Exploring the link between the dancehouse, the artists and the communities

The occasion for this Encounter was the recent opening of the Wilder Space for Dance, an impressive seven stories renovation project in the center of Montreal that offers space to four of the major, local dance organizations, Agora de la Danse and Tangente, the Montreal school for contemporary dance and Les Grands Ballets Canadiens.

The four-day meeting was focused on the following topic: how does a dance house/institution mediate between artists and their audiences/communities?

Participants discussed amongst other the differences and similarities between the European and Canadian dance organizations; the opportunities and challenges of the growing networks; the role of the (artistic) curator in the triangle artist, dance house and public and it ended with a first braimstorm how future co-operations between Europe and Canada can be developed.

Mélanie Demers

Mutual responsibilities and wishes from artists and dancehouses

Artist - House - Audience

During the 3rd day, the key triangle of artist - house - audience was discussed. Dena Davida, founder and curator of Tangente gave an introductory statement about the importance of artistic curation in dance/live arts. Angels Margarit, director of Mercat del Flors and Andrew Tay, curator of Choreographic Centre O Vertigo gave examples of how their own visions as artists inspired their curatorial practices.

But the most thought provoking statement came from Mélanie Demers, who as associate artist of L’Agora de la Danse addressed the central question of the day: What are the artists’ and houses’ mutual responsibilities and wishes? In her contribution, she ends with a plea for a love triangle:

“You have an enthusiastic audience, that through the care of the presenter, would show support and interests in the potential failure of the artist.” - Mélanie Demers

You can access the full contribution of Mélanie Demers here.

Highlights by Guy Cools

EDN in Montréal

Exchanging knowledge, keeping creation at the heart of all our actions.

I was asked to moderate the meeting and over the four days, I took note of some of the following statements or questions:

  • One of the main questions that seems to occupy all the dance organizations is how to connect between the own artistic content and the larger social environment they are part of, both by creating a physical, open space and by developing specific programs to do so.
  • One of the main objectives of the networks is to exchange knowledge between all the partners. By doing so the individual partners contribute to a growing, shared knowledge base and the network supports the development of the individual partners in their local context.
  • As the contribution of Laurent Meheust from KLAP, Marseille highlighted, creation should be at the heart of all our actions.
  • As artists we need to defend our own artistic language against the dominance of the economic jargon and quantitative measurements. We should also defend the singularity of our artistic practices against the standarization imposed by the market. Montreal choreographer Melanie Demers’ contribution offered a thoughtful and provocative insight of how it feels as an artist to be part of a “food chain”.
  • Artistic curators such as Andrew Tay from CCOV in Montreal or Àngels Margarit from Mercat de les Flors in Barcelona develop projects which “addresses lacks in their community”; which “want to destabilize existing hierarchies” or “create constellations of artists to share knowledge”.
  • Audience development projects combine “cultural mediation”, “community outreach” and new models of “activte spectatorship” and as Carmen Mehnert from Hellerau, Dresden stated: “There are many, very different audiences out there!”.

At the end of the meeting, invitations were exchanged to continue the intercontinental dialogue and to make it available not only to the directors, but also to other staff members, independent curators and the artists.

Guy Cools
Dance Dramaturge
Montréal, December 2017

Montemor-o-Novo I Portugal


Maison pour la Danse

Marseille I France

Kino Šiška

Centre for Urban Culture

Ljubljana I Slovenia


European Centre for the Arts

Dresden I Germany

Centro per la Scena Contemporanea

CSC Bassano del Grappa

Bassano del Grappa I Italy