FTA 2021: Art never rests!
The 15th Festival TransAmériques has come to a close, the last one led by Martin Faucher, who has been the event’s Artistic Director since 2014. From May 26 to June 12, 2021, festival-goers and artists were overjoyed to be together at last, sharing the belief in the act of creation as a regenerative balm. Since the closure of cultural venues in the fall of 2020, the FTA was the first major festival to take place, ushering in the return of the summer events for which Montreal is famous.
Serving art and artists
Despite the constrained context and extremely limited venue capacities, the 2021 FTA was ambitious, with 27 dance and theatre works presented over 18 days at 18 sites, for a total of 486 performances. Serving art and artists more than ever, the Festival affirmed its structuring role in a fragile ecosystem. It gambled on a large-scale event, putting to work 379 artists, artisans, designers and conceptualists, as well as 167 cultural workers, technicians and video makers hired directly by the Festival for this atypical edition.
This commitment to the community would not have been possible without the unwavering support of our public and private partners and donors, who support the Festival’s mission and believe in the role of artists in these uncertain times. Our heartfelt thanks.
“Throughout this terrible pandemic year, the FTA has bet on life and won. It was with great emotion that I saw Antonin Artaud’s magic chain reborn between artists and audiences during my final edition. This rebirth is perhaps my most valuable legacy for the future of the FTA. Long live tomorrow!”
— Martin Faucher, Artistic Director
26 dance and theatre performances
The 2021 FTA took place in unusual outdoor settings: the thirty-odd dancers from O2, led by Sarah Dell’Ava, took over Baldwin Park and the square in front of St. James United Church, while Rhodnie Désir’s BOW’T Tio:tia’ke questioned the history of Place D’Youville in Old Montreal. For the first time, the FTA made use of the garden of the Musée d’art contemporain, an oasis generously lent by the museum. Across the street, La ville, des artistes was projected on the façade of the Wilder Building. Conceived by HUB Studio, the work featured large-scale portraits of the artists on the program, which hovered over the city for 16 days.
In 1985, Ondinnok inaugurated the very first Festival de théâtre des Amériques. Thirty-six years later, in a moving opening ceremony, the company revived key moments from Le Porteur des peines du monde. With Meshtitau and Them Voices, Soleil Launière and Lara Kramer, each in their own way, developed a profound work of memory to connect us with our past, present and future ancestors. With a similar aim, Rhodnie Désir transcended Montreal’s slavery legacy through music and dance in the triptych BOW’T-Tio:tia’ke.
This year’s edition was predominantly Québécois, but festival-goers were also able to hear Toronto’s Jordan Tannahill pay a vibrant tribute to his mother in Declarations, and to experience Vancouver choreographer Sarah Chase’s The door opened west, a poignant biographical solo created for Marc Boivin. Despite the impossibility of inviting foreign artists, the FTA nevertheless presented three works from abroad: Worktable by New Zealand’s Kate MacIntosh delighted both young and old, inviting audiences to disassemble and reassemble objects of their choice. Omar Abusaada and Mohammad Al Attar, two of the creators of Aleppo. A Portrait of Absence, were unable to accompany their show to Montreal, since the Canadian government did not issue their work permits in time. This staggering production, performed by 11 Montreal actors, was so popular that additional performances were scheduled. Via Instagram, the heartfelt cry of _jeanne_dark_, by French director Marion Siéfert, also resonated with our audiences.
The Festival provided a forum for strong voices that shake up our preconceived notions. The Port-Royal Readings series, featuring the spoken words of An Antane Kapesh, Pierre Lefebvre and Réjean Ducharme, took an uncompromising view of our history, our relationship with the First Nations and the dynamics of power. Evoking various taboos, Gerard X Reyes freely questioned the body and its representations in Public/Private Parts ou L’Origine du monde.
Two great theatrical adventures finally saw the light of day: Marie Brassard’s Violence ingeniously found a way for the Japanese artists to share the stage with the work’s creator, while Laurence Dauphinais and Maxime Carbonneau’s Dans le nuage (First Draft) plunged spectators into the thrilling aerospace adventure of the Voyager probe and its Golden Record.
We would be remiss not to salute the extraordinary performance of 2Fik, who in Romance ain’t dead, 2Fik! embodied a swarming gallery of characters in search of love—for 8 days, 8 hours a day, meeting and chatting with suitors ready to do anything to seduce him. Equally inexhaustible, Manuel Roque set the floor of the Balcon – St. James United Church reverberating with SIERRANEVADA, an hypnotic score involving repeated jumps. To close the Festival, the incandescent Louise Lecavalier set the Théâtre Maisonneuve ablaze with Stations, a solo eagerly awaited by Quebec audiences.
After months without concerts, fans of live music were undoubtedly delighted with Mélanie Demers’ La Goddam Voie Lactée, whose musician Frannie Holder accompanied the powerful cast of female performers. The same jubilant vibrations were felt on the stage of Théâtre Maisonneuve, which was converted into an intimate setting for Sovann Rochon-Prom Tep’s Un temps pour tout, in which electrifying performance by two musicians fuelled the energy of the hip-hop dancers.
As is often the case at the FTA, several shows called for audience participation. In Anything Whatsoever, co-presented by La Chapelle Scènes Contemporaines, Katie Ward handed the microphone to the audience, creating an agreeable space for our shared imaginations. PHOSPHOS, by Paul Chambers, rolled out a luminescent carpet for the wanderings of audience members and performers alike.
Among the 18 new creations presented this year, audiences will not soon forget the explosions of energy sparked by Clara Furey’s Dog Rising, or the intimate celebration of chiaroscuro in La jamais sombre by Michel F Côté, Marc Parent and Catherine Tardif.
Two repeat performances were presented: Anima / Darkroom by Lucy M. May and 7Starr, magnetic practitioners of Montreal krump, and Aalaapi | ᐋᓛᐱ by the collective of the same name, a contemplative plunge into the intimacy of a generation of young Inuit women.