Christine Moynihan in Outside Ethel: Inside. Photo by Maylynne Quan

Bouge d’ici celebrates 10 years in Montreal

We spoke to festival founder Amy Blackmore about affording emerging dancers and choreographers more opportunities to move.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of Bouge d’ici, a dance festival that emerged as a reaction to the relatively few platforms in Montreal where emerging dancers and choreographers could showcase their work in a professional context. Amy Blackmore, the executive and artistic director of MainLine Theatre as well as the head of the Fringe Festival and an alumni of Concordia University’s dance program, describes voicing her frustration to a mentor of hers, Ken Roy, during the intermission of an end of term show. Blackmore recounts how Roy told her, “Stop talking about why you’re upset. Why don’t you do something?” That was 2007, and three years after their exchange, Bouge d’ici began in earnest.

For a dance festival, the line-up is fairly theatrical. The headlining show is in fact a clown show, Outside Ethel: Inside, but Blackmore maintains that clowning is still dance: “at the end of the day dance is movement. Any kind of movement is dance. I’m sitting in a food court talking to you and there are people walking around the food court getting food and that in and of itself is choreography.” This is certainly the broadest possible definition of dance, but one she feels is necessary and effective to “welcome somebody into dance and into becoming a dance appreciator” — presumably someone who might not otherwise seek out dance.

In the spirit of getting new choreographic voices heard, Bouge d’ici also offers a grant-writing workshop led by Blackmore in which participants get to hear from someone who’s not only spent years working on grants, but who’s sat on many juries (the Canada Arts Council, CALQ, and the Conseil des arts de Montréal) and who has read and adjudicated “probably hundreds of grants.” The workshop will undoubtedly offer invaluable insider’s knowledge, and like so much of Bouge d’ici, operates on a pay-what-you-can model, though it costs $20 to reserve a spot. Bouge d’ici is produced by MainLine, and as Blackmore points out, “accessibility and affordability are really engrained in MainLine.” Think of your contribution to the grant workshop as akin to taking your successful grant-receiving friend out for lunch to pick their brain. The world of grants can seem capricious indeed from the outside, so enjoy this rare opportunity to give you a leg up (and maybe a little hope) for your future late-night Excel-budgeting frenzies.

Another of Bouge d’ici’s mandates is to pair emerging choreographers with mentors, which Blackmore says is “a really difficult process but one that [they’ve] slowly mastered over the years.” The same mentor who initially spurred Blackmore to create Bouge d’ici, Ken Roy, was once paired with Emily Gualtieri and David Albert-Toth, and the experience was so successful that Gualtieri and Albert-Toth now collaborate through their own dance company, Parts+Labours_Dance. Meanwhile, for the first time, every mentor this year is a past participant, and can speak to their own experiences of being propelled by Bouge d’ici.

Blackmore seems especially excited by the Common Space this year, in which the fruits of the choreographic mentorship program are put on display, telling me that participants Andrea Garcia, Aurora Prelevic, Jessica Sofia, Julianne Decerf, Mona El Husseini and Tiera Joly Pavelich are “all names worth memorizing.” Mostly, though, she sounds exhilarated about the coziness and possibilities of Bouge d’ici, about starting the year off with short, inviting and intimate dance performances. ■

Festival Bouge d’ici runs at MainLine Theatre (3997 St-Laurent) from Jan. 919.