Digging the New Digs

Wilder Espace Danse opens in Montréal By Philip Szporer
  • Wilder Espace Danse / Photo by Maxime Brouillet
  • Dena Davida at the Wilder Espace Danse Press Conference / Photo by Maxime Brouillet
  • Wilder Espace Danse Press Conference / Photo by Maxime Brouillet
  • Wilder Espace Danse Press Conference / Photo by Maxime Brouillet
  • Wilder Espace Danse / Photo by Maxime Brouillet

Even though the new Wilder Espace Danse complex, housing Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal (GBCM), Agora de la danse, Tangente and the École de danse contemporaine de Montréal (EDCM), as well as the offices of the Ministère de la Culture et des Communications, was still very much a construction site, the excitement was palpable on January 25 at the opening of this new centre for dance training and performance in Montréal. 


Constructed by manufacturer and merchant H. A. Wilder in 1918, the structure has been redesigned and renovated by the architectural firms Lapointe Magne and AEdifica over the past three years. The northern wing of the LEED-certified property houses, on the first floor, a shared main performance space, where most of the Agora and Tangente shows will take place, plus laboratory studios in the basement for each presenter. 


The Espace Françoise Sullivan, named for the dance pioneer, is a multi-functional area of 273m² (about 3000 square feet), with a capacity of 242 people. The ninety-one-year-old Sullivan, who was present, indicated how “deeply touched” she was by this “unexpected” honour, adding, “Dance brings so much to our lives, and has always been a part of mine.” This tribute is particularly fitting as Sullivan’s innovation and creativity has always been at the crossroads of artistic disciplines. 


An intimate 199m² (about 2100 square feet) black box theatre, named for Florence Junca-Adenot, an Agora co-founder, will be a performance venue and exhibition space. The Espace Dena Davida, saluting Tangente’s visionary co-founder, is a versatile 170m² white box (1800 square feet), constructed to serve both residencies and shows, holding up to 200 spectators. “I thought I was too young for this honour,” said a visibly excited and humbled Davida, now Tangente’s curator. Finally, the 134m² Espace Paul-André Fortier (1400 square feet) will be an Agora rehearsal space. Rows of windows in these latter two studios face onto the street, making the dance within accessible to the larger public.


The east side of the Wilder building, facing the grand esplanade of the Place des Festivals, gives the Quartier des spectacles a new projection surface. The old construction’s massive brick wall is masked by a glass surface. During the day, passersby will see the old facade and an opaque serigraph will serve as an immense projection screen by night.


The official inauguration of the GBCM and the EDCM spaces will happen later in the year. A full slate of programming at the Agora and Tangente spaces begins at the end of this month with Animal Triste, choreographed by Mélanie Demers, which runs February 22 through 25, presented by Agora. 

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