Church Steps on Fire

Montreal Dancers Reclaim Public Space in Outremont

If you’re anything like me, your nightly walk to the Depanneur is not so easily interrupted. But trust the streets of Montreal to shake you from a sleepy stumble when you least expect it.

When my hot latino friends told me about a group of church dancers organizing the latest mile end artsy gig, I thought it might be the latest stylish attempt to convert me to christianity. But what I uncovered was something that redefined my mental picture of ‘church performance’. And it wasn’t exactly religious.

When I strolled by the St Viateur d’Outremont church my attention was immediately grabbed by two dancers, leaping and crawling across the church steps — white capes billowing behind them in the wind.

They danced from the sunset into darkness. A darkness that was illuminated by coloured lights casting spooky shadows on the building’s stone walls — the overall effect highlighting the church facade in a way that makes you stop and think twice.

And first you might think, what the heck are they doing? Did they drink too many bottles of the $8 Dep wine? Is it just another drunk dance escapade of aspiring artists, after they were kicked out of the closest bar? But as I kept watching, I realized that it was more than that. Their movements carried meaning.

So I talked to the choreographer Lea Tremblay-Fong to find out more.

Fong explained to me that her and her creative partner, Irvine Chow, want to capture the interaction between dancers and place. As they move across this church-turned-stage, they hope their performance sparks you to think about the relationship between dance, architecture, and socio-cultural interpretation. It’s all about interaction. They want the specific meaning to be crafted by the passerby — by you.

Fong described their choreography as a “site-specific process” — the creators and performers are immersed in real life interactions with the space.

“We aren’t just reading about it in a studio,” Lea explained. “I realize now that most dance performances are created in isolation from reality.” To this purpose they spent extensive time in the space — they interviewed the priest, the sweet old ladies of the parish, and observed routine ceremonies.

The average passerby who doesn’t have any connection to the church will start to pay attention. And for those who already find the building significant, Fong and Irvine have aimed to portray it in a new light — one that requires you to take a moment out of your evening stroll and give it some thoughtful consideration.

Whether or not you do this with some dep wine in a brown bag is still up to you.

Date & Location: 9pm July 23, 24, and 25 outdoors at the Saint-Viateur D’Outremont Church.

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Title of Production—Alchimie: II: La Procession.

Choreography — Lea Tremblay-Fong, Irvin Chow

Visual Design — Clea Minaker

Composer — Alexandre Larin

* In case of rain an additional performance will be held on July 26, at 9pm*

To see more of Léa Tremblay Fong’s work visit her wesbite and vimeo /

Written by: Ally Clay

Photos by: Kate Mada