In lieu of a regal theatre or opulent orpheum, the Festival des Arts de Saint-Saveur—one of North America’s fastest rising art festivals—is set within a tent in a school parking lot. Surrounded by lush forests and loon calls, this rustic setting will host some of the world’s top-tier dancers and choreographers come August. The reason for the mounting success of the Festival des Arts de Saint-Sauveur, located about an hour’s drive north of Montreal in the small Laurentides village of Saint-Sauveur, can be boiled down to two words: Guillaume Côté.
The National Ballet of Canada principal dancer and associate choreographer has taken the 27th annual event to new heights since replacing acclaimed Quebec ballerina Anik Bissonnette as artistic director four years ago. “The festival was in great shape when we took it over in 2014,” says general manager and fellow National Ballet dancer Etienne Lavigne. “But Guillaume’s visibility on the international dance circuit has really stepped things up.”
“We’re bringing the world of dance to Saint-Sauveur.”
In his first few festivals, Côté used his own star power to recruit international ballet superstars such as Misty Copeland, in addition to cutting-edge contemporary companies like Gauthier Dance in Stuttgart. This season, his fourth at the helm, Côté continues to raise the bar with an increased range of talent and dance styles from around the globe. Everything from classical and contemporary to jazz and flamenco will be presented when the festival welcomes audiences to its 600-seat tented theatre from August 2 to 12. “Every night audiences can expect to see a different style, a different approach. It will be a very nice balance.” Côté says. “We’re bringing the world of dance to Saint-Sauveur.”
Highlights include Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, making a rare return visit to Canada as part of its 40th anniversary season, Ohio’s BalletMet, dancing Romeo and Juliet, Toronto Dance Theatre, celebrating its 50th season with a selection of work by artistic director Christopher House, members of the National Ballet performing a Côté world premiere, and jazz-funk ensemble Yemen Blues collaborating with dancers from Les Grands Ballets Canadiens and Les 7 Doigts, a dance-circus company also from Montreal.
“It’s going to be our best festival yet,” says Lavigne. “Ticket sales are up 60 per cent over the last three years. But this year is going to be record-breaking.”
A big attraction is Night of the Stars, a star-studded ballet gala this year taking place on August 10 and 11, and spotlighting leading dancers from Russia’s Mariinsky Ballet, the New York City Ballet, the Joffrey Ballet, and the National Ballet of Canada. This year’s line-up includes American ballerina of the moment Tiler Peck, British dance sensation Xander Parish, and representing the home team, Greta Hodgkinson and Harrison James. Côté will dance the following evening, August 12, in a program of his own and other choreographers’ work.
Though this year’s festival has yet to even begin, Côté already has future plans on the mind—namely, a multipurpose theatre to replace the parking lot tent. “We’ll be announcing that initiative soon,” Côté says. “We’ve got some very good people in our corner to shape the festival into the future.” Stay tuned.
For more information about FASS, including programming and tickets, visit festivaldesarts.ca.
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