1. The Montreal scene

The city of Montréal is recognized worldwide as a center for dance innovation, creation and diffusion. Both emerging and established artists are drawn to this hub for the vibrant opportunities it offers. Part of what draws dance artists to Montréal is its low cost of living, and a financial support offered by the government that is higher compared to all other provinces in Canada. The dynamic alternative scenes, as well as an active and strong sense of community, also play a role in making Montreal a gem for the arts. However, the majority of artists lives beneath the poverty line and depend on economic activities un-related to dance in order to meet their basic needs. In order to survive in these conditions, choreographers must take initiative and persevere with resilience and tenacity.

Despite financial constraints, the local dance community is prolific and passionate. The city is home to hundreds of dancers. In 2017 – 18, the Regroupement québécois de la danse recorded, in Montréal alone, 265 dancers, 45 companies and 137 independent choreographers. The city has several professional training programs, an invaluable network of regular and occasional professional classes for continued training, as well as numerous venues and opportunities where dance is presented. Various organizations offer support services to emerging artists, and the arts lobby is well structured and strong.

The Montréal dance community is large, but not overwhelmingly so. It may take a while to get oriented and establish connections, but people in the milieu are generally quick to provide advice and support to newcomers.


1 Creators

The contemporary dance trailblazers of the eighties played an important role in establishing Montréal’s current reputation as a dance epicenter. Several of these forerunning leaders in dance direct their own companies, such as Marie Chouinard. Including, up until 2016, Ginette Laurin with O Vertigo, and Édouard Lock with La La La Human Steps. Based on size, budget and breadth of activity, the three most important companies in the province today are Marie Chouinard, Ballet Jazz Montreal and Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal. Initially, they all struggled for recognition and financial stability. Now, these companies present internationally, hire salaried dancers and administrative staff and operate with annual budgets that reach into the millions.

Montréal is also host to a growing number of mid-sized companies ranging anywhere from five to twenty years old. These include, amongst others, Daniel Léveillé Danse, Par B.L.eux (Benoît Lachambre), Flak (José Navas), Nyata Nyata (Zab Maboungou), Sinha Danse (Roger Sinha), and Carré des Lombes (Danièle Desnoyers). More recent companies weave themselves into the fabric, such as MAYDAY (Mélanie Demers), Dave St-Pierre, and RUBBERBANDance Group. Most of these artists started out as independent choreographers who eventually formed companies in order to be eligible for operating grants, amongst other reasons. Operating funds allow them to hire full-time administrative personnel. The dancers that work with these companies are self-employed, and work on a contract-to-contract basis.

Recently, certain companies have begun to integrate independent artists under their name, such as Clara Furey and Dana Michel with Par B.L.eux, or Catherine Gaudet and Frédérick Gravel with Daniel Léveillé Danse. Alternatively, certain independent choreographers joined together to form a company as with Je suis Julio or Lorganisme. These new models developed predominantly out of a desire and need for mentorship, sharing, and pooling administrative resources.

To be termed an “independent” choreographer, as is the case for many choreographers working today, there must be an absence of Non Profit Organisation (ONBL) status and a Board of Directors. These independent artists have any number of years of experience, and range from established (Georges Stamos) to mid-career (Nicolas Cantin, Helen Simard) to emerging. Every year, many emerging choreographers begin to ply their craft in Montréal as independents. Some take the traditional route of first working as dancers for several years before delving into choreography. While others may be recent graduates of one of Montréal’s several professional or university dance programs. After all, the paths and possibilities are manifold.


2 Presenters

Presenters can be divided into two general categories: those offering a regular season (usually September to April or May), often venue-based, and festivals, occurring yearly or every two years at the same time of year. There are half-dozen dance-exclusive presenters in Montréal, and about as many multidisciplinary presenters that include dance in their programming.

Among the season-based dance-focused presenters, Danse Danse/Productions Loma offers a season of national and international high-caliber productions in eminent venues such as Théâtre Maisonneuve at Place des Arts and Centre Pierre-Péladeau. Situated in its own theatre, which is housed in the same building as UQÀM’s dance department, l’Agora de la danse’s season serves predominantly local mid-sized companies and choreographers, but occasionally programs international works. Danse-Cité offers a variety of dance creation productions that are initiated by choreographers, dancers or musicians. Place des Arts’ Cinquième Salle presents a full season of dance programming, combining local, national and international productions. Well-known in the emerging dance scene, Tangente proposes an abundant program often presented as double bills. Studio 303 is a center for interdisciplinary creation and dissemination, presenting short works often linked to a theme.

Other centers devoted to the dissemination of multidisciplinary works regularly include dance productions in their programming, as is the case with Usine C, Théâtre La Chapelle Scènes Contemporaines, MAI (Montréal – arts interculturels), Gesù, and the Maisons de la culture (especially Centre Culturel NDG, Plateau Mont-Royal and Frontenac). The MAI is a theatre dedicated to artists, collectives and companies of diverse cultural backgrounds. Other organizations have similar mandates, such as the festival Accès Asie and the Black Theatre Workshop.

There also exist several DIY presenters who organize one-off projects and events. Some of them, such as Wants&Needs Danse (the producers of “Piss in the Pool” and “Short and Sweet”), present mostly emerging artists from Montreal. Every year, new and alternative events blossom in the Montreal scene. Their programming is in part shared through callouts and applications, but most often word of mouth and social media do the job.

If Montréal is a city of festivals, dance has its fair share of the market. Held yearly over two weeks during late-May/early-June, Festival TransAmériques (FTA) is international in scope and programs both choreographers and theatre directors. The Festival is distinctly biased towards contemporary hybrid creation at the intersection of dance and theatre. The OFFTA, held at the same time every year as the FTA, programs dance, theatre and hybrid creations. These two events offer artists significant visibility, and the opportunity to be seen by both national and international dance presenters and programmers. Festivals such as Quartiers Danses, ZH, Vue sur la Relève, Festival Phénomena, and Les Escales Improbables are also springboards for emerging artists. These festivals take place mostly during the autumn and summer, and are accessible for the most part by a call for proposals approximately nine months in advance.

Consult the online bulletin boards of the RQD and Artère to find current open calls and applications.


3 Contact Events

Various performing arts trade fairs exist where presenters come together to shop for shows. Dance artists and companies must be selected, and pay either for a kiosk or the opportunity to showcase during the event. Parcours Danse, which takes place every year in November, is also a flagship event for the dissemination of Quebec-based artists and their work. Every second year, the International Exchange for the Performing Arts (CINARS) attracts a wide range of international presenters. Finally, there is the Réseau indépendant des diffuseurs d’événements artistiques unis (RIDEAU), a similar organization based in Québec City.

These events are costly to participate in, and are mainly useful for established artists and companies that are ready to tour an evening-length program. Emerging choreographers should nevertheless take note of these events for their inherent learning opportunities, as well as the chance to show work during the “off” events that often happen in parallel to these fairs.

For artists at the beginning of their career, more accessible networking events are regularly offered by organizations such as Circuit-Est, La Serre – arts vivants and Studio 303. Studio 303 proposes in particular À Table, a reoccurring event dedicated to encounters between artists and presenters or programmers.


4 Service Organizations

There are many organizations in Montréal whose primary or secondary goal is to provide support services for dance artists. These organizations will be invaluable resources throughout your professional dance career in Montréal.

As Québec’s professional association for dance artists, the RQD offers a multitude of services. While emerging artists may or may not meet their professional criteria, it is possible and worthwhile to get an associated membership. Benefits include a training subsidy, an apprenticeship program and a wide range of workshops from technique classes to grant writing. The RQD regularly solicits volunteer help from its members to sit on committees and participate in brainstorm sessions. For those whose artistic practice borders on other disciplines, the Québec Interdisciplinary Arts Network (RAIQ or Regroupement des arts interdisciplinaires du Québec) represents interdisciplinary artists and arts organizations. Their aim is to nurture the development of different interdisciplinary practices through various activities that promote research and experimentation, such as conferences, studies, training and networking events. The English Language Arts Network helps Québec’s English-language artists connect with one another and to the services available to them (workshops, grants, etc.) through their Facebook page.

Several organizations offer creation and/or technical residencies. The main organizations are Circuit-Est centre chorégraphique, Centre de Création O Vertigo (CCOV) and Studio 303. Since 2016, the CCOV, a legacy of the dance company O Vertigo, offers short-term and long-term residencies as well as movement labs, round-table discussions etc. It especially tries to fill the needs of touring companies. Andrew Tay is the CCOV’s curator since January 2017 for the duration of 3 years. Circuit-Est proposes a similar residency, including an international exchange program. Circuit-Est and the CCOV receive a large number of applications each year, and tend to select mid-career and established artists. Studio 303 offers creation residencies in the summer, and technical residencies in the winter. These residencies always include an artist fee. Other places and independent artists offer residencies; consult Artère for the full list. Institutions such as the CAM and the CALQ regularly offer residencies. And finally, La Serre – arts vivants, the MAI, and several presenters offer residencies each year, thereby supporting artists’ projects within their production phase.

It is important to note that the majority of organizations mentioned above do not offer an artist fee; their residencies generally consist of a studio space and a number of services offered for free. However, this step is often crucial for your project to come alive. A residency can be considered a key partner that will support and back-up your grant and funding requests. In a way, having a residency partner reflects an artistic and concrete appreciation from the milieu towards your work.

Diagramme Gestion culturelle is an organization that annually offers management and communication services for a limited number of small dance companies. They also offer one-off assistance to independent choreographers for an hourly fee. Services include grant preparation, bookkeeping and all other types of paperwork. Studio 303 offers personalized consultation sessions for reviewing grant applications. La Machinerie is a matchmaker between artists and experts (technical assistance, communications, administration etc.) for the performing arts milieu. Outiller la relève artistique montréalaise (ORAM) is a project initiated by the Forum jeunesse de l’Île de Montréal and the Conseil des arts de Montréal, and is housed in the former. ORAM works to facilitate artists’ access to financial support and information, their integration into the job market, the transfer of skills between generations and networking. They publish Artère, a website and monthly e-newsletter. Youth Employment Services (YES) is a non-profit community organization that delivers English-language job search and self-employment services to Quebecers. Recognizing the large amount of young artists in Montréal, they have developed a series of services for artists such as career counseling, business coaching and a start-up grant contest. The network Carrefours jeunesse-emploi (RCJEQ) offers similar services in French, in particular that of Centre-Sud/Plateau and Mont-Royal/Mile-End. The Dancer Transition Resource Centre (DTRC or Centre de ressources et de transition pour danseurs in French) exists to help dancers make necessary transitions into, within and from professional performing careers. Membership gives dancers access to counseling services and re-training grants, awards and bursaries. The DTRC also organizes on the MOVE/danse TRANSIT, an annual conference for the year’s dance graduates and self-taught dancers. Welcoming them into the professional dance community, and offering them the skills, resources and networking opportunities they will need to make an inspired and informed transition into the profession.

Bibliothèque de la danse Vincent Warren, is the legacy of the former and Ludmilla Chiriaeff, and is the reference of choice in Montréal for all literature related to dance.


5 Training / Rehearsal

Montréal is host to two university dance programs, as well as many other professional training programs. The Université du Québec à Montréal (UQÀM) offers a PhD, a master’s degree, a somatic education diploma, as well as two streams at the bachelor level, teaching and interpretation, with a focus on creation if desired. Concordia University’s bachelor program emphasizes creative process and choreography. For non-university intensive training, the following schools have well reputed training programs: for contemporary dance there is the École de danse contemporaine de Montreal (EDCMTL), and for ballet there are Ballet Divertimento and the École supérieure de ballet contemporain de Montréal. Each offers a college diploma (DEC or AEC) and/or high school study programs. Collège Montmorency, CEGEP St-Laurent and Collège de Maisonneuve offer a two-year DEC specializing in dance, and Compagnie Nyata Nyata now offers a two-year professional training program in African dance and drumming.

Once you are out of the academic realm and in the work force, you can choose amongst several dance spaces in the city that regularly offer dance training and workshops. The RQD organizes a thirty-week session of morning contemporary dance classes taught by a variety of both local and non-local professionals. Circuit-Est and Studio 303, amongst others, offer a range of classes spanning hula hoop, creative process, and contact improvisation. Technique classes are found in private centers such as Divertimento or L’Espace du Mouvement. Perfmax is a workout program specifically tailored for athletes, including dancers, and is accessible year-round in Montréal and Laval. As well as providing a technical challenge and training, professional classes and workshops are a forum for dance artists to forge bonds, share information, and be seen by choreographers.

There are also opportunities to hone your choreographic talents with the help of mentoring through participation in Montréal Danse’s yearly choreographic workshop, Circuit-Est’s choreographic mentorship program, or RQD and Studio 303’s periodic creation workshops for emerging choreographers.

Dance training during the summer months is less consistent, but there are still some options. The summer intensive programs of TransFormation Danse and the EDCMTL take place annually, while other companies and choreographers offer summer intensives more occasionally such as Frédérick Gravel, Kelly Keenan and Lorganisme. Since 2014, the collective Nous Sommes L’Été offers classes, workshops, and space for research and creation during the summertime. And finally, there are always drop-in ballet classes at Studio Bizz, as well as yoga, Pilates and sport centers across the city.

There are a number of studio rental locations in the city, and many schools, presenters, institutions (Conseil des arts de Montréal), companies and independent choreographers have a space to rent, usually by the hour. Listings for private studios with rentals can be found on studio bulletin boards and on the RQD website (http://www.quebecdanse.org/babillard-liste/a-louer). There is also the possibility to rent a loft on a monthly basis, however rent is costly unless shared with other artists and this can present a hefty administrative burden.


6 Arts Lobby

The RQD currently holds the torch as Québec’s most important lobbyer in dance. With the other members of the Coalition La Culture et du Mouvement pour les arts et les lettres (MAL), the RQD strives for increased public funding to the arts so that artist’s work and life conditions will improve. The Canadian Dance Assembly (CDA) likewise lobbies on a federal level for dance artists across Canada. On a local level, Culture Montréal is a democratic citizen-based movement open to anyone with cultural concerns. Members are professionals and non-professionals interested in promoting and safeguarding the right to culture.

Tips

  • Make friends and get your name and face seen. A lot gets passed on through word of mouth.
  • Volunteer with dance organizations in exchange for free studio time or access to shows.
  • Scan bulletin boards regularly at established spaces for information on shows, classes, auditions and calls for submissions.
  • Join the RQD, CDA, ELAN and subscribe to e-mail newsletters from ELAN and Artère (ORAM).

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