Espace danse in the Wilder Building: dance comes to the heart of the city

February 17, 2017

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At last, the new Espace danse in the Wilder Building is ready to welcome audiences, with the winter-spring seasons of Tangente and Agora de la danse about to start their seasons in their new space in the heart of the Quartier des Spectacles.

Thanks to its four resident companies – Tangente, Agora de la danse, Les Grands Ballets and the École de danse contemporaine de Montréal –Espace danse in the Wilder Building is nothing short of a hotbed for every facet of contemporary dance, from instruction to training to performance. Tangente and Agora de la danse co-own the three performance spaces, which will showcase the most exciting new works coming out of Quebec’s contemporary dance scene.

We spoke with Stéphane Labbé, executive director of Tangente, who told us about the two organizations’ plans for this exceptional downtown heritage building.

Why is the creation of Espace danse in the Wilder Building important for the two companies, for the broader dance community and for audiences?

Both Tangente and the Agora have stepped up their activities over the years, and contemporary dance as a whole has evolved. We had reached a point where we absolutely needed a dedicated space if we wanted to properly fulfill our mission of promoting dance and hosting artists. The two organizations each had their own wish list, but above all we shared a common goal: to provide a home for artists, a place where they are comfortable, where they can create freely, with the specialized equipment and technology we needed in order meet the particular requirements of contemporary dance. We needed a place where audiences could have unique experiences.

How did you make the dream a reality?

Tangente is in the Wilder Building today thanks to the work of the Minisère de la Culture et des Communications du Québec, which wanted to give Montreal a new downtown artistic venue. Since we were looking for a space, it was a perfect fit. Les Grands Ballets and the École de danse contemporaine came on board, and the project started to take shape. When the Agora learned it would have to leave 840 Cherrier, the MCCQ decided it had to find a way to bring the company into the project. All of us made some compromises, and the Agora’s inclusion gave the project a major boost. We’ve been dreaming of having a space like this for a long time, and we’re very proud to see it finished today. But it’s really just the start of the adventure – we still have many more dreams for this building!

How do Tangente and Agora de la danse benefit from sharing the same building?

It’s natural that Tangente and Agora de la danse should find themselves at the same address once again, partly because we were co-tenants of a building on Cherrier Street for several years, and partly because, between us, we support dance artists throughout their entire careers. Today, we share much more than just some square footage: we share staff and encourage the two teams to work together to energize each other’s thinking and strategies, particularly in promoting the companies’ programs. We also share a vision for our new spaces as a living place, both for artists and for anyone who wants to see and feel dance to the fullest.

What does it mean to you to be based, now, in the Quartier des Spectacles?

First of all there’s a symbolic value. Tangente supports emerging artists, some of whom are on the margins. We’re bringing them into an energetic area with several major cultural institutions. I am proud that contemporary dance is at the heart of the rich tapestry of artistic activity going on in the Quartier des Spectacles. Our new location will allow us to reach more audiences, more art lovers who will be intrigued by the chance to experience and embrace the art of movement in its many forms. There’s also the matter of synergy: part of our business plan is to explore what we can achieve with other cultural entities, whether they’re based in the Wilder Building or not. I’m thinking for example of potential joint educational activities with the Musée d’art contemporain. We’re now at the heart of the action – the perfect place for building bridges – and we’re going to make the most of the opportunity.

What will the audience experience be like in the Wilder Building?

Visitors will be more than just spectators. The experience will be a complete one. People will see and experience dance and the art of movement – a celebration of the human body. It will be possible to spend a whole day here: in the morning, you can have a coffee before class at the École de danse contemporaine de Montréal, attend a therapeutic dance session with the Grands Ballets in the afternoon, have dinner at the restaurant, and attend a performance at the Agora and/or Tangente. The four partners want to offer an unforgettable dance experience for residents, tourists and visitors.

What’s the space like?

The spaces are designed for current practices in dance. The performance spaces are flexible, modern and have customizable layouts. We can easily go from a black box (in which the walls are entirely black) to a light box made of pale wood, where it’s possible to use sunlight for lighting. We’re certain the spaces will inspire the artists to build a variety of worlds based on the atmosphere they want to create for their works, and what they want the audience to experience. Visitors will feel a sense of renewal – thanks to the productions themselves, and to the building’s many possibilities.

The inaugural shows at Espace danse in the Wilder Building

Les spectateurs sont invités à plonger entre les murs du nouveau lieu avec les spectacles suivants :

  • Animal triste by Mélanie Demers. February 22 to 25. Four dancers explore the human condition and the gestures that separate us from other animals.

  • Tangente will present four shows in March, including Re-counting Africa, from March 2 to 5. Three choreographers, originally from Africa, will present modern, passionate and engaged stories, set in three different worlds and inspired by the African diaspora.