With summer’s frenzy of activity behind us, Montrealers are ready for the slow, sweet pace of December – of course, slow is a relative term here, as holiday parties, gift shopping, music, dancing, theatre, art shows and all sorts of merry-making abound throughout the month. It’s a busy time, but with sparkling lights in the streets and plenty of warm places to cozy up, Montreal’s atmosphere is nonetheless relaxed and welcoming…
(art fair fare) The Mile End neighbourhood, a hotbed of art at any time of year, is host to several art fairs this month. The Rover Art Fair celebrates the third anniversary of community and arts website Rover Arts with a sale of painting, photography, sculpture, etchings, drawing and multimedia by truly talented Montreal artists – open December 2-4, at 135 Van Horne. Printmaking collective Super-Presse Club sets up shop at music venue and hangout joint Casa del Popolo, Thursday to Sunday afternoons for the month of December. And a wide variety of local artists gather on December 11 at The Plant Art Market (185 Van Horne) to sell affordable art and delicious food and drink.
(one-of-a-kind holiday shopping) This year we’re blessed (non-denominationally) with an abundance of art and craft sales featuring amazing work by Quebec artists, designers, food makers and other creative types. In Old Montreal, find whatever your heart – or the hearts of your friends and family – desires at the massive Salon des Métiers d’Art, December 2–22, at Place Bonaventure. Or go hip and sleek in the Plateau at Smart Design Mart, December 2–4, and downtown at Souk at SAT, Dec 9–10. In the name of Pop Montreal and cuteness everywhere, the Puces Pop Craft and DIY Fair brings together 85 vendors of handmade art, craft and design, from jewellery to socks, toys to posters and preserves, December 10–11, at St-Enfant Jesus Church (5035 St-Dominique). And the Fair Trade Boutique Commerce Equitable event in downtown Montreal, features food, clothing, jewellery and more, at 1444 Union Avenue, December 1–3.
(circus lights) What would December in Montreal be without a glittering, over-the-top performance from Cirque du Soleil? A little less glamorous (if such a thing is possible) and a little less unique, that’s what. The Montreal-born, world-famous circus-and-more company unleashes its Eastern-meets-Western show Dralion, opening December 18 at the Bell Centre, a high-wire, high-flying, culture-blending whirlwind of acrobatics, juggling, contortion and that special and strange Cirque du Soleil je ne sais quoi.
(winter family fun) During December, Montreal’s Biodome, Insectarium and Botanical Gardens offer an entertaining, educational and relaxing retreat from daily life. Step into the natural plant and animal world of the tropical rainforest at the Biodome, see butterflies and more at the Insectarium and learn why there are so many insects on the planet, and take a surprisingly stimulating stroll through the wintery Botanical Gardens, where a “green” craft fair sets up December 8–11 along with storytelling and a knitting bee, and, on December 9 and 16, go for “snowflake walk”, and throughout the month see art installations among the (sometimes dormant) flora and fauna.
(theatre nights) Theatre-going is big this month, so whether you’re a regular or merely intrigued, a play might just be the thing. Hot, fast-paced bilingual production Ana, pairs the creative thespian minds of Scotland and Quebec in a story of women through the ages, at Espace Go, to December 10, while Cabaret Gainsbourg, a music-and-marionettes show, takes us back to Serge Gainsbourg’s 1960s, at Place des Arts, also to December 10. If this your theatical interests totally piqued, read more about Montreal’s holiday theatre lineup.
(dancing days) For traditionalists, the dance show of the season might be the annual production of Les Grands Ballets Canadiens‘ The Nutcracker (December 10–30), with its family-friendly sparkle and joyous romping. For dance fans looking for more of a challenge, however, look to dancer-choreographer Dave St-Pierre, whose highly physical, provocative work Le Cycle de la boucherie is at La Chapelle, to December 17. Multi-disciplinary collective creation Utopia: Is It Possible at Studio 303 incorporates performance, video, manifesto, song and dance among some of Montreal’s best dance minds and bodies, December 10–11. Katherine Macnaughton and Amy Blackmore’s dance film So There’s This Girl screens December 5 at Mainline Theatre.
(art going) This season, the current exhibitions at Montreal’s art institutions are not to be missed. The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts opens its doors for free all month for special exhibition Big Bang, featuring the work of living artists inspired by pieces in the museum’s collection. At the McCord Museum, photographer Edward Burtynsky takes us on a mind-expanding world-wide tour in stunning (in beauty and in disturbing message) exhibition Oil, and the museum’s Toys 2 exhibition offers a great place to set the kids loose. And experience some of the best in Quebec’s contemporary arts scene, from painting to film, sculpture to sound art, at the Musée d’art Contemporain’s Quebec Triennale.
(pressurized art) Under Pressure graffiti art festival takes a seasonal turn for new exposition and show, Arab Winter, launching December 2 at Fresh Paint Gallery. The multimedia, multi-disciplinary event features Montreal musicians, painters, calligraphists, graffiti artists and short films from El Seed, Sundus Abdul Hadi, Tamara Abdul Hadi, Sawsan Mahdi, Karim Jabari and The Narcicyst, all raising questions about what the Arab Spring means to them.
(it is to laugh) Lighten up at Comedy Works all month in different ways, including the comedy club’s special holiday show, hosted Massimo and featuring DeAnne Smith, Peter Radomski, Kevin Gasior and Nick Brazao – and every Tuesday, $5 gets you an abundance of hilarity hosted by Mike Paterson. Over at Theatre Ste-Catherine on December 5, bilingual improv comedy Improspection finds the funny in deep thoughts about relationships, work and life in general.
(merry music) The big news in music this week is that Prince is back! On December 2, the man himself and his big, bad band gets down at the Bell Centre. That same night, The Tea Party returns from the 90s to pleasure fans at Metropolis and synth pop abounds as Austra and Young Galaxy make a beautiful noise at Cabaret Mile End. December 3 sees indie faves Timber Timbre at Eglise St Jean Baptiste and on December 5, much-loved U.S. singer-songwriter Bon Iver makes the crowd melt at Metropolis. On December 8, the sweet sounds of Sarah Slean set the tone at La Sala Rossa. The music goes on throughout the month – check the Montreal Buzz next week for a full list of holiday-time concerts.