The Accès Asie Festival, which promotes Asian arts and culture of every vein from dance to documentaries to degustations, wrapped up in Montréal recently with public, open-air performances at the Quartier des spectacles. This eighteenth edition of the event spoke to artistic and, newly appointed, general director Khosro Berahmandi’s varied tastes, which included more dance performances throughout the festival’s two-week run than previous years. Marina Salonga’s cabaret-style dance and sabre balancing provided thematic and engaging bookends to the festival at both opening and closing ceremonies. An outdoor lesson on the basics of belly dancing was offered for more adventurous audience members.
The kickoff performance at MAI (Montréal, arts interculturels) was Éclats, a trio of solo dance pieces by artists of Asian heritage. The production covered a lot of territory in every sense of the word, with Chinese, Indian and Japanese dance represented in the course of the triple bill. Truly outstanding was Tomomi Morimoto’s piece Inhabitation, which married traditional Japanese ghost stories with powerful movements and a white, full-body wig that accentuated every movement until it was shed, leaving the dancer fragile and panting and the audience possessed.
The festival also brought in Danse X, another triple bill performed at the Théâtre Hydro Québec as part of on an ongoing international tour. The production consisted of three pairs of dancers from Japan, Korea and Montréal performing pieces dealing with concepts of time, tension and relationships. Hetero by Japanese duo Teita Iwabuchi & Kaori Seki, with its silent and slow movements reminiscent of traditional Butoh, proved to be a crowd favourite, drawing considerable interest during the artist Q&A held afterwards.
A highlight among the non-dance offerings was the Gesù‘s screening of Amin, a documentary by Iranian director Shahin Parhami. The film follows professional violinist Amin Aghaie as he attempts to preserve the distinct musical style of his native tribe, the Qashqai, which currently survives solely by virtue of a few aging practitioners living in Iran.
According to program notes, the theme for this year’s festival was The Gesture of Sharing or “a demonstrative act of courtesy, with limits pushed, questions asked and curiosities piqued.” The gesture referenced here – sharing the cultures of a continent with a population of more than three and a half billion people – is a daunting task, no doubt, but one that Accès Asie’s varied programming does well.