The Festival des Arts : 25 years of history
Being at the helm of a Festival for the first time, Guillaume Côté shared his tastes and discoveries with the audience of FASS. In a pre-opening performance, FASS hosted hometown hero Rufus Wainwright and his family for a memorable evening. L'Orchestre Métropolitain, directed by the young and dynamic Maestro Yannick Nézet-Séguin completed the star studded musical component of the programming with his performance. Gauthier Dance Company Dance Theater // Stuttgart returned to the Festival for the 3rd time and was better than ever. Les Ballets Jazz de Montréal, Tentacle Tribe, Coleman Lemieux & Company, Stars of American Ballet also performed to great acclaim. The final dance performances were the International Stars of Ballet evenings which brought together some of the best of the world for two incredible evenings. Performers this year were Daniel Ulbricht (New York City Ballet), Skylar Brandt (American Ballet Theater), Bryan Arias (Kidd Pivot), Rachel Fallon (Luzerner Theater), Cesar Corrales and Kateryna Khaniukova (English National Ballet), Ana-Maria Lucaciu and Andrea Schermoly (independent artists), Davit Karapetyan (San Francisco Ballet) and Jurgita Dronina (National Ballet of Canada).
2014 brought an exciting program developed jointly by Anik Bissonnette and Guillaume Côté, the incoming artistic Director, which was enthusiastically received by the large number of public and media who attended the magnificent shows presented under our renovated Big Top. Guillaume Côté performed for the first time since his nomination as Artistic Director and dazzled the crowd. He was accompanied by guest artists from the National Ballet of Canada and an emerging Ontario dance company Pro Arte Danza. The famous Martha Graham Dance Company and the original Marie Chouinard Company performed and showed St-Sauveur why they are world renowned. The international ballet night was again a huge hit and brought to the festival: Guillaume Côté and Great Hodgkinson (National Ballet of Canada), Jason Reilly and Anna Osadcenko (Stuttgart Ballet), Joaquin De Luz (New York City Ballet) and Misa Kuranaga (Boston Ballet), Yukichi Hattori (Alberta Ballet), Francesco Gabriele Frola and Shailad’Onofrio. The FASS music program welcomed Ailyn Perez and Stephen Costello, the energetic Montreal Jubilation Gospel Choir and Appassionata chamber music orchestra.
This year, dance was honored in this program that included seven nights of dance and one evening of music: We saw Ballet BC, Aterballetto , Les Ballets Jazz de Montreal and the exquisite International show which brought together on the same stage, some of the greatest talent in the world of dance with a mix of artists from France (Benjamin Pech and Alice Renavand), Denmark (Andreas Kaas and Ida Paretorius), United States (Herman Cornejo and Luciana Paris), Ontario (Greta Hodgkinson and Etienne Lavigne) and Quebec (Louise Lecavalier and Keir Knight), this show charmed audiences with its diversity. On the musical side, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band was sold out! Aside from the main program, the Festival offered again this year, a series of free concerts at the Desjardins Outdoor Stage and its traditional Tohu-Bohu Youth Day
The 2012 edition had another impressive artistic guest list and more full houses with enthusiastic audiences. The Hong Kong Ballet, visiting Quebec for the first time, had the honor of opening the festival, followed by the Quebec dance company Cas Public and the renowned Esmeralda Enrique Spanish Dance Company. Momix was as successful as their last appearance in 2007, while Trey McIntyre Project’s first Canadian visit offered a remarkable closing show. The FASS music program was also popular with magnificent concerts from Lewis Furey, Gino Quilico and the Canadian Vocal Arts Institute. The Tohu-Bohu and free shows available on the outdoor stage were also a great success. The weather and the quality of the shows contributed to us welcoming large crowds every night in the Georges-Filion Park.
Year 2011 marked the 20th Anniversary of the Festival. To celebrate this special edition, the organizers prepared a high level artistic program. The Aspen Santa FeBallet opened FASS Dance, following by 3e Etage, with the soloists of the Paris Opera Ballet, Gauthier Dance, Stockholm 59° North and Bouge de là. For FASS Music, the audience had the privilege of hearing the mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato as well as the students from the Canadian Vocal Arts Institute. The free shows on the Desjardins Outdoor Stage entertained a remarkable amount of visitors in St-Sauveur, and of course the nice weather helped to please the crowd.
For its 14th edition, the Festival des Arts de Saint-Sauveur presented a high quality program. For the last time under the direction of the renowned choreographer Nacho Duato, the Compania Nacional de Danza 2 performed for two evenings on the FASS stage. The Alonzo King's Lines Ballet completed with brio the dance event with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet who presented an excerpt from the piece Wonderland. For the youth festival, the Quebec company Sursaut was selected by the artistic director Anik Bissonnette. At FASS Music the audience acclaimed Angèle Dubeau and la Pietà, the Nouvel Opera and the concert of the Canadian Vocal Arts Institute presented at the
St-Sauveur's church. The Desjardins Outdoor Stage presented many free shows, well appreciated by the public.
The 2009 edition of FASS was held under the themes of color and diversity. Thanks to a quality program, and the presence of high caliber international artists, public and critics alike acclaimed the event. A large number of people attended the Big Top performances, while significant crowds were attracted to the Desjardins outdoor stage. Great moments of dance and emotion were experienced thanks to Ballet Biarritz, BMJ Danse Montréal and Ballet Maribor. As for music, Diane Dufresne and Oliver Jones offered brilliant and moving performances. Ten days of discoveries, festivities and celebrations!
FASS inaugurated its Youth Section by the presentation of the first Tohu-Bohu Festival. On the program were free performances for young people, dance workshops, and the stand-out performance of young singer Sara Diamond, accompanied by more than 40 young performers from the École Supérieure de Ballet Contemporain and the Jeune Ballet du Québec. The Dance Series continued to impress with the North-American premiere appearances of Israel's Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company with Ekodoom, and the presentation of Six Pack by Gauthier Dance, a Germany-based company directed by Quebecker Éric Gauthier. Also present were Cas public with Suites Cruelles, Coleman Lemieux & Compagnie with In Paradisum, and Mimulus from Brazil with the very colourful Dolorès. Musical performances were decidedly eclectic and appealing, with Oliver Jones, Les voix du Paradis directed by Daniel Taylor, and the Festival's first musical, Le Petit Roi, in recital form. Yet another productive and prolific year for the Festival, full of innovations and surprises!
FASS 2007 could be summarized by two words “Sold out!” breaking all previous attendance and ticket sales records. The program, bringing together the best of Quebec, Canadian, and international artists, included Momix, Ballets Jazz de Montréal, Rubberbandance Group, Montréal Danse, and the spectacular Carmen! by the Alberta Ballet. In music, excellence was again the “mot d'ordre”, with Alain Lefèvre in recital at St-Sauveur's church, Oliver Jones and Nikki Yanofsky, and Daniel Taylor and Karina Gauvin in the Big Top. The Festival also rolled out its program of free performances on the Outdoor Stage, and inaugurated its unifying “Musical Terraces” concept. Finally, FASS won a Grand Prix du Tourisme des Laurentides for the second year in a row.
For the first time in its history, FASS co-produced and presented an original dance creation, Kylian le grand, a tribute work conceived by Anik Bissonnette and directed by Mario Radacovsky. For its world premiere, Kylian opened the Festival; the show was a revelation, described as exceptional by highly-regarded dance critic Linda Howe-Beck. During its subsequent tour of Quebec and other parts of Canada, Kylian le grand met with resounding success. There was also the Kudelka-Taylor Project by Coleman Lemieux &Compagnie with Daniel Taylor as feature performer, and the National Ballet of Canada with talented Quebec dancer Guillaume Côté. Musically, we welcomed back Robert Marien and the extraordinarily energetic voices of the Montreal Jubilation Gospel Choir. FASS closed its 2006 edition by winning a Grand Prix du Tourisme des Laurentides award in the festivals and events category.
The festivities started off with the landmark North-American premieres of two works by the Guangzhou Ballet Troupe, a leader among Chinese dance companies. Both performances were attended by the Chinese ambassador to Canada, and the presence of representatives of several international agencies led to the company signing a number of international touring agreements. Also on the international scene, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago performed in the Big Top, while Quebec and other Canadian talents Louise Lecavalier, Sylvain Lafortune – in a work by choreographer Estelle Clareton – and the avant-garde Rubberbandance Group, all shone in their very diverse ways. In the musical component of the festival, we saw the welcome return of Ensemble Amati and I Musici de Montréal.
In 2004, we celebrated the arrival of Anik Bissonnette, O.C., as C.M. in the artistic committee, initiating her leadership role at the Festival. This year, the current best of American dance companies were at FASS: the International Ballet with five gold-medal-winning dancers and the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet, whose memorable presentation blended contemporary dance with choreographical works by Moses Pendleton. Among the acclaimed Quebec artists performing were Margie Gillis and Gioconda Barbuto, and the Jeune Ballet du Québec was part of the Festival's program for children. Music-lovers were treated to Gino Quilico in recital, and a special evening with the Chicago Children’s Choir. At the close of the 2004 season, Anik Bissonnette was officially named artistic director of FASS
The 2003 edition stood out for two major North-American premiere appearances: the National Ballet Theatre of Prague under the artistic direction of Petr Zuska, and the Companía Nacional de Danza 2, directed by Nacho Duato. A show entitled Les Grands Solistes et Chorégraphes du Québec brought together our dance stars and top choreographers for an evening of artistic wonders. FASS's musical component was equally stellar, with performances by Robert Marien, Cantabile from Great Britain, and Pierrot Fournier singing the best of Jacques Brel.
The 2002 edition had Big Top audiences thrilling to the sights and sounds of the Harlem GospelChoir, Les Sortilèges, and the Parsons Dance Company, who had provided one of the peaks of the millennium ceremony at Times Square in New York. Other high-quality moments were the performances of the soloists of the National Ballet of Canada, and the great tango ensemble of Romulo Larrea and Veronica Larc.
FASS hosted the sensational first Canadian appearance by Complexions, a New York group of 22 modern dance stars hailing from prestigious American companies. Among the music events, the Big Top show of sisters Kate and Anna McGarrigle, Saint-Sauveur's most famous native daughters, was another great favourite of Festival audiences. The internationally acclaimed Rambert Dance Company of Britain, Andrea Boardman of Les Grands Ballets Canadiens, and I Musici de Montréal also gave unforgettable performances.
FASS welcomed the new millennium with a celebratory program that included the National Ballet of Hungary with a full slate of soloists and principal dancers, Ballet Jorgen, the premiere of a solo for Louis Robitaille, baritone Gino Quilico, Rencontres sur Broadway with Robert Marien, Dance Galaxy, and the National Youth Orchestra of Canada. A new initiative in 2000 was the establishment of the children's programming, with Russian marionettist Vladimir Ageev as one of the highlights of this first edition. For the first time, the Festival des Arts de Saint-Sauveur received recognition at the Grands Prix du Tourisme des Laurentides awards, with a special mention as Cultural Event of the Year.
Now recognized as a major cultural event, FASS broke attendance records with rising new dance star Diana Vishneva (“la Divine”) and the Kirov Ballet, José Greco Flamenco Dance Co., soprano Wilhelmina Fernandez, the National Ballet of Moravia-Silesia (Czech Republic), Ballets Jazz of Montréal, soprano-comedian Nathalie Choquette, and Les Violons du Roi.
Proclaimed by the press as “a value to take notice of,” FASS expanded by building the new air-conditioned 700-seat Big Top. The dance program included dancers from the renowned St. Petersburg Ballet, the Royal Swedish Ballet, and Bande à Part. We presented the works of the first (1997) winners of the International Musical Composition and Choreography Competition, who were given a standing ovation! On the music program, Montreal Jubilation Gospel Choir, Romulo Larrea (Argentina); Djelem (Eastern Europe), and Éval Manigat (Canada/Haiti) took up FASS's invitation.
Festival Hiawatha was officially renamed the Festival des Arts de Saint-Sauveur and pursued its mission and its tradition of excellence. Celebrated in great style, the inauguration aimed high, with 10 days hosting 50 events, 175 artists, 15,000 visitors, and several sold-out performances. The Dance Series in the 450-seat Big Top presented the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, Danse Théâtre de Montréal, and the Celebration of Dance show featuring soloists from major American balletcompanies. The Music Series included The Canadian Brass, Montreal's Orchestre Métropolitain, Ensemble Amati, Lhasa de Sela, Quartango, Raoul klezmer ensemble, and small classical ensembles playing at different sites in the village. Another inaugural event was the launching of the International Musical Composition and Choreography Competition.
This year of transition was a pause that allowed the rapidly growing Festival Hiawatha to settle permanently in the magnificent village of Saint-Sauveur. In its new home, the Festival was very fortunate in finding an extraordinary team of volunteers, significant municipal support, and excellent technical expertise, all of which have taken the Festival to new heights.
The idea of an arts festival in the Laurentians was born in the summer of 1992 when Lou Gordon launched the Festival des Arts Hiawatha. The inaugural festival lasted three weeks and featured marquee performers Evelyn Hart of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, Shapiro & Smith from New York, Bande à part with Anik Bissonnette and Louis Robitaille, Montanaro Dance, Fiesta Flamenco, and Margie Gillis. It was the beginning of a tradition of excellence.