A rock, dance & drama mash-up hits the stage

Choreographer Frédérick Gravel gets serious in Some Hope for the Bastards.


Some Hope for the Bastards. Photo by Stéphane-Najman

With his newest work, rock ‘n roll choreographer Fréderick Gravel is trying to bring a little light to the world.

The result is a world premiere this week of Some Hope for the Bastards, with nine dancers and two musicians taking to the stage at Monument-National as part of the Festival TransAmériques.

Who are the bastards exactly? His target audience?

“I am one of the bastards,” the Montreal-based choreographer confesses. “It’s a bit dark to say that, but it’s just from a time where I felt a bit helpless, powerless about the situation.”

“The situation” is the handle that Gravel uses during our interview to refer to that general malaise hanging around life these days. He skimmed over specifics, but did point to American politics and the refugee crisis. You can probably tack on your own worry or -ism: climate change, sexism, income inequality, racism, social media bubbles, extremism.

Bastards are worried about these things.

“They are persons who are a bit privileged because they have education, they can go to exhibitions and concerts, and get a lot out of life and purpose from it, but are feeling powerless in the sense of not being able to change anything or a situation, in politics or the economy on a big scale.”

Gravel studied political science before taking eight years to pick up a master’s degree in dance, where his thesis was about the artist’s role in a democracy. He reads the papers every morning, and that curiosity has sharpened his instincts.

“It’s an era of being really informed about a lot of things, and feeling that I’m involved in lots of things, but not knowing how to change anything about it.”

So, you can create art, even if “it won’t trigger or change any specific thing. But it would engage you, which I guess is at least something.”

Gravel has nearly a decade of energetic, sprawling dance work under his belt, from dudes guzzling beer onstage (Tout se pète la gueule chérie), earnest romance (This Duet That We’ve Already Done So Many Times) and quirky sketch-like scenes with collaborator Étienne Lepage (Logique du pire).

In Some Hope, Gravel will be backing away from dancing, allowing nine performers to do the work, his biggest team so far. But he’ll be onstage, playing music. His work has often included live musicians, blurring the lines between dance, music and performance art. He describes his stage “as more of a concert space” than one for dance or theatre.

As a kid, Gravel feasted on Michael Jackson and musicals like West Side Story. Inspiration for this latest work is wide-ranging, from Montreal art rock outfit Suuns to Otis Redding to the “anxious, poetic” Minnesotan hip hop group Kill the Vultures. Music is by the multitasking Philippe Brault, a Quebec composer whose own career has spanned theatre, dance and pop collaborations.

Gravel, who has toured in Canada and abroad, is broaching Monument-National for the first time, and he was concerned about making the large space feel intimate but still explosive.

At the age of 38, Gravel still feels the need to learn and adapt: “It’s nice just to be able to do bigger venues because it’s another experience, with more dancers and more musicians. And the show rocks a bit more.” 

Some Hope for the Bastards will be performed June 1 and 2 at 8 p.m. at Monument-National at the Salle Ludger-Duvernay (1182 St-Laurent). The show time is 90 minutes. There is a talkback on June 2. Tickets cost $34-50. Call 514-844-3822 or visit FTA.ca.