Bouge d'ici Montreal dance festival

Julianne Decerf "Le solo aux milles choréographies"

The homestyle edition of Montreal dance festival Bouge d’ici is on

The virtual programming is online through March 14.

After the success of their first ever virtual This Is Not a Fringe Festival last june, MainLine Theatre is back on a computer screen near you with a virtual edition of their Bouge d’ici dance festival.

Running from now until March 14, the festival offers up 25 Bouge Shorts, recorded dance videos by emerging and established artists, along with events meant to bring the community together at a time when we’re all stuck in our homes. 

MainLine’s artistic producer Kenny Streule says that moving forward with this virtual edition is like returning to the root cause for the festival’s existence. “It was created as a reaction to the lack of opportunities for emerging choreographers and dancers in the dance community in 2009,” he explains.

He says the community has since grown, “but with the pandemic hitting, it’s created fewer and fewer opportunities so the experience of doing it all virtually, it’s keeping that factor of giving an opportunity to those who may need it, especially during this time.”

Buying a ticket to the festival gives you 24-hour access to the Bouge Short videos up until March 14, along with access to events like the Bouge d’ici virtual dance party on March 5 at 8 p.m.. 

“We’re going to create a Zoom page where people can just join in, and just dance and enjoy the music, and share that moment all together,” says Streule. “Just dancing together will be something that will really warm my heart. I’m excited for that.”

Bouge d’ici will also include a panel discussion this year that will provide a space for dancers and choreographers to discuss how they have had to adapt their practice in the past year to respond to the challenges the pandemic has brought and the swivel to an online-only format. 

“How have we adapted our work, what has been the struggle to take a piece that is maybe more for an intimate space like MainLine, but now it’s in front of a camera. How do you recreate that intimacy, how do you recreate the feeling that your performance usually gives you when your audience is not there?” says Streule. “It’s not as simple as just doing it in front of a camera, the camera has its art form, too.”

“I’m really excited about the panel discussion,” says Stephanie Fromentin, a Bouge d’ici committee member who has been involved in planning the festival.

Bouge d'ici Montreal dance festival
Eylul Bozok “Can You Loosen My Collar”

Fromentin will also be participating in the festival with the inclusion of a Bouge Short she filmed over the summer. Hers and nine other shorts were originally filmed for the This Is Not a Fringe Festival last year, and they will be reshown at Bouge d’ici along with 15 new shorts filmed in the winter.

“I think it’s really nice to have new content, but also letting things have a second life,” she says. “Especially in dance, things don’t really get a long run like they do in theatre even in regular times. If something was filmed, why not give it another chance to be viewed? So funnily enough I’m going to have a very summery-looking video being played.”

Her video, titled “Safe,” was filmed on the soccer field that now occupies the space where the now-defunct Montreal Royals baseball team used to play. “That set the tone for the video, which is kind of like a spinoff on baseball moves,” she explains, “actions that I find super interesting and that I have done as a dancer, but I’m not a baseball player, so this is sort of an exploration of physicality that I don’t have.”

Fromentin sees some silver linings in the virtual format the festival has had to take this year. For one, the festival organizers are trying to engage an online audience while they themselves are online, allowing them to make decisions about the shape the festival and its events take based on their own experiences navigating their online communities during the pandemic. 

“What’s easier for you is easier for [the audience] so there becomes this sort of fluidity in the experience of the spectator and the experience of the artist. We’re kind of all experiencing the same thing.”

Another positive is the increased accessibility for an already very accessible festival. The à la carte online format means that viewers can watch the shorts on their own time without having to follow a fixed schedule, and friends and family around the world can tune in to watch the dance shorts. 

The tickets are also offered at different rates, from $5 to $50, so festival attendees can choose the level of support they are able to give to the festival. All tickets have the same access to the festival, so no one misses out.  

Fromentin says the festival meets a need for dancers like her who have had little opportunity to flex their creative muscles during the past year. “I’m really just grateful to have these opportunities with festivals and theatres that want to support the people who are all kind of holed up creatively and itching to get out.

“As an artist, of course, we have hardship, and financial struggles are real and everybody needs to be okay, but if it’s possible to allow for these sorts of experiences and dreaming, I feel like it’s sort of a ‘why not?’ phase right now.”

“I’m really impressed with how artists have been so resilient and have done so much to continue to create in a time where it’s not always easy to create and it’s not always motivating,” says Streule.

But he continues by saying that if artists are having a hard time creating right now, they shouldn’t feel guilty about that. “If any fellow artists read this, it’s important to know that if they’re not creating, that’s okay, too. We’re in such a strange time, we’re in this period of unknown, that it’s okay sometimes to take a step back and breathe it all in.” ■

This article originally appeared in the March issue of Cult MTL. The Bouge d’ici festival continues through March 14. For more, please visit the Mainline Theatre website.

For more Montreal arts coverage, please visit the Arts & Life section.