Montreal, Tuesday, March 21 – The 17th edition of Festival TransAmériques takes audiences on a journey through our collective imagination, with emotion providing a valuable source of insight into different worlds. From May 24 to June 8, 2023, the Festival presents 24 shows by artists from 21 countries—including 5 co-productions, 4 world premieres, and 9 North American premieres. Shot through with hope and the pursuit of freedom, laughter and song, beauty and desire, the 2023 edition brings unforgettable stories to life, creates connections between far-away places, and offers a host of experiences that tackle complex realities.
“What happens if we listen beyond the words? What do bodies tell us? What memories do they reveal to us? What stories are missing? The artists of this 17th edition of FTA share their stories – in many fabulous and furious ways. Let’s join them in finding our chosen lineage! Let’s compose together a revolutionary archive of the future!”
— Martine Dennewald and Jessie Mill, co-artistic directors
To open the Festival, the Sámi choreographer Elle Sofe Sara will guide festivalgoers from the Esplanade Tranquille into the theatre for Vástádus eana – The answer is land, a remarkable choreographed concert. Its polyphonic tales of resistance are an expression of the Sámi people’s love for the land. Accompanied by local Andean dancers and musicians, Argentina’s Tiziano Cruz leads a festive parade from Place Émilie-Gamelin to the National, where he performs Soliloquio, a manifesto calling for the acceptance of differences.
At dusk, the Esplanade Tranquille will host Creation Destruction, a must-see event, free and open to all. This monumental work by choreographer Dana Gingras is a response to ecological collapse that brings together a dozen musicians—with several members of the legendary band Godspeed You! Black Emperor at their core—and eleven spectacular dancers to perform in front of a brilliant installation by the London collective United Visual Artists.
The Festival’s largest venues will be home to remarkable performers, representing a wide range of ages and body stories, under the guidance of leading choreographers. Belfast’s Oona Doherty, a rising star of the international dance scene, will present Navy Blue, set to Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 and the electronic sounds of Jamie xx. In My Body, by Canadian choreographer and b-boy Yvon Soglo (aka Crazy Smooth), combines three generations of street dancers propelled by the power of community. The extraordinary Brazilian choreographer Lia Rodrigues contributes Encantado, a spellbinding outpouring of images and poetry delivered by enchanting spirits.
Reflecting the boldest visions of contemporary theatre, FTA features formally inventive plays and captivating sensory experiences. In L’étang, a play by the writer and poet Robert Walser, Gisèle Vienne provides an acting showcase, delivered with virtuosity by Adèle Haenel and Henrietta Wallberg. Inspired by Marguerite Duras’s The Malady of Death, White Out by the Quebec company L’eau du bain plunges the audience into a dense fog, which becomes the scene of a stunning artistic experience. The same team explores the power of children and their dreams in a second work, La chambre des enfants, a remarkably sophisticated adventure for the whole family. The director Angela Konrad brings a visceral adaptation of Tableau final de l’amour by Larry Tremblay, inspired by the love life of the English painter Francis Bacon. Malicho Vaca Valenzuela, a Chilean artist of Mapuche origin, will perform one of the most tender and moving works to emerge from the pandemic, Reminiscencia—which may be viewed in the theatre or online. And the company Posthumains, renowned for its artistic explorations of issues relating to prolonging human life, performs i/O, a thoughtful and ingenious work by Dominique Leclerc.
Other companies participating this year offer exhilarating experiences. Australia’s Back to Back Theatre—who delighted festivalgoers with Ganesh Versus the Third Reich at FTA 2013—return with The Shadow Whose Prey the Hunter Becomes, a work at once philosophical and hilarious. Catherine Bourgeois and her company Joe Jack & John take aim at conformist thinking in their updating of a Pirandello classic in Cispersonnages en quête d’auteurice. In The Making of Pinocchio, Glaswegian artists Rosana Cade and Ivor MacAskill transform the puppet’s quest for identity into a powerful metaphor for MacAskill’s gender transition. Cliff Cardinal, the charismatic Oglala Lakota actor from Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, serves up Shakespeare with a twist in William Shakespeare’s As You Like It: A Radical Retelling by Cliff Cardinal, a startling plea for friendship.
The performing arts have the power to transcend time and bridge the present, past, and future. Tracing the threads of matrilinearity, the Marrakech-born choreographer Radouan Mriziga, with an exceptional cast of dancers, bring Amazighs culture to life in the extravagant and heartfelt Libya. The Flemish artist Sarah Vanhee reconnects with her grandmothers in Mémé, a work of memory and healing peopled by extraordinary presences. The Zimbabwean choreographer nora chipaumire brings together 20 artists, musicians, singers, and dancers in her stirring opera Nehanda—a monumental work of art lasting five hours that evokes the memory of an anti-colonial uprising. Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory, multidisciplinary artist and winner of the prestigious Sobey Art Award, directs Qaumma. Written in collaboration with the iconic Nunavut actor Vinnie Karetak, this piece takes its name from the light of the oil lamps kept burning by Inuit women, who serve as guardians of their families and culture.
Many shows at FTA blur the boundaries of dance and theatre. An already legendary work from New York’s independent theatre scene, Bronx Gothic by the choreographer Okwui Okpokwasili shows the entanglement of violence and desire in the life of a young black girl. Choreographer and performer Dana Michel brings her unique theatrical language to an atypical space, where she presents her new solo MIKE, a reflection on the adaptability of workplaces. An influential figure on the experimental dance scene, Ellen Furey presents Lay Hold to the Softest Throat—a music and performance piece infused with sorcery and the teachings of Grotowski. In The Beach and Other Stories, the dancer and choreographer Maria Kefirova transforms herself into a storyteller surrounded by a sea of photographs.
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