In Canada, February is traditionally a month spent indoors at home (whether you’ve got a hot Valentine or not). But Montreal don’t play like that anymore: winter festival Montréal en Lumière makes the month bright, along with the festivities of Black History Month and an abundance of art shows, dance and theatre performances, winter outdoor activities, and, as ever, music…
(night lights) Winter festival Montréal en Lumière lights up the town February 16–26, with some of the best food, art, music and performance around, from harmonica pioneer Toots Thielemans to gourmet meals from top chefs to hot tango and salsa shows – the festival’s outdoor site at Place des Festivals (where activities are free!) even features a new snow slide, complete with lights, music and smoke machine. All that culminates in the all-night party Nuit Blanche on February 25, truly one of the best, most fun nights of the year in Montreal – and just when we need it too. Art, activities and, of course, socializing fill the streets and underground city as the whole town seems to come out for the free event.
(black history is canadian history) Montreal’s Black History Month, with events throughout February, naturally has a festival spirit to it while at the same time acting as a boost for the year-round strength of Montreal’s black community and culture. The month’s events include nights of gospel, blues and music from all over Africa and the Caribbean, a conference and exhibition on Haiti, a tribute to Montreal’s Bad News Brown, dance performances, art shows, cooking classes, film screenings, educational workshops and much more.
(performance perks) Australian circus C!RCA returns to circus-loving Montreal with a self-titled spectacle of acrobatics, dance, comedy and great popular music, February 15–23 at the Tohu. Felix Gray’s popular Quebec musical show Don Juan is back with a new cast that seduces and entertains, at Place des Arts, to February 12. And at the Segal Centre, the always energetic and highly talented SideMart Theatrical Grocery brings us John Mighton’s captivating tale of science and morality, Scientific Americans, to February 26, while Centaur Theatre parts the curtain for award-winning Morris Panych’s mysterious love story, In Absentia, to March 3.
(making moves) Keep things warm and cozy in a corporeal way at one of many dance shows this month – or dance it up yourself (for free!), country style, on February 12 at Place des Arts. Contemporary dance company Montréal Danse celebrates its 25th Anniversary in early February with new creations by innovative local choreographers known for boundary pushing, including George Stamos’ Husk, at Agora de la Danse. Agora also presents creations from Ghislaine Doté (February 15–17), Van Grimde Corps Secrets (February 19) and a free show from Les Imprudanses as part of Nuit Blanche. And for those who just want a taste of contemporary dance, Wants & Needs Danse presents Short & Sweet #7, this time bringing Montreal artists of all stripes together with choereographers, at La Sala Rossa (4848 St-Laurent), February 16.
(artistic stimulation) Beautiful and intelligent, the new exhibition at Montreal’s Musee d’art contemporain showcases the fascinating work of three challenging artists: Montreal sculptor Valérie Blass, Egyptian-American painter and textile artist Ghada Amer and Kenyan-American multi-disciplinary artist Wangechi Mutu. The Montreal Fine Arts Museum’s collection is always worth a visit and always free, while this season’s special exhibition is North America’s first posthumous retrospective of American artist Lyonel Feininger. Meanwhile, see Montreal in a different light at the McCord Museum, where photographer Guy Glorieux’s Impressions of a City, Montreal Through a Pinhole takes us on a tour of town through his long-exposure photography. And the wonderful DHC/ART in Old Montreal shows multi-artist, multi-disciplinary exhibition Chronicles of a Disappearance.
(great outdoors) The temperature this winter in Montreal has been up and down and up again, so spending time outside is entirely possible and possibly even pleasant – especially if you’re partaking in some sort of winter sport. Whether you’re more into watching hockey than playing it, Montreal’s sports bars – or, let’s be honest, any bar – always has games on, and you might just score tickets to a home game at the Bell Centre. And, on the musical side, tune in to the many sounds of boats and trains in harmony for Harbour Symphonies at the Old Port, February 26 at 1:30 p.m., produced by archeology and history museum, Pointe-à-Callière. Or cozy up at the Montreal Snow Village at Parc Jean Drapeau.
(winter music) Funk, soul, R&B singer Charles Bradley gets down at the Corona Theatre on February 10, while The Jim Cuddy Band plays Théâtre Maisonneuve, and The Sam Roberts Band comes home on their Collider tour, at Metropolis. On February 17, City & Colour and The Low Anthem at Metropolis, followed up on February 24 by popular and lovely Quebecoise singer Coeur de Pirate, with opener Leif Vollebekk. Pop-punk hometown boys Simple Plan come back to the Bell Center on February 23. On February 25, Sylvie Desgroseilliers & the Choir of the Conservatory of Modern Music bring gospel greatness to Cabaret du Mile End, while on February 27, electro-indie-rock originals Islands bring something completely different to club.