footage of her POP Montreal colleagues putting on the festival as well as shows during said fest.

11 years and at least two projects later, Slate returned to that footage and put together The POP Movie, which first screened at the 2020 Edition of POP Montreal. Now, it’s available for all to stream!

The POP Movie by Andi State is now streaming for FREE on YouTube

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No promises but we’ll do our best

We seem to be getting more live art and music (virtually, of course) as the weeks go by and the weather gets nicer. This week we’ve got a couple of live events and a band formed during the pandemic’s first single release.

Let’s get started:

BIG BANG & The Aussenwelt Collective Stream Virtual Nuit Blanche Performances as Part of Art Souterrain

This Saturday night is Nuit Blanche, the showcase event of the annual Montréal en lumière Festival. Unlike every other year, though, the Metro won’t be open all night, museums and galleries won’t be receiving throngs of people in the wee hours of the morning and crowds of people won’t be packing the Quartier des Spectacles to enjoy tir sur glace or a ride on the winter Ferris wheel…because of, well, the cufrew.

Nuit Blanche will still be happening virtually and one of its most popular attractions is back: Art Souterrain. The installation part, featuring art in Montreal’s underground city, will still be happening as of April 10th, but tomorrow night, they will be streaming performances from the Aussenwelt Collective and Stéphanie Décourteille’s BIG BANG dance formation live.

Violet Hébert and Joseph Blais will provide the musical accompanyment for these three performances. Here’s a promo video to give you an idea of what it might look like:

Art Souterrain, the Aussenwelt Collective and BIG BANG will stream an evening of multidisciplinary performances Saturday, March 13, beginning at 8pm, on the Art Souterrain YouTube Channel

The Liquor Store Play Cabaret Lion d’Or Virtually

If you thought to yourself “Wouldn’t it be nice to catch a Big Band playing Cabaret Lion d’Or again?” well, this Sunday you can, virtually, of course.

The Big Band in question is The Liquor Store and they will be performing at the aforementioned very stylish venue on Ontario East as part of Indie Montreal’s Les dimanches couvre-fun series. It’s a chance to catch not only the music part of going to a show, but the venue part as well, without leaving home or watching an old video.

Speaking of an old video, for now, here is the same band playing in a different venue before all the lockdowns:

Indie Montreal presents The Liquor Store Live from Cabaret Lion d’Or as part of Les dimanches couvre-fun, Sunday, March 14th at 8pm. Tickets available through

Scarlet Wives Debut Single Dream Funeral

When two musicians have their tour plans scrapped due to a pandemic and then have their rhythm guitarist and drummer drop out, they could just sit at home and wait or form a new band with a new drummer and write and record music. Alice (vocals, guitar) and Mike (bass) chose the latter when they formed Scarlet Wives with Zenab (drums).

They also joined up with three other musicians and sound engineers to form Lack Haüs records. Scarlet Wives’ first single is also the label’s first. Called Dream Funeral, it was released March 5th and the next one is due out in April.

They describe the song as “a heavy-hitting dose of fairy grunge” but you really should just give it a listen at one of the links below or check out this teaser video (*** WARNING: Video may trigger seizures for people with photosensitive epilepsy):

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Scarlet Wives’ first track Dream Funeral is available on (and subsequent tracks will be available on) Amazon Music, Bandcamp and most major platforms

Featured Image: Scarlet Wives

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No promises but we’ll do our best

Even though the 30th Edition of the St-Ambroise Montreal Fringe Festival won’t happen until June 2021, MainLine Theatre hopes to remain engaged with the community during these difficult times. With that in mind, they are planning This Is Not a Fringe Festival.

“Just because we’re pressing the pause button on the Fringe doesn’t mean that we can’t gather. I’m looking forward to encouraging artists and audiences to connect in new and exciting ways,” said MainLine’s Executive and Artistic Director Amy Blackmore about the upcoming festival.

In the era of the Covid-19 pandemic, this online socially distanced art festival will take place from June 11-21, 2020. Full programming, which will include micro-dance videos, storytelling events, theatrical parties, community art projects, mail-in art and more – will be announced on June 1.

For more information, please visit

How do you describe a show you can’t see? Do you go by the sounds? The scents? The sense of motion? Or do you pretend to be like the heroes in eighties and nineties martial arts films and try to “see without seeing”?

I was invited last Thursday to experience two scenes from the play Camille with other members of the local media. The brainchild of Concordia professor Audrey-Anne Bouchard, it’s a multi-disciplinary show specifically designed for those with visual impairments.

Bouchard lives with Stargardt’s disease, a rare macular disorder. After the media preview I had a chance to sit with Bouchard so I asked her about what it is and how it affects her, for when I first saw her, she seemed to have perfect sight.

“I don’t have the gene in my body that eliminates Vitamin A so Vitamin A accumulates itself on my retina and it blocks a part of my sight which is exactly at the center of both my eyes so I use my peripheral vision,” she explained. “I’m quite fortunate that I’m still very autonomous because my peripheral vision is good and I can see and I work with my sight a lot. The hardest is really to read, like to focus on the details. When I go see a show, for example, if I’m not in the first row I will most likely miss an actor’s head or a part of the image – I always miss a part of the image. The closer I am the easier for me it is to put all the pieces together.”

Unfortunately for Bouchard, there is no treatment for the disease yet. In order for Bouchard to see, she has to rely on her peripheral vision, explaining that if she wanted to see into my eyes, she will train her sight a little over my eyebrows because focusing on the center would make them fall into the dead spot of her vision.

Bouchard created the show after speaking with people who were completely blind as they confided in her that they were always feeling that they were missing part of the experience when they went to a dance or a theatre piece. She created the show with the goal of having an experience where people with no sight won’t miss anything and it will be interesting for them.

“Everything is conceived not to be seen. The language that we created is transmitted through the other senses.”

The project started three years ago when the team met with seven people who have different visual impairments and asked them if they would be interested in a show like this. For Bouchard, it was important to have this adventure but only if those for whom the show was created would want to experience it.

The show is multidisciplinary, meaning that it includes multiple forms of art such as dance, theatre, music, and they’re all intertwined. Instead of having one theatre scene, one dance scene, and so on, they are all one “in the language of the show”. The choreography, by Laurie-Anne Langis who is also a dancer and massage therapist, does not just involve dancing to music, it also involves how you approach someone to guide them. The interaction between spectator and performer is part of the choreography of this show.

In order to develop the choreography, the team worked with people with different kinds of visual impairments, some fully blind, some with partial sight. This was important for Bouchard, for despite her disorder, she relies on her sight and works with it a lot.

Over the three years developing the show they had thirty different people come into rehearsal – whom Bouchard refers to as their ‘experts’ – to tell the cast how they would like to be guided. The team also underwent training in partnership with the RAM – the Regroupement des Aveugles et Amblyopes du Montreal metropolitain and they gave the team training on how you guide someone who cannot see, as there are certain specific techniques involved. They even organized activities for the team including a dinner in the dark with other blind people so they got to experience what it was like and get their feedback.

To experience the show, those with sight have to wear a blindfold. Given how much visual impairments can vary, I asked Bouchard how severe would they have to be to wear the blindfold for the show.

“If you can see anything – light, movement, color – you have to wear the blindfold. It’s only if you can see nothing that you won’t wear a blindfold.”

I got to experience two scenes from Camille as part of this media preview. They taught me two things: the first is that we take our sight for granted when humans have so many other senses by which we can process information. The second is that you can still experience theatre without sight.

Prospective audiences should know that there are parts of the show that might make you a little dizzy, and that in order to guide you, the cast will touch you a little during performances, but nothing inappropriate or weird.

If the snippet I experienced is any indication, Camille is going to be a great show. It’s running from September 4th to 22nd at the Montréal, arts interculturels (MAI) and tickets are available through the MAI website.

The roots of Montréal dancer Dana Michel’s Mercurial George are made explicit in her interview for the FTA, where the work premiered last night: “Monkeys are an avenue to explore, one of the initial sparks, but I don’t lead the audience by the hand straight down that path,” she says, explaining part of her inspiration for this astounding new work.

Furthering many of the themes and strategies in her Impultanz-winning Yellow Towel (2014), Michel’s prop-heavy, idea-loaded new work strayed further away from dance into the messy realm of performance art – and as an audience member, I was more than happy to be led down her path. For over an hour, Michel twitches, manipulates a panoply of objects (microphones, dough, plastic toys); she dances, poses, and writhes with a mesmerizing inevitability, punctuated by mumbling, singing, and quasi-cinematic tableaux.

Known for challenging and multi-layered work that seems to stem from a bottomless well of angst and wit, Dana Michel’s Mercurial George is likely to garner similar altitudes of praise (and sold-out shows) as her breakthrough work. If we include her work-in-progress Lift That Up (Dancemakers, 2016, yet to be performed on home turf), I might venture to say she has a trilogy on her hands.

As a black dancer and artist working in Montréal and internationally, Dana Michel has an uncanny sense of the artistic and political zeitgeist in her twitching, semi-verbal, prop-wielding performances. In the place of Yellow Towel’s iconic hoodie – initially performed the same year Trayvon Martin was shot dead, while wearing one, by Florida gunslinger George Zimmerman – Mercurial George presents a more oblique exploration of racialization and our society’s violent discomfort with biological categories.

This time, she pinpoints 20th-century children’s book character Curious George as one node to the multiple references she makes in her new piece. While George the Curious was a fictional monkey who befriends the ambiguous “Man with the Yellow Hat,” Michel’s memory of her stuffed animal is the elephant (or rather, monkey) in the room, a cipher for our perennial anxiety about our distinction from primates, and the biopolitical implications of that anxiety. As the adjective “mercurial” may suggest, Michel’s curiosity with the primate theme has been supplanted by an ever-changing range of motions, a vanload of found object-symbols that constantly disrupt our frame of reference and our spectatorial complacency.

mercurial george 2Some of our complacency as spectators – within the largely white, Eurocentric realm of contemporary dance – comes from how we expect a black woman’s body to perform; indeed, much of Michel’s work smartly combines her own virtuosic skills with the mimesis of cultural stereotypes that has become her calling card. In her FTA interview with Elsa Pépin, the choreographer describes being on vacation in France when one of her husband’s cousins, a “primate anthropologist” – an interdisciplinary application of anthropology to primatology? – showed her video footage of African great apes that made her uncomfortable.

“I’ve been afraid of monkeys ever since I was a little girl, unnerved by their strangeness, by how closely related they are to humans,” Michel relates. “I suddenly became aware that I was the only black person in the room, and I oddly wondered whether the others were watching me to study my reaction, making strange associations.”

That sense of discomfort she had in witnessing the great apes in her in-law’s video – and the self-consciousness she describes as a black woman of Saint Lucian heritage in a room of white people – contains an eerie syntax with this week’s tabloid-story-du-jour, that of a three year-old boy falling into the Cincinnati zoo’s gorilla compound. The child’s rescue led to the shooting of the animal, who is named in the press almost as if it were a human victim; the outpouring of sympathy for the death of the gorilla has become a media zoo unto itself, underscoring white America’s more acute concern for caged animals than for the black bodies American police kill with impunity. The fact that the boy’s family happened to be black made the situation even more charged, given that Ohio is a state that disproportionally prosecutes and incarcerates black people, especially women (luckily, Cincinnati police have said they will not lay the ludicrous charges of child negligence against the mother).

If you find my tangents are helictical, then I should tell you they are only beginning, and that the myriad of associations and references Dana Michel offers in Mercurial George surpass any easy first-watch understanding. In his influential 2003 tome The Open, Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben addresses how the floating, factious, and fictional distinctions between what we call “human” and “animal” illustrate a set of malfunctions we perpetuate in the West with our “anthropological machine.”

Where other philosophers might see the self-world (Heidegger) or I-and-thou (Buber) distinctions as examples of where we have gone wrong in our civilizational thinking, Agamben asserts that the human-animal is a specious difference that sets us up for denigrating the body, the collective, and ultimately, groups of people we see as different from “ourselves,” or from the selves who hold power. Dana Michel has taken up this thesis, but with a creepy and sui generis twist.

“I’ve always been attracted to marginality, by those on the fringes, in part probably because I was one of the very few black people all throughout my schooling… I’m a sponge, and all my life I’ve felt drawn by the beauty of the other, by difference, by those who don’t speak or walk according to accepted standards,” she tells us.

Just past the halfway point of Mercurial George, Michel dons a 1950s-style taupe fascinator and we hear the hissing strains of a vinyl recording of Nina Simone’s lyrical 1965 hit Feeling Good. It’s a song that has been so thoroughly coopted by advertising campaigns that its origins as a civil rights ballad (as covered by Simone the year after its release) are often overlooked.

A quote here, a wink there, a murmur of gospel and nursery music at other moments, Michel’s sonic palette is as surgical as her manipulation of costume and props is disarming. Race, labour, food, childhood, self-protection, refuge, and a throbbing connection with the creative subconscious are all themes lavishly at play in Mercurial George.

With sold-out shows at the FTA, Montréalers may have to wait until this in-her-prime artist gets to present her untitled (and unannounced) trilogy. If that happens, may I suggest it be called The Open Trilogy, because that is the state of mind we leave Dana Michel’s performance with: an openness to deconstruction and to our own self-examination as spectators complicit in biological distinctions that we cannot always justify, and shouldn’t.

Mercurial George  by Dana Michel @ Festival Transamériques (Théâtre LaChapelle/Daniel Léveillé Danse)
June 2-5, 2016 (tickets)

This week we have a very special edition of Shows This Week as I preview the Second Annual NDG Porchfest. After a very successful first year this “community music festival held on the front porches of NDG” will be back this weekend with over 70 performances to choose from over two days.

If you’re unfamiliar with the event you should check out FTB’s preview last year that pretty much sums it all up. Rather than speak about the event as a whole I’ve decided to preview five of the acts that are symbolic of the variety and all inclusive nature of this festival.

Martin Goyette

One of the more established acts in this year’s fest is St-Henri born blues singer Martin Goyette. The former competitor on Season Four of La Voix will be sharing his “whisky-throated” voice and soulful harmonica playing to anyone traveling down Wilson Ave. this Sunday.

The Blues on a porch just feels right and when you’ve got one of Quebec’s best in Goyette providing the entertainment in this unique setting you should take advantage!

Martin Goyette plays the porch at 4098 Wilson, Sunday May 8th, 12:00 pm, Free Show.

Bud Rice

It’s good to see that Porchfest doesn’t discriminate against back porches. According to the schedule, Bluesy-Folk singer Bud Rice will be playing in “the lane between Marcil and Oxford,” I’m assuming on his back porch. Or maybe he’s just going to hang out in the middle of the lane and sing some songs.

Perhaps Bud doesn’t have a front porch. Maybe the acoustics are better in the lane. Does it really matter? It’s a show in a lane, what are you waiting for! To get you in the mood for an outdoor show here’s a duet: Bud and a train. Hopefully Bud will be a little warmer on Sunday.

Bud Rice plays the lane between Marcil and Oxford (closest to 2140 Marcil Ave ), Sunday May 8th, 2:00 pm, Free Show.

In The Name of Havoc

While most of the performers are of the blues-folk variety there are some notable exceptions, best exemplified by In The Name of Havoc. This hardcore punk band just released a five song EP and hopefully they will be brightening everyone’s Saturday on Sherbrooke Street with some of the new tracks.

They’re promising an “acoustic set,” most likely to keep the neighbours happy, making this the most all-ages / family friendly punk show of the year.

In The Name of Havoc plays the porch at 5826 Sherbrooke Street West, Saturday May 7th, 1:00 pm, Free Show.

The Record Breakers

The all-ages aspect of this festival applies as much to the bands as the audience. The Record Breakers are a group of teens from the West Island who write their own tunes and throw in some classic covers to boot.

This rock band might be young but their list of musical influences reads like a history of rock and roll: The Beatles, The Who, Rush, Nirvana, Muse, to name a few. This isn’t one of these “they’re good for their age” things either, these kids can play.

The Record Breakers play the porch at 4073 Hingston ave, Saturday May 7th, 1:00 pm, Free Show.

Blue Monkey Project

For those looking for more of a dance groove I would suggest checking out Blue Monkey Project.  With a mix of “funk, soul and rock n’ roll” you can finally dance in the middle of the sidewalk and not look out of place!

Well you still might look out of place but who cares, it’s funk on a porch. Like with everything else in this festival, the conventional rules don’t apply.

Blue Monkey Project plays the porch at 4620 Hingston Ave, Sunday May 8th, 2:00 pm, Free Show.

* Featured image of The Guillaume Jabbour Band playing Porchfest NDG 2015 by Jesse Anger

Know a band or an artist that should be featured in Shows This Week? Maybe a show FTB should cover, too? Let us know at We can’t be everywhere and can’t write about everything, but we do our best!

“Stay in control,” a distorted voice tells you time again throughout the 85-minute Tauberbach, brought to the Monument National theatre by the Festival Transamériques (FTA) for two nights of packed houses. It’s the kind of show that can only emerge from the lavishly state-funded alternate universe otherwise known as Northern Europe.

The German-Belgian dance theatre company Les Ballets C de la B, helmed by luminary director Alain Platel, is a major player in a part of the world that can afford to give a troupe of dancers three uninterrupted months to produce a piece collaboratively, and end up touring the world with a rider that includes 3000 kilograms of mass-produced clothing.

Strewn over the stage in piles from which Platel’s seven dancers emerge (and into which they disappear to comic effect), the three tons (yes, tons) of clothes become the props, set, and habitat for actress Elsie de Brauw and her six acolytes to play with. Teasing the audience with repeated scenes of decadent non-language (like that pan-cultural idiom that Cirque du Soleil clowns speak in, but more intelligible), the athletic characters combine and disperse in a world so artificial that their bodies seem to melt into the polyester. Often employing cinematic techniques of otherwise “cheesy” slow-motion or rewound gestures, the dancers transfix you as they play on a mobile heap of Apocalypse Apparel.

4_tauberbach_cr_chris_van_der_burght_7056“I did not shit this house / There are no more innocent people. There are only wise guys in reverse,” De Brauw’s garbage-picking crone Estamira intones. So this, in a world where refugees to Europe are drowned at sea like so much jetsam, where landfills are so overflowing that ships of garbage are sent to poor countries to handle the overflow, is meant to tell us that we are complicit in Estamira’s material oppression. We are sucked into the performers’ often slapstick physical comedy and then rebuffed by scenes that seem unnecessary or excessive: the artifice and violence of this filthy world – that is only symbolically filthy – appeals to the child within us while repelling our anal-retentive adult tastes.

Tauberbach is the opposite of the nicely arranged electronic music that so often accompanies contemporary dance; it is an indictment against the empty black (or white) stage with a lap-top on it. “What a blessing nothing grows,” we are told by the Beckett-like main character. If only we could say that of the extravagant quantities of man-made waste we dump into forests and oceans. Alas, no: the natural world recedes and the garbage keeps growing. And we dance in its wake.

Belonging to the generation of 80s legends that redefined “maximalist” choreography (Jan Fabre, Caterina Sagna, Carolyn Carlson, and the late Pina Bausch), Platel is a wizard of uncanny juxtapositions. While his last envoy to the FTA, Gardenia (2011), was an episodic character study of seven geriatric drag artists, Tauberbach takes inspiration from two artworks far removed from the realm of contemporary Tanztheater: Brazilian director Marcos Prado’s Estamira, about a middle-aged woman and her entourage who eek a living off a garbage dump, and Polish interdisciplinary artist Arthur Zmijewski’s film Singing Lesson 2 which features a choir of young deaf people singing well-known works by J.S. Bach. It’s a typical Platel chiastic of the Apollonian and the Dionysian.

There’s a reason that this work of vocal, visceral, baroque dance theatre also manages to be a crowd-pleaser, well two reasons, really: Ross McCormack and Romeu Runa. The former with his up-close-and-salivating vocal techniques and muscular presence, the latter with his Ivo Demchev-like back-bending animalism, are like extraterrestrial siblings: complete control and complete abandonment. Bach in a garbage pile. Everything.

It’s Igloofest in MTL – bang! It was fairly cold Friday night, so you know, I had running shoes on and no scarf, right!? I did on the other hand have a good homie hook me up with one of those fleece neck warmer joints, though. Respect. The scene was wild: people in full digital camouflage snowsuits, characters that looked like they’ve just walked off a ski resort, and these five or so dudes that were pimping full length fur coats. I was chilling in the heated area for a bit, they have these bleacher type structures – not comfy so one can’t stay long.

Time to check this party out though – finished my water and zipped the North Face up. We walked right into the Sapporo Scene. Diagraf, also known as Patrick Trudeau was spinning – great visuals too. That euro-house flavor, except the dude’s from here. The grounds really started filling up around 9 PM and I had to go for shelter again. There’s something disconcerting about big juicy bass lines and -20 with the wind chill.

Got some spiced hot chocolate and went to check out BBBlaster at the Videotron stage. It was bumping hard, people had become good and lubricated by then. I made my way to the front center, you know. Lol. Very good set, though. I actually sweated; then paid the price in chills after. At some point I got a text saying hold up your phone – and bang, one of the most exclusive dudes I know appears out of a throng of dancers and bear hugs me in the pit. Big respect. Classic session, was a lot of smoke in the crowd, everyone grooving. We know how to get down in MTL. I ended up at the Sapporo stage for Gui Boratto. The place was bonkers by then. I stayed and kicked it for about 20 minutes but could not regain an acceptable core temperature. Real talk, blue lips.

Igloofest is its own thing, unique vibes. The night was fresh. Cool people, some all city chillers even. For real, though, if you’re planning on going to Igloofest this year, bring a scarf. I’ll see you around one of those hobo cans filled with burning wood. Holla.

Igloofest Opening NightIgloofest Opening Night

Click on the photo above to open the gallery. All photos taken by Bianca Lecompte.

The king of Syrian techno music is returning to Montreal. Omar Souleyman is making a stop at La Sala Rossa on June 18 to share his electronic blend of traditional dabke dance music and synth-driven trance music with Montrealers once again, this time as part of the Suoni Per Il Popolo Festival.

Souleyman began his career as a wedding musician in Syria, which allowed him to explore and update traditional dabke music. Weddings in Syria are said to be important for both the preservation of Syrian musical heritage as well as the experimentation with new sounds and innovations. After building a reputation as an invigorating performer in Syria and throughout the Middle East, Souleyman’s presence grew through bootleg recordings and Youtube videos. He has since developed a large following in the West and has been a frequent performer at festivals and various venues across the U.S. and Canada.

Although his career has spanned 20 years and his catalogue of recordings is in the mid-triple-digits, Souleyman only recently recorded his first studio album, 2013’s Wenu Wenu on Ribbon Music. The record was produced by Kieran Hebden (Four Tet) and encapsulates Souleyman’s musical DNA. It is a fiery, visceral blend of traditional Syrian musical elements and propulsive, four-on-the-floor dance beats. The album also captures the irresistible energy of Souleyman’s live performances.

Souleyman performs with his longtime musical partner, keyboardist and composer Rizan Sa’id, and together with just voice, drumbeats, and keyboards, they create full-bodied songs that would surely catch the attention of most bystanders. Souleyman performs in Arabic and Kurdish and the lyrics focus on themes of love, though certainly not in the Western traditional sense. His songs range in focus from a groom asking God to be with his bride instead of being accepted to heaven to a woman telling her mother she would rather marry her lover than her cousin, a frequent occurrence in Northeast Syria.

All of these elements help explain why Omar Souleyman has been captivating audiences around the globe for over 20 years. His presence on stage is stoic and almost imposing with his signature body-length jelllabiya, keffiyeh, and dark sunglasses, but he is always inviting. His music gives the listener an insatiable urge to move. This show is not to be missed.

Omar Souleyman performs Wednesday, June 18 at 8:30 p.m. at La Sala Rossa. Tickets cost $25 and can be purchased in advance via Suoni per il Popolo

The business of contemporary dance is like a party with no closing time. Dancers exhaust and brutalize their bodies. Curators (party-planners in their own way) want to catch the hot new thing while it’s still fresh, and burn their budgets on international productions that have to be shown now to meet the demands of rarefied audiences on both sides of the Atlantic. At the end of the night, bodies are drenched in sweat, money’s spent, and none of us get to go home with the hot guy.

In Trajal Harrell’s Antigone Sr. / 20 Looks or Paris is Burning at the Judson Church (L), the eros of the performance may distract you from the social commentary that permeates this prolific artist’s work. When I spoke to Harrell two years ago about his baroque collaborative work (M)imosa, with Marlene Freitas (also at the FTA this year), he spoke of his ground-breaking series of dance pieces as a way of reactivating and reimagining history.

A Yale graduate who studied under preeminent queer feminist scholar bell hooks, Harrell is the darling of the dance world right now, the newest and most intellectual expression of that always fertile – and très New York – antinomy: “the high-low” juxtaposition. His series, now a hallmark of postmodern dance, posits what dance may have looked like in a hypothetical world where black and latino Harlem voguers “came downtown” to the largely white laboratory of new dance and the Fluxus school, an auditorium known as the Judson Memorial Church. This is revisionist history given life, with the complexity of race, class, and sexuality left in.

But back to the hot guys we don’t go home with: Thibaut Lac, a coltish youth with the chiseled body of a model, Rob Fordeyn, a mercurial Flem who dons 5-inch heels to reign as a butch queen MC for one portion of the performance, Ondrej Vidlar (the Czech bear), and the breathtaking Stephen Thompson. As he did in (M)imosa, Harrell speaks directly to the audience: he sits, stands, hunches over his lap-top, or perches like an oracle on a small dais, nonchalantly dancing with his troupe, but mostly hovering, sitting in the aisles of Usine C reading from his iPad.

Adopting the dance-theatre technique of both improvised and memorized texts delivered in live voice, the dancers repeatedly pick up the mic to chant, sing, speak in aphorisms, or act as judge and commentator on the lengthy deconstructed “runway” fashion shows that form the central movement of Antigone Sr. Delicious and fun, but obviously not “dance” enough for the dozen or so “customers” who left halfway through the show.

Trajal Harrell (center), photo from his Facebook page

Harrell further flouted tradition by announcing in plain English, at the top of the show, exactly what he is going to do: mix voguing with postmodern contemporary art-for-art’s-sake dance, and further splice these sources with a rereading of the Sophocles tragedy Antigone, about a princess who defies her king/brother by ensuring her murdered other brother gets a decent burial. Even if the piece is so replete with references (to voguing balls, pop culture – specifically Britney Spears, Tori Amos, and Zebra Katz – and classical Greek tragedy) that very few audiences anywhere could ever grasp its essence entirely, Harrell’s opening speech was a bold and unpretentious way of putting us all on the same page. You can read the programme notes if you like, but you don’t have to. There’s a show to enjoy.

Like his contemporary, Miguel Gutierrez, whose “Age & Beauty Part 1: Mid-Career Artist/Suicide Note” had a sold-out run at the Whitney Biennial last month, Harrell is not interested in being hermetic. He may confuse you. He may outwit you. But he wants you to be in on the game.

Having done a little voguing myself, and been fascinated by its high/low play of dance, fashion, and queer realities (and theories), I was struck by how predictable and familiar some of the tableaux in Antigone Sr. seemed. The runway show with surreally manipulated Salvation Army finds (did that in 2011); the drawn-out fashion show imitations, essential to voguing, had a been-there, seen-that quality (Pippo Delbono and both went there years ago); and above all, the long, variously beautiful and banal turns at the microphone, which is a trend in dance that might not die anytime soon, and has spawned many a less successful imitator.

Smartly however, Harrell bookends his Size Large version of this challenging work with solo segments by his dancers, sometimes side by side, gorgeously lit on white rectangular “islands.” As in voguing, each of the performers’ particular charisma, uniqueness, nerve, and talent were allowed to shine, with Thompson and Fordeyn virtually stealing the show at the end. Thibault Lac, if you’re reading this: great catwalk!

Harrell positions himself as choreographer, dancer, theorist, revisionist historian, author, MC, and businessman, producing versions of his works in various sizes according to his customers’ budgets. According to the programme notes, once his 20 Looks… series is completed with an Extra Large version of Antigone Sr., he will be leaving the voguing/Fluxus duality, and all its camp and headiness, behind him to explore that purest of dance forms: Butoh.

With Paris is Burning’s 25th anniversary coming up next year, the revisiting of this urban art form by makers of high (i.e. heavily funded and talked about) art may be on its way out. You may want to get to the dance floor while the music is still pumping.

Antigone Sr. / 20 Looks or Paris is Burning at the Judson Church (L) Wed. June 4, 8PM, @ Usine C, Part of the Festival Transamériques

Featured photo by Bengt Gustafsson with dancers (L to R): Rob Fordeyn, Stephen Thompson, Thibault Lac

Last weekend Espace Reunion was host to the Sonia Balazovjech Dance Company (SBDC) for the performance of their latest sold-out production Addicted to Love. Founded in 2010, SBDC is a company of semi-professional dancers; women who spend their days working or studying, and their nights devoted to dance.

“Dance is everything to us,” said Sonia Balazovjech, founder and artistic director of SBDC, “the appeal comes from the fact that we can be real people who indulge in a passion very seriously. We breath and dream dance, and all of us agree that we never wanted to make it our profession… we would never want to make dance something we had to do. It remains something we love to do. ”

Besides being a group of women from diverse backgrounds, SBDC is also a proud benefit production company. The theme and profits from each production go towards a specific Montreal charity. SBDC’s  first show was The Power of Lipstick in benefit of The West-Island Woman’s Shelter .

“The ability to reach so many people at one time and deliver such important information through the art of dance was in fact life changing,” said Balazovjech of the experience, “we realized the power we had to make change and from then on it has been at the core of what we do at SBDC.”

SBDC’s latest production, Addicted to Love, was in benefit of Leave out Violence (L.O.V.E)  which works towards reduce youth violence through leadership and educational programs.

“We gravitate towards charities that aide mainly women and children as well as those that have an educational component to them,” said Balazovjech about their decision to make L.O.V.E the theme of their latest production, “when an organization takes time to use education as part of its process in helping others, we feel that it has a longer lasting impact.”

I was lucky enough to be invited by SBDC to attend a performance of Addicted to Love. As a writer I’m obsessed with language; figuring out the jigsaw puzzle of what words  I need to put together the story I want to tell. So I find it especially infuriating/ moving when someone is able to tell a story better then I could ever write completely through the movement of their body.

“Addicted to Love is a show that will take the audience on a emotional roller coaster ride,” Balazovjech warned me before I attended the performance this past Saturday.

Balazovjech wasn’t exaggerating. The show was a raw, visually stimulating experience that covered some very intense issues such as addiction, physical and verbal abuse and body shaming, as well as love and the power of love. To reflect the tone of each dance number the music ranged from classical to pop to hard rock, and I found Beautiful People to be the most affecting number of the evening. One would never think that a Marilyn Manson song and a group of Montreal dancers could make such a profound statement on dealing with all the rage and pain that comes with being a teenager, and yet they did seamlessly.

In between performances there was readings of poems from teens around Montreal, as well as various live performances. Laura Newman’s cover of Creep was especially moving.

It’s a shame that SBDC does not perform more, but so is the fate of a company where day jobs get in the way. The next time the company does put on a production make sure it’s on your to do list, because not only will you be seeing a powerful show by some very talented ladies but you’ll be making a difference to someone in need around Montreal. And if you ask me that’s a pretty great way to spend a Saturday night.

Photo by Judy Paul.

no pants no problem

The winter blues are definitely in full swing.  Even as days get longer and the warmer weather isn’t quite so much of a distant memory, it’s still so cold in my apartment that I sometimes have to wear mini gloves with the tips of the fingers cut off while typing. In a desperate attempt to warm up, I watch the Fireplace Channel on Youtube to bask in the warming glow on the screen and the sound of the wood crackling.

Yes, it sounds like I need an excuse to get out of the house and get the blood flowing. What better occasion than the return of No Pants, No Problem, a socially conscious underwear dance party for a good cause. The premise is simple: drop your pants at the door, dance around in your best boxers, briefs, boyshorts, panties, jock strap or even thong and help support organizations with a mandate to advocate for HIV awareness and sexual/gender rights. No Pants, No Problem isn’t just a fun, underwear dance party, it also provides a politicized space for challenging ourselves around our own understandings of gender, sexuality and HIV.

As much fun as it is to dance around your apartment in your underwear, let me tell you that it’s even more fun at a bar, in this case Little Italy’s Il Motore (179 Jean-Talon West).  You can leave your pants at the on-site pants check, but make sure to come early to secure your spot as it filled up around midnight last time.

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, there will even be a kissing booth on site for you to practice your lip-locking for the big kissing contest.  If you’re lucky enough to be leaving the party with a fellow sexy pantsless dancer, make sure to visit the safer sex/harm reduction booth first for free condoms, gloves and other goodies.

Tunes for the evening will be provided by resident DJ Like the Wolf, playing a sweet mix tape of classic and contemporary tracks that’s sure to keep the dance floor nice and sweaty. Also heating up the night will be a series of sexy burlesque performances from members of Glam Gam Productions.

No Pants, No Problem was founded as a community building event in 2004 and has also appeared in Toronto, Winnipeg, Ottawa, Vancouver, New York City and Mexico City. They also made their debut at the International AIDS Conference in Washington, DC last year.  It is a unique and safe space for people for of all orientations to release their inhibitions about body image and sexuality. Their goal is to help build and bridge communities while challenging the binary sexual and gender norms that dominate mainstream culture.

The cover charge is $10 or $5 if you check your pants, although no one will be refused for a lack of funds.  The space is fully wheelchair accessible.  For more information, visit the Facebook event page.



Wild Heart Acres @ Montreal Improv

Follow the Stanley family’s quest to overcome misfortune and build a new life on the frontier. Follow their trials and triumphs and those of their neighbours as they chase their dreams in a place called Wild Heart Acres.


Wild Heart Acres is a new kind of improv show. There are no story lines prepared whatsoever. Each episode will be entirely improvised in the moment, inspired by audience suggestions. Between January and May, a new installment will be presented each month.


The Full Monty @ Centaur Theatre

BCT (Beautiful City Theatre) bares it all at the Centaur this week with their latest production, The Full Monty.

The Full Monty is the story of a group of unemployed men who pull together and perform a strip show in order to gather enough cash to make ends meet. The cast, who choreographed all the dance numbers themselves, take the audience on a hilarious and heartwarming journey as their characters band together to overcome their anxieties and insecurities.


Black History Month

Celebrate Black History Month all over the city through art, round table discussions and even comedy! Check out their entire program.

A word from this year’s spokesperson and what Black History Month means to her:


Addicted to LOVE

SBDC (Sonia Balazovjech Dance Company) is teaming up with Leave Out Violence (LOVE) Montreal to present Addicted to LOVE – a 90-minute dance and multimedia production exposing the challenges that youth face to deal with and overcome violence.

Music for Addicted to Loved will be performed live by Montreal-born songwriters David Hodges, Stefanie Parnell and Laura Newman as well as various portrayals of LOVE work.

Proceeds from the productions will be donated in aid of LOVE’s media arts and leadership training programs.


Bill Burr @ Metropolis 

Last week Just For Laughs announced Bill Burr’s very first Canadian tour. Burr, Breaking Bad alumni, will leave the crowd at the Metropolis in stitches on March 5. Tickets are flying fast, so get on it!

You have an awesome event coming up? Send us all the info at


Some dance performances make you feel like dancing and some make you think you “just don’t get it.” Then others have the power to keep you in your seat long after the theatre has emptied because you are speechless. Such was the case with Maori New Zealander Charles Koroneho’s Pure at Montréal Arts Interculturels until Nov 30.

Movement, immanence, anguish and something akin to magic happened on the stage last night, and even after having a chance to interview the prolific performer/director, this humble reviewer is still at a loss for words.

A native of Auckland, Charles Koroneho is a philosopher’s dancer, a theatrical shaman, a teacher, visual artist and poet whose work makes you feel like everything else you’ve seen this season is child’s play. This is perhaps because it is imbued with something beyond performed “meaning,” with a symbology all its own and a trunk-load of histories that have come from the other side of the world to confront and display his alienation and attempt to “inhabit” Montreal (which is Koroneho’s newfound home after falling in love with a brilliant Quebecoise three years ago) and deciding to relocate to this icy colonial place.

“The backdrop for Pure is this back-and-forth and the feeling of returning home,” Koroneho told me the day before his opening night this week. Pure is both a Maori word for a ritual of the unknown (which can only be expressed from the place of knowing and remembering), and serendipitously a word with ritual connotations in both English and French. The piece is the result of Koroneho’s TÜAHÜ choreographic research, which informs both his practice and his teaching.

pure mai montreal 2“Tuahu is place that is distanced from our everyday life. It is a historical/anthropological space,” Koroneho explains. In Maori spirituality, there are three main “spaces” of cosmic, physical and psychic significance: the urupa or burial place, the marae, which is both a meeting place and sometimes a burial platform, and tüahü, which encompasses the worldspace of “everything else,” including, for Pure, the space of the stage at the MAI.

Koroneho’s set design for the piece includes a giant metallic backdrop that he transported in pieces all the way from Auckland, a large reclining dais (perhaps referencing birth and rebirth), and an oblong “carpet” of mulched wood bark that covers the floor. A plank, a glowing talisman, a staff which gets woven in phosphorescent rope, are some of the weighty symbols the artist manipulates in the 70-minute performance. Opening with an amplified field recording of a casseroles demonstration from the summer of 2012 in Montreal, and closing with a mesmerizing Maori traditional prayer chant sung live, Pure has the multi-dimensional elements of a one-man opera. Love, death, the eternal return, and an unspoken theme of resistance to colonialism pervade the work.

The difference between inhabitation and occupation is another subtheme Koroneho let me in on when we spoke about Pure, and one that I think deserve much more exploration from those who benefit and suffer from ongoing colonialism. “Inhabitation is a time-based project [whereas] occupation is a spatial concept,” he posits. Coming to Montreal for love, encountering the challenges of a new country and a new language and living his heritage as an artist and feeler all become incarnate in Pure, and the result is at once unsettling and grounding.

“If you really immerse yourself in the study of humanity, I can’t think of a greater thing to be than an artist. It makes you curious about life and about people,“ Koroneho concluded simply. If Montrealers have the privilege of seeing Koroneho continue to make work here, I will be the first to admit that our curiosity is more than piqued. It is stymied, and we’re the richer for it.

* Images courtesy of MAI/Oriori C

So Nuit Blanche is upon us once again and you’re wondering what to do with your night. Well, we have you covered with over 25 activities and shows not to miss. We’ve divided this guide up by area to help you plan your night accordingly. Nuit Blanche is very much about art and local artists and the Belgo building and the underground city are the best place to find this. As everything is so close together I’ll just cover it briefly and suggest that you should definitely check some stuff out. Wander through or hit up the 4 floors of the Belgo for your art fix either before, during or after checking out some of these great activities



NB_RIO_Esplanade_Activité2So I’m going to start my night out here as there are only a few things I want to see and the Olympic Stadium is so far.

1. First stop is dinner at 1st Saturdays. First Saturdays is the time of month that Montreal’s Food Trucks gather to offer their fine cuisine on wheels. Come grab a bite and prepare your tummy for the long night ahead!

2. The new Planetarium will be opening this evening for a special Nuit Blanche pre-launch. Come check it out before it officially opens in a few weeks time. (potentially exterior site only)

3. There is also a Who Done It, Murder Mystery at the Biodome. While there is a fee of 12$ this could be fun.



Downtown is a much larger area, but there is shuttle bus service that will be passing regularly to speed you along your way. The Belgo is also in this area so I’ll start with that.

4. The Belgo building is one of Montreal’s best collections of local artists in one space. There are 4 floors with a dozen different studios and exhibit rooms for you to check out. Of particular note is:

NB_Diego_Piccini5. Incarnation 3 – Les femmes fleurs which is a series of long exposure photos of women that turns them into beautiful flowers.

6. MAXX HQ en DS is a clothing art thing where they promise to edit/add some fun pieces to your attire!

7. 10, Coconut Beach Drive is a photo exhibit that will help you beat the winter blues. You can get your photo taken and they will add a beach backdrop to remind you of the warmer months.

8. Edgy All Night Long is the begining of the EDGY WOMEN festival which features strong independent women and focuses on the domain of ART, SPORT & GENDER. (Watch for our feature article on the festival in the next few days)

Near the Belgo building there are a bunch of other fun activities.

9. Bouge De La! – For those of you that remember MusicPlus’ late night dance party show, it’s back! Come dance for a retro good time.

10. Want to eat cake? Bakers at the Carré Confiserie will be building a 10 foot cake and are inviting you to help decorate it. (and then eat it)

11. Herbes dix is an exhibition about herbal plant remedies. If you’ve got a bit of hippy in you, you’ll want to check this out.

12. The Omni hotel will be giving out free cookies & hot chocolate if you happen to pass by.

13. Picollo expresso bar is also doing free tastings if you want a cafein fix.NB_SAT

14. The SAT (Société des arts technologiques) is doing a cool 8-bit exhibit with live music, food and installation that is definitely worth checking out. 3 floors of fun!

15. Montreal’s Contemporary Art Museum always has cool stuff. If you don’t get a chance to go regularly why not take this opportunity.



While the Plateau is usually the center of Montreal’s art community, it especially is on a night like tonight.

16. Art Matters at the Mainline theatre will be featuring tons and tons of artists each performing super short art, dance & performance pieces.

17. Need a hair cut? Visit Coupe Bizzare for a unique new do!

18. La Cuvée d’hiver – beer tasting is the perfect tasting event to warm your winter evenings. 5$ ish with a reusable cup

19. Jive studio, (rockabilly dancing 2$)

NB_Atelier_Circulaire20. The Postcard Project – Sarah Nesbitt’s “Postcard Project” invites you to rediscover the joys of social networking “the old fashioned way,” using personally designed postcards.

20. Spin and Scratching session (vinyl disc making) – an exhibition of screenprinted vinyl covers by Suzie Smith, and take part in an interactive breakdance performance and drawing session.



NB_centre_histoire21. Qui Va La? Historivcal re-enaction – This year, the Centre d’histoire de Montréal has invited the Compagnie de Lacorne to garrison the museum. Night owls will learn about the daily life of soldiers in New France and watch troops fire musket salvos in honour of the 10th anniversary of the Nuit blanche.

22. Contes de vers (glass blowing)

23. Like/Comment/subscribe (classic youtube vids)

If you’ve got more suggestions leave them in the comments below.
And for a guide to help you get the most of the evening check out our Nuit Blanche Survival Guide!

*Top image Esther Gibbons,


nuit-blanche-festival-montreal-lumiereYet another winter festival is upon us! This week kicks off the 14th edition of Montréal En Lumière. From February 21st to March 3rd the city will be filled with theatre, music, dancing, and visual art programming, both indoor and outdoor! While many of the events are hosted indoors have ticket prices, the central outdoor site is free. Throughout Quartier des Spectacles there will be live performances, interactive art  installations, food and drink vendors and of course beautiful lights. In addition to the live entertainment and arts, Place des Festivales has a ferris wheel. There is also a cinematic dome that will screen films, as well as for performances by VJs and DJs providing eye and ear candy. The festivities run until eleven each evening (excluding Sunday).

The event ends with Montreal’s Nuit Blanche on March 2nd. This year will mark the tenth celebration of the all night art festival for Montreal. The downtown site of Montréal En Lumière will remain open until 3 a.m., but there is no lack of things to see. Programming for the event is city wide and has designated spots through quartiers de spectacle, old Montreal, the olympic park, the plateau and mile end, as well as art through the metro stations. There are shuttle buses  provided to get you to and from each happening. Do your best to plan the night accordingly as there’s lots of ground and lots of hours to cover! I’ve experienced Nuit Blanche in several major cities now and am looking forward to seeing how Montreal differs from the rest.

Watch for our complete Nuit Blance preview coming out soon!