Tag Archives: Karina Champoux

Festival TransAmériques Press Conference


On Monday I was invited to the press conference for the Festival TransAmériques. It took place in the studios for ARTV at Places des Arts, a weird little room that was a far cry from where they used to do it (l’Agora des Sciences at UQAM). I don’t know if their budget had been cut or if they had spontaneously decided to shake things up. But either way the room was jam packed.

The view from my seat at the Festival TransAmériques press conference.
The view from my seat at the Festival TransAmériques press conference.

I’m torn between loving press conferences and hating them. I love them because they make you feel special. Press kits have all sorts of information that you otherwise wouldn’t know. In Montreal the press conferences tend to offer free food and drink. I hate press conferences because there are more significant and better ways to feel special. Once you’ve been to a bunch of press conferences on the same subject you tend to find mistakes and holes in the press kit. And the free food and drink isn’t always the best.

Anyhows, this one was notable because (as I’ve mentioned) it was in a new venue. They also couldn’t give me a press kit, and the food and drink consisted of bottled orange juice and cupcakes (they also were serving coffee, tea, bottled water and bottled apple juice).

The cupcakes (and tea and bottled water) at the press conference for Festival TransAmériques.
The cupcakes (and tea and bottled water) at the press conference for Festival TransAmériques.

Despite my love/hate relationship with press conferences one thing that you always get at a press conference is a lot of “blah, blah, blah.

Sorry about the camera shake. I really wish people would learn that reading from a script is incredibly bad and completely stultifying. It gets worse when they don’t really have much to say.

Since I don’t really follow Francophone Quebecois Theatre, I had no idea (and since I didn’t get a press kit, still don’t know) who Olivier Choinière is or what he has done. But apparently it’s a big deal that the Festival TransAmériques is re-staging his Chante avec moi. If I caught it correctly, it’s a play with 50 performers. For whatever reason M. Choinière decided to recite all of their names during the press conference. It only occurred to me about halfway through the list how bizarre that was, so I only caught about the last third on camera. Sorry.

But then, every now and again you get something that makes it all worthwhile to be at the press conference.

Getting to hear a choreographer explain the stuff behind something they are making, five months in advance of when you’re going to get to see it, is kind of cool. Thankfully I had my wits about me enough that I was able to film her whole speech (again, sorry for the camera shake, you’d be amazed at how heavy a 20 oz. camera can get when you’re holding it away from you body for 4 minutes and 19 seconds).

But this one got even better.

They decided that they’d get Bernard Martin and Karina Champoux to perform. I’m looking forward to trying to memorize this little bit and then see if it actually makes it into the performance.

Also, if Danièle Desnoyers happens to come across this. (If you didn’t watch the video or can’t understand French – basically her dance is about nightlife in Montreal in the 40s and 50s. She’s much more nuanced than that, which is why I filmed her doing the talking. The title translates as Beneath the Skin, The Night) Besides Montreal Confidential by Al Palmer there is also Montreal by Gaslight by Anonymous which covers much of the same material but from a perspective sixty years earlier.

Then because press conferences are held for very specific purposes, I think that the information they wanted to get out to the public was this (remember, I didn’t get a press kit): This year’s festival starts on the 24th of May. It ends on June 9, 2012. Five shows have been announced. Two different ones by Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker’s company Rosas (pity that they couldn’t have coordinated the festival with Beyoncé’s performance in town, that would have been awesome!) Cesena and En Atendant, On the Concept of the Face, regarding the Son of God, by someone I have never heard of and the previously mentioned performances by Olivier Choinière and Danièle Desnoyers.

Tickets are on sale for the five shows as of January 30th. The Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker show at Place des Arts (the only show for which I asked about prices) tops out at $61 plus taxes plus service charges. But when I asked to see what seats were available it looked like most of the kick-ass seats had been held back for subscribers who will be getting their crack at the end of March. Apparently there is a 10% discount if you buy your tickets now. But I also imagine that there is some sort of discount if you subscribe, and I would guess that it might be even larger than 10%.

And in conclusion, if you’d like to read/see/hear what the other media outlets had to say about the press conference click on the links.

Montreal Gazette, La Presse, Le Devoir,

Les Angèles ces derniers bleus by the Collectif C’est Juste Lundi


Since my last attempt at a poetic review for a dance performance was a trainwreck (if you haven’t read Ken Monteith‘s comment, I urge you to drop everything right now, and do so, and while you’re at it you should read his blog as well.) I figured I can revert back to something a little easier this time…

I’m not certain I’m any closer to understanding Les Angèles ces derniers bleus (loosely translated to The Angels’ Latest Blues) but it somehow makes me smile and think that everything is linked. I went in thinking it was going to be some sort of dance performance. I came out realizing it was something much more than that. Basically, a collection of things “Angel.” With a heavy emphasis on a certain American television show from the 1970s.

I wasn’t keeping track of how many angel references they actually used, but the ones that I did catch were Bobby Helms‘ (the voice behind Jingle Bell Rock) You are My Precious Angel.

Doreen Virtue’s Angel Therapy [no video, click on the link to hear her radio show] and most obviously (although, believe it or not, it took me about 20 minutes into the performance to realize it) Charlie’s Angels


I’m not much into angels, but some that they missed were AngeNeige, the angel store run by my friend Franceen, up the street from La Chapelle (the theater where they performed it). The Blue Angels, the United States’ Navy’s flying aerobatic team. And The Blue Angel, the Marlene Dietrich film, directed by Josef von Sternberg.

I’m certain I missed scads upon scads. Both in the performance and not in the performance. Feel free to let me know what I’ve missed (and bonus points for doing it in rhyme). But you get the idea.

Initially and for a good half to three-quarters of the performance I was trying really really hard to figure out (or perhaps impose) a plot on it. I’m not entirely certain why. Possibly due to some outdated belief that if there are characters, there must be some sort of narrative. Kind of like still arguing for the Ptolemaic system, old habits die hard. It was only when I realized that there wasn’t any real plot, that I was able to realize that it was a pretty gosh darn good performance.

To get the easy stuff out of the way first, it was a minimalist set. Two table lamps (one with what looked like goldfish embedded in the base), three manequin heads, a TV and a phone. There might have been some other things as well, but the action started and I got distracted while I was writing things down, so I don’t know if my list is a complete or incomplete inventory.

Pierre-Marc Ouellette came on stage first in a red suit and started doing some kind of disco dancing that veered towards Elvis

then towards a more freer hippy style, before going all YMCA, but spelling A-N-G-E-L-E-S instead.

The three other members of the C’est Juste Lundi collective come on stage, Hinda Essadiqi, Karina Champoux and Emmanuelle Bourassa Beaudoin. They shake, they emote and then they start doing some rather complicated and fast moves. Up and down, kind of dog-like but I was very impressed with how tight they were, Anne Thériault their rehearsal director did a mighty fine job. Their timing was impeccable and incredible.

They do some more emoting, use some finger guns, run around and then bring out a TV which shows an edited version of the opening sequence from Charlie’s Angels (and at the same time allows everyone to catch their breath and change costume). Then M. Oulette and Ms. Champoux do a duet that involves some blue clothes. Ms. Bourassa Beaudoin comes on stage and uses one of the mannequin heads as some sort of appendage to her body. Ms. Essadiqi then gets a solo that has something to do with an address book and a pen, and then Ms. Bourassa Beaudoin brings a cassette player out and sticks her head above a fan so her hair can billow. Everyone starts go-go dancing and finally Ms. Champoux starts playing a ukelele and whistling while the others are doing bird calls and the lights fades.

You see? No real plot to speak of. But to repeat myself that is not a bad thing.

While I generally prefer not to single out specific dancers, Ms. Essadiqi definitely got the lion’s share of my notes and attention. In retrospect I found it a tad strange, because as an adolescent I definitely preferred Sabrina Duncan and Jill Munroe to Kelly Garrett. And Ms. Essadiqi was playing the Jaclyn Smith character.

I should also make mention of Denis Lemieux who helped with the costumes (I’m not sure exactly how or what he did to help, but that’s what it says in the program) and the costumes were pretty darn good as well.

In the program and the press kit and the website, they emphasize the word ludique, which because I’m a bloke with a bad vocabulary, thought had some connection to being a Luddite, and not the notion of playing. After looking it up in numerous dictionaries (just to be certain) it made perfect sense.

I’ve said this before (and I’ll probably repeat myself again) but I absolutely love the fact that Montreal, and by extension Quebec, is a place where artists are allowed to play and experiment with form and content. Les Angèles ces derniers bleus effectively is just that. But unlike an awful lot of other performances I have seen, it also manages to be entertaining for the audience (or at least this audience member) at the same time. It bodes well for future projects by the C’est Juste Lundi folk.

Yes, there are things that didn’t quite work, or could have worked better – but unless you’re Robert Lepage or Marie Chouinard you’re never going to get absolutely everything right all the time. And that’s my point exactly. Having the ability to try out things in a trusting and comfortable environment is a good thing.

I was somewhat at odds over, or maybe just confused by, the choice of angels as the overriding theme. I’ve never been religious, and have actually been accused of being an anti-spritualist (whatever that is). I’m certain if I sat down with Ms. Bourassa Beaudoin (who gets credit as the artistic director of C’est Juste Lundi) she would be able to explain in plain language how and why angels were chosen. But it was not immediately self-evident. Nor did it make itself known in the 72 hours following.

Playfulness is not normally something that is immediately associated with a strong sense of spirituality, although there are some paintings I can think of where the cherubim aren’t exactly moping around. Towards the end with the ukelele and the bird sounds, someone probably could point out some sense of spirituality, but it still would be a stretch.

However, since Les Angèles ces derniers bleus is definitely absurdist (in the best sense of the word) choosing to use angels as the main characters could be considered an absolutely brilliant choice just because of its oppositional quality. The performance is not something that is easily digested and sometimes in situations like that it’s best just to swallow it whole without chewing.

I wouldn’t (ok, maybe I would) try to figure out where Les Angèles ces derniers bleus and C’est Juste Lundi fit in in the grand scheme of things performance in Quebec. But they (and it) definitely belong. I haven’t looked all that hard, but I didn’t see them on the cover of Voir, nor did I hear anything about them on Radio-Canada, which is kind of a pity, because many other less deserving projects have gotten both.

And then finally (‘cuz I definitely have rambled on for far too long) after some reflection; Les Angèles ces derniers bleus by the Collectif C’est Juste Lundi, is trying to incarnate some kind of mythical childhood. None of the performers is old enough to have even been thought of by their parents when Charlie’s Angel’s first aired, and as it was most definitely an American (as opposed to Quebecois) television show, they all are starting out with two strikes against them. So the entire production must be based on some sort of concept that never existed in anything except their minds. And I like that.