The 1980s were a period of tremendous ferment in contemporary dance: Tangente came into being, and a number of young choreographers left established companies to start up their own creative ventures; among them were Jean-Pierre Perreault, Ginette Laurin, Édouard Lock, Paul-André Fortier and Marie Chouinard. Daniel Soulières, for his part, served as manager of the organization Qui Danse from 1979 to 1982. In 1980, he presented Treize chorégraphes pour deux danseurs with Monique Giard (les productions Giard - Soulières); the show marked a turning point for both performers. On the heels of their success, Daniel Soulières founded Danse-Cité in 1982. The dance company was given a unique structure akin to an open forum with no regular choreographer or dancers, geared to fostering experimentation and innovative projects, and dedicated exclusively to Montreal-based artists.
In 1983, Daniel Soulières opted to present Danse-Cité shows over a period of two weeks - a practice unheard-of in contemporary dance until then. Based on his experience with Treize chorégraphes pour deux danseurs (which enjoyed a performance run of over a month), Soulières was well aware of the importance of this minimal performance period for the development of artists and their practice.
From 1983 to 1986, Danse-Cité gave a wide berth to emerging artists through its Most Modern and Événements de la pleine lune events; among these artists were Louise Bédard, Ginette Laurin, Daniel Soulières and Monique Giard. As performers and choreographers, each in turn presented shows, working alongside composers and musicians such as Jean Derome, Pierre Cartier and René Lussier. In 1983, Danse-Cité gave free rein to choreographer Jean-Pierre Perreault to create an improvised work for 14 dancers and four musicians titled Joe et Rodolphe.
Presented in 1986, the first Volet Chorégraphe paired two choreographers - Catherine Tardif and Daniel Soulières - and was showcased at the Café de la Danse in Paris. From 1986 to 1990, these joint performance evenings introduced audiences to the likes of Sylvain Émard, Danièle Desnoyers, Hélène Blackburn, Andrew Harwood, and William Douglas, who was accompanied by a young dancer named José Navas, then just a rookie on the Montreal dance scene.
The year 1990 was one of change, with the advent of two new show formats at Danse-Cité: the Formule Intégrale, an evening dedicated exclusively to choreographer Sylvain Émard, as well as the first Formule Interprètes.
Attentive to the needs of artists and intent on meeting new challenges, Daniel Soulières broke with established conventions with the creation of the Formule Interprètes giving the performer direct control of a project's artistic orientations - an unprecedented innovation. Also in 1990, Danièle Desnoyers made her breakthrough in Europe with an extended tour of Mirador mi-clos, a work conceived at Danse-Cité. In 1992, Ginette Boutin used the Volet Œuvres program to present a retrospective of the works of Françoise Sullivan.
Succeeding the first wave from the 1990s was a new generation of choreographers including Irèni Stamou, Isabelle Van Grimde, Jane Mappin, Andrea Davidson, Harold Rhéaume and Roger Sinha. In 1997, the Formule Intégrale dedicated to José Navas played to capacity audiences for two weeks; Navas had the distinction of taking part in every Danse-Cité program prior to becoming a household name on the Quebec dance scene.
With Most Modern, Danse-Cité was able to offer sustained support to young performers and choreographers during this period, among them Michèle Rioux, Yves Saint-Pierre, Maya Ostrofsky, Isabelle Poirier, Annie Roy, Parise Mongrain, Marie-Claude Poulin and Rachel Harris.
Since 1990, Danse-Cité, via its Formule Interprètes program, has showcased many of Quebec's leading choreographers, including Jean-Pierre Perreault, James Kudelka, Paul-André Fortier, Jeanne Renaud, Marie Chouinard and Ginette Laurin; others such as Sylvain Émard, Lynda Gaudreau, Louise Bédard, Danièle Desnoyers, Hélène Blackburn and José Navas have pooled their talents with performers like Marc Boivin, Lucie Boissinot, Gioconda Barbuto, Daniel Soulières, Jacqueline Lemieux, Manon Levac, Sylvain Lafortune, Andrea Boardman, Sophie Corriveau, Catherine Tardif, Benoit Lachambre, Annick Hamel, Ken Roy and Liza Kovacs.
The company continued to evolve throughout the 1990s. In 1991, Danse-Cité became the lessee and company in residence at the Agora de la danse. From there, it helped to shape and contribute to the renown of Montreal's first performance venue dedicated solely to contemporary dance. Danse-Cité occupied the space until 2001. The company's decade-long tenure at the Agora de la danse allowed it to consolidate its structure: Permanent staff members were hired to oversee projects, provide artistic and administrative support, and assist with production and communications. More than ever, audacity and challenge were the watchwords, with Daniel Soulières in favour of bringing together divergent choreographic writing styles as well as integrating other art forms.
The playwrights and actors who've since dabbled in dance include Faucher, Claude Poissant, Gregory Hlady, Brigitte Haentjens, Wajdi Mouawad, Julien Poulin, Éric Bernier and Hélène Loiselle.
Classical and contemporary came together, therefore, when five dancers from the Grands Ballets Canadiens, including Andrea Boardman, Louis Robitaille and Anik Bisonnette, took the stage with Daniel Soulières for an evening of short contemporary dance pieces.
Artistic exchanges with Europe also marked a new era of collaboration. In 1998, Berlin-born choreographer Sasha Waltz created a duo for Benoît Lachambre, and the following year audiences were treated to performances of HAUTNAH, an unsettling work by German Felix Ruckert featuring ten solos, each danced for one spectator at a time.
Video productions have served to prolong the lifespan of works. Capsules based on choreographic materiel from specific projects were broadcast on Bravo TV. Projet Roy won the top performance prize at Toronto's Moving Pictures Festival of Dance on Film and Video, and other notable video projects have included Projet Kovacs and Projet Clareton.
In an effort to promote contemporary dance more effectively, the company also added dance awareness activities to its production calendar.
In 1996, Danse-Cité offered a public forum with artists through open public rehearsals and its "Meet the Artist" Thursdays. Projects such as Anatomie d'une création and Création en direct also helped to demystify the creative act by allowing the public to witness it first-hand. The video installation Rencontres Inusitées, meanwhile, provided the perfect tool for introducing a broader public to the practice of dance. Created from interviews with performers talking about their work - the project was equal parts tribute and testimony - this video installation offered the public a glimpse into the sometimes harsh realities faced by these artists and the sheer passion that drives them.
With the passage of time, yesterday's new faces become today's masters, and Danse-Cité has been a catalyst in this ongoing cycle: As well as scout talented new artists, it has introduced them to the Montreal dance scene. By the 1990s, the newcomers from the '80s had their own companies supported in large part with their own operating grants. Such was the case with some of the artists showcased in 1990. As for the performers, Danse-Cité's artistic director invites them to meet challenges that measure up to their enormous potential.
The post-2000 period has seen a third generation of artists succeed the previous two waves. Among this new wave of dance artists are Holy Body Tatoo, David Pressault, Estelle Clareton, Dominique Porte, Laurence Lemieux and Emmanuel Jouthe.
Each in her own manner, Sarah Williams and Carole Courtois transformed the performance space during their respective Formule Interprètes initiatives, subverting conventions and offering audiences moments of sheer delight. Social Studies, an evening dedicated to Vancouver-based dancers Susan Elliott, Ziyian Kwan and John Ottmann, was presented in Montreal and subsequently in Vancouver.
From its very inception, Danse-Cité has given young performers a chance to work alongside mature artists. The integration of emerging performers into its productions was especially evident at the 2002 show Célébration marking Danse-Cité's 20th anniversary. This project brought together past and future through repeat performances of works drawn from the repertoire of performers' programs and danced by emerging performers. In other words, the performers who created the original works made themselves available to teach their choreographies to emerging dancers. The result was an impressive show highlighting the importance of transferring knowledge from one generation to the next. Danse-Cité initiated a similar project in 2003. Called Célébration 2, it called on six dancers and four musicians to improvise in the manner of the Événements de la pleine lune under the guidance of Jean Derome, Louise Bédard and Daniel Soulières - the architects of these meetings between dance and music.
In 2002, Danse-Cité received an award in the dance category and was nominated for the Grand Prix du Conseil des arts de Montréal in recognition of its excellent 20th season and its vital contribution to the dance community.
In 2003, Danse-Cité adopted a new signature - the trace des créateurs - with three separate components: Traces-Interprètes, Traces-Chorégraphes and Traces-Hors-Sentiers.
Once called "Formule Interprètes" (performers' component), Traces-Interprètes stayed true to its original mandate of giving the dancer a central role in a project's artistic orientation. Traces-Chorégraphes, for its part, continued to pursue the objective of the "Volet Chorégraphe" (choreographer's component) by dedicating an entire evening to one choreographer. Finally, Danse-Cité developed Traces-Hors-Sentiers to foster interdisciplinary in the arts, specifically between dance and other artistic disciplines. Traces-Hors-Sentiers was intended to give carte blanche to artists working in complementary disciplines (e.g. composers, set designers and visual artists). Rather than have them create for dance in collaboration with a choreographer, however, these artists are asked to conceive and direct their own choreographic work.
In 2004, Danse-Cité invited French-born artists Martin Chaput and Martial Chazallon to work with four Montreal-based performers on the creation of a four-part in situ project, with the remaining three components produced in Mexico, Marseille and Maputo, respectively. Also continuing her collaboration with Danse-Cité was choreographer Catherine Tardif, with Et Marianne et Simon (2001), Le Show Western (2004) and Le Show Triste (2006). In 2006, Danse-Cité travelled to Belgium with the show L'Éducation physique by choreographer Manon Oligny, presented at the Théâtre de la Balsamine as part of the Festival Danse Balsa Marni Raffinerie.
In 2007, Danse-Cité marked its 25th year of operation with the presentation of two major shows from its repertoire: Treize lunes, a new version of Événements de la pleine lune for 10 musicians and 10 dancers (which toured nine Montreal cultural centres), and Projet Roy, a re-casting of works featuring dancer Ken Roy.
Proud of its achievements, Danse-Cité has every reason to feel confident about the future. The city continues to produce an ever-growing pool of talented young choreographers and performers, and the company looks forward working with them and sharing new creative ventures with the public. As always, Danse-Cité is excited about meeting these challenges.
In 2007-2008, Emmanuel Jouthe and Manon Oligny - two choreographers whose artistic approaches are constantly evolving - continued their collaboration with Danse-Cité with the creation (respectively) of Staccato Rivière and L'Écurie. After presenting Quarantaine 4 x 4, a work for four female performers aged 40 and over, in 2004, outstanding composer Charmaine LeBlanc went on to create Quarantaine, the male version of this innovative show.
Subsequent artistic exchanges have included Ganas de Vivir by choreographer Élodie Lombardo (les Sœurs Schmutt), produced in collaboration with Mexico's Compañia de Danza y Arte Escénico de Colima.
Several works have captured the public imagination and sparked a demand for more: Quarantaine, Corps intérieur (by David Pressault) and Çaturn (by Naomi Stikeman) are among those that have been re-programmed in subsequent seasons. Exploring hybrid artistic mediums (dance and cinema), the latter piece - presented as part of Traces-Interprètes and featuring several superbly talented artists - was a resounding success.
The 2010s promise to be particularly productive and rich in artistic exploration, with a number of multidisciplinary initiatives on the horizon: Catherine Lalonde, for one, will present Musica Nocturna : la nuit sera longue, a work combining dance, theatre and poetry. The Lalonde piece will also be performed as part of the Conseil des arts de Montréal en tournée program for the 2010-2011 season, with shows scheduled in 11 cultural centres throughout the city. Danse-Cité is also set to welcome André Pappathomas, who'll present the 8th instalment in his Chœur et chorégraphes series, where dance and ensemble singing - voice and movement - share the stage.
Creators, increasingly, are exploring the relationship between artists and the public: Recent years have witnessed an explosion of in situ choreographic forms. Through a variety of choreographic projects, La 2e Porte à Gauche, a new production company specialized in contemporary dance, has placed this relationship with the public at the heart of its creations. In 2011, La 2e Porte à Gauche and Danse-Cité will present 4quART, a work by four choreographers, each of whom will create one quarter of the show using the same "ingredients": same space, same performers, and same artistic collaborators.
In 2012, Danse-Cité turns 30 . . .