|Naoya Ebe (Photo by Karolina Kuras)|
Rain fell heavily on the makeshift stage inside a tent set up outside on the Saint-Sauveur High School parking lot, and for most of the day local volunteers were kept busy sponging up puddles in anticipation of the evening’s highly anticipated international dance gala. It was a scenario that at first seemed to spell disaster for Soirée des Étoiles/A Night With the Stars, a two-hour program featuring leading dancers from The Royal Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, and The National Ballet of Canada and Quebec intended to conclude the week-long Festival Des Arts de Saint-Sauveur (FASS) with two performances on Aug. 12 and 13. Tickets had been sold out weeks in advance and fears ran high that the star-studded talent, some of whose legs are insured for millions of dollars, could take a spill on the sodden stage. But not even the added burden of soaked-through front-row seats could dampen the spirits of the organizers. The show must go on, and without delay. Mais, oui! "Of course we have our fingers crossed," said executive director Etienne Lavigne anxiously before the curtain rose on the first of the gala’s two nights of performances. "Let's hope the weather cooperates."
It did, the rain letting up for the duration of the Friday night performance, which spelled a huge relief to ballet fans who had travelled great distances to attend the 25th-anniversary edition of the popular Francophone summer arts in the picturesque resort town of Saint-Sauveur, about a 45-minute drive north of Montreal. The lure was the opportunity to experience dance talent rarely seen in Quebec, if not the rest of Canada. The brainchild of Guillaume Côté, the National Ballet principal dancer and associate choreographer who assumed the role of FASS artistic director in the fall of 2014, the gala gathered together dancers from as far as London and New York to perform in close proximity to nature. Not a ballet dancer’s usual gig. Saint-Sauveur is not La Scala. But on this wet summer's night you could easily have confused the two based on dancing flair alone.