Experience live music, visual art, dance and theatre in new, interactive (and free) ways at Les Escales Improbables, September 3-14, an international festival of eclectic performances – from a human jukebox to a human-sized paper boat – that reveal Montreal’s contemporary, cutting-edge style at several of the city’s unique historical sites.
Celebrating its 10th year, Les Escales Improbables brings together a fascinating mix of 68 artists from Montreal, across Canada, France, New Zealand, Greece and Burkina Faso. Their 15 projects, nine of them North American premieres, take place in the Old Port of Montreal, in downtown’s Quartier des Spectacles, at factory-turned-theatre Usine C, in pool-turned-performance-space Bain Mathieu, at expansive urban green space Parc LaFontaine and in a former steam plant in industrial Griffintown. In the spirit of in-situ public art, many of the performances and installations invite the public to get involved with the performance rather than simply watch from the sidelines.
In the Old Port, at the Quai Alexandra à l’Écluse during the daytime: walk up and down stairs in artist Stephen Bain’s scaffold-like installation Soundig, where the sounds of the city’s past and present weave together in an ephemeral soundscape; watch as street artists Etienne Doucet et William Lemay transform 27 wooden cubes into works of graffiti art; and take a meditative “musical nap” on the grass to the tunes of Constantinople, Bomata Trio, Diane Labrosse and Montag. Further down the Quai, participate in Draw Your Planet, a collective mural based on Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s famed book Le Petit Prince, watch for spontaneous dance performances, and on September 8 at 5:30 p.m., hear a 10th-anniversary concert by Montreal big-band La Fanfare Pourpour. Also at the Old Port, witness German artist Frank Bölter turn his childhood dream of sailing a paper boat into a reality in performance-installation At the World’s End, and hear songs composed by Montreal musicians inspired by local fruit and vegetable farming at The Musical Grocery (l’Épicerie musicale), an interactive creation by Montreal artists Jerome Mining, Marie-Pierre Normand and Tristan Malavoy.
Meanwhile, in the Quartier des Spectacles, peer into Christophe Hocké’s Human Juke Box as he plays songs from the 60s to present day, September 3-7 at 5:30 p.m. and 7 p.m., and September 8 at 2 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. See another part of Montreal’s industrial history at an old coal foundry in Griffintown, where Montreal dancer-choreographer Peter Trosztmer performs 5 Out of 6 Machines, moving around and working with simple machines in a space not usually occupied by people. Over at Bistro Espace La Fontaine in Parc La Fontaine on September 7, sit down to a dinner as dance troupe Mandoline Hybride compliments the dining experience with their site-specific performance, Moving Installations.
Les Escales Improbables adds surprising, evocative drama to evenings as well. Love poetry and sensual, improvised music meet in performance La Nuit aux 1000 oreilles by the Constantinople ensemble and Greek singer Savina Yannatouat, held in defunct swimming pool Bain Mathieu, and collaborative creation Le Recours aux Forêts transforms Usine C into a unique and vibrant universe of drama, dance, music and multimedia art by Montreal artists Jean Lambert, Jean-Luc Therminarias, Michel Onfray, Carolyn Carlson and and François Royet.
Les Escales Improbables, September 3-14