Festival des Arts de Saint-Sauveur 2020

Summer is finally here, which normally indicates the start of festival season.
However, in light of COVID-19 there have been some changes and cancelations, such as this year's Festival des Arts de Saint-Sauveur (FASS) rolling out a digital rendez-vous rather than an in-person event.
This year's edition is a collaboration between artistic director Guillaume Côté, conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin, and the Orchestre Métropolitain. With “A Shared Solitude” as their theme, the event will feature 20 artists and 20 creations with a unique voice. The festival is there to strengthen and support the creation of dance and music. Programming descriptions on the site state that “You will see the creation of 10 solo performances created by 10 choreographers accompanied by the music of 10 Quebec composers united by the COVID-19 crisis and the upheaval it has caused.” 
The upsides of creating a digital festival include increased accessibility across Quebec and the rest of Canada, all while maintaining a connection to Saint-Sauveur. On each Sunday from July 5th-September 6th, there will be film screenings of various works produced by director Louis-Martain Charest that offer a window into the journey and the work of the artists involved with the festival. The films will be streamed on the official Festival des Arts de Saint-Sauveur site, YouTube, and Vimeo. The festival’s goal is to demonstrate, through the combined efforts of all the creators, that one voice will emerge as proof that “art is the mirror of the society in which it exists, and can flourish, even in exceptional circumstances.”
Remi Caron, host of At The Movies, recently had a chance to participate in a brief phone interview Q&A with FASS executive director Etienne Lavigne.
Remi: Thank you for taking some time for this Q&A interview. A lot of summer festivals needed to rethink and also reimagine their festivals this summer to work with the government guidelines on COVID-19. What were some of the challenges that went into the conception of this year's Festival des Arts de Saint-Sauveur? 
Etienne Lavigne: We had to rethink our approach to this festival, which normally happens under a tent. There was also the issue of the government not allowing outdoor festivals to take place this summer until August 31st, as well there was an issue with getting international artists. We always wanted to create a digital project to work alongside of the festival, however we never had the budget to invest in this type of project. This year's digital project is quite ambitious and I am happy to see where it is going. 
Remi: Despite some of the disadvantages that this pandemic has had on festivals this year, there have been some advantages in virtual festivals for accessibility and connectivity. What are some other advantages? 
Etienne Lavigne: I think that organizations and festivals have always been trying to take advantage of the digital age to connect with people and enhance the experience of live art shows that are normally run on shoestring budgets. This year, to fly completely head first is an experience that I always wanted to do a digital branch of the festival but I could never get going. I am already looking towards using this digital feature in a good way in future years of this festival without rehashing any performance. Seeing the performance in-person transforms the experience, however, there could be the digital experience of a performance that could be experienced on a screen to connect with a wider audience. We will see in the future if that is something that we want to proceed with. To give context, a digital portion of the festival can have a wider reach in audience members when we see out our 600 audience seats on site, that always tend to sell out. 
Remi: This year's theme is "A Shared Solitude". What was the idea behind this theme? Even though the theme references solitude, there is also a collective audience that will be watching, some maybe for the first time. How do you think they will react to this new digital experience?
Etienne Lavigne: It is an idea that festival collaborator Guillaume Côté has come up with to describe this weird moment in history that we are living in. You are by yourself and afraid of everyone outside of our little bubble. With little human and social interactions while being in this bubble it can be very lonely in our solitude experience that we are all living in at this moment as a shared experience. This is a moment in history that will be talked about and written about and in this moment it is important to give a voice to the artists to talk about this moment in creative ways, such as dance. 
Remi: How have the dancers and musicians prepared for their performances in light of social distancing and other measures in place? What is the message that they want to underline in their performances? 
Etienne Lavigne: Everybody did it on their own in their living room where they shot some film footage for a small documentary we put together. The choreographers were living in the moment working from home rather than a studio. Last week was the first rehearsal where we got a chance to see the dance with the composer. The performances took place in the forest in Saint-Sauveur alongside the rain. We are now done with three to four performances that are filmed. That was a magical time where this is the first time everyone got together to work on their performance. 
Remi: Having been to Saint-Sauveur in the past, I know it is a big tourist site. Do you think tourists will still come and discover the festival on site either this year while respecting guidelines or in the following years? 
Etienne Lavigne: This summer I want people to do it safely, and what we want to showcase is that we are still doing beautiful things through a digital medium. Next year I hope they come and experience the live experience of the festival alongside the beauty of Saint-Sauveur. 
Remi: We normally end off our interviews with a fun question. During your time in quarantine what have been some movies or television series you have been watching or caught up with that you feel people need to watch?
Etienne Lavigne: I’m not able to watch too many things juggling two kids, as well as putting together this festival. It’s a struggle to find the time to watch something. My wife and I found time for the Ricky Gervais series After Life season 1 which we enjoyed, and The Crown
Below is a list of recently announced and previously announced performances that will be taking place this summer.
Recently announced:
  • Dancer Sophie Breton performing choreography by Virginie Brunelle; accompanied by Marcelle Mallette on violin, playing from a score composed by Roozbeh Tabandeh.
  • Choreographer/dancer Vanesa G.R. Montoya performing original choreography; accompanied by Mélanie Harel on English horn, playing from a score composed by François-Hugues Leclair.
  • Choreographer/dancer Margie Gillis performing original choreography; accompanied by Elvira Misbakhova on violin, playing from a score composed by Marie-Pierre Brasset.
  • Choreographer/dancer Eva Kolarova performing original choreography; accompanied by Louis-Philippe Marsolais on the horn, playing from a score composed by Maggie Ayotte.
  • Choreographer/dancer Andrew Skeels performing original choreography; accompanied by Stéphane Beaulac on trumpet, playing from a score composed by Isabelle Panneton.
Previously announced:
  • Choreographer/dancer Daina Ashbee performing original choreography; accompanied by Caroline Séguin on flute, playing from a score composed by Alejandra Odgers.
  • Dancer Valeria Gallucio performing choreography by Marie Chouinard; accompanied by Alexandre Lavoie on percussion, playing from a score composed by Louis Dufort.
  • Choreographer/dancer Guillaume Côté performing original choreography; accompanied by Yannick Nézet-Séguin on piano, playing from a score composed by Éric Champagne.
  • Choreographer/dancer Anne Plamondon performing original choreography; accompanied by Patrice Richer on trombone, playing from a score composed by Cléo Palacio-Quintin.
  • Choreographer/dancer Crazy Smooth performing original choreography; accompanied by Simon Aldrich on clarinet, playing from a score composed by Marc Hyland.
Festival des Arts de Saint-Sauveur 2020 edition is rolling out a digital rendez-vous from July 5th to September 6th. The films will be streamed on the official Festival des Arts de Saint-Sauveur site, YouTube and Vimeo.
Remi is the host of At The Movies which features everything new and noteworthy in the world of cinema. The show goes live every Tuesday at 8:00 AM.