So we were introduced through the IABD festival in Toronto, what did you think of this event?
I thought it was very interesting. You know I really enjoyed the show actually…a lot!
How did you find out about this festival?
Well, it was through my artistic director at Danse Danse. He wanted someone from the organization to be there to notice the event and to be a part of it. Because as an organization, we present a lot of black dance during the course of our season. We actually formed a partnership in the last year, as co-presenter of JOAT-International Street Dance Festival, so we talk a lot with that community. And I wanted to make sure when I was attending (IABD), to learn a little bit more about this form of dance. To learn and be more informed, to help not make any faux pas in this new collaboration with JOAT.
I understand that you are also an artist, a performer...is that correct?
Yes, I used to but not in dance, more in theater as a live performer(BA Theater Performance). And I also did puppets (MA Contemporary Puppet Theater). So I did that for maybe about 15 years. Then after this, I became more involved in the arts administration part. It’s in my 5th year now, doing so with Danse Danse.
Oh, so you were a performing actor in live theater and also a puppeteer?
Yes, that was before, and seems to me such a long time ago, since then. But now, I work in the office.
With your background in the arts, has this always been in Montréal?
So with the term French-Canadian, what comes first the French or the Canadian?
Well in Quebec, there are the two languages. I speak more in French, having learned French first. But there is a lot of English too. And if you’re speaking in English in Montréal you can do everything you want.
Would you say the French culture is very strong in Montréal?
Yes, it is. Things are mostly in French, but since we’re so close to Ottawa and New York we have to learn English too, for work and everything.
My knowledge of Montréal is from the festival space. Don’t you guys have a big jazz festival there?
Yes, there is. Well, there are a lot of big festivals here. There’s the Montreal International Jazz Festival, then there’s the Just For Laughs. The Just For Laughs festival is about comedy and it’s a big one. There’s also Les Francos de Montréal which focuses on French musicians from all over the world. So, yes there’s a lot of stuff going on.
Danse Danse is located in the Quartier des Spectacles. There are two or three streets that are really popular for the shows. There’s also the Place des Arts and a lot of other festivals are situated in this area. And Danse Danse is located in the corner of this area. Our office is there, but we rent theaters all over the city when we present shows. We don’t own the theaters, we just rent them for the performances.
Would you consider that neighborhood artistic, artsy, and bohemian?
Yes, kind of like that.
How did you get involved with Danse Danse?
Well, they were looking for somebody and I just applied and everything worked out. And that was good for me because I didn’t know much about dance before. So I’m really glad to be here, like every day I learn more and more and love it.
Do you actually perform/practice dance?
Have you tried?
Yes, sometimes. But, no it’s not my specialty. Are you a dancer too?
No, my background is as a DJ and Producer, but when I dance I freestyle. That’s why the Jack of All Trades festival sounded interesting to me. Can you speak a bit about the festival, wasn’t it started in 2016?
The JOAT Festival was starting here about 6 or 7 years ago. But we just combined with JOAT in the last years to make the festival bigger. Danse Danse is a big presenter in Montréal and JOAT was an organization we were interested in collaborating with. It was an idea of my artistic director-Pierre Des Marais and Handy HYA Yacinthe along with Elie-Anne Ross the artistic directors of JOAT to make this collaboration. When they were talking they thought if we do this together in partnership with Place des Arts, with everybody together we have the chance to make it bigger and better. So that’s what we are doing. For me, I began noticing JOAT in the last year, and I find them very interesting. The festival will be staged over a week, during which there will be three big battles covering three unique street dance styles.
We are doing a breaking battle. We are doing a hip-hop battle. And we are doing a popping battle also. Before the battles there will be prelims-where we will have people coming and dancers performing on the streets where everybody can see them. There will be judging and the judges will take the 9 best ones, and after the prelims, the next night comes the battles. We are also offering free programming in cooperation with Loop Sessions which brings with them DJs and music, and I believe also a DJ battle.
There’s also an art exhibition and master classes. Then there’s a concert. So really, there are a lot of things offered at the festival this year. And like I told you, it’s over 7 days and it’s coming at the end of summer in August.
Do you find unique the ability of the two different organizations to come together like this?
It is, and it kind of goes well like this. You know our community, our spectators, they are from the general public, usually don’t know much about street dance and want to learn. So now it’s great. There are a lot of things that happen outside where people can just come and see and watch and not have to buy a ticket. And for Jack of All Trades, it is a good opportunity with this partnership. And Danse Danse can help to add some levels to it along with some of the tourist organizations in Montréal.
So working both together we have some advantages that the other doesn’t have working independently, yet together we have a lot!
You know this festival comes at a good time with Breaking now being a part of the Olympics for the first time in Paris 2024 as an official sport.
The thing about Jack of All Trades and all the battles is that when you do a battle you have rules to go by in each format-sometimes it’s like you must dance eye to eye, or it may be only bottoming where like only the legs can move, or you may have to make geometric lines, to dance following in these specific lines. So you’re not only judged on your dance, it’s also on if you respect the guidelines set in each category. And we’ve found the dancers really like that, this component of the competition, in order to avoid defeat, they have to dance while doing some things they are not typically used to when they dance during the competition.
Does the audience get to know what those dance battle rules are?
Yes, they do. It’s defined in the category before. When you go to the JOAT website and YouTube you can see a lot of what each of the categories are all about.
It looks like a wide variety of venues where this event takes place-unique spaces like parks or in the middle of the streets. Can you speak a bit more about where these battles actually are staged?
Well, like I said before this festival is going on in the Quartier des Spectacles in a big open space-very large but with no trees. We also have battles taking place on the top of an open space called Esplanade de la Place des Arts which everyone can go there to see. So this is our free space where everyone can come and have a look.
We also have indoor stuff, and when it’s indoors there’s an entrance fee but not very expensive around $25 (Canadian) dollars to get in.
What is the weather like during that time?
It’s really nice and hot. Yes, it can be about 30 degrees (85 Fahrenheit) around that time of the year.
I didn’t realize how big Montréal is with about 1.9 million living there. Would you consider it a friendly city?
Did I also read that you are also a writer/author?
Yes, I like to write little books for kids. Yes, but this for me is my other life.
Photo credit Danse Danse-Fables© David Wong.
Photo credit JOAT-Battles© Dop Phan Hoi.