Montreal’s pulse quickens with Les arts debout 

August 9, 2021

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And it’s a strong pulse! Choreographers Lydia Bouchard and Merryn Kritzinger have echoed the imagery of the Quarter des Spectacles summer publicity campaign, which placed red spheres over the hearts of Montreal’s artists to emphasize their impact on our city post-pandemic. In turn Bouchard and Kritzinger have dressed their dancers in scarlet for their street performance. We spoke with them about their piece, Les arts debout, which has a starring role in the aventures du cœur de l’île this summer.

This 15-minute-long performance will energize the Quartier des Spectacles periodically, punctuating the day the way a pulse occasionally pounds with excitement from one moment to the next. The Quartier des Spectacles was looking for a performance that would put the spotlight on contemporary dance and hip hop this summer. Lydia Bouchard and Merryn Kritzinger were thrilled with the idea. With the guidance of Melissa Thompson (their co-producer), the pair assembled a team of ace performers who embraced the project as a personal challenge with a sense of festive camaraderie. Each of the performers has reinterpreted Krump and Popping moves in their own way, with a contemporary aesthetic.

“This commission was a chance for us to honour and return performance arts back to the public space after a very hard year,” explains Merryn Kritzinger. Their choreography celebrates artists, focusing attention on them to thank and recognize them. It’s also an opportunity to celebrate the audiences who will finally come together again in person to take part in an expression of collective hope.”

“This piece is an exploration of the concept of mourning, too. We need to collectively learn how to grieve the loss of our ‘before times.’ During the pandemic, something changed forever. We won’t ever be the same. This choreography grabbles with that.”

A manifesto for the performing arts

Echoing the dancers’ combative movements, the rapper Calamine has written a manifesto “that expresses the power of performance art that we have been so sorely missing,” says Lydia Bouchard. “We are honoured that she has lent us her words and her voice. She has written a screed for the post-pandemic world with poignant, crude, explosive language.”

These words hit hard and resonate. Lifted by the orchestral electro-hip hop of Jean-Phi Goncalves, they tear through the air. “It’s a real climax,” says Merryn Kritzinger. “Jean-Phi is such a talented percussionist. He constantly shifts rhythmic tones.”

Away with death and the virus! This victorious, epic music celebrates a world that has gradually overcome that crisis. “We want to release a sense of joy that will overflow throughout the public space,” offers Lydia Bouchard. “We’ve been waiting so long for this!”

La Resistance moves forth

Les arts debouts is the first production of La Résistance, a new troop founded by Lydia Bouchard and Merryn Kritzinger. Public happenings that unite a whole community of diverse artists will probably be one of the morphing collective’s specialities. “It’s like we’re curating a huge manifestation of art, shining a light on each other’s work,” she says.

“Public art happenings — the way free access to art is a democratic, immersive experience — really inspire us. This Quartier des spectacles performance is a strong, meaningful initial statement for our company.”

La Résistance will also be a means of “creating punk themes and unfettering performance arts,” says Merryn. “We will do lots of immersive projects and will try to challenge audiences and performers,” adds Lydia.

As the first performance presented to the public, Les arts debouts will offer a spectacular debut, with the visually striking red and magenta costumes designed by Rémi van Bochove setting off the virtuosic physicality of dancers Rahmane Belkebiche, Lydia Bouchard, Mary-Lee Brunet, Édith Collin-Marcoux, Chad Erick Conception, Danny De Matos, Véronique Giasson, Merryn Kritzinger, Lauri-Ann Lauzon, Kevin Jr Madripp, Guillaume Michaud, Laura Perron, William-Nicolas Tanguay, and Yoherlandy Tejeiro Garcia.

Les arts debout by La Résistance, as part of Les aventures du cœur de l'île take place Saturdays, August 7, 21 et 28 and September 18.

A creation from: La Résistance

Concept: Lydia Bouchard, Merryn Kritzinger et Melissa Thompson